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Author: them Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 2767  
Subject: Raid on St. Nazaire - Session Report Date: 7/31/2004 4:42 PM
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Recommendations: 12
[WARNING - LONG]
Raid on St. Nazaire is a solitaire AH boardgame that I have had for years and only recently played. I was quite taken with it...
(cross posted on Boardgamegeek)
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Commander Fenton, reporting for debriefing sir!

Yes sir, only my engine-man Smith and I returned - he's in hospital, with my leave. I felt I could give a complete report without troubling him, poor lad. Why thank you sir, a hot cup of tea would be just the thing..

Well, sir - as you know, the plan was for our expedition (ed. note: comprised of seventeen motor launches, gun boats, torpedo boats, the destroyer Campbeltown and 19 squads of British commandos and demolition experts) to sneak into the St. Nazaire harbor (south of Brest if you recall, sir), and lay waste to as much of the docks as possible, thus keeping the Tirpitz out of the Atlantic (St. Nazaire being the only facility nearby large enough for the Germans to handle that battleship). I see you have been studying the aerial photo we took before the raid:
http://flyhi.de/images/nazaire/rsn-overview.jpeg

Sir, I fear we were only partially successful - and at great cost to our boys.

(unrolls map) If you recall sir, here was our original plan of attack:
http://flyhi.de/images/nazaire/rsn-navalattack.gif

At 0128 hours 3/28/42, we successfully bluffed our way into the St. Nazaire harbor, and it was only in the last half-mile that the Germans broke out of their complacency and realized they were under attack by the Queen's finest. Yes sir, we did indeed hoist the beloved 'Jack' once all hope of subterfuge was past.

We made for our planned positions but encountered far worse resistance than expected from harbor defense elements. Our intelligence had not expected that so many docked ships would be able to effectively join defensive fire, and say what you want about the 'krauts, they are marksmen.

Pinned in the open by searchlights, Irwin's TML (Torpedo Motor Launch) guns were knocked out and set aflame - and Collier's ML was sunk. Sir, we lost no less than 15 crew and 9 commandos in the first 5 minutes of the engagment! (why yes sir, a spot of brandy would help, thank you). Both Tillie and Falconer were forced to break off to avoid the same fate, and so lagged behind the main force as we made for our landing areas.

Boyd, always the quick thinker, spotted the Sperrbrecher 137 to the south-east and let fly a well-aimed torpedo, putting that ship (and the two 20mm guns it carried) out of commission, thank God!

In the next 5-6 minutes, we forged ahead towards the old entrance to the St. Nazaire basin, which was central to our plans. We were able to disrupt a pair of 20mm emplacements and attempt to cover Ryder (yes, his boat was sunk too, minutes later) as he rescued the sole survivor from Pennington's demo squad, aboard the burning wreckage of ML 268. Rodier showed great bravery too, sir - he launched his torpedo straight into the worst of the fire and damaged the Old Entrance lock gates. Wynn, who had broken off to the Avant Port (between the east and west jetties), in a brave attempt to draw off some fire, deployed his special delayed action torpedo into the southern lock gate there.

The Campbelltown, sir? Ah yes - brave bunch of lads crewing her. Medals all, posthumously of course. By 0140, that fine destroyer, too, was aflame (despite the extra armor our engineers had installed), but Beattie and his crew managed to ram the southern caisson at the Normandie dock as per our plan - and at high speed! Here's a photo snapped prior to it's subsequent explosion:
http://flyhi.de/images/nazaire/rsn-campbeltown2.jpeg
The six demo and assault teams took full advantage of the chaos and took up positions in the docks, with Purdon, Brett and Roy mowing down several surprised Stosstrupp units. Unfortunately, Roderick's boys were ambushed by a lucky German unit who just happened to poke their heads up at the right time and were killed to a man. Ah yes, Roy and his men were taken out by one of their damned flak towers. The German searchlights were entirely too effective, sir! That left Brett's team alone and wounded on the east side of the Normandie dock, with Germans closing in.

Over in the Old Town area, to the NW of this, my own boat was the first to land our commandos, despite one of those blasted searchlights locking on to me. We were able to knock out the Old Mole searchlight, but sadly lost Boyd and his TML at the same time. Hodgson was able to take out a 20mm emplacement on the pier while the assault teams tried to provide covering fire for our demo boys who were spreading out towards their primary targets.

Sir, at this point, after seeing my cargo safely off, I was taking evasive action and was too busy to note much detail, but from the notes of my radioman, I believe I can give you the gist of what occurred after this.

As you know, we had two main areas of primary targets, one in the Old Town area, which included several gates and locks as well as the power station running those damned searchlights. The other was on the west side of the Normandie dock, including the bridges connecting to Old Town, the winding stations, pump house and especially the northern caisson (the Campbelltown was already burning at the southern-most caisson, with its load of high explosives that the Germans didn't suspect was there - until it was too late!).

As a result of the unexpectedly heavy harbor fire we drew on the way in, the demo teams were largely the first ones landed and had to fight their way to their targets without as much support from the assault teams as would have been proper. Nonetheless, at least in the Old Town, our boys did their jobs and blew up the power station (everyone cheered at that, as you might imagine, sir!) as well as nearly all of the locks, bridges and gates connecting that area to the western area of the harbor leading to the U-boat pens. At that point, Stosstrupp units were rather scarce in the vicinity, and as there few other targets, our boys bravely decided to try to make their way to the U-boat pens. Despite our intelligence that they would be heavily guarded, they appeared to feel they might be able to do some damage there before the Germans got their feet under them.

As it happens, the Germans chose the worst possible time to mobilize reinforcements and our forces were rapidly whittled down. They appear to have decided to bypass the pens in hopes of doing what our Yankee pals call an "end-run", and reach the northeast most area, near the Penhouet basin. Defenses in the pens far exceeded early intelligence reports. At the last minute, though with heavy Stosstrupp closing in on all sides, our last few demo units (our assault teams had protected them with their lives) saw a small window of opportunity in the form of the northernmost pen being temporarily undefended (movement in the area seemed problematic for the Germans, due to ongoing construction), and chose to gamble that they might be able to do some damage to a U-boat or two before being captured. It was a brilliant and brave scheme, sir - but luck was not with them. Their last report was in grudging admiration of a German commander's skillful maneuvering back into that area which after more heavy casualties resulted in all our boys being captured.

Back to the east, the 20mm gun emplacements discovered at the pumphouse had been causing quite the trouble as well, and we took heavy casualties trying to knock them out, as well as the southern winding station and the pumphouse itself, of course. Remember, the Campbelltown had by now been scuttled and our naval forces were so decimated as to be able to provide no covering fire at all. My own guns had been long knocked out and for the last half hour or so I'd simply been circling, trying to avoid fire and hoping to be able to evacuate any of our boys who might make it back to the waterfront.

Regardless, our forces in that area had decided to split up, with the freshest attempting one last assault on the pumphouse area and the others going for the northern caisson and/or northern winding station. Unfortunately, the German reinforcements came too quickly and heavily armed for our boys, and we were only able to destroy one of the two 20mm emplacements at the pumphouse before all were killed or captured.

Things looked - and were - desperate, sir. Deeming it impossible to provide any evacuation services, we (meaning Nock, Platt and myself - the only ships left floating) decided to try to make our way back to the open sea so that England might at least have some knowledge of the mornings events.

Nock and what was left of his crew never made it to the mouth of the harbor, while Platt and I evaded most of the fire and retreated to the open seas. To our dismay, a patrolling Luftwaffe plane made us out and poor Platt was killed with safety on the horizon. My engineman Smith and I were able to evade the fighter and make our way back to England, and that brings my report to a close, sir.

Oh yes, the one at least partially bright note was that as we were making for the open sea, we saw two large explosions from the harbor. The closer one, I'm guessing was Wynn's delayed action torpedo destroying a gate (would that he had lived to see his handiwork). The farther one had to have been the Campbelltown exploding - and hopefully taking down the caisson and dock area with it. Unfortunately, that explosion didn't seem quite as large as I'd been expecting, so I don't know if the caisson was completely destroyed (ed. note: this is a special attack with a large offensive dieroll modifier, which notwithstanding, the worst possible die roll imaginable was made, resulting in the caisson being only damaged and not destroyed. Bad dice - BAD!).

Sir? Recommendations? Well.. sir, I think we need to provide more training for our demolition teams. Troopers all, carrying a devastating wallop on their backs (see what I mean sir? http://flyhi.de/images/nazaire/rsn-commandosoldier.jpeg ), but trying to set charges under heavy fire is a beastly task, and they had a very hard time of it, which used precious time far too quickly (ed. note: I believe I misread demo-preparation rules, requiring an extra die-roll in order to make a demo attack). They could have used more training in this area. A note should be made to train future commando teams to not split up as readily, as well. It is wise to remember that not every defensive position may be immediately recognized!
Intelligence, of course, should be improved. Harbor fire was far more intense and deadly than we had been lead to believe it would be - as were the U-boat pen's defensive measures.

And sir? If I may be so bold (and I must retire for the evening, I did not escape unscathed and don't feel quite myself, sir) - might I suggest that whomever was responsible for the decision to send petrol-powered wooden boats into such a conflagration might himself be tied to the prow of such a pyre-in-waiting?

Thank you sir, and good night.


Final score: 34.4 pts
Score required for full vicotry: 70 pts
Historical British score: 53 pts


(with thanks to Lutz Pietschker's website for historical content and photos: http://flyhi.de/games/nazaire1.html
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