Lt Col R.K. Montgomery: The St. Nazaire Raid
In 1939, R.K. Montgomery attended the Royal Military Academy to become a Royal Engineer Officer in the British Army. He graduated right before World War II.
His interest in explosives prompted him to pursue additional special training to become a demolitions expert in the Commandos. The Commandos (or British Commandos) were an elite group that gained fame for their rigorous training and distinctive green berets.
In 1942, the Commandos launched Operation Chariot, a.k.a. the St. Nazaire Raid, to take out a dry dock that was crucial to the Germans. ‘Dry docks’ were docks that could be drained of water via a caisson in order to repair the hulls of ships. In order to destroy this dock, the Commandos traveled on the HMS Campbeltown, a ship that was made to look like a Möwe class German torpedo destroyer. LtCol Montgomery’s demolition teams packed the Campbeltown full of explosives, snuck it into the dock (only semi-successfully) and blew it up, taking the cassion with it.
During the Raid, Lieutenant Colonel R.K. Montgomery was injured by an explosion, and then caught by German forces. He spent three years as a POW in Germany, and was released at the end of the war.
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Today, we’ll hear from Lt Col R.K. Montgomery. Montgomery served as a Commando in the British Military in WWII, and led the demolition teams on Operation Chariot, also known as the Saint Nazaire Raid.
Lt Col R.K. Montgomery:
Charles Newman and Bob Rider met at a conference in Combined Operations. He told his second in command that he'd got to have 120 chaps, I think trained to perfection in street fighting. Meanwhile, Pritchard and I were training the dock demolition people, started up at Rosyth up in Scotland general dock demolition training, which he did. And then, we came to the crunch and half the party came to me at Southampton and the other half went to him at Cardiff. And after weeks of training, we turned around. And so, the chaps who were at Cardiff came to Southampton and the chaps who were at Southampton went down to Cardiff. And from then on, those were the teams who were going to do the jobs that they were training on, up 'til then, everybody had been trained to do everything. So, if anybody was killed, another chap would take his place. And it was quite funny actually because the chaps were beginning to get a bit bored with this because we're going on and on at them and at night we'd go down as soon as it got dark and practice at night and blindfolded and at night and they, as I say, were getting browned off. And one of them wrote to Henriques at Combined Operations headquarters said, "These chaps are quite good at teaching us but my God they do go on." And Henriques was getting from Bill Pritchard whom I was communicating with the timing, this number of seconds we'd managed to take off what we were going to do. So, it was a sort of one side didn't really know what was happening. And at the same time the MLs and the Naval craft were being allotted, not arriving.
We then all at the end of that fortnight, it was the beginning of March, we went halfway through March, we went down to Falmouth and the commandos came down from Scotland in the Commando depot ship, which was HMS, I don't know if it was HMS but it was Josephine Charlotte. It was one of the channel ferries in Peace Town. And then, we from Southampton all went to Cardiff, caught the train at Cardiff, which was a rather a sort of roundabout journey because we were going there and then coming back there but then we all arrived down at Falmouth in the morning.
And from then on, we continued training and we went on something which the Navy euphemistic had called seasick training. You don't really have to train anybody to be seasick, it comes naturally. They took us down to one of the facility islands in these MLs and were very successful they trained almost everybody, including some of their own chaps to be seasick. But one of the things about that was that it did teach you that however much you wish to die, as soon as you touched land, you were all right again, which was a good lesson to learn in case the way over was rough.
And then, just after we came back from the Scilly Isles, I think it was, we... Well, the officers were all called into the ward room and there was a blackboard and a model with a sheet over it, which was pulled off. And Charles told us what we were going to do. And at that moment there were two of us, Bill and myself, we knew exactly where we were going because by the impossible coincidence, that model was of the map which we had been given by transportation to work out all our sums on. Total coincidence. And we were sworn to secrecy by Charles because we weren't told where we were going until about 24 hours before we left. There was one other person when the Navy were briefed, who used to go up and down the war and he recognized the model.
And then, we were at Falmouth, all the explosive arrived in a wagon, we took it all into a Nissen hut and we then had to sit around, luckily the weather was decent not like today and we made up rucksack loads for each person. And this is why I say that charge, he wants to do that job it goes into his and so we sorted them all out. And that took about, in fact, actually it took just about a day to do. And it was a highly dangerous operation because we were putting explosive in, we were putting primers into the same rucksack and we were putting detonators into the same rucksack as well. So, once all that had been done the load was quite dangerous.
And by this time or just at this time, the Princess Josephine Charlotte was cut off from the land, went out into the roads and anchored in the roads. And there was no more contact with the land except for under special license. We hadn't been allowed to go out in the town anyway up 'til then. That evening we thought we'd better go and see the guard had had a meal and so Pritchard and I went to shore and we opened the Nissen hut door, inside which all these rucksacks had been laid all the way round. And we opened the door and the saw a stove in the middle of the Nissen hut was red hot. And apparently, I delivered myself of a few well chosen words about putting it out. And it wasn't until many years afterwards that I knew who the chap who was the guard commander 'cause I didn't know everybody well by then. And I tell this story and he said, "It was I." It was quite a moment that actually that and ...
I take it he didn't know what was in the rucksack.
Lt Col R.K. Montgomery:
Oh, he knew what was in the rucksack, he didn't realize quite how difficult they were, how dangerous they were.
I had in my early training as I say, I had shared a room with a chap called Henry Brattle who was a mining engineer on the run. And he, I remember taught me more about demolitions than any of the instructors. And one thing that he said was, "Detonators, detonators, you want to keep as far away from detonators as you can." He said, "I once saw an African crimp a bit of safety fuse into a detonator and he bit the wrong end of the detonator," and that always remained with me. And whenever I was teaching people it was a story I always told about the sort of, you can get ... well, you can get the Arabic expressions are the best: [foreign language]. “It's too easy.” And as soon as people start getting like that you've got to send them away because they're more of a danger to other people and themselves than the art of the enemy I think.
And then came the day and we were told where we were going. I had a bad moment then 'cause I was called to Charles' cabin where he said, "Bob," he said, "We've just had some photographs in about the Tirpitz and she is moving. And so, if we finish our job and go back and you haven't finished yours, you've got to stay and complete it but that dock demolition is absolutely vital." So, I didn't tell anybody actually except my number two that, but it was a little bit of a shaker as you can imagine.
That evening, the evening before we set sail, Charles was called over to the HMS Tynedale, which was where Ryder had his headquarters at this stage and shown some photographs of the German torpedo boats that had moved down from Naunton were actually sitting in Saint-Nazaire. And we just decided that that was bad luck that they probably wouldn't have a great deal of effect except the chaps.
But anyway that was... and then the next morning about midday we got the signal about nine o'clock I think prepared to chariot. And then, 12 o'clock we got carry out chariot and all the troops went onto their MLs and the parties going onto HMS Campbeltown were the last to do and we must have left I think about three o'clock from Falmouth. And the strategy or tactics of the game was to pretend that we were an anti-submarine sweep going down to Gibraltar. And so, we moved an extended order down the channel.
The Campbeltown was made to look as near as possible to a Möwe class German torpedo destroyer. It had one of its funnels removed I think or two of its funnels removed and the other two cut down so they had cut it in a slant. It had all its armament, things like depth charges and so ons removed but it had bandstands on the midships to the stern on which [inaudible] were mounted and it had a 12 pounder gun forward of the bridge. I have got, and Martha's got it, a photograph of Campbeltown on her way to Saint-Nazaire taken from Tynedale, so that you can see what it looks like.
The military party in Campbeltown was commanded by Bill Copeland, who was Charles's seconding command. And it consisted of two assault parties as I said, under Roy and Rodrick who went one either side of the bars when we'd hit. And then, two protection parties which were small parties, only about five chaps altogether, officer and four, one to go to the top end of the dock and the other for the bottom end of the dock. And then the demolition parties, which were one officer and four for winding houses and the pump house and one officer and six for the caisson gates.
The next day when we came across the submarine, German submarine, it had been damaged, we thought we'd sunk it but it hadn't. And the commander of the submarine when he a few hours later surfaced, made a signal to say that we were an anti-submarine, was fully reckoned we were an anti-submarine sweep down through Blitzkrieg. So, he actually helped our cover plan. We met him after the war, he came to one of our reunions. And he, in fact, his submarine sank the destroyer which had attacked him about a year later. But he said on that particular occasion, his submarine was damaged. His crew were very untrained and so was he. And the only way he could trim his submarine was to have the crew running up and down inside it after he'd been depth charged, whereas I must say I wouldn't have liked.
But anyway, soon after that we got into a whole host of French tripping fishermen and we took the captain and crew off one and sunk it. He was delighted 'cause he wanted to go to England anyway. It was quite a number we did.
Complete aside now, the director of research of the Écomusée in Saint-Nazaire, he's a gentleman called Charles Nicol. His father managed to get to England, went to Wales where a lot of Bretons went because the language Welsh, Breton was very similar, married a Welsh girl and is now back in Saint-Nazaire. But there were quite a number of those chaps. Another chap who took me over to do all the records for our 40th anniversary reunion there, his father came to England during the war.
But anyway, that was the fishing. And he, this fishing captain, he said that there were no German 'cause the Germans were up to put chaps with radios on board the fishing boats. And he said there were none in this particular lot. So, we were rather relieved and proceeded on our way. And eventually we came about eight o'clock night after dark, we came across the submarine, a submarine had been sent out to survey itself in and act as a beacon for us to give us our last navigation point before we entered the Loire.
As we went up the Loire we went up with the motor launches in two lines ahead with the Campbeltown in the middle, the motor gunboat which was the headquarter ship in front. And Mickey Wynn's motor torpedo boat with delay action torpedoes in it behind. One of the, either the port or the starboard column, was to land at the old mill and they were, the demolition teams were to carry out demolitions of the bridge at the far end of the harbor, the bridge between the dry dock and the main dock. The lock gates between the Avant Port and the Basin de Saint-Nazaire. And then, the other line was to land and all their demolition chaps were going to blow up all the hydraulic stations and all that side in the Old Town. So, those were the two. And what the idea of all those demolitions were primarily to turn us into an island, because if they blew the bridges and the gates, the Germans couldn't get across onto the Old Town island. And to blow up the hydraulic gear, which operated those gates and the bridges.
The party on the Campbeltown had two assault parties. One which was to hold the area of the pump house and the caisson gate winding gear. And the other one was to clean out any Germans and destroy the fuel tanks, which were on the starboard side.
As we came up the Loire, Sam Beattie and I were up on the top bridge on the Campbeltown. We saw the mast and funnels of the Lancastria, which had been sunk in 1940 there just after I'd left La Baule to go north. And we saw the air raid start and then fizzle out and then they didn't seem to drop anything. The search lights… and there were guns firing and then everything went quiet. And then, as we got nearer, we grounded. We grounded a couple of times, and got loose all right, but it was a worrying moment when we felt a slowing shutter. And then, when signals started flying around Sam said, "I think we'd better go down, it's a little bit more protected on the armored bridge." And so, he went down there and I was merely on the bridge to act as a liaison between Sam Beattie, who was the captain and Bill Copeland for when we started getting people off. And he came up and I can't remember exactly what happened, but we were fired on, or when the search lights came on, we gave a signal, the search lights went off, and the search lights came on again, there's another signal which went fat. And then, all hell let loose and there was stuff coming in every direction.
And the thing that one still remembers was the, they were quadruple shots from the Bofors guns and they sort of boom, boom, boom, boom and the whistle and there was colored tracer. It wasn't this wonderful flower display we've ever seen but we weren't really interested in that. And the bridge got hit, the Campbeltown was being hit by fairly large bricks. According to, and you've read this I expect, to Lucas Phillips. One, was it battery of guns fired, something like over a thousand rounds of 75 millimeter that night? So, there was quite a lot of stuff flying around. And the quartermaster got hit who was on the wheel of Campbeltown and I was immediately behind him so I went forward and took hold of the thing and luckily Tibbits was behind me he said, "Get in, come on, I'll take it." Because I'm having to think what was port and what was starboard, not being a sailor.
And then, Sam suddenly saw the ... he was making really for the Avant Port and he suddenly saw the searchlight lit up the lighthouse on the end of the Möwe and he was able to change direction very rapidly to starboard and then back again. And by this time the chaos ran every ... but I think, well, Sam and I and Tibbits, I think were the only ones left alive on the bridge by this time. And we went through the torpedo net and you could hear it and then we hit and it was a sort of crunch when we hit and we went further in than we'd actually calculated by about four foot. So, the charge was absolutely up into the caisson but it did ride up over the top of the gate so that it was quite difficult to get off. And we had to use scaling ladders and nets to get down.
And sometime, the 12-pounder had been hit and it must have been hit by an incendiary as well or it was something because there was that fire, there was a hole in the deck, and there was a fire and a number of people fell into the whole and had to be pulled out. And there was one chap whose, Corran Purdon's gang doing the winding house at the top end of the dock who took his trousers off because he got phosphorus or something on them and he just couldn't put them out. So, he carried out the entire operation in his underpants.
But everyone got off remarkably quickly and I thought, "Well, the place I'm going to go and make quite certain goes right is the pumping house." And we found the door was locked and for some reason we'd never thought, I suppose because when we were at Southampton and said the door been unlocked.But luckily, I had some charges because we thought we might have problems of getting into one or two places. And so, we were able to blow our way in. And as we'd just lit the fuse on this thing, it was the magnet charge to blow the door in, our protection party officer came whizzing around the corner and shot into the ... there was a baffle wall around the door, he shot in there we had to pull him out just as the charge went off. And they went in, they went down below. I went to see how the winding house was getting on. That was all right so I thought, "Well, I'll try and get on board one of the ships that was in the dry dock." But that was quite impossible because there was an enfilade going straight down across the gangplank. And then I suddenly thought, "What a bloody stupid I am because when Campbeltown goes up they'll be wrecked anyway," so we gave that one up.
It was set to go up as soon as we'd left. It consisted of a bunk three tons of explosive in depth charges in a concrete emplacement. And it was wired up to delay action fuses. The chap who was in charge of that was Nigel Tibbits, who was a torpedo lieutenant in Campbeltown. And he was the expert, he'd done all the calculations for what the charge was to do, how far back the ship would buckle so that it would be up against it. And he was remarkably accurate in his ... unfortunately, he was killed later on. But he and Bill Pritchard and Abel Schumann [inaudible name] were I think the only people who knew where any of the fuses were. And he set the fuses off, fuses were acid eating through copper. And they were due to go up I think at about four o'clock in the morning. And that was of course one of the problems is they didn't go up until much later. We landed at, what was it? 1:30, 1:34 I think actually 'cause I remember Sam Beattie saying we're four minutes late and it wasn't due to go up until after four o'clock. By which time we should have been halfway done Loire because we were only going to take about three quarters of an hour and we took less in fact to lay the charges and things. We were later on when we were in Saint-Nazaire we were a bit worried that it might go up at any moment.
Chris Smalley came out of the winding house and said, "Ready to fire," so I said, "Okay fire, there wasn't anybody about." Of course, Bob Ryder appeared just as they fired and a lot of the stuff came down on his head. But the first attempt didn't go, what it was I don't know, possibly one of the igniters didn't work so they had to go back in, which is not a nice job to do, and fire again and that time it was successful. At that stage, Stuart Chant and his party came out from the pump house and he was one man short, he had to leave one chap up above 'cause he'd been wounded on the Campbeltown. And so, he couldn't get down all the stairs 'cause it was 40 foot down where the pumps were. And Stuart came out having set off his charges with the four chaps and they laid down onto the wall of the pump house back. And they went back leaving their rucksacks and one of them had a chunk of concrete on the top of the rucksack which would've done him in. But the thing went up very satisfactorily 'cause the whole place heaved, all the windows came out. There was I think about 300 pounds of explosive 40 foot down so the tamping effect was pretty terrific.
And then, we went in to deal with all the electrical gear, transformers and things like that. And one of the motors had gone straight through the floor, two of them were leaning sideways. There was no point in worrying about motors, they were done. Well, two had gone through the floor, I think one was halfway through. So, we concentrated on the transformers in setting the oiler light and we could not set that oiler light. I just don't know why. We had [inaudible] and incendiaries and could not get it to light.
But we had one sergeant his job was, he had rubber gloves and a ... we all had fireman's axes and a sledgehammer. And he went to town on the electrical dials and things and it was quite funny actually 'cause there were sparks flying in every direction. But that was very satisfactory, the whole thing. So, it was the winding house.
So, at that stage I decided I better go up and see how they were getting on up the top. And I'd got about three quarters way up the dock when I met the first chaps coming back. And they said that they hadn't been terribly satisfactory, it hadn't been satisfactory on the caisson 'cause they couldn't get inside the caisson. It's shaped rather like that box so rectangular, and it's the gate in fact. And you winded in and out on rollers and the winding house was the thing that wound it in and out. What was it, about 40 foot wide and the length of the caisson is about 40 foot deep. So, it was a big ... I mean, it was almost the size of Campbeltown, it's a big bit of equipment. But when the chap who was responsible for the gate up at the top, the caisson gate, he was badly wounded. And the chap who was going to be on the seaward gate, I told him to take his party up. He was killed. And because they did come under fire from the Germans almost alongside. But they managed to get a lot of their plum puddings over the side. And the sergeant who took over, he didn't leave until he heard water going into the caisson so he did had, it was off its base, off its rollers and had been very badly damaged. But that was the only bit that was not 100%. The winding house, the whole thing just took off and landed and fell to bits.
They continued firing at us. I don't think there were any actually in our dock area when we start, yes there were, 'cause there were some on top of the pumping house. But as soon as we landed, they made off there rapidly. Johnny Roderick had quite a battle amongst the fuel tanks and wasn't actually, we found setting that oiler light was almost impossible. And he had quite a battle on his hands but they left. And it was only really towards the end of our time that they started getting reinforced from outside. The winding houses were completely okay and the pumping house of the, say the chaps on top of that ran. But of course, we were under fire from the top of the submarine pens, which overlooked the ... best understanding is from the other side. And they could see right down on top of us.
I'm heading back to Charles' headquarters. I found a truck in a building and blew them up on the way 'cause I had some explosive left in my rucksack, I had seen a pity to waste it. And so, then we had to get across the bridge across the old entrance. And because that was being fired on from the top of the submarine pens and they just firing straight across it. So, we had to cross or hand over hand on the girders underneath the bridge and got across, reported to Charles Newman. And up to this moment I thought that everything had gone absolutely according to plan. Well, it had, as far as we were concerned. And I said to Charles, "We've completed the job. Do I have to go and embark or can I go and see how Pritchard's getting on?" And [inaudible] there was the edge and said, "Embark Bob, look out in the river." And I looked out in the river and all these, the MLs were all burning furiously. We didn't see any life anywhere near where we were going to re-embark from. And so, we gradually came in, all the chaps and Charles, who hadn't turned a hair at all, said, "Well, I'm afraid chaps that the transport seems to have let us down and we're going to have to make our own way home." And so, we've decided that we'd fight our way through the town and then split up into parties on the other side of the town. And we set off and I happened to be fairly up the front to begin with. Luckily, we went into a blind alley and turned around and I was then at the back, which was I'm back row soldier.
Anyway, we fought our way through the warehouses and up alongside, we were running along the side of the base and somebody, I think it must have been in one of the boat's mud in the base anyway held a hand grenade and it burst somewhere quite close to me and I got a chunk of metal in my behind and it was just like shooting a rabbit or small animal. I was going along full pelt and I did a complete somersault. And I thought to myself, "I'm dead," and then I found I wasn't so I got up and went on and I wasn't very far behind the others.
But we crossed the bridge and we got into the town. And then by this time it was only, I suppose not more than an hour after we'd landed, the Army had started coming in and they were using armored cars and motorcycle patrols, sidecar trails on all the streets and shooting up the sidewalks and so on.
And so, it was decided we'd go to ground and we went into a cellar and patched up chaps who were wounded. And someone cut the bit of metal out of my behind and ministered a field dressing. And then, the Germans searched the house. And they were just going out when somebody shouted, "Have you looked in the cellar?" And we had someone on the door of the cellar and said, as soon as that happened we surrendered because I personally if I'd been a German, I'd have just chucked a couple of grenades in and said, "Share that amongst you," but they didn't and they pulled us out. They were very excited. And then, we were in a place and one of the soldiers pulled a grenade out of his pocket and said, "What do I do with this?" The Germans saw it and got very excited indeed. And I think they thought we were going to attempt to escape and so they lined us up against a wall and turned a train of machine gun on us, I must say I thought that was the end. But some officer came up and sorted the thing out and then we were taken away to our headquarters. And it was not until about 10:30 in the morning that Campbeltown blew up and we were all getting slightly twitchy about it because it'd ought to have gone up. And there were all sorts of stories and there are myths. There's a myth that somebody went on board and reactivated the fuses. Well, as I said earlier on, there were only three people who knew where those were and they're all dead and buried in their grave. Well no, one and he only died a few months ago. But the other two, they have graves in Saint-Nazaire so they wouldn't have gone up with it. And so, there's no good saying that they would, it might have been somebody might have said, "Oh," might have been taken on board. But anybody who knew anything about where that, I knew where it was but I didn't know the detail.
But there were other things on our mind as well at the time and then, I don't know. I think as far as I was concerned, I knew enough about explosives not to be all that worried at that time. I got worried later on when it got on to about eight o'clock and nothing had happened because those acid fuses were notoriously unreliable. They went in the end but not always when they were supposed to. And I think with hindsight now, that probably the fact that that fire was burning, which the chaps fell into on the Vauxhall or in the inside, it was just on top of the explosive that possibly distilled off some of the acid and the result was that it took longer.
Cheers and cheers and shots. It was actually quite a loud noise, which was produced 'cause everybody knew it was going. It was needed. Then of course we didn't get the other ones, which were Mickey Wynn's torpedoes, which went about 48 hours later, which completely upset the performance because they moved us out to La Baule to be interrogated and we were taken to a place which I'd had a meal in in 1940.
It completely destroyed the ... well, not completely but it destroyed the caisson, the inner caisson, the outer caisson rather, I think beyond repair. The inner caisson, they were able to repair and there are some pictures of it there. The whole of the front end bows of Campbeltown disintegrated. The gun was picked up, it was dredged up and is now next to the memorial. And there was an inrush of water of course, into the dock and that damaged the two tankers that were in the dock. And as an incidental there was, I don't know how many, I mean, the numbers vary from 100 to 400 people on board Campbeltown when she went up.
Sam Beattie was being interrogated when it blew up. Just before it blew up, the German who was interrogating, quite a nice chap apparently, said, "You were a bit foolish if you really thought that you were going to cut that caisson in half with a small thing like that, destroyer." And at that moment off it went, and Sam said, "We're not quite stupid as we look."
They were all a marvelous set of chaps actually and still are. And we still have a very strong Saint-Nazaire society, which is naval and Army. The thing I didn't mention actually at all in the thing was the fact that there was basically the area but the area didn't appear, which was a pity because it might have made a lot of difference.
We were supposed to have air support really just to keep the guns pointing up in the air instead of pointing at us because they were all, nearly all dual-purpose guns. And the idea was that if there was a raid on, they'd be firing up into the air and wouldn't see us. But in fact, they woke everybody up. And the German commander, whose name escapes me at the moment, when they milled around and didn't drop bombs because ... and Winston Churchill, after the war when he was in the loo with Colonel Charles who'd gone to dinner with him said, "You've only got me to thank for the fact that the air raid didn't work because I said that they were not to bomb unless they could see their targets 'cause I didn't want civilians killed." And that was the trouble he said they were up on, top above the cloud and when it would've been suggested at one of the briefings that they should come down below the cloud if it was fairly high, the Air Force officer said, "Well, we can't order them to do that, it would be absolute murder." And Charles said, "Well, if it's going to be murder for them at 10,000 feet, wouldn't you think it's going to be for us at sea level?" But the Air Force at that time were not very tri-service minded. Bomber Harris wanted to bomb Germany and he wanted all his bombers bombing Germany, he didn't want side shows like Saint-Nazaire to interfere.
If you look at the chaps we had, the number of people who ended up as managing directors of their own businesses and that sort of thing after the war, the ones who got through. They were a cut above the average infantryman, there's no doubt about and they learnt very quickly. And I mean, the discipline was incredible. When they came down to Southampton, we had two huts in a TA drill hall barracks, which was occupied by a regular, or not a regular, by ordinary soldier in the adjuvant when I went down to fix up the accommodation and feeding arrangements. They said, "We're a bit frightened of these chaps, what happens if they misbehave?" I said, "They won't misbehave because if they misbehave, they go straight back to their unit. That was the ultimate, really the only punishment. There was very no confined to barracks or anything 'cause we hadn't got any barracks. And so, it was either you were ticked off to not to be a naughty boy and if you did it again well, out.
Well, the high priority was definitely successful and that was the thing which didn't appear in the press, unfortunately in England because of course nobody who landed got back until later when some of the ... there were about four or five soldiers who managed to escape and get into Spain. But that they didn't get home until months later.
Three years, you were a POW?
Lt Col R.K. Montgomery:
Yeah. I was moved to ... after we'd been up in the naval camp where they took us to begin with, they moved all the Army, all the soldier they went to Lamsdorf, I think and the officers went to Spangenberg. Well, Spangenberg was a second coded in fact, it was a castle on top of a hill with a 40-foot wide, 40-foot deep dry moat all around it. We jolly nearly got out in a tunnel and someone gave it away. And that I got involved in because I was being a sap, I knew something about digging tunnels.
We all spent most of our time trying to get out or quite a lot of the time trying to get out making maps, planning weird ways. Corran Purdon and Dickie Morgan, they got out but were picked ... and no one got away from Spangenberg completely, everybody was picked up in the end.
Now, I am a part of a very large family, which unfortunately goes small every year but I had to give the speech at a reunion two or three years ago and I said, you have a nuclear explosion, you have the fission, but the big old explosion is the fusion. And that what we did then fused a family because we're all friends, our families are, the Saint-Nazaire society is quite something, actually.
That was LtCol R.K. Montgomery.
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Warriors In Their Own Words is a production of Evergreen Podcasts, in partnership with The Honor Project.
Our producer is Declan Rohrs. Brigid Coyne is our production director, and Sean Rule-Hoffman is our Audio Engineer.
Special thanks to Evergreen executive producers, Joan Andrews, Michael DeAloia, and David Moss.
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