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HMS Campbeltown Honoured Again in St Nazaire

HMS Campbeltown & Sant-Nazer, a very special memory!

Our Tapestry is making friends the world over and none better and more courteous than Jean Cevaer and Hubert Chemereau in St Nazaire. Your webmaster reported only last month on our campaign in St Nazaire to exhibit the Tapestry there - LINKED DIRECTLY HERE

Then into the news offshore Benghazi, Libya, sails today's proud bearer of the name HMS Campbeltown - en route we were told to the scrap yard under the Defence cuts just doing its last naval operation. Some fate indeed for a great name that so spectacularly rammed St Nazaire's dry dock gates on March 28th 1942 and blew them up as 600 Commandos went ashore in the spectacular Operation Chariot - - LINKED DIRECTLY HERE!

But it was not to be a trip direct to the scrap yard after all! Someone at the Admiralty has a proper sense of history, and HMS Campbeltown sailed home via St Nazaire where Hubert and Jean, and much if not all the Breton Nationalist/ Celtic community gave it a rousing welcome .... and farewell.

Hubert Chémereau, true Friend of the Prestonpans Tapestry, reports from St Nazaire [Sant-Nazer]:

"The sailors of the frigate HMS Campbeltown will hold a very special memory of their visit to Sant-Nazer [St Nazaire] before March 30 2011 when HMS Campbeltown finally left the Breton port for its ultimate one-way journey.

"If HMS Campbeltown, first of this name, broke asunder the door of the Joubert Dock in March 1942, today's frigate which bears her name as a tribute, will itself soon be disarmed for ever. After 22 years of good and loyal service, how sad it is to see this beautiful ship end up « as razor blades » as our British guests said with their typical humour tinged with bitterness!

"The Commander had planned a leaving surprise for his Nazairian hosts. As an echo of Amazing Grace and Highland Cathedral interpreted by a Breton bagpiper at the 69th Anniversary Commemoration for Operation Chariot on the 28th, a piper of Royal Navy signalled the departure of HMS Campbeltown as it manoeuvred in the dock to the exit of the lock. Tunes of the different Celtic nations comforted Bretons and British alike who were enduring heavy rain driven by a typical Breton wind.

Arrivée du HMS Campbeltown à Saint-Nazaire ( phare de Kerlede) Photo Michel Mahé

"With an endearing touch of «such British» humour, the Captain shouted to Nazairians attending the departure and dripping with iodine water: « You are brave under the Breton sun!».

"The British sailors were deeply touched by the gestures of friendship from the Nazairians who accompanied them and said farewell with their Breton, Inter-Celtic and Nazairians flags along the lock till HMS Campbeltown finally sailed away. As she is named after just a small harbour in Scotland, Jakez Lhéritier from the CREDIB finally asked the piper to play « Flower of Scotland ». The piper, overhanging the crew, all standing stoically in the rain, responded magnificently to the request of the Breton.

"Hats off to the Royal Navy which showed respect for the identity of all the Celtic nations which make up Britain. The Commander Kerri Harris called out a vibrating « Kenavo » before exiting the lock, which was enthusiastically taken up by many Nazairians.

The foghorns of the tug boats sounded across the harbour with a strength that reminded us all of the departure of Queen Mary 2 in December 2003 - which we had been so proud to build!

"Before entering the Loire estuary, HMS Campbeltown fired a salute of eleven guns, which resonated across the whole of our naval city. This gesture of the Royal Navy was a final tribute to Nazairians, who have every intention of keeping alive the memory of the exemplary heroes of Operation Chariot in March 1942.

" Un grand merci au commandant Keri Harris pour sa gentillesse, son excellent français et ses multiples gestes d'amitié envers les Bretons et leur identité."

"Kenavo Campbeltown!" Farewell Campbeltown!

P.S. Be certain, Sant Nazer/ St Nazaire, the Prestonpans Tapestry, celebrating as it depicts on Jenny Unwin's panel below the Prince's departure for Eriskay aboard the du Teillay, will be exhibited thereabouts ... just as soon as we are able!

Published Date: April 4th 2011

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