Dieppe: Operation Jubilee



In the town of Dieppe - on a beautiful day, one could walk the pebbled beaches of Dieppe's coastline, sample Dieppe's famous fresh scallops, or explore a 15th-century castle and the churches of Saint-Jacques and Saint-Remi. A sleepy coastal town in the Seine-Maritime department in France, Dieppe was built along the cliff side, overlooking the English Channel - facing north, towards England.

But in 1940, after the fall of France to the German Army, Dieppe would become a significant wartime target - and the events which would ultimately take place here would be a great disaster that would significantly affect generations of families living thousands of miles away.

By 1942, the Germans had demolished some of the seafront buildings, including the Mauresque casino to make way for two large artillery batteries - one at Berneval-le-Grand, and another at Varengeville. Although the great flanking cliffs of Dieppe made up a strong natural defense - the German Army would work tirelessly to develop lasting fortifications to aid in a strong coastal defense against the Allies, including a 1500 strong garrison covering every likely landing beach.

 


In the early waking hours of August 19th, 1942 - 5,000 Canadians, 1,000 British, and 50 US Army Rangers - led by the plan put in place by Vice-Admiral Lord Mountbatten - would storm Dieppe's coastline along six beaches. From East to West - Codenamed Yellow Beach, Blue Beach, Red Beach, White Beach, Green Beach and Orange Beach. The Royal Regiment of Canada would attack the Blue beach at Puys - on Dieppe's Eastern Flank. The main beaches, Red & White, lay directly in front of Dieppe and would be attacked by the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry, the Essex Scottish Regiment, Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal, A Commando Royal Marines, and the 14th Army Tank Regiment. The Green & Orange Beaches to Dieppe's West targeted by the South Saskatchewan Regiment and the Queens Own Cameron Highlanders.

Those that landed at Puys were tasked to neutralize the German machine gun artillery batteries that were protecting Dieppe. With their initial delays delayed after running into gunfire from a small German convoy at sea - the smoke screen and the darkness of the night sky had lifted - exposing the Royal Regiment as they landed. With darkness and surprise lost - the Canadians here fought themselves pinned against the seawall - unable to advance.

Meanwhile - along the two main beaches - Red & White, four destroyers and 5 RAF Hurricane squadrons began their assault. At 5:23 AM the Essex Scottish, and the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry began their harrowing landing.

The men expected to receive armoured support from an active fleet of Churchill tanks to join them. However, these arrived much later than planned. When the tanks did manage to make it to shore, a mere 29 tanks would turn up. During the assault, two of these tanks would sink, and another twelve would get stuck in the soft sand of the beach. Fifteen tanks would make it up and over the seawall but were then all blocked by a series of obstacles that no tank could overcome.

Without armoured support, and unable to clear and scale the sea wall - both the Essex Scottish & Royal Hamilton Light Infantry would suffer heavy losses. None of the tanks would make it back to England.

Out on the water, behind a smoke screen which clouded these dismal blows, Major General Roberts commanded two more reserve units, the Fusiliers Mont-Royal & the Royal Marines to follow the same fate as the Essex Scottish & Royal Hamilton Light Infantry.

At 0700 Hours, the Fusiliers sailed towards the Red & White beaches in 26 landing craft. Hit instantly with heavy machine gun & mortar fire, only a few of these men would manage to make it ashore.

Royal Marine Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Phillips stood on the stern of his landing craft. Quickly realising the terrible outcome - he desperately signalled for the rest of his men to turn back. He was killed mere seconds later.

Back on the Blue Beach - the Royal Regiment was suffering complete & utter annihilation. Over 200 of their men had been killed, and another 264 captured out of the total 556 in the regiment.

While the Queens Own Cameron Highlanders & the South Saskatchewan Regiment did manage to penetrate further inland than any other troop that day - they were also forced back and made to evacuate as strong German reinforcements rushed in.

In less than 10 hours since the Allied troops landed, a total of 3,367 of the 6,086 would be either killed, wounded and captured. A near 60% loss in fighting strength. Of the high Canadian contingent of 5,000 men, over 900 would be killed, and another 1,874 taken prisoner for a casualty rate of 68%. These staggering numbers are incomparable to the mere 591 casualties the German Army would suffer that day.

The Royal Navy would lose one destroyer, 33 landing craft, and 550 crew - dead or wounded.

For the Canadians at home - the events that took place that day would be a devastating blow.

 

The Dieppe Raid for the Allies was, in every regard, an overwhelming failure resulting in bloodshed and almost irreplaceable loss - which leads to the questions why and how was this planned?

The initial objective of the Dieppe Raid seemed simple enough - it involved seizing and holding the port city for a very short period -approximately two tides - to gather intelligence, yes, but also to prove that to the Germans that it was possible, before retreating again.

While there, the Allied offensive was to destroy all coastal defences, as well as port structures & all strategic buildings. The raid would provide a boost for morale, as well as the promise to the Allies of the East - who were suffering terrible losses along the Eastern Front - that the UK would relieve pressure by opening a Western Front in German-occupied France.

As we've seen, virtually none of these objectives would be met.

There were, however, pressures from other areas that made the Dieppe Raid an attractive next step. For example, one obje