Personal info

  • Name: Stephen Halden BEATTIE
  • D.O.B: 29th Mar, 1908
  • D.O.A: 28th Mar, 1942
  • D.O.D: 24th Apr, 1975
  • Award: Victoria Cross
  • Occupation at time of action: Lieutenant Commander, HMS Campbeltown, Royal Navy
  • Book: The Complete History - Volume 3
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St Nazaire Raid, France 27-28 March 1942

27-28 March 1942

More details about:
The Second World War 1942 

In early 1942 the German battleship Tirpitz had been active against the Arctic Convoys but it was feared that she might move south to attack shipping in the mid-Atlantic. The only dock on the French coast large enough to take her was at St Nazaire at the mouth of the Loire in south-east Brittany. In Operation Chariot, it was planned to destroy the dock as well as the neighbouring submarine pens, thus effectively confining Tirpitz to northern waters. On 26 March 1942 a small naval force left Falmouth for St Nazaire. It consisted of HMS Campbeltown, under the command of Lieutenant Commander S H Beattie, two escorting destroyers, HM Ships Atherstone and Tynedale; sixteen motor launches carrying Commandos under Lieutenant Colonel A C Newman, Motor Gun Boat 314, commanded by Commander R E D Ryder, and Motor Torpedo Boat 74. The force reached St Nazaire on the night of 27-28 March. The Germans only realized that they were under attack at the very last moment. Guided by MGB 314 Beattie succeeded in ramming Campbeltown into the dock gates, where she was scuttled and stuck fast. The launches carrying the commandos came under very heavy fire. The gallant resistance mounted by Sergeant T F Durrant on Motor Launch 306 excited even German admiration. Newman led those commandos who succeeded in landing in an attack on the submarine pens and port facilities but as the strength of German resistance increased, preventing them from reaching the planned embarkation point, the survivors could only attempt to fight their way out through the town before being captured. Beattie was taken prisoner when the motor launch evacuating him and others was sunk. Once it became clear that it was impossible to rescue the commandos, MGB 314 was the last boat to leave. On this boat Able Seaman W A Savage particularly distinguished himself. The Germans failed to find the explosives on the Campbeltown and it exploded destroying the dock gates. Delayed action charges laid by MTB 74 detonated two days later. Of the 622 men who took part in the raid, 169 were killed and 215 taken prisoner. However the dock was out of use for the rest of the war.


 For great gallantry and determination in the attack on St. Nazaire in command of H.M.S. Campbeltown. Under intense fire directed at the bridge from point blank range of about 100 yards, and in the face of the blinding glare of many searchlights, he steamed her into the lockgates and beached and scuttled her in the correct position. This Victoria Cross is awarded to Lieutenant-Commander Beattie in recognition not only of his own valour but also of that of the unnamed officers and men of a very gallant ship’s company, many of whom have not returned. 

Supplement to The London Gazette of 19 May 1942. 21 May 1942, Numb. 35566, p. 2225

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