Operation Chopper

'Chopper' was a British special forces raid for reconnaissance and prisoner-seizing purposes against St Vaast and St Aubin on the northern coast of German-occupied France by 25 men of No. 1 Commando’s No. 5 Troop (27/28 September 1941).

The party departed Spithead on board the raiding craft carrier Prince Leopold, escorted by the escort destroyer Fernie and the destroyer Vanity, and in the middle of the English Channel the men of the raiding party transferred to their landing craft to be towed by the motor gun boats MGB-316, MGB-314 and MGB-312 close to their destination beaches on the Pointe de Saire near St Vaast on the French coast to the east of Cherbourg and Courseulles to the north-west of Caen. Lieutenant Scaramanga’s party landed as planned in St Vaast bay and, when confronted by a German bicycle patrol, shot three of the Germans, whereupon the others scattered. The commandos made their way back to their landing craft with one corpse, and were fortunate to suffer no casualties when they were engaged with machine gun fire. They were too late for the rendezvous with their motor gun boat and Prince Leopold, however, and made their own way back to Portsmouth, which they reached at 16.00.

The other party, under Captain Davies, had a very different experience. As the party approached their designated landing area the men realised that they were heading for the wrong beach, but as time was short they carried on in the hope of snatching a prisoner. On landing they were immediately challenged and then engaged by machine gun fire. Davies ordered an attack on the machine gun position, a task which involved climbing a 10-ft (3-m) sea wall and breaking through two coils of barbed wire. As the men were negotiating these obstacles two more machine gun positions opened fire and the commandos had no choice but to withdraw. By the time they boarded their landing craft one of their number was wounded and two were missing. Under the circumstances nothing further could be done so they returned at full speed to their waiting motor gun boat.