Friday, 10 December 2010


Ever had that dream where you're in a difficult position and you're shouting as loud as you can - only nobody seems to be listening? Well, I am only one amongst many who have been labouring for years to correct past errors and misconceptions relating to Operation Chariot, with a view to making a clear and accurate picture of the raid available to anyone with a mouse and the will to spend five minutes on the Internet in an effort to get things right.

Imagine the frustration then, to read in a book by Sir Max Hastings ('Finest Years: Churchill as Warlord 1940-45')  that, instead of a combined Naval and Commando force raiding the Forme Ecluse Joubert, in Saint-Nazaire (an enormous, very much non-floating dry dock still in use today),  this was actually a 'Royal Navy' attack on a 'floating dock', which resulted in a 'generous issue of decorations...designed to make the survivors feel better about losses'. He goes on to mention that four Victoria Crosses were awarded, when in fact the number was five, and couches these awards in a tone which diminishes the heroism displayed by so many on that night. The text then goes on to talk of Tirpitz, but does not relate the fear of that ship to the attack on Saint-Nazaire, whose fictional 'floating dock' might have had some difficulty accommodating a vessel of her great size, but whose actual Forme Ecluse would have made a very suitable bolt-hole indeed.

Bearing in mind the number of people likely either to use such text as source material, or simply to form corrupt opinions because of it, such inaccuracy on the part of so eminent an historian, is puzzling to say the least.

Jeremy Clarkson's programme 'The Greatest Raid of all Time' was repeated on the BBC last Sunday. Who could ever have imagined that Jeremy Clarkson would make a greater effort to get things right than such a noted military historian!