80TH ANNIVERSARY CHANNEL DASH
Manston, 12 February 2022
SPEECH ON THE OCCASION OF THE COMMEMORATION OF THE 80TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE CHANNEL DASH
held by Jochen Werne, Co-Founder of GOST
Ladies and Gentlemen
I’m truly honoured to be here to speak on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the Channel Dash.
It was 10 years ago that the members of the Global Offshore Sailing Team, planning their commemorative voyage from Brest to Kiel, first met the honourable members of the Channel Dash Association. Outstanding individuals who have done so much to keep history alive and remind us that we are all part of something bigger than ourselves.
The aim of the GOST expeditions has always been to get a feel for the background and struggles of events at sea.
As our dear friend Peter Nixon – whom we will always remember – summed up perfectly:
In the fateful days 1942, British air and ship crews threw themselves with an incredible sense of duty against German battleships and their protection.
The enemy which the Swordfish crews met on this day 80 years ago consisted not only of large scale naval vessels but also of an air cover operation code named “Thunderbolt“. The operation was planned by Adolf Galland, who himself survived being shot down kept the ships under a constant Messerschmidt fighter jets umbrella during the whole Operation Cerberus.
Anyone who witnessed the performance differences between a Swordfish and a Spitfire, the British equivalent of the Messerschmidt, at one of the recent Channel Dash commemorations understands well the words of Captain Hoffmann of the Scharnhorst; “Poor fellows. They are so very slow. It is nothing but suicide for them to fly against these big ships”. Everyone on the bridges of the Battleships felt the same. Willhelm Wolf, on the Scharnhorst, said; “What an heroic stage for them to meet their end on. Behind them their homeland which they had just left with their hearts steeled to their purpose still in view”.
Admiral Ciliax, watching from the Scharnhorst Bridge, the Swordfish lumbering towards her, remarked to Captain Hoffmann: “The British are now throwing their mothball Navy at us. Those Swordfish are doing well to get their torpedoes away”.
Christoph Ciliax, the grandson of Admiral Ciliax, wanted to be with us today, but unfortunately Covid restrictions got in the way, and he asked me to represent him and his words:
„On behalf of the Ciliax family, I would like to express my utmost respect and appreciation to the British soldiers who lost their lives on 12 February 1942. The German ships and their crews served a brutal, criminal regime of injustice. We Germans can be all the more grateful that the German fallen are also included in the commemoration and that representatives of the German Navy as well as their families are invited to the event. This is a great gesture of friendship and bridging to the former enemy. Today, British and German servicemen and women serve side by side, advocating world peace, a democratic world order as well as stability and security in Europe.
I, too, wear the Navy uniform for this reason and stand for the fact that never again a regime of injustice can grow in Germany, from which terror and violence towards our neighbouring countries and the world emanates. This is what my father already stood up for as a soldier and I am sure my grandfather would do the same, who was first and foremost a sailor and soldier for his country. However, never would I defend serving for a criminal regime what at the end serving in the Kriegsmarine meant. It is all the more impressive and deserving of thanks that Great Britain, when honouring their fallen also remembers the German soldiers killed in action.
My mother and wife of Rear Admiral Otto H. Ciliax, my late father, would as well like to attend the commemoration event and honour the British soldiers; but she is also unable to do so due to COVID restrictions and therefore sends her thanks and greetings.“
Many thanks from our side to the Ciliax family
I am also grateful to be able to quote from the letter sent by the Federal Minister of Defence, Christine Lambrecht, to the Channel Dash Association. She underlines:
“Your thoughtful gesture of not only inviting representative from the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force, but also representatives from the German Navy is a sign of reconciliation and long-standing friendship between our nations. “
Captain Heuer, thank you for being as official representative of the Federal Republic of Germany with us today.
As the former Commodore of the Royal Cinque Ports Yacht Club and GOST member Bernard Sealy once said and it remains true today and it will remain the truth into the distant time… we’re all sailors.
Ladies and Gentlemen, please let me conclude on this historic day with a thought and a quote.
The beauty of our nations is that we cherish the same freedoms, defend the same values and respect the same fundamental laws.
We are bound together not simply by institutions, but by our common beliefs in democracy, openness and equality before the law.
We are bound together by friendship.
Friendship, lived through the great people who are in this hangar today, and many who have already left us but whom we keep in our hearts.
Today is a very special day. It is not an end, but a beginning. So let me conclude with the famous words of Konrad Adenauer, the first post-war German Chancellor:
“Wenn die anderen glauben, man ist am Ende, so muss man erst richtig anfangen.” (“when others think we’ve reached the end, that’s when we’ve got to really begin”).
Thank you very much