South East Wales

WW2 St Nazaire dock attack instigator gets plaque

The plaque was unveiled on Wednesday morning
Image caption A plaque to commemorate Capt Pritchard's actions was unveiled on Wednesday morning

An Army officer who died during a successful attack he instigated on a German-occupied dock has been honoured with a plaque in Cardiff.

Capt William Pritchard was killed when British forces blew up Normandy Dock, St Nazaire, in March 1942.

The attack put the dock out of action until after World War Two.

This stopped the German warship the Tirpitz entering the conflict as it had nowhere to go for repairs.

The battleship was later sunk off the coast of Norway.

Royal Engineer Capt Pritchard, of Llandaff, helped come up with the plan after witnessing the bombing of Cardiff docks in 1941, where his father was the master.

RAF bombs were not accurate enough to hit the gate of Normandy Dock in the French port from afar so he helped devise a plan to blow it up from the inside.

He helped remodel an old ship - HMS Campbeltown - to look like a German vessel and placed a four-and-a-half tonne bomb on board.

Training for the mission took place at Cardiff docks and other areas around the UK.

The plaque was unveiled at a short ceremony in Llandaff on Wednesday.

Image copyright Family photo

Overnight on 27 March 1942, HMS Campbeltown made it part way up the Loire estuary before the Germans detected it.

But it managed to reach the dock and the British commandos onboard off-loaded and began destroying what they could.

Hours after it was supposed to have destroyed the gates, the bomb on HMS Campbeltown had still not blown.

The Germans, not realising explosives were on board, had begun a tour of the ship, when just before midday the next day, it finally detonated.

Many survivors were captured and spent the rest of the war as prisoners at Colditz.

In total, nearly 170 British servicemen, including Capt Pritchard, were killed in the raid.

To mark his contribution to the mission, known as Operation Chariot, The Llandaff Society, Royal Engineers in Cardiff and St Nazaire Society funded the plaque in Capt Pritchard's honour.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A view of the Tirpitz from the deck of the German cruiser Prinz Eugen off the coast of Norway, circa 1943
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption An aerial photo of the Tirpitz in Norway, after it was damaged by Royal Navy explosives

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