The Dieppe Raid

TAKEN FROM A PLAQUE AT THE CANADIAN CEMETERY IN DIEPPE.
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The Dieppe Raid on 19th of August 1942 was the only large-scale assault on the coast of German occupied France prior to the allied landings in Normandy in June 1944. Entrusted largely to Canadian troops, it’s objective, to be accomplished within one day was not to hold a bridgehead, but to test the feasibility of seizing a harbor intact, then considered a prerequisite to the landing of the vast allied force needed to liberate Europe.

Of the six thousand soldiers who embarked from the English South coast 5000 were Canadian and the remainder, British Commando troops with 50 American rangers and 20 free French. Eight destroyers (7 British, 1 Polish) escorted them.

Although complete surprise was not achieved on the Eastern flank owing to an encounter between the landing craft and a German convoy, the initial stages of the raid saw some success. Assault groups landed, mostly unopposed, on the Western flank to disarm as many as possible of the German batteries and machine guns posted on the cliffs in advance of the main landing on the beaches and seaway. From orange beaches I and II 250 men from No. 4 commando surrounded, stormed and blew up the six 6 inch guns at Varengeville. Because of the earlier encounter with German shipping, only seven out of the twenty-three landing craft carrying No. 3 commando touched down, but 20 men on yellow II beach scaled the cliff and for more than 2.5 hours prevented any effective fore from the seven gun battery at Berneval. There 120 comrades on Yellow Beach I, where the Germans were by now alerted, were overwhelmed. The landing of 550 Canadians on Blue Beach was delayed and the Germans were able to pin down the whole of this force except for 20 men who reached the cliff top. A larger Canadian force of over 1000 men which landed on Green beach, part of it also delayed and part on the wrong side of the River Scie, nevertheless had considerable success, some units penetrating as far as Petit-Appeville.

By 05:20 hours, when the main Canadian force, with supporting bombardment from both sea and air, had started to land on Red and White beaches below the sea wall and on the espanade of the main sea front of Dieppe town, the firing on the flanks had brought the German defenses in the central sector to full readiness. From batteries and machine gun and mortar posts concealed in and protected by the cliffs a concentrated fire was directed upon the landing craft and troops on the beaches below. Little could be done to support the infantry or stop the German fire. Twenty-seven tanks provided some covering fire from behind the seawall; but the destroyers’ 4 inch guns could not suppress the batteries which the flank attacks had failed to reach. Bombing and cannon fire in frequent air sorties, at heavy loss, gave only temporary relief and the infantry, apart from a few groups which got some way into the town, could make no headway despite the commitment at 06:40 hours of reserves which included part of the Royal Marine Commando.

At 09:00 hours the force commander ordered withdrawal. After some delay landing craft went in under air cover; but many were sunk. Few of the men awaiting evacuation could get to those crafts which reached the beaches and many were taken prisoner. Shortly before 14:00 hours the raid was over.

The royal air force and the Royal Canadian Air Force had been heavily engaged throughout in bombing and cannon fire attacks and on reconnaissance, all under constant attack by German aircraft; United states, New Zealand, Polish, Norwegian, Czech, French and Belgian squadrans also took part. 106 allied aircraft were lost and 167 air crew, including 67 pilots were killed. The Royal Navy had 550 casualties, many from the crews of landing craft of which 33 were lost. The destroyer HMS Berkly was sunk. the commandos had 247 casualties of whom 43 were killed, while the Canadians suffered over 900 dead and lost nearly 1900 prisoners. Nevertheless the lessons learned at Dieppe were of inestimable value when the time came in June 1944 for the successful allied landings in Normandy which were to lead to final victory within a year.

Dieppe Canadian War Cemetery.

The 955 burials in this cemetery comprise:
Canada 707
United Kingdom 232
New Zealand 4
Australia 2
India 1
Other Nationalities 6
Entirely unidentified 3

Of these 783 were killed in the Dieppe raid, the remaining 172 being casualties of other operations. Some of the dead from the raid are buried in Brookwood military cemetery in England; others who have no known grave are commemorated on the Brookwood memorial.

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