Memorial to St Nazaire raiders erected in commando unit’s birthplace

Topic: Community Storyline: Community

Men who took part in the greatest commando raid will be honoured in the place it all started – thanks to two sailors.

A memorial plaque will be unveiled on the former headquarters of No.5 Commando whose men went on to storm German defences at St Nazaire, helped seize Madagascar from pro-Nazi French forces, and served extensively across the Indo-Pacific in the final two years of the war with Japan.

It’s the latest reminder to today’s generation of past sacrifices which has been driven by Chief Petty Officer Richard Jones.

The senior rating, who’s based at HMS Collingwood, devotes his spare time to drawing attention to forgotten tragedies in the UK – shipwrecks, rail and tube accidents – and ensuring they’re remembered, be it with a monument or memorial plaque, a book, or both.

Much of his recent efforts have focused on his hometown of Bridlington and its role in both world wars – there are four blue plaques in the resort already to local George Cross/Medal winners.

Now he’s turned his attention to No.5 Commando, whose links with Bridlington were pointed out to him by local Navy veteran Martin Barmby.

The unit was one of the first commando units set up by Prime Minister Winston Churchill to raise hell in occupied Europe, formed less than a month after the fall of France in 1940.

The fledgling unit made its headquarters in the unlikely setting of a grand Victorian-era terrace: 6 The Crescent, Bridlington.

Although an Army Commando unit, it frequently fought alongside Royal Marine Commandos, or operated from Royal Navy warships – notably at St Nazaire and Madagascar.

During the former, an old destroyer – HMS Campbeltown – packed with explosives rammed the dock gate and subsequently exploded, denying the use of the dry dock to the German Navy for the rest of the war.

The invasion of Madagascar six weeks later in May 1942 – the first major amphibious operation by the Allies in the war – led to the swift capture of the northern tip of the island and the key port of Diego Suarez.

The special green, not blue, plaque will be dedicated at 6 The Crescent – today the Carlton Apartments – at midday on Wednesday April 3, with the relative of a commando killed in the St Nazaire Raid performing the honours.

Richard says there has been widespread interest in his latest unveiling – the 16th he has overseen – with funding for the memorial quickly secured.

“It just goes to show the enthusiasm for this unit to be remembered and commemorated

“It’s an incredible piece of history and, for me, another opportunity to put Bridlington history on the map.”

It’s an incredible piece of history and, for me, another opportunity to put Bridlington history on the map.

Chief Petty Officer Richard Jones