Profiles in Engineering Badassery: Operation Chariot

Rather than an individual today, I thought I’d call out one of the most amazing fucking collaborative efforts of WW2. This was a raid by British forces so daring, so ballsy, that it still gets taught today as an example of the effectiveness of covert strikes and out-of-the-box thinking.

I won’t cover the whole details of the operation. If you can find a copy (totally worth pirating), the BBC aired an hour long documentary about it hosted by Jeremy Clarkson called The Greatest Raid of All Time. It’s a great watch and I highly recommend it even if you’re not normally into war stuff.

But to cover the background, at the start of WW2 it was clear that the Battle of the Atlantic was going to be what ultimately won or lost the whole thing for the allied powers. German forces were eager to capture territory on the west coast of France so that their uboat fleet, and some of its surface vessels, could operate in the Atlantic without needing to transit the English Channel (in which the RAF would rip any German ships to shreds). Part of the fear was over the German super-battleship, the Tirpitz, but it was so large that in the whole of France there was just one drydock that could service it if it needed repairs. Operation Chariot was an attempt to take that dock out before it could be used. 

In order to accomplish it a team of highly-educated, loosely structured soldiers simply called the Commandos had to build a plan from the ground up. They needed stealth, they needed engineering prowess, they needed adaptability on the fly, and they unfortunately needed to do it almost entirely without outside support. 

The result was 1) success, and 2) one of the most amazing real stories ever to come out of any of history’s conflicts. It’s the kind of thing that makes your heart swell with patriotic pride (even if it was someone else’s nation that did it).

Profiles in Engineering Badassery: Operation Chariot