The Granville Raid 8/9th of March 1945
After receiving first hand intelligence from 5 German escapees from a large POW camp in Granville, the Commander of the Channel Island German forces started planing a raid that would boost troop morale and bring back supplies for his troops.
The final mission plan was to destroy the port, secure supplies and return to Jersey with as much as possible. The German forces included six minesweepers, the masts of which had been removed to present a smaller target to Allied radar, three artillery carriers, two converted landing-craft, three motor torpedo boats and a number of smaller craft.
The Germans targeted three areas for simultaneous attack
The Signal Station
The Hotels "Normandy & des Baines"
While on patrol outside the harbour, an American submarine chaser, PC-564
, was alerted to fast approaching targets and prepared to defend Granville. It engaged with the enemy, but after the first shot from her 3 inch gun it jammed. Overwhelmed by the large German flotilla, PC-564 was seriously damaged, with her pilot house blown off and many crew killed or injured. The order was given to abandon ship and several crew did so, The captain, then intentionally grounded the vessel after evading the Germans. She was grounded off Cancale, the captain then sends a crew member ashore to find help.
The Port was blacked out and 156th Infantry Regiment
3rd Battalion was ordered to "stand to" and then Alerted with orders to move on Granville. The Granville stockade, had over 1,400 German POW's, was ordered not to send anymore to the port, but this was to late to stop 79 that had already departed for their work shift at the port. The Ports defence plan was put into action. "One cannot fight 88's, 50cal and 20 or 30mm with carbines" (Major Brown)
A German minesweeper vessel entered the harbour and opened a raking fire on the docks and over the town. The main fire was directed against the barracks at Le Roc located on the top of the hill overlooking the port. At the same time a small raiding party attacks the hotels, they were guided by a French woman who was pointing out the billeting of the US officers. At the same time as the German raid started, the power is deliberately cut as well as some of the communication lines. This is believe to have been done by a local collaborator working with the Germans.
Small battles raged at the hotels and at the port. The allied forces were outgunned and unable to drive back the raiders with their small arms. Prior to the reopening of Granville as a Allied port, the static German defences had been deactivated, this had been noticed by the escapees in December 1944
and formed part of the German intelligence.
The raiding parties went aboard almost all the docked ships & placed demolition charges in the boilers and then set fire to the SS Kyle Castle. Other landing parties put demolition charges in the portal cranes used for the discharging of coal and also in most of the crawler cranes in the area. The Germans also set up a host of booby traps and mines.
The other coal vessels were now to low in the water to be moved, as the tide was on the way out. This tidal movement also caught out the crew of the German Minesweeper that came in as a gun platform. It was grounded on the Harbour bed and had to be scuttled the Minesweeper and left it there.
The Germans used a tug boat, which they brought with them, to remove SS Eskwood. The Eskwood had half a compartment of coal so could still be moved. They also took along 67 of the 79 POW's that were moved to the port area to work that night. The 12 other POW's surrendered to the Allied forces as soon as the action was over.
The raiding party regrouped and with multiple Allied Prisoners of War went back to Jersey.
Our research has found the below accounts from many different Allied Military outfits and we have sorted them in to the pages below. Though we obviously have to cover the German plan and actions, we thought it is really important to tell the story of the brave Allied Personnel and French Civilians involved in this action.
Detailed Accounts from the Allied Forces
Lest we forget the brave people who lost their lives during this raid (this list is still be compiled).
U.S. Army Personnel
Major Ben Ritter, US Army Medical Corp
U.S Naval Personnel
Lt T M Page
Lt R A Miller
R G Antwall
W T Bagwell
J V Benesevich
E J Lightfoot
R J Moore
J F Newman
D G Riley
C L Rounseville
R M Rowland
R J Butts
British Royal Naval Personnel
Lt Frederick Roger Lightoller
Master Wright SS Eskwood
Captain Fraser SS Kyle Castle
George Bell SS Kyle Castle
Charles Olson SS Kyle Castle
Gunner Gollen SS Kyle Castle
Gordon Wills SS Nephrite
Richard Lees SS Nephrite