At the War's Turning-Point, 1942
The Climactic Year
The climactic year of the war was 1942. During that year the flood of German conquest reached its highwater mark in both Europe and Africa; while the early months saw also the greatest triumphs of Japanese aggression in the Far East, with the fall of Singapore and the final overwhelming of the American forces in the Philippines. Yet at the year's end the situation had vastly changed.
In Russia the Germans had been decisively checked at Stalingrad in the autumn and by Christmas the Russian counter-offensive was rolling forward and had already recovered much ground. In North Africa, Rommel, who in October had been within easy striking-distance of Alexandria, had been driven from Egypt, and was now being assailed from the east by the Eighth Army and from the west by British and American forces landed in Algeria. In the Pacific, moreover, the Japanese had suffered naval defeats in the Coral Sea and at Midway, and Australian forces in New Guinea and United States Marines at Guadalcanal had passed to the offensive successfully on land.
In the western war against the Germans, with which this account is mainly concerned, it was the victory at El Alamein (23 October--4 November) and the landings in French North Africa (8 November) that marked the turning of the tide. By the spring of 1943 the Germans had been cleared from the African continent. A new phase, the invasion of Southern Europe, opened in July, when an Allied force including Canadians landed in Sicily. The decisive stage of the offensive against Germany did not begin, however, until 6 June 1944, when AngloCanadian forces, partnered now by very powerful United States formations, returned to the soil of France from which they had been driven four years before.
The pattern of the Allied grand strategy evolved only gradually; but it was in 1942 that the most vital decisions were taken. During that spring and summer the military and political chiefs of the United Nations were hammering out, by a slow and somewhat painful process of discussion and negotiation, resolves which deeply affected the whole subsequent conduct of the war. Some account of these seems essential to full understanding of the Canadian events of this year, which witnessed the first battle of the new Canadian Army against the Germans--the great combined raid on Dieppe.
Just before Christmas of 1941 Mr. Churchill went to Washington, and he and Mr. Roosevelt agreed that a major operation against Germany must be attempted during 1942. In the following April, General George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff of the United States Army, went to London and conferred with British leaders. In these discussions there was general agreement on the necessity of an ultimate blow from the West, and a full-scale offensive against the Germans in France (known at this stage as Operation ROUNDUP) was tentatively set for the summer of 1943. It was recognized, however, that it might be desirable to undertake, to quote General Marshall, "a diversionary assault on the French coast at a much earlier date if such a desperate measure became necessary to lend a hand toward saving the situation on the Soviet front". The "emergency plan" was given the code name SLEDGEHAMMER. It was a desperate scheme indeed, for it envisaged using six divisions, of which one or two would probably be Canadian, to establish a permanent limited bridgehead in France. Planning was undertaken both for the main and the secondary project.
In June, Mr. Churchill again went to Washington, accompanied by the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, and discussed ROUNDUP, SLEDGEHAMMER and operations in the Mediterranean. At the middle of July, the discussions were renewed in London, General Marshall, Admiral King and other American leaders being present. The most immediately critical aspect of the situation now was the position in Russia. Here the Germans, after suffering severe reverses during the winter, had returned to the offensive in May. On 1 July Sebastopol fell to them, and on 24 July they took Rostov and began to drive into the Caucasus. The situation of the Soviet forces was very serious; the Western Allies were being subjected to heavy pressure from Moscow for a large-scale offensive in the West; and there appeared in fact to be a very palpable danger of Russia's being driven out of the war. Russian demands were seconded by popular movements in England and other Allied countries; on 26 July, for instance, a meeting in London, attended by perhaps 60,000 people, called for what was known, somewhat inaccurately, as the "Second Front."
In spite of these circumstances, the British and American leaders saw with increasing clarity, as the weeks passed, that it was out of the question to undertake immediate major operations in Western Europe. In General Marshall's words, "Poverty of equipment, especially in landing craft, and the short period remaining when the weather would permit cross-Channel movement of small craft", ruled out SLEDGEHAMMER for 1942. The conclusion was that the only major operation that could be undertaken with a fair prospect of success that year was TORCH, the landings in French North Africa. The decision (reached on 25 July) to launch this great enterprise was fundamental; for it entailed
committing Allied resources to the Mediterranean to an extent that would probably render a large-scale offensive in North-West Europe impossible before 1944.
Canadian Raiding Operations: Aspirations and Disappointments
While the United Nations' strategy was thus being worked out "on the highest level", the hopes of the Canadians in Britain were largely centred, for the moment, on more modest projects. When the men of the Canadian Corps moved to the Sussex coast in the autumn of 1941 they indulged the expectation that their new role would bring the opportunity of taking part in raids against the German-held shores across the Channel. By this period the "Commandos" of the Special Service Brigade, working under Combined Operations Headquarters, had already carried out a number of daring enterprises which had caught the public imagination.
Cross-Channel raids had been discussed between Generals Paget and McNaughton as early as September 1941. As a result, selected groups of men were given special training in combined operations. It was anticipated that it would be possible to mount a succession of minor raids during the winter. Plans for two small operations existed and it was hoped that the 2nd Canadian Division might be able to carry them out. They were proposed for three successive suitable periods, in December, January and February; but on all three occasions the operations were cancelled because no assault landing craft were to be had.
General Crerar, on taking command of the Canadian Corps, was determined to do his utmost to get raiding opportunities for his troops; and in February and March of 1942 he urged upon both General Montgomery and Commodore Lord Louis Mountbatten the desirability of giving them a chance of matching their skill and courage against the enemy. Further combined training was now arranged. In April a large detachment from the 2nd Division carried out ten days' intensive training, and there seemed a possibility that it would be employed in an actual operation. Once again, however, the men's hopes were disappointed.
In this same month, nevertheless, Canadian troops did finally participate in a raid, although it brought them little satisfaction. On 1 April G.H.Q. Home Forces inquired whether the Canadian Corps would provide 50 trained men for use in a commando raid. Generals Crerar and McNaughton having approved the scheme, a party of the Carleton and York Regiment, commanded by Lieut. J. P. Ensor, was allotted the task. The raid (Operation ABERCROMBIE) was directed by Major Lord Lovat of No. 4 Commando; the Canadian party had an independent role under him. The objective was the area of the village of
Hardelot, just south of Boulogne. The aims were to reconnoitre defences, destroy a searchlight post and capture prisoners. The Canadians, transported in two assault craft, were to land south of the village, while the Commando men went in north of it.
After a first attempt had been frustrated by bad weather on the night of 19-20 April, the raid took place two nights later. Lovat's own men duly landed and three patrols went out; but the recall rocket had to be fired before the searchlight post could be attacked, and (the enemy in the actual beach defences having rapidly decamped) no prisoners were taken. The Canadians never even got ashore. The naval commander of their group of craft fell ill the morning of the operation and had to be replaced. It is also reported that the craft had defective compasses. Whatever the reason, the assault craft carrying the Canadians and the support craft in which was the naval commander failed to keep station properly and Ensor's boat became separated from the others. Search was made without success. In these circumstances it was impossible to carry out the plan and any landings could only have been made at random, for it seems clear that the navigators were quite at a loss. While the craft were still searching for each other, the recall rocket was seen; and on hearing by wireless that the Commando troops had re-embarked, the Canadians' craft shaped course for Dover independently. It is questionable whether the enemy had seen them, and though there was considerable machine-gun fire in their general direction they suffered no casualties.
Full of chagrin, they wrote the incident down as one more in a most singular series of frustrations; it was little comfort to them to reflect that this party had a good claim to be considered the first "formed body" of the Canadian Army to come under the fire of German ground forces in the Second Great War. Lord Lovat (who learned of their misfortune only after his own return to Dover) wrote to General McNaughton expressing sympathy for this "very fine detachment". "I hope I may be allowed to go tiger shooting with them again sometime", he said. He was, in fact, to have the opportunity of hunting very big game indeed in Canadian company before the year was out.
The Origins of the Dieppe Operation
In October 1941 Captain Lord Louis Mountbatten was appointed Adviser on Combined Operations, succeeding Admiral of the Fleet Lord Keyes who had held the title of Director. On 18 March 1942 Mountbatten became Chief of Combined Operations with the rank of Vice Admiral, and at the same time Combined Operations Headquarters was considerably expanded. This headquarters had two main functions: the organization of raiding operations to do immediate damage to the enemy, and the development of equipment and technique for amphibious
operations generally and for the ultimate full-dress invasion of North-West Europe in particular. It was with both in view that Combined Operations Headquarters originated the project of an attack on Dieppe. The raid on St. Nazaire, the most ambitious so far undertaken by the Combined Operations Command, took place on 28 March 1942; and in April planning began for that on Dieppe, a much larger enterprise.
This project had a far closer relation to the future invasion of the continent than any raid yet attempted. It would illuminate what was considered in 1942 the primary problem of an invasion operation: that of the immediate acquisition of a major port. It was on a sufficient scale to afford a test of the new technique and material (including tank landing craft) which had been developed. Such a test was felt to be essential before attempting full-scale amphibious operations, for there had been no major assault landing since those at Gallipoli in 1915, and the small raids so far made had thrown no light on the handling of a large naval assault fleet in action.
The perilous enterprise was not undertaken without deep consideration. On 8 September 1942, reviewing the "hard, savage clash" at Dieppe in one of his periodical reports to the House of Commons, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom said: "I, personally, regarded the Dieppe assault, to which I gave my sanction, as an indispensable preliminary to full-scale operations". Mr. Churchill had, in fact, at an advanced stage of the planning, after his return from the United States late in June, specifically sought the counsel of some of his most senior service advisers on the utility of the proposed raid in a private conference at Downing Street. The answer which he received, couched in the most decided terms, was that a raid on the French coast on a divisional scale was absolutely essential if the project of the ultimate invasion of France was to be seriously considered.
Dieppe, a resort town with a good harbour, lies some 67 miles from Newhaven in Sussex, just nicely within the range of the fighter aircraft of 1942. The coast hereabouts consists mainly of unscalable cliffs. The only really large gap in this barrier is at Dieppe itself, where there is nearly a mile of beach between the commanding headlands east and west of the town; but there is an accessible beach at Pourville, about two and a half miles west of Dieppe harbour, and a much narrower gap in the cliffs at Puys (also called Puits) a little over a mile east of it. Another possible landing place is Quiberville, at the mouth of the River Saane, eight miles west of Dieppe. Topography thus imposed severe limitations upon any plan of attack.
The Combined Operations Headquarters Planning Staff began work on an Outline Plan about the middle of April. The Army was represented by staff officers from G.H.Q. Home Forces. At an early stage, the C.-in-C. Home Forces delegated his authority in the matter to
the G.O.C.-in-C. South Eastern Command (Lieutenant-General B. L. Montgomery), who thereafter took the responsibility for the military side of the planning and himself attended some of the later meetings of the planners.
Documentary evidence on the development of the Outline Plan is fragmentary, but it appears that two alternatives were considered: one providing for no frontal attack on Dieppe itself, but based upon landings on the flanks at Puys, Pourville and Quiberville, and the other comprehending a frontal attack, supplemented by flank attacks at Puys and Pourville, and by attacks by parachute and airborne troops on two coast defence batteries situated near Berneval, five miles east of Dieppe, and near Varengeville, four miles west of it. The latter plan was ultimately adopted, the planners recommending committing the tanks (which it was proposed to use for the first time in a Combined Operations raid) to a direct assault on Dieppe.
This frontal-attack scheme may have been related to the problem of immediate acquisition of a port, just referred to; an attempt to "pinch out" a port by landings on its flanks might lead to delays which would give the enemy time to demolish the harbour, whereas if the place could be seized by a blow into the centre the problem would be solved. It was moreover considered preferable to land the tanks in front rather than to use the flank beach at Quiberville, because a tank attack directed from that distant point upon Dieppe, and upon the aerodrome of Dieppe-St. Aubin, directly south of the town, which was one of the main objectives, would have little chance of achieving surprise and would have to cross two rivers, the Saane and the Scie, whose bridges would require to be secured in advance. It was by no means certain, moreover, that these bridges would carry a Churchill tank. In the early stages consideration was also given to landing tanks at Pourville, but this idea was dropped, apparently because the exits from the beach were considered inadequate. On 25 April a formal meeting at Combined Operations Headquarters, presided over by Lord Louis Mountbatten and attended by Major-General P. G. S. Gregson-Ellis of G.H.Q. Home Forces, adopted the Outline Plan just sketched--incorporating a frontal assault preceded by air bombing.
On 11 May, the Chief of Combined Operations submitted this Outline Plan to the Chiefs of Staff Committee, informing them that it had the concurrence of the G.O.C.-in-C. South Eastern Command. In recommending the raid, Lord Louis Mountbatten wrote.
Apart from the military objective given in the outline plan, this operation will be of great value as training for Operation SLEDGEHAMMER or any other major operation as far as the actual assault is concerned. It will not, however, throw light on the maintenance problem over beaches.
On 13 May the Chiefs of Staff approved the Outline Plan as a basis for detailed planning.
No Canadian officer had anything to do with the scheme until after the completion of the Outline Plan. On 30 April General Montgomery visited General McNaughton at his headquarters and told him of the project. The troops were to come from South Eastern Command, and Montgomery said that while he had been "pressed to agree to a composite British-Canadian force, he had replied that it was essential to maintain unity of command, and that in his opinion the Canadian troops were those best suited. He had spoken of the operation to General Crerar, whose Corps was under his own operational command; and Crerar had recommended the 2nd Division for it. These arrangements General McNaughton, in his capacity as Senior Combatant Officer of the Canadian Army Overseas, now confirmed, subject to the plans being satisfactory and receiving his approval.1 From this time, accordingly, Canadian officers participated in the detailed planning.
The opening paragraphs of the Outline Plan ran as follows:--
Intelligence reports indicate that Dieppe is not heavily defended and that the beaches in the vicinity are suitable for landing Infantry, and Armoured Fighting Vehicles at some. It is also reported that there are forty invasion barges in the harbour.
It is therefore proposed to carry out a raid with the following objectives:--
destroying enemy defences in the vicinity of Dieppe;
destroying the aerodrome installations at St. Aubin;
destroying R.D.F.2 Stations, power stations, dock and rail facilities and petrol dumps in the vicinity;
removing invasion barges for our own use;
removal of secret documents from the Divisional Headquarters at Arques-la-Bataille;
to capture prisoners.
A force of infantry, Air-bone troops and Armoured Fighting Vehicles will land in the area of Dieppe to seize the town and vicinity. This area will be held during daylight while the tasks are carried out. The force will then re-embark.
The operation will be supported by fighter aircraft and bomber action.
The opinion that Dieppe was "not heavily defended" requires comment. It was believed that the town was held by a single low category
battalion, though this was known to be supported by a considerable number of guns. This opinion was not in fact seriously at fault, for the force in the town itself on the day of the actual operation was only one battalion with attached troops (although the "Dieppe Strongpoint" garrison as a whole, embracing also the Puys and Pourville areas, was two battalions). In the light of that day's events, however, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the planners underrated the influence of topography and of the defensive works known to be numerous in the target area.
The naval force employed was to comprise about six small destroyers of the Hunt class, a shallow-draught gunboat, seven infantry landing ships, and a great number of small craft. The military forces were to be two infantry brigades with Engineers, and "up to a battalion of Army tanks".3 The air forces were to include "sufficient bombers to produce extensive bombardment on selected areas and targets".
The plan provided for two infantry flank attacks, at Puys and Pourville, the force landing at the latter having the special task of capturing the aerodrome. Simultaneously with these attacks, parachute troops would be dropped to attack the German Divisional Headquarters and the coastal and anti-aircraft batteries in the area. The possible use of glider-borne troops was also envisaged. Half an hour after the flank attacks, the frontal assault would be put in at Dieppe itself by up to two infantry battalions and up to thirty tanks. During the night preceding the raid, a heavy bombing attack was to be delivered against the dock area, ceasing not later than an hour and a half before the flank landings. In addition, Hurricanes would attack the beach area of the town immediately before the frontal assault. The original plan provided also for low-level bombing coming just before the Hurricane attack; but this was eliminated from the scheme on 15 May.
The Canadian military authorities could, if they chose, have rejected the Outline Plan and allowed some British formation to undertake the operation. Those who have followed the story thus far, however, will realize how loath any Canadian officer, in 1942, would have been to reject any plan, proposed by competent authority, which promised action; they will realize, too, how violently resentful the ordinary Canadian soldier would have been had an enterprise like the Dieppe raid been carried out at this time without the participation of the Canadian force which had waited so long for battle. A Canadian staff "appreciation" of the Outline Plan which is extant betrays initial doubts
about the desirability of landing tanks on the Dieppe waterfront, but proceeds to adduce its possible advantages. Among these were the fact that, if successful, such action would place the tanks "in easy striking distance of the most appropriate objectives" (including the aerodrome); it would produce surprise; and it would have "a terrific moral effect" on both Germans and French. The plan was considered to have "a reasonable prospect of success", and its acceptance was recommended.
The same meeting of the Chiefs of Staff Committee which approved the Outline Plan agreed to the employment of Canadian troops and appointed Military and Air Force Commanders: MajorGeneral J. H. Roberts, commanding the 2nd Canadian Division, and Air Vice-Marshal T. L. Leigh-Mallory. The Naval Force Commander (appointed subsequently) was Rear-Admiral H. T. Baillie Grohman.4
Training and Planning for Dieppe
The operation (known at this stage as RUTTER) entailed intensive combined training by the Canadian units. This was carried out in the Isle of Wight. The brigades designated were the 4th Infantry Brigade, commanded by Brigadier Sherwood Lett, and the 6th, commanded by Brigadier W. W. Southam. The tank unit chosen was the 14th Canadian Army Tank Regiment (Calgary Regiment), of the 1st Army Tank Brigade. The force also included large numbers of Engineers, chiefly from the 2nd Division, artillery detachments to man captured guns, and the necessary medical and other units.
The syllabus was designed to "harden" the troops as well as train them. Training on a battalion basis having gone as far as it could be carried in the time available, a large-scale exercise, which was, in fact, a dress rehearsal for the raid, took place on 11-12 June near Bridport, Dorset, on a stretch of coast resembling the Dieppe area. The result was far from satisfactory; units were landed miles from the proper beaches, and the tank landing craft arrived over an hour late. In these circumstances, Lord Louis Mountbatten decided that further rehearsal was essential and that no attempt, therefore, would be made to carry out the operation during June, as had been the intention. The troops remained in the Isle of Wight, and the second exercise was carried out at Bridport on 22-24 June. The results were much more satisfactory.
It was now intended that the raid should take place on 4 July or one of the days following. The troops were accordingly embarked on 2 and 3 July, and thereafter remained "sealed" on board their ships. So far, only officers had known that an actual operation was to be undertaken;
now, however, General Roberts and Admiral Mountbatten visited the various ships and spoke to the men on the task ahead of them. All the troops were fully "briefed".
On 3 July the weather was unsuitable for launching the enterprise that night, and it was postponed for twenty-four hours. The next day, conditions still being unfavourable, it was again put off. On 5 July a conference agreed upon modifications of plan with a view to carrying it out on a shorter time-table on 8 July, the last day on which tide conditions would permit it.
The concentration of shipping about the Isle of Wight had not escaped the notice of the enemy, and at 6:15 on the morning of the 7th four of his aircraft struck at vessels of the force lying in Yarmouth Roads near the west end of the Solent. Two landing ships, Princess Astrid and Princess Josephine Charlotte, were hit. The troops on both were mainly from the Royal Regiment of Canada. Fortunately, in the words of the unit's War Diary, "the bombs passed completely through the ships before exploding", and the Royals suffered only four minor casualties. This attack in itself was not enough to cause cancellation of the operation, for arrangements were hastily made to embark the Royals in another ship. The Naval decision, however, was that the weather was still too bad to permit of attempt ing the operation on 8 July. It was accordingly cancelled; the bitterly disappointed soldiers were disembarked and the force which had spent so long in the Isle of Wight was returned to the mainland and dispersed. As the troops had been fully informed of the objective of the proposed raid, and once they left the ships it would no longer be possible to maintain complete secrecy, General Montgomery recommended that the operation should now "be off for all time".
During the weeks of training and rehearsing, the plan for the operation had been materially altered. In particular, the heavy bombing attack had been deleted. This was not done merely to avoid the inevitable casualties to the French population; for while normally it was the rule that targets in Occupied France could be bombed only when weather permitted a very high degree of accuracy (and this had prevented bombing in support of the St. Nazaire raid), Mr. Churchill agreed on 30 May that coastal raids (only) might be an exception. On 5 June, however, a meeting attended by the three Force Commanders and presided over by the G. O. C.-in-C. South Eastern Command accepted the recommendation of the Air Force Commander to eliminate the high-level bombardment. This was done for a number of reasons. It was thought that bombing, if not overpowering, might only serve to warn the enemy; the Air Force Commander was quite unable to guarantee the degree of accuracy which would ensure the destruction of the row of houses facing the sea front; and in these conditions the Military Force
Commander feared that destruction within the town would be such as to block the streets with debris and prevent the tanks from getting through to their objectives to the southward.
The operation, abandoned on 8 July with every appearance of finality, was nevertheless revived about one week later. Written evidence concerning the revival is limited, and the account which follows is based to some extent upon the recollections of officers who were closely concerned.
The Dieppe project had, as already noted, been an important element in the programme looking towards a future invasion of the continent; and its cancellation was a setback to that programme as well as a disappointment to the Canadian troops. Apart from these considerations, there were obviously others which made a major raid expedient at this moment. The public in the Allied countries, we have seen, was calling loudly for action, and considerations of morale suggested the desirability of meeting the demand as far as it was practicable to do so. At the same time, the German successes in Russia rendered it essential to give any diversionary aid possible to our Soviet allies. There is no evidence that the Russian situation was actually an important factor in the decision to revive the Dieppe project, but the news that a large distracting raid in the west was again in prospect was welcomed by the British Prime Minister, who shortly after the decision was taken found himself faced with the somewhat formidable task of informing Marshal Stalin that there was to be no Second Front in Europe in 1942.5
For an early operation, such as was desirable for so many reasons, the Dieppe scheme was the best possibility: it offered a ready-made plan and a force already trained. It was now subject, however, to serious objections on grounds of security, for the possibility had to be accepted that, with so many thousands of men in the secret, the enemy might have got wind of our plan. It could only be revived, therefore, if we could be more than reasonably certain that information of the revival would not reach the Germans. A satisfactory formula was found by Captain J. Hughes-Hallett, Naval Adviser at Combined Operations Headquarters.
With the military force ready trained as it was, he suggested, it was possible to re-mount the attack in a manner which would make it very difficult of detection in advance; for it was not necessary to concentrate the force beforehand. Instead, the various units could move direct from
their stations to their different ports of embarkation, and embark there on the same evening on which they were to sail. Moreover, whereas for RUTTER all units had been embarked in infantry landing ships with a view to transferring to small craft only in the vicinity of the objective, it was now suggested that three units might be carried all the way in personnel landing craft. This made further dispersion possible; Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal, in the event, embarked at the small port of Shoreham in Sussex, and the Cameron Highlanders and No. 3 Commando at Newhaven. There would be no noticeable assembly of shipping. This new basis proved acceptable to all parties; and Hughes-Hallett himself was now designated as Naval Force Commander.
Although in essentials the actual attack plan was the same as before (it had to be if the operation were to be launched without long delay), certain modifications were introduced. In particular, since the use of paratroops demanded ideal weather conditions and also required considerable time for briefing, it was decided to eliminate this element of the force, substituting Commando units, who would have the task of neutralizing the coastal batteries on either side of Dieppe, which if left alone would make it impossible for our ships to lie off the coast.6
The "chain of command" was also different. For RUTTER the responsible military authority had been the G.O.C.-in-C. South Eastern Command, and the G.O.C.-in-C. First Canadian Army had held only an undefined watching brief. For JUBILEE--the name by which the raid was now to be known--the C.-in-C. Home Forces, on General McNaughton's recommendation, made the Canadian Army Commander the responsible military authority. General McNaughton delegated this responsibility to General Crerar. General Montgomery thus ceased to have any further connection with the operation; and before it actually took place he had left for Egypt to assume command of the Eighth Army.
Before the plan was made "firm" there was further discussion of the question of aerial bombardment. The Air Force Commander again advised against it, and the Military Force Commander, for the same reasons already given, concurred. General Roberts wrote later:
The original plan for bombing envisaged two or three minor bombing raids on Dieppe, prior to the operation. As these had not been carried out, it was felt that a large scale attack, probably inaccurately placed, would merely serve to place the enemy on the alert. This was a considerable factor.
At all stages it was insisted that bombing could only be carried out by night, and inaccuracy, rather than accuracy, was guaranteed.
The elimination of the air bombardment had removed from the plan
the one element of really heavy support contained in it. The assault would now be backed by nothing stronger than 4-inch guns and Boston bombers. Surprise, rather than striking power, was to be the chief reliance in this operation. In the main attack much would also depend upon the most exact co-ordination between the attack by cannon-firing fighters, the landing of the infantry and the arrival of the first flight of tanks.
The utmost precautions were taken to maintain secrecy. Even the senior officers of the units concerned were told of the revival of the project only a week or so before the operation; the men learned of it only after they arrived at the embarkation ports on 18 August. Those carried in landing ships were briefed on board; those crossing the Channel in small craft were briefed in specially-guarded buildings just before embarkation. The infantry units moved to the ports by motor transport the afternoon before the raid, the move being represented as a "movement exercise".
The total of ships and craft employed in the operation (including vessels of two minesweeping flotillas which cleared the way) was 253. The military force embarked amounted to approximately 6100 all ranks, of whom 4963 were Canadians and about 1075 were British. In addition there were some 50 all ranks from the 1st U.S. Ranger Battalion (dispersed among various units as observers) and 18 all ranks of No. 10 (Inter-Allied) Commando.
About 9:30 on the evening of 18 August the first ships slipped out of Portsmouth and Southampton; and, as darkness fell, the various groups drew into formation and shaped their pre-arranged courses towards the French coast.
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