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St. Nazaire 1942: The Great Commando Raid (Praeger Illustrated Military History) [Hardcover]

Ken Ford
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Feb 2004 Praeger Illustrated Military History
The raid on the port of St. Nazaire in March 1942 by a sea-borne task force from British Combined Operations remains one of the most daring actions of World War II. The port lies at the mouth of the River Loire and in 1942, as well as a U-Boat base, contained the massive "Normandie" dock, the only facility on the Atlantic coast large enough to accommodate the feared German battleship Tirpitz. This book tells the story of the raid on St. Nazaire that denied the use of the dock to the sister ship of the Bismarck, and constituted a crucial victory in the Battle of the Atlantic. Out of a force of just 611 soldiers and sailors, 169 were killed. But the Tirpitz never ventured into the Atlantic.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Greenwood Press (Feb 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0275982807
  • ISBN-13: 978-0275982805
  • Product Dimensions: 25.1 x 19 x 1.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,506,412 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description

About the Author

Ken Ford has made a long term study of many of the battles of the Second World War and has already published books on the Assault crossing of the River Seine in 1944 and the battle for Geilenkirchen. TBC --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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First Sentence
On 24 May 1941 the battlecruiser HMS Hood and the battleship HMS Prince of Wales confronted the German battleship Bismarck and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen in the north Atlantic. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good one 18 Aug 2006
Format:Paperback
Why does Osprey not make this sort of book anymore?
Fast paced and exciting like one should expect for this price.
Still too expensive!

Value for money will be found in the book "Operation Chariot: The Raid on St. Nazaire (Elite Forces Operations Series)" by Jon Cooksey.
It's actually better than the Osprey book on the subject.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History in Brief 7 Dec 2005
Format:Paperback
I found this book to give the full details of the COmmando raid on St Nazaire, without loosing the reader in the detail. The information given by the writer is precise without being OTT. A very exciting history, of a tragic raid. The text describes the Port of St Nazaire in detail, and along with the pictures you can get a good idea of how the reaid was intended and the way it did actuallly turn out. The author gives the names of the Commando parties through the text, allowing for further research to be done if need be. A good book, with loads of detail.
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5.0 out of 5 stars another excellent osprey 13 Feb 2013
By lbt32
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
great book from the osprey publishing house, well written and illustration up to the expected standard, covers the subject in excellent style.
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Narrative but no Analysis 1 Dec 2001
By R. A Forczyk - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
St Nazaire 1942 is an excellent narrative summary of the famous British commando raid in March 1942. While this raid has been covered in detail in a variety of other books, this latest edition of the Osprey Campaign series adds detailed maps and diagrams that help to make sense of a very confusing night action. However, the author Ken Ford has not followed the standard Osprey Campaign format very closely, which will upset some readers.
Instead of the standard sections on opposing leaders, plans and forces, the author begins with sections that outline the reasons for the raid, the planning phase, training the raiding force, the Royal Naval forces involved, and the enemy. While many details about leaders, tactics and equipment are included in these sections, the information is not as well packaged as usual. Furthermore, the author provides little information on the German perspective; only one leader is detailed and there is little information on Luftwaffe/Kriegsmarine patrols around St Nazaire. German anti-invasion plans and mine defenses are not discussed. Intelligence collection about the target is only mentioned in terms of aerial reconnaissance, with no mention of either Enigma or the French resistance. No formal order of battle information is provided for either side, although much of the data is embedded in the text.
The raid itself is covered in excellent detail, with three sections covering the sea approach, the run up the Loire River and the actual assault. There are three 3-D "Bird's Eye View" maps: the raid at H+10 minutes, the commando attacks in the dockyard and attacks in the Old Town. There are four 2-D maps: the port itself, the route to St Nazaire, the path up the Loire River, and the dockyard targets. In addition, there are three battle scenes depicting HMS Campbeltown charging toward the dock, the demolition of the Pump House and the final breakout attempt. Numerous excellent photographs also complement the text.
The greatest flaw in this volume is the total lack of analysis. While the raid was a brilliant success in terms of the objectives achieved, the virtual destruction of the raiding force needs closer examination. Based more on brawn than brains, the British plan relied primarily on raw courage and luck to gloss over major flaws in the plan. The British raiders were incredibly lucky in passing undetected within 750 meters of German coast defenses around St Nazaire and by the time they were spotted, the Germans could not stop HMS Campbeltown from ramming the dock. However, the British did little to interfere with German coastal defenses other than an ineffectual air raid and crude deception efforts; had the Germans spotted the British ten minutes earlier the raid would probably have ended as an utter failure. Furthermore, the lack of a viable evacuation plan - other than cruising past fully-alerted German defenses in slow, unarmored launches - was a major flaw in the plan. The British were writing the book of how to conduct raids at St Nazaire and they made serious mistakes, fortunately which they learned from.
Another huge mistake, which was one of the great lessons learned from the raid, was that transporting troops into combat in thin-skinned vehicles is a bad idea. Of the 12 motor launches in the raid, 7 were sunk and 3 badly damaged; only 38 of 164 commandos on these launches were landed. British losses in these exposed, unarmored launches were horrific, and remind the modern reader of the similar American mistake in sending troops in thin-skinned vehicles into combat in Mogadishu in 1993 (and with the same result). There is not much discussion of alternatives to this type of raid and no discussion about lessons learned for future raids. Nor is the effect of the raid on the French population of St Nazaire discussed. Overall, this book is an excellent summary of the raid but the lack of analysis somewhat reduces its value as history.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid, Exciting, but Just a Lttle Muddled 13 Sep 2011
By Graves - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
In St. Nazaire 1942 Ken Ford looks at the massive commando raid in March of 1942 where the British set out to destroy the harbor facilities of western France that might have supported the great German battleships. He goes into fine detail on the reasoning and planning behind the raid and the navy maneuvers and while a very good introduction to the raid, I found his handling of the Royal Marine landing parties a little muddled which distracted from the overall theme of the book.

Much like the great raid on Zebruge in 1918 the plan was for a specially rigged vessel to be rammed into the doors of the great lock on the dry dock in St Nazaire while swarms of specially trained raiders would come ashore and demolish other harbor facilities before being with drawn by motor boat. The plan went well until the moment the Germans opened fire and a great many of the commandos were cut down before they ever put foot on shore. Still for the courage of the RN crew of the sacrificial ship and the courage of those commandos who did get ashore, the damage caused was out of all proportion to their small numbers.

Ford goes into very good detail on the men chosen for the job, their objectives, training and their equipment, especially their boats. His writing is good enough that one almost has a sense of `adventure' as the British destroyer, caught in the German search lamps hauled down its faux German flag and ran up the navy battle ensign, but the commandos in the lesser boats seem to get some short shrift in the telling. Things are more than a little muddled and as an example while focusing on the fighting in the water we are told of an officer and his men who are taken off having done their job, but then are killed by fire, before we are told what they did on the land in order to be taken off. We are not told how many commandos are loaded on to the motor boats and how many are crouched down on the decks of the destroyer. By the time the commandos try to break out of the German lines they are getting good attention but it only makes the earlier confusion more frustrating because he shows he can get it right.

Even worse is the story is terribly one sided told almost exclusively from the side of the British. Once the shooting starts there is no input as to how the German troops were responding, they seem to almost loom up like villains in a 1960's war movie, existing only to hurt the goodies.

Also although Ford lists the number killed out of the raid he gives no idea how many of the raiders were made prisoner and how many made it safely back to England and there is no real attempt to list German casualties.

For all these weaknesses, these sins of omission, ford has written a very good work on one of the greatest commando raids of the Second World War. A near suicidal assault done with a sense of adventure that few could match. Ford approriately honors their skill, their daring, the professionalism and ultimately, their sacrifice.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Swiftly they struck! 5 Aug 2007
By N. Trachta - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Osprey's book St. Nazaire 1942: The Great Command Raid describes the great commando raid on the Normandie Dock in St. Nazaire. Focus for the raid was to eliminate the dry docks there to prevent the Tirpitz from sortieing as the Bismarck had. The layout follows Osprey's usual formula (background, the forces, getting ready, the story, and the aftermath). However, unlike most of the campaign books, this one covers the subject in good detail (while I love Osprey's work, most of their campaign series gives you just enough to wet the appetite, not enough to satisfy). The general battle is discussed along with what happens to each of the MTB's (Motor Torpedo Boats) carrying the commandoes. This is then followed up with the actions of the different commando teams on the ground. The text is a little brief and abrupt, this is due to the limited space in Osprey's books. The additional material; the photos (a few I hadn't seen in other books on the battle), the artwork (very nicely done and fitting to the battle), and the maps are great! Also, the bibliography is a good (I'll recommend St. Nazaire Commando as an excellent follow up on the land portion of the battle). I'll need to follow up on a couple of them later on.

Rating wise for an Osprey book this is a five star book and by far the best I've read in the campaign series! While it doesn't have the details that the references have, it does a great job describing the Raid on St. Nazaire. Because of this, for me it's a solid four star book!
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good intro to this campaign 3 Sep 2007
By Yoda - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This book, like most in the Osprey series, provides a good introduction to this particular battle in only 96 pages. If you are looking to get an introduction in an hour or hour and a half of reading this is the book for you. It provides a brief (with emphasis on brief) to the motivation behind, personalities involved and actual military operation.
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