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Patrol ships remember daring WW2 raid in Normandy

4 July 2022
Patrol ships Dasher and Pursuer joined French counterparts at 80th anniversary commemorations of one of the greatest ‘snatch and grab’ raids of World War 2.

The capture of a German radar system at Bruneval, near Le Havre, in 1942 is regarded as one of the most daring – and successful – commando-esque raids of the war.

Known as Operation Biting, it sought to seize a Würzburg radar – used by the Germans to direct the aim of their coastal and anti-aircraft guns.

The attack demanded the cooperation of the Royal Navy, British Army, Royal Air Force, and French Resistance.

Paratroopers and a small team of RAF engineers were dropped by night near the site; the red berets dealt with the radar’s garrison housed in a villa, while the engineers dismantled the radar. The raiders then headed down to the beach for evacuation by Royal Navy Motor Gunboats – which had spent most of the raid evading German patrols.

They brought the force, led by Major John Frost – the man later charged with seizing the ‘bridge too far’ at Arnhem – and their vital cargo safely back to Portsmouth.

Dasher and Pursuer are today’s successors to the gunboats as members of the re-born Coastal Forces Squadron.

Fresh into their return to the UK after a couple of years patrolling Gibraltar’s waters, the two P2000s crossed the Channel to support commemorations – held in the summer rather than the actual anniversary in February.

It’s been a great privilege along with HMS Pursuer to represent the Royal Navy during the 80th anniversary of Operation Biting

Lieutenant Chris Cotterill

Having refuelled and taken the opportunity to enjoy the sights of Honfleur, near Le Havre, the Coastal Forces Squadron P2000s rendezvoused with the French patrol ships Esteron and Nordet, representing the Gendarme Maritime and French Customs respectively.

The four ships sailed in formation to form a maritime backdrop to commemorations ashore, anchored just 600 yards offshore from where British and French dignitaries, as well as representatives from the Parachute Regiment, were gathered.

“It’s been a great privilege along with HMS Pursuer to represent the Royal Navy during the 80th anniversary of Operation Biting,” said Dasher’s Commanding Officer Lieutenant Chris Cotterill.

“My ship’s company were excited to visit France and pay our respects, as well as to take the opportunity to conduct joint training with French patrol vessels. To attend a foreign port prior to assuming maritime security patrols later in the summer has also been very welcome – and something the Coastal Force squadron is able to do regularly.”

Once respects had been paid and the ceremony had ended, Dasher and Pursuer sounded their ship’s sirens and were given permission to depart, ready to resume maritime security operations in home waters.

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