Ramsgate attend 'Channel Dash' anniversary ceremony
On Sunday 12 February Ramsgate RNLI’s all weather lifeboat Esme Anderson visited the inner harbour in support of the commemoration of the 75th. anniversary of the ‘Channel Dash’.
The ceremony held around the memorial in Ramsgate Royal Harbour’s Pier Yard was attended by many including RNLI past Chairman The Lord Boyce who is Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports.
Following the ceremony the lifeboat accompanied the classic US Navy Patrol Boat P22 to the turning circle outside the harbour to lay a wreath in memory of those lost on both sides during the operation.
Historical Note: ‘The Channel Dash’ was part of Operation Fuller, the unsuccessful operation to prevent the German warships Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Prinz Eugen returning to Germany from the French port of Brest. These vessels came through the Channel in a fleet of 66 vessels with continuous air cover and reached the Dover Straits virtually undetected during the morning of 12 February 1942.
The Fleet Air Arm’s 825 Squadron, led by Lt Cdr Eugene Esmonde and comprising six Swordfish aircraft, was based at RAF Manston, near Ramsgate, where they had been preparing for a night attack on the German ships. Promised fighter cover of five squadrons of Spitfires, Esmonde agreed to lead his squadron in a daylight attack. Just one squadron rendezvoused with Esmonde’s squadron and so with fighter cover of only 10 Spitfires, 825 Squadron attacked the mighty Germany battle group. Against the guns of the big ships and the power of the Luftwaffe, the slow, out-dated Swordfish stood little chance. All the Swordfish were shot down and only five of the eighteen men who set out survived.
Although more than 30 torpedo attacks and a large bomber raid were launched against the German battle group not a single hit was achieved. The only damage inflicted was by mines hit by Scharnhorst and Gneisenau but even that was minimal.
All members of 825 Squadron were honoured after the Channel Dash. Lt Cdr Esmonde was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross, gallantry awards were given to those who survived and a Mention in Despatches was given to those who died, the highest award possible as no gallantry award other than the Victoria Cross could be given posthumously.
Key facts about the RNLI
The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates over 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.