I joined 20th ML Flotilla but I wasn’t enjoying it very much so I volunteered for parachute training. One day the skipper of the boat announced my request for draft to parachute training had been granted. He then said they had an interesting party coming up and if I chose, I could be included so I said, “Right, I’ll stay.” This developed into the raid on St Nazaire.

The Crew

The Crew – Me Back Centre


We [the crew of ML 192] knew nothing about the raid until it started. Prior to the raid we were exercised at sea with the Commandos on board to get them accustomed to seasickness. We took them down to the Scilly Isles, anchored there and rocked and rolled and put them through hoops!

Subsequently we carried out a practice raid on Plymouth, throwing sponges at one another and learning what the difficulties would be with enemy searchlights. We still didn’t know what was happening. The trial was a fiasco!

We became suspicious about the whole business because we knew there was something afoot and when the ferry with the troops on board arrived we were all making wild guesses as to what was the next move. I think that was a few days before the raid started.

We started out at about noontime. The destroyers joined us at sea. It took time to arrange accommodation for the troops, sleeping arrangements and the like because there were twice as many people on board than we were used to. Luckily there was no problem with seasickness and I remember we were escorted by an aircraft on the first day. The Commandos spent their time examining their weapons, kit and explosive packs that they had.

Crew - Me Right

Crew – Me Right

192 was the first ship to be hit. We were about to pass the Old Mole when we were completely stopped, I mean the machinery stopped, the boat was still moving. The engine room was on fire and instead of passing the Old Mole we ran into it. On the Mole itself was the lighthouse, at the end, and then a tower with searchlights and closer to the shore, another flak tower. We stopped just short of the flak tower. The boat listed to starboard which put the mast over the top of the Mole and I thought there was a prospect of getting ashore there, it was going to be difficult but I thought I could climb the mast and drop onto the Mole. So, I climbed it, to a point when I could see two heads peeping out of the flak tower and I thought it was time to make a move. I think they were as frightened as I was because they never fired at me. They were not expecting mast-climbing folk!

When I came down again, the ship was well on fire and the Skipper ordered us to abandon ship. I gave him a hand to launch a carley float and after we launched it, for the benefit of the non-swimmers, I went over the bow to swim along parallel to the Mole and got up on the beach.

When we landed, we were surrounded and the Germans marched us off in a southerly direction and on the way, there was a lot of gunfire. We were ducking and dodging and I spotted some rolls of wire netting, like chicken wire, and so I slid in between them. I just laid doggo and they marched off without me. That was before two o’clock in the morning and I was still there by daylight. I knew I had to make a break for it and ran into a bunch of Germans and I was immediately taken prisoner. I was quite concerned because there were some trigger happy ones amongst them but fortunately the officer who was in charge of them seemed to be a steady type and ordered me to walk over towards the Mole and made me stand with my back to the parapet and I thought it was curtains. I told this officer I was a Scotsman in French, and he said “Why don’t you speak English?” he quizzed me quite a lot, wanted to know why I was not in uniform, wearing a boiler suit and plimsolls. Fortunately I had lost my service revolver in the swim as I am quite sure that if I had been armed when they caught me, it would have been the end for me.

Anyway, they held me for a while then a couple took me and a Commando to a private house to see a high ranking officer. He asked if we had any weapons and the Commando had a hand grenade which he took out and laid on the desk which caused a bit of panic. After they were satisfied we carried no arms, they marched us to a restaurant where a great many of the troops were already assembled. I don’t recall exactly how long we were kept waiting.

We weren’t at a low ebb at this stage. Later in the day we were loaded onto lorries and taken to a POW camp in Rennes.