November 7, 2010


(2/5) Dangerous Missions Raid on Dieppe (10:00m)

(3/5) Dangerous Missions Raid on Dieppe (10:00m)

(4/5) Dangerous Missions Raid on Dieppe (10:00m)

(5/5) Dangerous Missions Raid on Dieppe (05m:10s)

The Dieppe Raid, code-named Operation Rutter (later referred to as Operation Jubilee), was an Allied assault on the German-occupied port of Dieppe on August 19, 1942.  Allied Command conceived of a plan in April of that year in which the troops would carry out a frontal assault from the sea. Their objective was to seize and hold a major port for at least two tides and then have the troops withdraw. It was meant to prove that a raid was possible, and to assess the German responses to it. It was also expected that Allied troops would destroy German defences and strategic posts and obtain intelligence from prisoners and captured materiel.

Under pressure from the Canadian government to ensure that Canadian troops saw some action, the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division, commanded by Major General John Hamilton Roberts, was selected for the main force. The unit was comprised of over 5,000 Canadians, 1,000 men from No. 3 and No.4 Commandos of the British Army, and 50 United States Rangers backed by 74 squadrons of the RAF and 237 ships of the Royal Navy. The fleet included eight destroyers and motor gun boats  which served as escorts to the landing craft and motor launches.

The 14th Armoured Regiment of The Calgary Regiment provided armoured support with 58 of the new Churchill tanks to be delivered using the new Landing craft tanks. The tanks had a mixture of armament with QF 2 pounder gun-armed tanks fitted with a close support howitzer in the hull operating alongside QF 6 pounder-armed tanks. Moreover, three of the tanks were equipped with flame throwers and all were adapted to make operation possible to maneuver the beach in shallow water.

Allied Intelligence provided little information on the area. Though Allied Command knew that German gunners were dug in along the cliffs, air reconnaissance could not detect their location or numbers.  Allied Command had underestimated the beach gradient and its suitability for tanks relying on holiday snapshots of the beach.

The Allied landings at Dieppe were planned to take place on four beaches code-named Blue, Red, White and Green.The Royal Regiment of Canada were assigned to land on Blue beach. At the same time the Red and White beaches would be taken by The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry, The Essex Scottish Regiment, Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal, A Commando Royal Marines and the 14th Canadian Armoured Regiment. The South Saskatchewan Regiment and The Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada would land on Green beach.

When the Allies landed on the beaches of Dieppe, 1,500 German infantry had already been deployed heavily fortifying the cliffs, beaches and neighbouring towns.

The first landings began at 04:50 hours on August 19, with attacks on the two artillery batteries on the flanks of the main landing area. These included Varengeville by No. 4 Commando, Pourville by The South Saskatchewan Regiment and The Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada, Puys by the Royal Regiment of Canada, and Berneval by No. 3 Commando. On their way in the landing craft and escorts heading towards Puys and Berneval had run into a small German convoy and exchanged fire at 03:48 hours.

Two units of the No. 3 Commando forces landed 8 miles east of Dieppe to silence the coastal battery near Berneval. As their landing craft approached the coast they came within sight of a German coastal convoy.  German S-boats torpedoed some of the landing craft and disabled the escorting Steam Gun Boat 5. Subsequently Motor Launch 346 and Landing Craft Flak 1 teamed up to drive off the German boats but suffered some losses. In the meantime, German defenses along the coast were alerted. Only 18 Commandos made it ashore in the right place. They engaged the enemy with fire but were unable to destroy their guns. Eventually they had to withdraw.

No. 3 Commando unit
Another two landings were attempted but this time by No.4 Commando which included the US Rangers six miles west of Dieppe near Jubilee and withdrew at 07:30 hours according to plan. Most returned safely to England. Incidentally, this landing was used as a model for future commando raids. Lord Lovat was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his part in the raid, and Captain Patrick Porteous received the Victoria Cross.

The Royal Regiment of Canada, three platoons of the Black Watch of Canada, and an artillery detachment were to land on Blue Beach near Puys with the task of neutralizing the machine gun and artillery batteries protecting Dieppe beach.They were delayed by 20 minutes and by the time they landed the smoke screen that had been their cover had dissipated.  Meanwhile the Germans were waiting for them having been alerted by the gunfire between the German convey and No. 3 Commandos.  As soon as the Canadians reached the shore they were pinned against the seawall and unable to advance. The Royal Regiment of Canada was annihilated. Of the 556 men in the regiment, 200 were killed and 264 captured.

The South Saskatchewan Regiment landed on Green Beach at 04:52 and managed to disembark before the Germans could fire. Unfortunately some of the landing craft drifted off course and most of the battalion ended up on the west of the Scie River rather than on the eastern side.  To reach the hills east of Pourville they had to cross the river by the only bridge.  The Germans were positioned there and stopped the Allied advance.  With the regiment's dead and wounded piling up on the bridge, Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Cecil Ingersoll Merritt, the commanding officer, stepped forward and shouted to his men: "Come on over— there's nothing to it!"

Canadian wounded. Abandoned Churchill tanks after raid.

Canadian dead on Blue Beach

The assault resumed but failed to gain any ground. The South Saskatchewans and the Cameron Highlanders of Canada, who had landed beside them, were unable to reach their target. Though the Camerons were able to penetrate further inland than any other troops they were also forced back by German gunfire. Both regiments suffered even more losses as they withdrew.  Only 341 men were able to return to their landing craft. The remainder surrendered to the enemy. For his part in the battle, Lieutenant Colonel Merritt was awarded the Victoria Cross.

RAF Flight Sergeant Jack Nissenthall, a radar specialist, was assigned the mission to assess the accuracy of the German radar station perched atop the clip just east of Pourvile.  He was to attempt to enter the radar station accompanied by 11 men of the Saskatechewans. Nissenthall had volunteered for the mission fully aware that his bodyguards were under orders to kill him if captured by the enemy.  As a last resort he also carried a cyanide pill. They failed to enter the radar station due to overwhelming enemy defences.  But Nissenthall did manage to crawl up to the rear of the station under enemy fire and cut all telephone wires leading to it. Consequently, the Germans communicated with their commanders through radio transmissions, which gave the Allies the chance to intercept messages from listening posts along the south coast of England.  Only Nissenthall and one other person from this unit were able to return safely to England.

In preparation for the main landing, four destroyers were bombing the coast as landing craft approached.  At 05:15 hours, they were joined by five RAF Hurricane squadrons who bombed the coastal defences and set a smoke screen to protect the assault troops.

Thirty minutes after the initial landings the main frontal assault began. The Essex Scottish and the Hamilton Light Infantry were meant to be supported by Churchill tanks of the 14th Canadian Armoured Regiment but they arrived on the beach late.  The two infantry Regiments had to lead the attack without artillery support and were slaughtered on the beach by enemy fire from hidden gun nests atop the cliffs.

When the tanks eventually landed only 29 had made it but two of them sank in deep water.Of the remaining 27 tanks only 15 did not become bogged down on the shingle beach and managed to reach the seawall and traverse it but faced an obstacle course on their way towards the town. With the infantry now retreating they were forced to return to the beach while providing fire support.  They were all captured.

Major General Roberts  was unaware of the situation because a smoke screen was covering the beaches. He dispatched two reserve units, the Fusiliers Mont-Royal and the Royal Marines. At 07:00 the Fusiliers under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Dollard Ménard sailed in 26 landing crafts towards the beach and were met with heavy enemy gunfire, mortar and grenade fire. The entire unit was destroyed. Only a few men survived to reach the center of the town but became pinned down under the cliffs.

Roberts dispatched the Royal Marines to provide support for the Fusilier. While the Royal Marines were on the way in landing craft, many of them were destroyed or disabled by enemy gunfire. Those who managed to reach the shore were either killed or taken prisoner.  The commanding officer of the Royal Marine, Lieutenant Colonel Phillipps became aware of the situation of his men, and he stood up on the stern of the landing craft and signaled for the rest of his men to turn back. Moments later he was hit by enemy fire.

 At 11:00 under heavy fire, the withdrawal from the main landing beaches began and was completed by 14:00.

Allied casualties from the Dieppe raid included 3,367 Canadians killed, wounded or taken prisoner, and 275 British commandos. The Royal Navy lost one destroyer and 33 landing craft, suffering 550 dead and wounded. The RAF lost 106 aircraft to the Luftwaffes 48. The German army casualties were 591.

Three Victoria Crosses were awarded for the operation: to Captain Porteous, No. 4 Commando; the Reverend John Weir Foote, padre to Royal Hamilton Light Infantry; and Lieutenant Colonel Merritt of the South Saskatchewan Regiment.

Both Foote and Merritt became prisoners of war. The 2nd Canadian Infantry Division would eventually liberate Dieppe in 1944, Major General Roberts, their commander, had by then been transferred to command reinforcement units in the United Kingdom.

There have been many first-hand accounts made by Canadian veterans who had documented their experiences on the shores of Dieppe.  All refer to the preparedness of German defences, indicating that the Germans knew about the planned raid ahead of time. Commanding officer Lt. Colonel Labatt testified to having seen markers used for mortar practice, which appeared to have recently been placed, on the beach. Morever, upon reaching the shore, landing ships were immediately shelled with the utmost precision as troops began disembarking. Hence the German army was well-prepared.  Furthermore, Major C.E. Page discovered while interrogating a German soldier, that four machine gun battalions were brought in "specifically" in anticipation of the raid. However, the most compelling information supporting German foreknowledge resides with the numerous accounts of interrogated German prisoners, German captors, and French citizens all conveyed to Canadians that the Germans had been preparing for the anticipated Allied landings for weeks. The Germans had received intelligence reports from French double agents. A spike in Allied radio traffic and increase in the concentration of landing crafts in British ports confirmed that an Allied assault was in the works.

In June, the BBC started broadcasting warnings to French civilians of a "likely" war, urging them to quickly evacuate the Atlantic coastal districts of occupied France.


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