This is first biography of Captain Robert Ryder VC who led the celebrated WW2 Raid on St Nazaire, a commando operation conceived with the idea of destroying the port’s great dry dock to deny it to the Germans and in particular to their battleship ‘Tirpitz’. The raid, code-named Operation Chariot, which took place in March 1942, was a complete if costly success: the dry dock was put out of action for the rest of the war but the attacking force suffered 60% casualties. Ryder won one of the five Victoria Crosses awarded for the operation.
The Raid on St Nazaire apart Robert Ryder (1908-1986) had an unusually varied career in the Royal Navy. A consummate seaman unsuited to the routines of peacetime service, he commanded the Penola, the expedition ship of the British Graham Land Expedition of 1934-1937, throughout her three year voyage in Antarctica.
In 1933-34 he had commanded the Tai-Mo-Shan, a yacht, on her voyage between Hong Kong and England, an unusual adventure at the time.
He served in the Royal Navy throughout WW2. In 1940, the ‘Q’-ship he commanded was torpedoed in the Atlantic; Ryder was rescued after 4 days, on his own, clinging to a piece of wreckage. He played an active role in the preparations for D-Day and took part in the landing themselves. In 1944-45, he commanded a destroyer on the Russian convoys.
After the war, he served as a Conservative MP.
Published by Pen & Sword, 2011.