HMS Campbeltown (I42)
HMS Campbeltown was a "Town"-class
Town class destroyer
The Town class destroyers were warships transferred from the United States Navy to the Royal Navy and the Royal Canadian Navy in exchange for military bases in the Bahamas and elsewhere, as outlined in the Destroyers for Bases Agreement between Britain and United States, signed on 2 September 1940...

In naval terminology, a destroyer is a fast and maneuverable yet long-endurance warship intended to escort larger vessels in a fleet, convoy or battle group and defend them against smaller, powerful, short-range attackers. Destroyers, originally called torpedo-boat destroyers in 1892, evolved from...

 of the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 during the Second World War
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. She was originally an American destroyer , and, like many other obsolescent U.S. Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

 destroyers, she was transferred to the Royal Navy in 1940 as part of the Destroyers for Bases Agreement
Destroyers for Bases Agreement
The Destroyers for Bases Agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom, September 2, 1940, transferred fifty mothballed destroyers from the United States Navy in exchange for land rights on British possessions...

. Campbeltown became one of the most famous of these ships when she was used in the St. Nazaire Raid
St. Nazaire Raid
The St Nazaire Raid or Operation Chariot was a successful British amphibious attack on the heavily defended Normandie dry dock at St Nazaire in German-occupied France during the Second World War. The operation was undertaken by the Royal Navy and British Commandos under the auspices of Combined...

 in 1942.

As USS Buchanan

USS Buchanan was a Wickes-class
Wickes class destroyer
The Wickes-class destroyers were a group of 111 destroyers built by the United States Navy in 1917-1919. Along with the 6 preceding Caldwell class and 155 subsequent Clemson-class destroyers, they formed the "flush-deck" or "four-stack" class. Only a few were completed in time to serve in World...

 destroyer, ordered from the Bath Iron Works
Bath Iron Works
Bath Iron Works is a major American shipyard located on the Kennebec River in Bath, Maine, United States. Since its founding in 1884 , BIW has built private, commercial and military vessels, most of which have been ordered by the United States Navy...

, Bath, Maine
Bath, Maine
Bath is a city in Sagadahoc County, Maine, in the United States. As of the 2000 census, the city population was 9,266. It is the county seat of Sagadahoc County. Located on the Kennebec River, Bath is a port of entry with a good harbor. The city is popular with tourists, many drawn by its...

, and laid down on 29 June 1918. She was launched on 2 January 1919 and commissioned into the Navy on 20 January. She had a typical inter-war career, and was been placed into the reserve
Reserve fleet
A reserve fleet is a collection of naval vessels of all types that are fully equipped for service but are not currently needed, and thus partially or fully decommissioned. A reserve fleet is informally said to be "in mothballs" or "mothballed"; an equivalent expression in unofficial modern U.S....

 in 1939. She then became one of 50 destroyers transferred to the Royal Navy in 1940 after the finalisation of the Destroyers for Bases Agreement
Destroyers for Bases Agreement
The Destroyers for Bases Agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom, September 2, 1940, transferred fifty mothballed destroyers from the United States Navy in exchange for land rights on British possessions...

. She was transferred on 3 September 1940 and commissioned on 9 September at Halifax
City of Halifax
Halifax is a city in Canada, which was the capital of the province of Nova Scotia and shire town of Halifax County. It was the largest city in Atlantic Canada until it was amalgamated into Halifax Regional Municipality in 1996...

, Canada.

As HMS Campbeltown

Having been formally commissioned she took passage from Halifax to Plymouth
Plymouth is a city and unitary authority area on the coast of Devon, England, about south-west of London. It is built between the mouths of the rivers Plym to the east and Tamar to the west, where they join Plymouth Sound...

, travelling via St. Johns, Newfoundland. She arrived at Devonport Dockyard
HMNB Devonport
Her Majesty's Naval Base Devonport , is one of three operating bases in the United Kingdom for the Royal Navy . HMNB Devonport is located in Devonport, in the west of the city of Plymouth in Devon, England...

 on 29 September and was taken in hand for modifications to fit her for service with the Royal Navy. The refits lasted throughout October, and on completion of the final harbour trials on 1 November she was nominated to join the 17th Flotilla operating in the Western Approaches
Western Approaches
The Western Approaches is a rectangular area of the Atlantic ocean lying on the western coast of Great Britain. The rectangle is higher than it is wide, the north and south boundaries defined by the north and south ends of the British Isles, the eastern boundary lying on the western coast, and the...

. The next, while she was carrying out sea trials, she collided with the SS Risoy and sustained damage, but continued to Liverpool
Liverpool is a city and metropolitan borough of Merseyside, England, along the eastern side of the Mersey Estuary. It was founded as a borough in 1207 and was granted city status in 1880...

. She arrived safely and underwent repairs from 7 November. On their completion on 24 November, Campbeltown continued on to join the flotilla.

On 29 November, she ran down and sank the British coaster
Coastal trading vessel
Coastal trading vessels, also known as coasters, are shallow-hulled ships used for trade between locations on the same island or continent. Their shallow hulls mean that they can get through reefs where deeper-hulled sea-going ships usually cannot....

  in the Mersey Estuary
River Mersey
The River Mersey is a river in North West England. It is around long, stretching from Stockport, Greater Manchester, and ending at Liverpool Bay, Merseyside. For centuries, it formed part of the ancient county divide between Lancashire and Cheshire....

. She began deploying with the flotilla in early December, but on 3 December she collided with the SS Comus and had to put into port for repairs again. The repairs lasted until late March, and involved the shortening of the fourth funnel.

On completion of the work on 28 March, Campbeltown was transferred on loan to the Royal Netherlands Navy
Royal Netherlands Navy
The Koninklijke Marine is the navy of the Netherlands. In the mid-17th century the Dutch Navy was the most powerful navy in the world and it played an active role in the wars of the Dutch Republic and later those of the Batavian Republic and the Kingdom of the Netherlands...

, and she joined the 7th Escort Group, and deployed with them in April-May. There was at this time a proposal to rename her Middelburg, but this was not agreed upon, as it would have been contrary to the naming agreed with the U.S. Navy on her original transfer. She underwent further repairs throughout June, and resumed convoy defence with the group in July-August. She was then nominated to be returned to the Royal Navy in September, but remained with the 7th Escort Group. She spent September working up with her Royal Navy crew and rejoined the group in October, where she covered convoys between Britain and West Africa. On 15 September, she picked up the survivors of the Norwegian motor tanker Vinga, which had been damaged in an enemy air attack. She carried out escort duties in November-December, before taking passage to Devonport to undergo repairs.

The St Nazaire Raid

Campbeltown began the Devonport repairs in January. During this time, she was selected for a special operation and was withdrawn from regular service for modifications. She was to be used in Operation Chariot, a planned assault operation on the docks at Saint-Nazaire
Saint-Nazaire , is a commune in the Loire-Atlantique department in western France.The town has a major harbour, on the right bank of the Loire River estuary, near the Atlantic Ocean. The town is at the south of the second-largest swamp in France, called "la Brière"...

. In 1942, the German battleship
A battleship is a large armored warship with a main battery consisting of heavy caliber guns. Battleships were larger, better armed and armored than cruisers and destroyers. As the largest armed ships in a fleet, battleships were used to attain command of the sea and represented the apex of a...

 —anchored at Trondheim
Trondheim , historically, Nidaros and Trondhjem, is a city and municipality in Sør-Trøndelag county, Norway. With a population of 173,486, it is the third most populous municipality and city in the country, although the fourth largest metropolitan area. It is the administrative centre of...

 in Norway—was considered to present a grave threat to Atlantic convoy
Second Battle of the Atlantic
The Battle of the Atlantic was the longest continuous military campaign in World War II, running from 1939 to the defeat of Germany in 1945. At its core was the Allied naval blockade of Germany, announced the day after the declaration of war, and Germany's subsequent counter-blockade. It was at its...

s. Should Tirpitz enter the Atlantic, the Louis Joubert
Louis Joubert Lock
The Louis Joubert Lock also known as the Normandie Dock, is a lock and major dry dock located in the port of Saint-Nazaire, in Loire-Atlantique northwestern France...

 drydock at Saint-Nazaire—which had originally been built for the liner —was a vital target; it was the only German-held drydock on the European coast of the Atlantic that was large enough to service the battleship. If this drydock could be put out of action, any offensive sortie by Tirpitz into the Atlantic would be much more dangerous for the Kriegsmarine
The Kriegsmarine was the name of the German Navy during the Nazi regime . It superseded the Kaiserliche Marine of World War I and the post-war Reichsmarine. The Kriegsmarine was one of three official branches of the Wehrmacht, the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany.The Kriegsmarine grew rapidly...

 to carry out, making it less likely that they would risk deploying her.

Operation Chariot was a plan to ram an explosive-laden warship into the dock gates. Accompanying her would be a number of small boats carrying British Commandos
British Commandos
The British Commandos were formed during the Second World War in June 1940, following a request from the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, for a force that could carry out raids against German-occupied Europe...

, who would destroy the dock's pumping and winding machinery and other infrastructure. The troops would then be evacuated by the small boats before the explosives in the ship detonated. A particular difficulty was that the dock was located several miles up the estuary of the Loire River. As an obsolescent destroyer
In naval terminology, a destroyer is a fast and maneuverable yet long-endurance warship intended to escort larger vessels in a fleet, convoy or battle group and defend them against smaller, powerful, short-range attackers. Destroyers, originally called torpedo-boat destroyers in 1892, evolved from...

, Campbeltown was considered to be expendable, and she was selected to be the ram-ship. She spent February undergoing modifications. These included removing her third and fourth funnels, and having the remaining two funnels raked, to simulate the structure and appearance of a German Raubvogel-class
German torpedoboats of World War II
The German torpedoboats of World War II were armed principally, if not exclusively, with torpedoes and varied widely in size. They should not be confused with the larger destroyers, nor with the smaller, torpedo-armed Schnellboote .-Raubvogel and Raubtier :The six Raubvogel class torpedo boats were...

 torpedo boat
Torpedo boat
A torpedo boat is a relatively small and fast naval vessel designed to carry torpedoes into battle. The first designs rammed enemy ships with explosive spar torpedoes, and later designs launched self-propelled Whitehead torpedoes. They were created to counter battleships and other large, slow and...

. A 12-pounder gun
QF 12 pounder 12 cwt naval gun
The QF 12 pounder 12 cwt gun was a common calibre naval gun introduced in 1894 and used until the middle of the 20th century. It was produced by Armstrong Whitworth, Elswick and used on Royal Navy warships, and exported to allied countries...

 was installed forward and eight 20 mm (0.78740157480315 in) Oerlikon anti-aircraft
Oerlikon 20 mm cannon
The Oerlikon 20 mm cannon is a series of autocannons, based on an original design by Reinhold Becker of Germany, very early in World War I, and widely produced by Oerlikon Contraves and others...

An autocannon or automatic cannon is a rapid-fire projectile weapon firing a shell as opposed to the bullet fired by a machine gun. Autocannons often have a larger caliber than a machine gun . Usually, autocannons are smaller than a field gun or other artillery, and are mechanically loaded for a...

s were mounted on the upper deck. Some extra armour was provided to protect the bridge structure and unnecessary stores and equipment were removed in order to lighten the destroyer.

An explosive charge consisting of 24 Mark VII depth charge
Depth charge
A depth charge is an anti-submarine warfare weapon intended to destroy or cripple a target submarine by the shock of exploding near it. Most use explosives and a fuze set to go off at a preselected depth in the ocean. Depth charges can be dropped by either surface ships, patrol aircraft, or from...

s—containing a total of 4.5 ST (4.1 t) of amatol
Amatol is a highly explosive material made from a mixture of TNT and ammonium nitrate. Its name originates from the words ammonium and toluene...

 high explosive—was fitted into steel tanks installed just behind the steel pillar that supported her most forward gun mount. The charges were to be detonated by multiple eight-hour time pencils
Pencil detonator
A pencil detonator or time pencil is a time fuze designed to be connected to a detonator or short length of safety fuse. They are about the same size and shape as a pencil, hence the name. They were introduced during World War II.- No. 10 delay switch :...

 connected together by cordtex
Cordtex is a type of detonating cord generally used in mining. It uses an explosive core of pentaerythritol tetranitrate which is inside its plastic coating.It is commonly the thickness of electrical extension cord and "burns" at 2 km per second...

, set before steaming out and cemented in to prevent any interference with the detonation. Campbeltown steamed from Devonport to Falmouth, Cornwall
Falmouth, Cornwall
Falmouth is a town, civil parish and port on the River Fal on the south coast of Cornwall, England, United Kingdom. It has a total resident population of 21,635.Falmouth is the terminus of the A39, which begins some 200 miles away in Bath, Somerset....

 on 25 March to join the other ships that would take part in the operation. The crew—which would be evacuated with the commandos—was reduced to 75 men, under the command of Lieutenant-Commander Stephen "Sam" Beattie
Stephen Halden Beattie
Captain Stephen Halden Beattie VC was a Welsh recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.-Details:...


A flotilla of 21 vessels—Campbeltown, 16 Fairmile B
Fairmile B motor launch
The Fairmile B motor launch was a type of Motor Launch built by Fairmile Marine during the Second World War for the Royal Navy for coastal operations.-Design:...

 motor launch
Motor Launch
A Motor Launch is a small military vessel in British navy service. It was designed for harbour defence and submarine chasing or for armed high speed air-sea rescue....

es, one motor torpedo boat
Motor Torpedo Boat
Motor Torpedo Boat was the name given to fast torpedo boats by the Royal Navy, and the Royal Canadian Navy.The capitalised term is generally used for the Royal Navy boats and abbreviated to "MTB"...

, and a Fairmile C motor gun boat
Fairmile C motor gun boat
The Fairmile C motor gun boat was a type of Motor Gun Boat designed by Norman Hart of Fairmile Marine for the Royal Navy. An intermediate design, twenty-four boats were built in 1941 receiving the designations MGB 312 - 335.-Design:...

 acting as the troops′ headquarters—left Falmouth at 14:00 on 26 March 1942, escorted for most of the crossing to France by two "Hunt"-class
Hunt class destroyer
The Hunt class was a class of Destroyer escort of the Royal Navy. The first vessels were ordered early in 1939, and the class saw extensive service in World War II, particularly on the British East Coast and Mediterranean convoys. They were named after British fox hunts...

 escort destroyer
Escort destroyer
A Escort Destroyer is a US Navy post World War II classification for destroyers modified for and assigned to a fleet escort role. These destroyers retained their original hull numbers...

s. Apart from a brief clash with U-593, whose captain misreported the task force's course and composition, the ships reached France unmolested. One motor launch suffered mechanical problems and had to return to England.

The preliminary air raid carried out through heavy cloud by 35 Armstrong Whitworth Whitley
Armstrong Whitworth Whitley
The Armstrong Whitworth A.W.38 Whitley was one of three British twin-engine, front line medium bomber types in service with the Royal Air Force at the outbreak of the Second World War...

s and 25 Vickers Wellington
Vickers Wellington
The Vickers Wellington was a British twin-engine, long range medium bomber designed in the mid-1930s at Brooklands in Weybridge, Surrey, by Vickers-Armstrongs' Chief Designer, R. K. Pierson. It was widely used as a night bomber in the early years of the Second World War, before being displaced as a...

s was much smaller than originally planned and was ineffective, merely alerting the defenders that something unusual was happening. Nevertheless, by flashing genuine German recognition signals, the force approached to within less than 1 mi (1.6 km) of the harbour before being fired upon. Campbeltown—as the largest target—drew most of the fire. During the final approach, the crew of Campbeltown lowered the emblem of the Kriegsmarine and hoisted the Fighting Ensign of the Royal Navy; she was going in under British colours.

At 01:34 on 28 March, four minutes later than planned, Campbeltown rammed the dock gate. The Commandos and ship's crew came ashore under heavy German fire, and set about demolishing the dock machinery. One hundred-sixty-two of the raiders were killed (64 commandos and 105 sailors) out of the 611 men in the attacking force. Of the survivors, 215 were captured and 222 were evacuated by the surviving small craft. A further five evaded capture and travelled overland through France to Spain and then to Gibraltar
Gibraltar is a British overseas territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean. A peninsula with an area of , it has a northern border with Andalusia, Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is the major landmark of the region...

The charges in Campbeltown exploded at noon, an hour and a half after the British had expected. Although the ship had been searched by the Germans, the explosives had not been detected. The explosion killed around 250 German soldiers and French civilians, and demolished both the front half of the destroyer and the 160 ST (145.1 t) caisson
Caisson (engineering)
In geotechnical engineering, a caisson is a retaining, watertight structure used, for example, to work on the foundations of a bridge pier, for the construction of a concrete dam, or for the repair of ships. These are constructed such that the water can be pumped out, keeping the working...

 of the drydock, with the rush of water into the drydock washing the remains of the ship into it. The St. Nazaire drydock was rendered unusable for the rest of the war, and was not repaired until 1947.

The delayed-action torpedoes fired by the motor torpedo boat into the outer lock gate to the submarine basin detonated, as planned, on the night of 30 March. This later explosion led to panic, with German forces firing on French civilians and on each other. Sixteen French civilians were killed and around thirty wounded. Later, 1,500 civilians were arrested and interned in a camp at Savenay
Savenay is a commune in the Loire-Atlantique department in western France and the Pays de la Loire region. Located on the Sillon de Bretagne , north of the Loire, its landscape is characterized by the hillside overlooking the marshes of the Loire...

, and most of their houses were demolished, even though they had had nothing to do with the raid. Lt-Cdr Beattie—who was taken prisoner—received the Victoria Cross
Victoria Cross
The Victoria Cross is the highest military decoration awarded for valour "in the face of the enemy" to members of the armed forces of various Commonwealth countries, and previous British Empire territories....

 for his valour, and in 1947 received the French Légion d'honneur
Légion d'honneur
The Legion of Honour, or in full the National Order of the Legion of Honour is a French order established by Napoleon Bonaparte, First Consul of the Consulat which succeeded to the First Republic, on 19 May 1802...

. His Victoria Cross was one of five that were awarded to participants in the raid, along with 80 other military decoration
Military decoration
A military decoration is a decoration given to military personnel or units for heroism in battle or distinguished service. They are designed to be worn on military uniform....



The ship's bell of HMS Campbeltown was given to the town of Campbelltown, Pennsylvania
Campbelltown, Pennsylvania
Campbelltown is a census-designated place in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, United States. The population was 2,415 at the 2000 census.-Geography:Campbelltown is located at ....

, as a gesture of appreciation towards the United States for the Lend-Lease
Lend-Lease was the program under which the United States of America supplied the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, China, Free France, and other Allied nations with materiel between 1941 and 1945. It was signed into law on March 11, 1941, a year and a half after the outbreak of war in Europe in...

 program. This ship's bell was later lent by the town to the current , a Type 22 frigate
Type 22 frigate
The Type 22 Broadsword class is a class of frigate built for the British Royal Navy. Fourteen of the class were built in total, with production divided into three batches. With the decommissioning of HMS Cornwall on 30 June 2011, the final Type 22 of the Royal Navy was retired from service...

, when she was commissioned in 1989, and was returned June 21, 2011 after the HMS Cambeltown (F86) was decommissioned.

The 1952 film The Gift Horse
Gift Horse (film)
Gift Horse is a 1952 British war film starring Trevor Howard and Richard Attenborough.The film follows the story of the fictional ship HMS Ballantrae and her crew from the time they come together in 1940 until they go on a one-way mission to destroy a German-held dry dock in France.-Synopsis:A...

was loosely based on the story of HMS Campbeltown.
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