The Raid on Dieppe, 19 August 1942
The Plan and the Crossing
The plan for the attack on Dieppe must now be described in greater detail. It entailed assaults at five separate points.
Four simultaneous flank attacks were to go in at 4:50 a.m., British Summer Time.1 This was calculated as "the beginning of nautical twilight"; it was intended that the craft would touch down while it was still dark enough to make it difficult for enemy gunners to see their targets. These attacks, from right to left, were as follows: upon the coastal battery near Varengeville by No. 4 Commando, commanded by Lt.-Col. Lord Lovat; at Pourville by the South Saskatchewan Regiment, commanded by Lt.-Col. C. C. I. Merritt; at Puys by the Royal Regiment of Canada, commanded by Lt: Col. D. E. Catto; and upon the battery near Berneval by No. 3 Commando, commanded by Lt.-Col. J. F. Durnford-Slater. Half an hour later,2 the main attack was to go in at Dieppe itself, delivered on the right by the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry (Lt.-Col. R. R. Labatt) and on the left by the Essex Scottish (Lt.-Col. F. K. Jasperson). Here, the leading tanks of the 14th Canadian Army Tank Regiment, commanded by Lt: Col. J. G. Andrews, were to land simultaneously with the first wave of infantry. The Military Force Commander had available as "floating reserve" one infantry battalion, Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal (Lt: Col. D. Ménard), and the Royal Marine "A" Commando (Lt: Col. J. P. Phillipps).
Half an hour after the initial assault at Pourville, the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada, under Lt.-Col. A. C. Gostling, were to land there and push inland to join up with the tanks moving southward from Dieppe and deliver a joint attack against the aerodrome. Speaking broadly, the scheme of the operation was to capture Dieppe and establish around it a perimeter within which extensive demolitions would be carried out by the Engineers. Outside the perimeter the Camerons and
the tanks would operate against the aerodrome and the German Divisional Headquarters which was mistakenly believed to be located in Arques-la-Bataille, some four miles south-east of Dieppe. We now know that it had moved on 27 April to Envermeu, six miles farther east.
Command was organized as follows. Capt. Hughes-Hallett was in the headquarters ship, the destroyer Calpe; with him was General Roberts. Air Vice-Marshal Leigh-Mallory was at Headquarters No. 11 Fighter Group, at Uxbridge, Middlesex, which was the best point for controlling his squadrons; he was represented in. Calpe by a senior R.A.F. officer. To provide against destruction or disablement of Calpe, a duplicate headquarters was provided in the destroyer "Ferme"; the senior military officer here was Brigadier C. C. Mann, who had played a leading part in the Canadian staff work for the operation. Admiral Mountbatten and General Crerar were to "watch" from Uxbridge; for, once the operation had begun, it could be materially influenced only by air intervention.
Throughout the night the flotillas, shrouded in darkness and maintaining wireless silence, sailed towards their objective. The force passed in safety an enemy minefield, through which passages had been duly swept and marked. All went well until 3:47 a.m., but then misfortune struck. At eight o'clock in the evening, we learn from Field-Marshal von Rundstedt's report, a small German coastal convoy, consisting of five motor or motor sailing vessels escorted by three submarine-chasers, had cleared Boulogne harbour for Dieppe. This convoy now ran into the extreme leftward group of our force, "Group 5", consisting of 23 personnel landing craft, accompanied by three small escort craft and carrying No. 3 Commando. Two destroyers were covering our eastward flank, but these ships were not in close company with No. 3 Commando's craft, and, in fact, took no part in the action which now ensued, their commander believing that the gunfire came from the shore. It is interesting to note that the movements of the convoy had been detected by shore radar stations in England, and two warning signals were sent out by the Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth (at 1:27 and 2:44 a.m.). Some vessels of our force received them; others evidently did not, and among those which did not, it appears, were these destroyers. The result was that the British escort vessels fought a violent short-range battle with the Germans, and were seriously damaged; and the craft carrying the Commando were completely scattered. One of the enemy submarinechasers was sunk.
In view of the danger of complete loss of surprise which this encounter represented, the question has sometimes been asked: Why was the operation not abandoned at this point? There were definite reasons.
The operation order specified, "If the operation is to be cancelled after the ships have sailed, the decision must be made before 0300
hours."3 This was because this was the time fixed for the infantry landing ships concerned with the flank attacks to lower their landing craft, which would immediately start in towards the beaches. In order to avoid the landing ships being detected by the German radar, it was necessary to lower the craft some ten miles from the shore and allow almost two hours for the run-in. As no satisfactory means existed of recalling a large number of assault craft travelling in darkness, it was impossible to call off the operation at the time of the encounter with the convoy, nearly an hour after the deadline fixed in the order.
The planners, it is of special interest to note, had striven to provide against precisely the sort of eventuality which had now taken place. The naval orders directed that wireless silence might be broken "by Senior Officer of Group 5 if by delays or casualties it is the opinion of the senior military officer that the success of the landing at 'Yellow' beach is seriously jeopardized". But the Group Commander was quite unable to report his misfortune, for in the fight with the German vessels the wireless installations on his steam gunboat were destroyed, and wireless traffic congestion foiled a subsequent attempt to signal from a motor launch. The consequence was that the Force Commanders in Calpe, although sight and sound had advised them that there had been some contact with the enemy, received no actual account of the events until about 6:00 a.m., when both the flank attacks and the frontal attack had gone in. The whole episode was a remarkable example of how, in war, the most careful calculations may be upset.
The Enemy at Dieppe
German documents now in Allied hands afford a very detailed picture of the enemy's strength and dispositions in the Dieppe area. Only a brief outline, however, can be given here.
The highest German military authority in France was the Commander-in-Chief West, Field-Marshal von Rundstedt. Dieppe was in the sector controlled, under him, by the Fifteenth Army. The Corps concerned with it was the 81st, with headquarters near Rouen; and the Division directly responsible for the Dieppe area was the 302nd Infantry Division, commanded by Lieutenant-General Conrad Haase. This Division was not regarded as of particularly high quality; it had a certain number of foreigners in its ranks, and its transport was horsedrawn. Its heavy weapons were largely of foreign type--Czech, French or Belgian; but for this very reason it had been possible to equip it on an unusually lavish scale.
The Dieppe area was organized as an independent strongpoint (Stützpunkt) capable of "all-round defence" and girded on the land side with a continuous barbed-wire obstacle. The strongpoint area included Puys and the high ground immediately east of Pourville. The latter village itself lay outside the wire, but the troops holding it were clearly considered part of the strongpoint garrison. The garrison was controlled by the headquarters of the 571st Infantry Regiment (equivalent to a British brigade), located on the West Headland at Dieppe. It consisted of two battalions of this regiment (with headquarters on the West and East Headlands respectively); a battalion of the 302nd Divisional Artillery, with four four-gun batteries; the headquarters of the divisional engineer battalion with two of its companies; and various minor units, including Luftwaffe anti-aircraft artillery, in considerable strength. The remaining battalion of the 571st Infantry Regiment was in Ouville-la-Rivière, southwest of Dieppe and outside the strongpoint, as regimental reserve.
The sector was very strong in artillery. The sixteen 10-centimetre field howitzers of the divisional artillery battalion were in four battery positions, two on each side of Dieppe and all but one within the wire barrier. In addition, eight French 75-millimetre guns were emplaced on the front of attack to sweep the beaches. There were 30 anti-aircraft guns, including six heavy ones, in the area of battle. Finally, there were three coastal batteries in the sector attacked: that at Varengeville with six 15-centimetre (5.9-inch) guns, that at Berneval with three 17-centimetre and four 105-millimetre guns, and one near Arques-la-Bataille with four 15-centimetre howitzers. A fourth battery at Mesnil Val, west of Le Tréport, mounting four 15-centimetre guns, was close enough to intervene effectively in the Berneval area.
The enemy had large reserves to hand. The 302nd Division's own reserve consisted of an infantry regiment with two battalions under command and headquarters at Eu, near Le Tréport. The Corps Reserve was another regiment with its headquarters at Doudeville, south of St. Valery-en-Caux, plus a tank company at Yvetot; while in Army Reserve there were four rifle battalions north-west of Rouen and some motorized ance self-propelled artillery. A still more formidable factor was the 10th Panzer Division, forming part of Rundstedt's Army Group Reserves. This division, we knew, was in the Amiens area and would certainly be thrown in against any large-scale landing. We counted upon completing our operation before it could get into action.
Our troops who returned to England after the raid were in general convinced that the enemy had known in advance that it was going to take place and had strengthened Dieppe accordingly. Those who became prisoners were even more strongly of this opinion, having been told by the Germans that they had been "waiting for us" for days past. Today, however, with all the enemy's records at our disposal, we can say with
complete certainty that he had no fore-knowledge whatever of our operation. The events preceding it are thus outlined in the report of the German Commander-in-Chief West, dated 3 September 1942:
From the middle of June onwards, information accumulated at G.H.Q. West as the result of photographic and visual reconnaissance by the 3rd Air Fleet and reports from agents, of an assembly of numerous small landing craft on the South Coast of England.
A further reconnaissance flight, flown only at the end of July because of poor weather conditions, confirmed the assembly of vessels which had become still more numerous since the large number observed in June.
No further data--except from agents' reports of an English operation, which could not be checked-could be obtained up to 15 August. In spite of this, G.H.Q. West appreciated the situation from the middle of June to be such that it had to reckon with the possibility of an enemy operation, even a major undertaking, at any moment, and at any point on its extensive coastal front. The U-Boat strongpoints and defence sectors were therefore strengthened as much as possible, both by manpower and by construction (the landward fronts not being neglected), and the organization of the forces was repeatedly checked so that all reserves--local, divisional, corps, and army--would be ready for immediate employment ... On 15 August, a sudden change took place in the English wireless procedure which made our interception service much more difficult. Numerous flights toward the Channel Coast suggested the possibility that these were briefing flights, and frequently aircraft shot down were found to have American crews. No further change in the enemy picture appeared until 0450 hours on 19 August, not even as a result of the early reconnaissance of the 3rd Air Fleet.4
The reports from agents vaguely referred to by Rundstedt were evidently not considered significant; and his references to "briefing flights" and changes in wireless procedure are somewhat discounted by a later passage in this same report which observes that wireless interception, and observation of Allied air activity, gave no indication of the impending raid. The Germans' solid information was limited to the knowledge that during the summer landing craft in considerable numbers had been assembled on the English south coast; and this, coupled with their general estimate of the strategic situation, led them to intensify their defensive measures along their whole front, including of course the Dieppe area.
Special precautions were prescribed for periods when moon and tide were particularly favourable for landings. On 20 July the G.O.C.in-C. Fifteenth Army issued an order calling attention to three such periods: 27 July-3 August, 10-19 August, and 25 August1 September. On 8 August, accordingly, the headquarters of the 302nd Division ordered a state of "threatening danger" for the ten nights from 10-11 to 19-20 August. The enemy coastal garrisons were thus under a special
alert at the moment of the raid.
In the Germans' eyes, the situation in Russia provided a special reason for precautions on the Channel coast. On 10 August, at the outset of the period of alert just mentioned, the G.O.C.-in-C. Fifteenth Army sent out an order beginning, "Various reports permit the assumption that, because of the miserable position of the Russians, the Anglo-Americans will be forced to undertake something in the measurable future"; his troops were warned that such an attack would be a grim business and were urged to do their duty. A month earlier, on 10 July, Headquarters 81st Corps had told the 302nd Division that the C.-in-C. West had ordered precautions because of the Russians' reverses and the fact that they were believed to be "again" demanding of the British government the establishment of a second front. It added that there was no information of actual preparations for an attack, but that the Division was nevertheless to be brought up to full strength forthwith. This decision had considerable effect before the raid. The 302nd received two drafts of untrained reinforcements (1353 and 1150 men) on 20 July and 10-12 August respectively and its establishment was full on 19 August. Other divisions on the coast were similarly reinforced.
How far did the collision with the German convoy serve to put the enemy on shore on the alert and thereby contribute to the defeat of our enterprise? Even today, this is not a simple question to answer. Certain German reports state categorically that the effect was decisive. Thus that of the 81st Corps says that as a result of the engagement "the entire coast defence system was alerted". There is a similar remark in the report of the C.-in-C. West. Yet detailed analysis of the German documents, and collation of them with our own information, do not wholly support these statements.
The noise of the fight at sea did cause immediate precautions at some places. In particular, the Luftwaffe men staffing the radar equipment at Berneval manned their strongpoint within ten minutes of the fight beginning; from that moment the attack intended for that place had little chance of succeeding. We do not know when the defences were manned at Puys; but we do know that at Pourville our first wave of infantry landed without a shot being fired at them; and we know also, from the report of the 302nd Division, that the 571st Infantry Regiment in Dieppe itself did not actually order "action stations" (Gefechtsbereitschaft) until exactly 5:00 a.m., when it had already heard of the landing at Pourville a few minutes before. The Division ordered "action stations" one minute later. Notable also is the fact that about an hour after the contact with the convoy, at 4:45, the Commander Naval Group West expressed to G.H.Q. West the opinion that the affair was only a "customary attack on convoy". It would seem that the convoy escort had made no report of landing craft. The conclusion to which we are forced
is that the convoy fight did not result in a general loss of the element of surprise; and while it diminished our chances of success in the eastern sector off which the encounter took place, it is questionable whether it affected the main operation one way or the other.
The Fortunes of the Commandos
In telling the story of the raid it is best, perhaps, to relate separately the fortunes of the units engaged on the different beaches, beginning with the extreme left, where the plan of attack was disrupted as a result of the encounter with the convoy.5
As we have seen, the craft carrying No. 3 Commando were completely scattered. Most of the unit never reached the shore, and Lt.Col. Durnford-Slater returned to England without knowing that any part of it had done so. In point of fact, however, seven of the 23 craft landed their troops; and thanks to the determination of these men, the attack on the Berneval battery was not wholly ineffective.
Part of No. 3 Commando had been ordered to land on "Yellow I" beach, at Petit Berneval, east of the battery, and part on "Yellow II" beach to the west of it. Of the seven craft which touched down, six landed their men (numbering perhaps 120) later than planned at Yellow I beach. The defenders were fully on the alert; and not only did they outnumber the small force put ashore, but they were soon reinforced by the equivalent of three companies more. By about 10:00 a.m., after bitter fighting, the British were overwhelmed. The Germans claim to have taken 82 prisoners here.
At Yellow II beach, from which access inland was by a narrow gully, a single craft landed 20 officers and men under Major Peter Young. This little party, with magnificent effrontery, advanced against the battery. To take it was out of the question, but the Commando men got within 200 yards and sniped it for about an hour and a half, preventing the guns from firing against our ships. (A German artillery report indicates that between 5:10 and 7:45 a.m. the battery fired no shots, except over open sights at the snipers; it was thus neutralized for over two and a half hours. The actual period may well have been longer.) Major Young and his men then withdrew without loss to the beach, where they were taken off by the same faithful craft that had put them ashore. The bold action and extraordinary good fortune of this one boatload of men is a very bright spot in the gloom which otherwise
pervades the eastern flank beaches.
In striking contrast with the ill-luck of No. 3 Commando on the extreme left were the fortunes of No. 4 at Varengeville on the extreme right. Lord Lovat's attack went precisely according to plan. His unit landed in two parties on different beaches ("Orange I" at Vasterival, north of the enemy battery, and "Orange II", the longer beach near Quiberville). The first party put in a "holding" attack against the battery, firing on it with mortars. A mortar bomb (or, according to German accounts, shots from low-flying R.A.F. aircraft) hit and set fire to the charges stacked ready for use beside the German guns. Then, at 6:20 a.m., the main party, having moved inland successfully, attacked the battery with the bayonet. In a short time, the enemy positions were cleared and the garrison cut to pieces. In this attack Capt. P. A. Porteous particularly distinguished himself. Although three times wounded, he took command of a troop which had lost its officers and led it in the final rush across open ground swept by machine-gun fire. He was subsequently awarded the Victoria Cross.
The strength of the battery's garrison is variously stated by the Germans as from 93 to 112 men; its losses, which vary only slightly in different accounts, were about 30 killed and 30 wounded. Four prisoners were brought back to England. Lord Lovat's force suffered 45 casualties, including two officers and 10 other ranks killed, but its success was complete. The menace of this battery to our shipping off Dieppe was wholly removed, for its guns were blown up before the Commando withdrew according to plan. No. 4 Commando was the only unit engaged in this operation to capture all its objectives. Its proceedings are a model of boldness and effective synchronization.
The Canadian Flank Attacks: Puys
The ill-fortune which struck No. 3 Commando extended to the Canadian unit closest to it: the Royal Regiment of Canada at Puys. The beach here, and the gully behind it in which the little village lay, were both extremely narrow and were commanded at very short range by lofty cliffs. Success depended entirely upon surprise and upon the assault being made while it was dark enough to hinder the aim of the German gunners. Neither of these conditions was achieved. The German garrison at Puys was only two platoons; in the circumstances it was quite enough.
The Royals were to land in three waves: three companies in the first, the remaining company and battalion headquarters in the second ten minutes later, and a special force, composed mainly of three attached platoons of the Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada, in the third. The naval landing arrangements, however, ran into
bad luck. There was delay in forming up after the landing craft were lowered from the ships, and during the run-in certain craft became separated from the main body. The result was that the first wave landed, according to naval reports, 17 minutes late (when it was much lighter than had been intended); the second wave, or the second main group of craft, seems to have touched down some 20 minutes later; and at least two craft came in independently. The Germans were fully on the alert, and opened fire on the first craft before they touched down.
At the head of the beach was a sea-wall, with heavy wire upon it and behind it. As the Royals leaped ashore and rushed towards this wall, intense machine-gun fire came down, and many men fell. Halfway up the east cliff, flanking the beach, was a prominent house which had in its front garden, as we now know, a strong concrete pillbox, whose main slit had a murderous command. The platoons took shelter against the wall while breaches were blown in the wire; but they were still enfiladed from the left, and there were further casualties. Shortly, mortars began to drop bombs upon the beach. "Bangalore torpedoes" were exploded in the wire to cut it; gallant officers and men rushed through the gaps, and many were shot down in the attempt to come to grips with the invisible enemy.
The third wave was to land when "called in" by the men on shore. No signal being received, the senior military officer, in its absence, took the decision to land. The Black Watch platoons went ashore under the cliff to the west of the sea-wall, where the main body of survivors of the earlier waves were gathered. It was too late for these reinforcements to achieve anything, and most of the Highlanders subsequently became prisoners.
The only party of the Royals of any strength to get off the beach comprised about 20 officers and men commanded by Lt.-Col. Catto. It cut its way through the wire at the western end of the sea-wall, reached the cliff-top and cleared two houses there; but machine-gun fire coming down on the gap in the wire eut it off from support. The party lay up in a nearby wood until it was obvious that the raiding force had withdrawn and that there was no hope of being taken off. At 4:20 p.m. they surrendered.
In the face of the German fire (a troop of four howitzers in position only a few hundred yards south of Puys fired 550 rounds during the morning at craft offshore) it was impossible to organize any systematic evacuation of the beach, although valiant attempts were made by the Navy; and very few of the Royals got back, to England. Their casualties from mortar and machine-gun fire had been very heavy, and when the remnant on the beach surrendered, which German logs indicate must have been about 8:30 in the morning, not many can have been unwounded. The enemy states that over 150 dead were counted at Puys; along the fatal sea-wall the men of the Royals lay in heaps. It was the
most tragic single episode of the entire operation.
This setback had a decidedly adverse effect upon the raid as a whole, for the Royals had had the task of clearing the commanding headland immediately east of Dieppe, and their failure to do so meant that the numerous weapons there were able to enfilade the main beaches in front of the town at close range. For the Essex Scottish in particular this was a most serious matter.
The Canadian Flank Attacks: Pourville
The other Canadian flank attack, at Pourville, west of Dieppe, met with somewhat better fortune. The beach here was longer than that at Puys, but nevertheless dominated by cliffs on both sides. The Navy put the South Saskatchewan Regiment ashore at the time planned, or a very few minutes later; and there was no opposition until the unit had landed, although heavy fire broke out as the Canadians scaled the sea-wall and went forward into Pourville. In the semidarkness, however, the craft had not been able to strike the precise parts of the beach intended. This largely nullified the effect of the degree of surprise that had been achieved, for whereas the intention had been to land the unit astride the mouth of the River Scie, which flows into the Channel near the middle of the beach, almost the whole of it seems to have been actually landed west of the river. This meant that those companies charged with the vital task of gaining possession of the high ground to the eastward immediately overlooking Pourville had first to penetrate into the village and cross the river by the bridge carrying the main road towards Dieppe. The delay thus caused was probably fatal.
The company operating to the west of Pourville duly occupied all its objectives, including positions on the high ground immediately south-west of the village, and killed or captured a good many Germans in the process. The companies working to the eastward had no such success. Before they could reach the enemy positions on the heights, these positions were manned and firing. The eastern part of the village, and the bridge, were completely dominated by them; soon the bridge was carpeted with dead and the advance of the South Saskatchewans was held up.
At this point, Lt.-Col. Merritt, who had established his headquarters near the beach, came forward to take charge. Walking calmly into the storm of fire upon the bridge, waving his helmet and calling, "See, there is no danger here!", he carried party after party across by his example, and thereafter led a series of fierce attacks which took several of the positions commanding bridge and village. But in spite of his unwearying exertions and dauntless courage, and the best efforts of his men and of the Camerons who were now mingled with them, the posts
on the summit, including the trench system of Quatre Vents Farm and the fortified radar station which was one of the raid's objectives, could not be cleared. The enemy had every approach covered by mortar and machine-gun fire; and our thrusts were all beaten back, although small parties got very close to the heavily-wired radar station and one reached the edge of the Four Winds position.
The Cameron Highlanders, who, as we have noted, were to pass through the Pourville bridgehead and operate against the aerodrome in conjunction with the tanks from Dieppe, were landed rather late. As they came in, it was apparent to them that the South Saskatchewans had not succeeded in opening up their bridgehead in the full manner expected; fighting was clearly in progress in the outskirts of Pourville, and shells were bursting in the water offshore. But the Highlanders pushed on, and as the landing craft drove into the shallows their pipes answered the whine of the shells and the rattle of the machine-guns.
The moon has arisen, it shines on that path
Now trod by the gallant and true;
High, high are their hearts, for their Chieftain has said
That whatever men dare they can do.
As the craft neared the shore, Lt.-Col. Gostling was calling cheerfully to his men, identifying the types of fire that were coming down upon them. The boats touched down; he leaped on to the shingle and went forward; then there was a burst of fire from an uncleared pillbox at the east end of the beach, and he fell dead. The command devolved upon Major A. T. Law. To advance to the aerodrome by the route east of the Scie, while the enemy held the high ground there, was out of the question, and Law decided to move by the west bank. This he did with the main body of his battalion, leaving behind him one company and parts of two others, which had landed east of the river, to assist the South Saskatchewans.
The column pushed rapidly inland, destroying small parties of Germans who sought to bar the way. After covering two miles or more, it reached Petit Appeville (where the main crossroads is called today "Carrefour des Canadiens") and overlooked the bridges across the Scie here, which it must pass to reach the aerodrome. But the tanks which should have been in evidence east of the river were not to be seen; the crossings were held by the enemy, who had brought up into this area his reserve battalion from Ouville; and time was growing short. Major Law had already decided to fall back to Pourville when a wireless message arrived ordering this action. The unit withdrew, suffering and inflicting casualties on the way. It had penetrated further inland than any other battalion engaged that day.
The South Saskatchewans and the Camerons lost heavily during the
final evacuation; for the enemy was able to bring fierce fire to bear upon the beach from his lofty positions east of the village, and from the high ground to the west, from which the South Saskatchewan company in possession had retired as the result of a misunderstanding of orders.6 But the naval craft came in through the storm of steel with selfsacrificing gallantry (one Cameron wrote afterwards, "The L.M.G. fire was wicked on the beach, but the Navy was right in there"); the enemy's troops, who showed little stomach for really close fighting, were kept at arm's length by a courageous rearguard under Lt: Col. Merritt; and the greater part of both units was successfully re-embarked, though many of the men were wounded. The rearguard could not be brought off. It held out on the beach until towards half-past one, and surrendered only when ammunition was running low and it was clear that there was no possibility of evacuation or of doing further harm to the enemy. Lt.-Col. Merritt subsequently received the Victoria Cross.
The Frontal Attack on Dieppe
At 5:20 a.m., the exact time appointed, or within a minute or two of it, the infantry units charged with the main attack touched down on the long beach in front of Dieppe's Promenade--dedicated once to fashionable idleness and pleasure. The assault was covered by the guns of four destroyers. The Air Force also played its part exactly as scheduled; as the boats approached the shore, five squadrons of cannon-firing Hurricanes poured shells into the beach defences and the houses fronting the sea. Their attack ended just as the Essex Scottish on the left and the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry on the right leaped from their assault craft and began to make their way through the wire obstacles towards the town.
Here there was further bad luck. The craft carrying the first nine tanks should have touched down simultaneously with the infantry, so that the Churchills' 6-pounders might assist in beating down the defences; but through a navigational error they were from ten to fifteen minutes late. During this period, between the cessation of the naval and air bombardment and the arrival of the tanks, there was no support for the infantry; and the enemy, returning to his guns, whose fire had evidently been temporarily checked by the Hurricane attack, was able to bring destructive fire upon the beaches.
At the west end of the Promenade, in front of the town, stood the large isolated Casino. It had lately been partly blown up by the enemy as an anti-invasion precaution, but explosives had been lacking to
complete the job. The building and pillboxes near it were strongly held, and clearing them took time: but the R.H.L.I. shortly broke into the Casino and rounded up the snipers lurking in it. Lance-Sergeant G. A. Hickson of the Royal Canadian Engineers distinguished himself in the fighting here. Parties of the R.H.L.I. pushed on through the Casino and some got across the bullet-swept boulevard at the rear into the town. One group, boldly led by Capt. A. C. Hill, penetrated into the centre of Dieppe and fought the enemy in the streets south of the Church of St. Remy, afterwards withdrawing to a theatre behind the Casino and maintaining itself there for some time.
On the open eastern section of the beach the Essex Scottish could make no progress. The enemy was able to sweep this sector both from the houses and from the East Headland, and the Essex were subjected to particularly fierce mortar-fire. Attacks made across the sea-wall immediately after the landing were beaten back with loss so heavy that further offensive action became impossible. So far as is known, only one party of the battalion got across the Promenade and into the buildings. This consisted of about a dozen men led by C.S.M. Cornelius Stapleton, who, as reported in a letter from Lt.-Col. Jasperson, "accounted for a considerable number of enemy in transport and also enemy snipers". C.S.M. Stapleton was fortunate enough to escape injury, but became a prisoner of war.
Churchills on the Beach
The Calgary Regiment, whose tank landing craft were now approaching the Dieppe beaches, was the first unit of the Canadian Armoured Corps ever to go into action. This was, moreover, the first battle of the Churchill tank, as well as the earliest test of tank landing craft under fire.
When the craft touched down, they immediately attracted a veritable inferno of fire. Several were badly damaged, and of the first six to land two could not be brought off the beach. Yet the tanks duly went ashore, and their guns instantly came into action.
It was believed at the time that the sea-wall forming the seaward edge of the Promenade had proved a very serious obstacle to the tanks. German propaganda pictures revealed many of them crowded on the beach, and it was assumed that they had never got off it; in fact, however, as we now know, a considerable number crossed the sea-wall and subsequently returned to the beach. The wall was not passable in the centre, where a mechanical excavator had been digging a ditch in front of it; but at either end it rose less than two feet above the shingle, and the Churchills, aided by a device developed by the Engineers for laying chestnut paling to give them traction, had no great difficulty in surmounting it.
DIEPPE RAIDFrom a painting by Major C.F. Comfort The scene of this artist's reconstruction is "White Beach", on wich the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry landed. The large building at the right is the Casino; immediately in front of it men are sheltering along the low sea-wall. In the backgroung is the East Headland, topped by the chapel of Notre Dame de Bon Secours. The Calgary Regiment's waterproofed Churchill tanks are coming ashore from their tank landing craft.
Ten tank landing craft touched down, and of the 30 Churchills they carried only one remained on board. Two tanks were "drowned" by going off into deep water; one of these was that of Lt.-Col. Andrews, whose craft went in with the second wave. The Commanding Officer is believed to have been shot down as he came ashore. Of the 27 tanks that landed, about half crossed the wall. Officers of the Calgary Regiment say that certainly 13, and probably 15, did so; and their testimony is supported by the report of the German 81st Corps, which states on the authority of eyewitnesses that "probably 16" tanks reached the Promenade.
More serious obstacles than the sea-wall, however, were the heavy concrete road-blocks barring the streets leading out of the Promenade. To breach these with explosives was the business of the Engineers; but some of the demolition parties had not succeeded in landing, while others had had their equipment destroyed. Those who could get within reach went forward gallantly, in spite of deadly fire from the lofty old Castle above the Casino. But none of the blocks was breached, and although it was reported after the operation that three or four tanks had penetrated into the town, this was not the case. No tank got further than the Promenade.
The tanks immobilized by damage continued firing, operating, in effect, as pillboxes, and effectively supporting the infantry, who speak in the warmest terms of the manner in which they were fought. The skill and courage of the tank-crews certainly contributed to the withdrawal of many of the infantrymen. Determined to cover the infantry to the last, the crews did not leave their vehicles until 12:25. By this time evacuation had virtually ceased, and of the tank-crews who landed only one individual is known to bave returned to England. Thanks to the staunchness of the Churchills, however, the regiment had very few fatal casualties. The enemy's anti-tank guns were mainly 37-millimetre, against which the tanks' armour gave complete protection. About nine o'clock he brought into action an anti-tank company armed with 75-millimetre guns; but the road-blocks prevented these from firing on the beach at close range.
The Landing of the Reserves
The assault once delivered, General Roberts' only means of influencing the battle was by committing his small floating reserve and by requesting air action from Uxbridge.
In handling the reserve, the General was hampered by the fact that throughout the action information reaching him about events on shore was limited and frequently quite inaccurate. We have seen that he heard of the disaster to No. 3 Commando more than two hours after it took place. Information about events at Puys was equally bad. For a long
time no report whatever was received; then, about 6:20, information came in that the Royal Regiment had been unable to land. Just how this false report originated is not clear; it was probably a garbled version of a radio message recorded elsewhere: "Impossible to land any more troops on Blue Beach". Reports concerning the main beach were almost equally misleading. About 6:10 a message is recorded: "Essex Scottish across the beaches and in houses". This appears to have originated in a signal from the Essex to the R.H.L.I. describing the penetration made by C.S.M. Stapleton's little party. Reaching the Military Force Commander in this extremely exaggerated form, it was responsible for his decision to land the floating reserve. Believing that the Essex had made a penetration suitable for exploitation, and strongly convinced of the overmastering necessity of getting control of the East Headland, General Roberts issued orders for the Royal Regiment (which he believed to be still afloat) to come to "Red Beach", on which the Essex had landed, and support them. About the same time he ordered Les Fusiliers MontRoyal to land on the same beach, and at 7:00 a.m. they went in.
Their craft were received with withering fire. The unit was landed along the whole extent of the main beaches, and a considerable part of it was put ashore on the narrow strip of shingle under the cliffs west of the town. The men landed here could accomplish nothing, and most of them became prisoners. Of the remainder of the unit, some were active in and around the Casino, while others were pinned down on the beach along with the greater part of the R.H.L.I. and the Essex. Small parties are reported to have penetrated into the town. Lt.-Col. Ménard was severely wounded immediately after landing.
About an hour after the Fusiliers went in, reports reaching Calpe indicated that the tanks were making progress and that we were in control of the western section of the main beach; while it was known that the Casino had been captured: It appeared that if additional forces could be brought to bear, an important success might yet be obtained here. General Roberts accordingly decided to land the Marines (who had been originally intended for cutting out the enemy craft in Dieppe Harbour) near the Casino, with a view to their passing around the town and attacking the eastern cliff from the south. The reports received had been over-optimistic, and a most destructive fire met the Marines as they approached the shore. Pushing on with great gallantry, they suffered very heavy losses both before and after landing. Lt.-Col. Phillipps was killed while signalling the rear craft to turn back and abandon the attempt.
The men on the beach were being ceaselessly pounded by small arms, mortars and artillery. Many were sheltering along the front of the sea-wall. Casualties were constantly mounting. Among those who distinguished themselves in assisting the wounded during these grim
hours on the beach, one stands out: Honorary Captain J. W. Foote, Chaplain of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry. Captain Foote laboured without remission, giving first aid to the casualties in the improvised aid post, bandaging and giving morphine injections until supplies ran out, and repeatedly leaving the post to cross the fire-swept shingle and carry back a wounded man. When the time for withdrawal came, Captain Foote helped carry the wounded to the boats, but himself made no attempt to embark; he freely chose to remain behind and carry on his work of mercy as a prisoner. After the end of hostilities, when full reports of events on the beaches were received, he became the first Canadian Chaplain to receive the Victoria Cross.
The Withdrawal From the Main Beaches
About nine o'clock, when it was apparent that the landing of the reserves had been without effect, and that the enemy still held both headlands and was sweeping the beaches with fire, the Naval and Military Force Commanders consulted together on the time for withdrawal. This was first fixed for 10:30, but was later postponed for half an hour to make sure of contact with the Camerons, who were known to have moved inland, and because the extra time would ensure more effective air cover. At eleven o'clock, accordingly, the landing craft began to go in, covered by naval fire and R.A.F. fighters.7 The fighter force over Dieppe had been increased from three squadrons to six; this was vital, as enemy bombers had for some time past been striking heavily at our shipping. The Germans on the cliff tops continued to pour down shells and bullets, taking toll of boats and men alike. On the Essex Scottish beach, not many craft came in, and of those that did, a very high proportion (six out of eight mentioned in one naval report) were lost. More men were brought away from the western than from the eastern section of the main beach. While somewhat less than half the whole strength of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry (217 all ranks out of 582 embarked) returned to England, the proportion of the Essex Scottish was much smaller; out of 553 all ranks, it brought back only 52, of whom 28 were wounded.
Brigadier Lett, commanding the 4th Brigade, had not landed. The tank landing craft carrying his headquarters was heavily hit on touching down, and the Brigadier was badly wounded. Of the 6th Brigade's headquarters, Brigadier Southam himself was the only officer to get
ashore. Although wounded, he was indefatigably active on the beach and set an infectious example of courage and cheerfulness. During the withdrawal he was in close touch with Calpe by radio telephone, reporting progress and giving guidance.
The Force Commanders were determined to do everything possible to bring off the men remaining on shore. At 12:48 Calpe went very close to the beach and shelled posts whose fire was believed to be preventing men from reaching the water. Other destroyers had previously gone close in to assist; H.M.S. Brocklesby actually grounded by the stern for a moment as she turned away. As a last expedient, Capt. Hughes-Hallett was preparing to send in the shallow-draught gunboat Locust when at--ten minutes past one a final message was received from Brigadier Southam's rudimentary headquarters: "Our people here have surrendered".
The conditions of evacuation were probably without parallel in the history of warfare; yet thanks to the boundless skill and courage of the Navy a considerable proportion of the force was successfully brought away. The most appropriate comment, perhaps, is that of a Canadian soldier who was there: "Some of the bravest and best are the boys in the Navy and I take my hat off to them". Of the 4963 all ranks of the Canadian Army embarked, 2211 returned to England;8 589 of these were wounded but survived, while in 28 cases wounds proved mortal. No less than 1944 Canadian officers and men, however, became prisoners of war, at least 558 of them wounded. At Dieppe, from a force of fewer than 5000 men engaged for only nine hours, the Canadian Army lost more prisoners than in the whole eleven months of the later campaign in North-West Europe, or the twenty months during which Canadians fought in Italy. Sadder still was the loss in killed. As now computed, the total of fatal casualties was 56 officers and 851 other ranks; these include seven officers and 64 other ranks who died in captivity. Canadian casualties of all categories aggregated 3369. Of the seven major Canadian units engaged, only one (Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal) brought its commanding officer back to England. Little was left of the 4th Brigade, not much more of the 6th. Months of hard work were required before the 2nd Division became again the fine formation that had assaulted the beaches.
At two minutes to two the German artillery finally fell silent. Its meticulous returns indicate that it had fired 7458 rounds during the battle, not counting anti-tank -and anti-aircraft shell. Our ships returned to England little molested by the Luftwaffe, which could not pierce the shield maintained above them by the R.A.F. Throughout, the work of
the Allied Air Forces had been beyond praise; General Roberts' word is "magnificent". The R.A.F. had used 69 squadrons; of these, six Fighter Squadrons and two Army Co-operation Squadrons were from the Royal Canadian Air Force. The United States Army Air Forces also played a part. The American day bomber force, which later grew so large, was just beginning its career, and at 10:23 twenty-three Flying Fortresses effectively attacked the enemy fighter aerodrome at Abbeville to keep it inactive for the time of the withdrawal.
Thanks to the air umbrella, the enemy had been able to do, on the whole, remarkably little damage to our shipping off Dieppe. Only one major naval vessel was lost, the destroyer Berkeley, which was hit by a heavy bomb during the withdrawal and had to be sunk by a British torpedo. The raid had produced a tremendous aerial battle. The enemy's air effort was slow in getting under way, but he ultimately threw into action the whole of his available resources in the west. Losses on both sides were heavy. The R.A.F.'s gallant and successful fight in support of the operation against the highly organized air defence of the enemy cost 106 aircraft, of which 9.8 were fighters or tactical reconnaissance aircraft. The enemy's losses, as now determined from captured German documents, were 48 aircraft destroyed and 24 damaged.
As the Germans Saw It
The German Army's losses at Dieppe, though not inconsiderable, were much smaller than our own. The High Command communiqué issued after the action admitted 591 casualties suffered by all three services. Figures in German reports now in our hands vary from this in detail but not in the broad picture they present. The 302nd Division reported the Army losses as five officers and 116 other ranks killed, six officers and 195 other ranks wounded, and 11 other ranks missing.
The raid had given the German command a severe temporary shock. Great forces had been put in motion towards Dieppe. In addition to the action of local reserves which we have noted, a battalion of the 302nd Division's reserve was brought up to the vicinity of Arques and held in readiness to deal with any unfavourable development at Dieppe or a possible parachute drop. The regiment in Corps Reserve was moved up towards Pourville and was about to attack there when the operation came to an end. The battalions of the Army Reserve also moved forward. And shortly before nine in the morning Field-Marshal von Rundstedt issued orders for the 10th Panzer Division to be committed under the 81st Corps to clean up the situation at Dieppe. Its advanced guard reached Longueville-sur-Scie, ten miles south of Dieppe, at 1:55 p.m. By this time fighting was over, but had the raid been of longer duration the division could have been in action before evening. The Corps Commander had
The Dieppe Operation
intended to use it against the Pourville bridgehead, which throughout seemed to the enemy the point of greatest danger.
The Germans had taken even more far-reaching precautions. Shortly after nine o'clock their air reconnaissance reported sighting off Selsey Bill a convoy of 26 ships, with "decks closely packed with troops". This report was highly inaccurate. Admiralty records indicate that the only convoy the German observer can have seen was "C.W. 116", which consisted of 14 small merchant vessels en route from the Thames to the Isle of Wight. However, when the report reached G.H.Q. West it was taken to indicate that the "Second Front" was in immediate prospect; and at 10:30 a.m. Rundstedt ordered readiness for instant action for the whole of the Seventh Army (guarding the coasts of Lower Normandy and Brittany) and the greater part of his Army Group Reserves. This state of alert was maintained until the morning of 20 August.
Even after the operation was over and a copy of the greater part of our Detailed Military Plan was in their hands,9 the Germans persisted in believing that it had actually been intended as the opening phase of an invasion of France. The fact that the 26-ship convoy had been reported as returning to Portsmouth convinced them that the failure at Dieppe had caused the cancellation of the main operation. Rundstedt's staff found it particularly hard to believe that we would really sacrifice "29 or 30 of the most modern tanks" for a mere raid. His report suggests that if Dieppe had fallen new orders would have been issued and the full-dress invasion launched. For this supposition there was, of course, no basis whatever; as we have seen, the Allied strategic planners had finally turned their backs on France (as far as 1942 was concerned) on 25 July.
A word must be said of the Germans' opinion of the qualities of our troops. The 81st Corps report drew a comparison between the Commandos and the Canadians which was unflattering to the latter. As this report has been published,10 it is well to note that its statements in this respect were repudiated by the Headquarters of the Fifteenth Army, whose remarks ran in part as follows:
The large number of English prisoners might leave the impression that the fighting value of the English and Canadian units employed should not be too highly estimated. This is not the case. The enemy, almost entirely Canadian soldiers, fought--so far as he was able to fight at all--well and bravely.
The observations of the 302nd Division, the formation in actual contact with our force, are not less worthy of quotation:
The main attack at Dieppe, Puys and Pourville was launched by the 2nd
Canadian Division with great energy. That the enemy gained no ground at all in Puys, and in Dieppe could take only parts of the beach not including the west mole and the western edge of the beach, and this only for a short time, was not the result of lack of courage, but of the concentrated defensive fire of our Divisional Artillery and infantry heavy weapons. Moreover, his tank crews did not lack spirit. In Puys the efforts made by the enemy, in spite of the heavy German machine-gun fire, to surmount the wire obstacles studded with booby traps on the first beach terrace are signs of a good offensive spirit ...
At Pourville, the enemy, immediately after landing, pushed forward into the interior without worrying about flank protection ...
The operations against the coastal batteries were conducted by the Commandos with great dash and skill. With the aid of technical devices of all sorts they succeeded in clambering up the steep cliffs at points which had seemed quite inaccessible.
These comments of a brave and skilful enemy render any further remark unnecessary.
The Significance of Dieppe
The raid on Dieppe was perhaps the most hotly-discussed operation of the war. Tactically, it was an almost complete failure, for we suffered extremely heavy losses and attained few of our objectives. After the Normandy landings of 6 June 1944, however, the raid appeared in a new perspective; and historically it is in the light of the events of that later day that it must be judged.
It is in order to glance first, however, at its immediate conesquences within the Canadian Army Overseas, and in Canada. There is no doubt whatever that in the Army it produced a new sense of pride. After nearly three years of disappointment and frustration, it had been demonstrated that this Canadian Army could fight in the manner of that of 1914-18; and the bad luck and the losses did not diminish the confidence thus engendered.11 At the same time, the experience of Dieppe undoubtedly led Canadian soldiers to view the question of their own employment more soberly. There was less demand now for immediate assault upon the Germans in the west; the magnitude of such an enterprise was more clearly apparent than before, as was the need for the most detailed preparation, the most careful training, the most exacting discipline.
At home in Canada the effects were different. Soldiers and civilians look at such things from widely separate points of view. Canadian civilians, particularly those who had lost relatives, saw only the casualty lists and the failure. It was quite impossible, without helping
the enemy, to make any announcement of the actual lessons learned; and as the raid was followed by another long period of inactivity by the Canadian forces, public opinion continued to dwell upon it for months, and comment, frequently very ill-informed, continued in the press and elsewhere. Although, as has been made apparent, the responsibility for the tactical plan was widely distributed, and the Canadian share was limited, it was declared with the utmost assurance, in at least one respectable publication, that the project for a raid on Dieppe and the plan for it were almost exclusively the work of Canadian officers and proved the bankruptcy of Canadian generalship; and there can be little doubt that such criticism did something to undermine the hitherto unassailable prestige of General McNaughton with the public.
So much for the Canadian results of the operation. More important was its influence on future planning.
Needless to say, it was closely analysed at Combined Operations Headquarters, and a detailed report was prepared incorporating the official "lessons learned". It is unnecessary here to state these lessons in full, but the most important should be summarized. One of them was that in future, "assaults should be planned to develop round the flanks of a strongly defended locality rather than frontally against it" unless overwhelming close support was available. Another was the necessity for the formation of "permanent naval assault forces with a coherence comparable to that of any other first line fighting formations", and the desirability of training Army formations intended for amphibious assaults in close co-operation with such Naval forces. (This was subsequently done, we shall see, before the Normandy landing, and with the happiest results). Still another was the importance of maintaining flexibility in the army plan, by providing the commander with a strong reserve to be available to "exploit success" at the points where it may be achieved. (It might have been added that unless means can be found for ensuring that the commander receives early and accurate information of events ashore, his reserves will be no use to him.) But the paramount lesson was "the need for overwhelming fire support, including close support, during the initial stages of the attack". This, it was recommended, should be provided "by heavy and medium Naval bombardment, by air action, by special vessels or craft working close inshore, and by using the fire power of the assaulting troops while still sea-borne". The Naval Force Commander, incidentally, had reported that in his opinion a battleship could have operated off Dieppe during the first hours of daylight without undue risk and would probably have turned the tide ashore in our favour.
Two other lessons, not so specifically stated in the official document, decidedly affected our later planning. First, it had been made pretty clear that the classical plan of securing a beach by landing
infantry at dawn was not practicable in the face of well-organized defences. A new technique of landing and support was required, and largely on the basis of the Dieppe experience it was developed before the Normandy assault of 1944. Secondly, it had been shown that the military plan in such operations must not depend upon precise timing of the landings. Although in general a very high standard of precision was attained at Dieppe, we have seen that in at least two cases relatively slight inaccuracies in timing had most serious results. This possibility was avoided in planning the 1944 assault.
Some of these lessons were obviously not new. Others there might have been considerable difficulty in deducing from earlier history. However this may be -and as explained above Combined Operations Headquarters had been keenly conscious of the pressing need for a large-scale modern experiment--these tactical conclusions do not perhaps wholly exhaust the effects of the Dieppe operation.
On 7 June 1944, the day following the momentous landings in Normandy, General Crerar "briefed" a large group of Canadian officers on the operations which had just begun. He spoke in part as follows:
To commence with, I think it most important that, at this time, all of you should realize what a vital part the gallant and hazardous operation of the raid in force on Dieppe, by 2 Cdn Inf Div, has played in the conception, planning and execution of the vast "Overlord" operation. I shall, therefore, give you in briefest outline this important background.
Until the evidence of Dieppe proved otherwise, it had been the opinion in highest command and staff circles in this country that an assault against a heavily defended coast could be carried out on the basis of securing tactical surprise, and without dependence on overwhelming fire support, in the critical phases of closing the beaches and over-running the beach defences.
If tactical surprise was to be the basis of the plan, then bombardment, prior to imminent "touchdown" obviously required to be ruled out. Dependence on tactical surprise also implied an approach under cover of darkness and landing at first light. Adequate air superiority, after surprise had been achieved and throughout the operation, was, of course, considered essential, and required to be assured.
Very briefly, such were the conceptions held by those on the highest levels concerned with planning the operation against Dieppe, and however hazardous the operation, it was natural, and proper, that after nearly three years of war, without any fighting by Canadian troops, the responsibility for carrying out this essential preliminary to future large scale invasion should come to a Canadian Division.
I am not going to take up your time by analysing the results and lessons of Dieppe. I will, however, make it clear that from the study of those experiences emerged the technique and tactics first demonstrated by the 3 Cdn Inf Div in "Pirate" exercise last October, and that this technique and these tactics, were those adopted for the vast combined operation which took place yesterday.
One more point in the nature of a personal opinion. Although at the time the heavy cost to Canada, and the non-success of the Dieppe operation seemed hard to bear, I believe that when this war is examined in proper perspective, it will be seen
that the sobering influence of that operation on existing Allied strategical conceptions, with the enforced realization by the Allied Governments of the lengthy and tremendous preparations necessary before invasion could be attempted, was a Canadian contribution of the greatest significance to final victory.
The contrast between the plan of the Dieppe assault and that followed on 6 June 1944 is, indeed, most striking. For the puny bombardment by four destroyers which covered the Dieppe frontal attack, the "Overlord" plan substituted the fire of a tremendous naval force including six battleships; in place of the brief attack by cannon-firing Hurricanes, we have the combined efforts of the British and American Bomber Commands, dropping more than 11,000 tons of bombs in. twenty-four hours; we have engineer assault vehicles, amphibious tanks, new support craft of many types (including rocket bombardment ships); and we have the army helping to clear the way for its own assault with self-propelled artillery firing from tank landing craft. These devices and techniques, in many cases, stemmed directly from the experience of Dieppe, although the lessons of many later amphibious operations also helped to shape them. The casualties sustained in the raid were part of the price paid for the knowledge that enabled the great operation of 1944 to be carried out at a cost in blood smaller than even the most optimistic had ventured to hope for. The assault on the famous Atlantic Wall was regarded as a most perilous and uncertain enterprise. When in the course of a week or so after D Day it became fully clear that the thing which men had hoped for, but scarcely expected, had really come to pass--that General Eisenhower's armies had smashed the barrier at a single blow and established themselves solidly in France--the name of Dieppe was suddenly on many lips. That much-criticized undertaking had made an essential contribution to the success of the most momentous operation of war ever attempted.
The Allies were not the only people to extract lessons from the Dieppe raid. The Germans likewise studied it with care; and it clearly had considerable influence upon their subsequent system of defence in France. The evidence indicates that it convinced them that any attempt at invasion could be destroyed on the beaches. Their efforts, they decided, should be concentrated upon preventing landings and particularly the landing of armour. This was reflected in the arran-gement of their coastal defences, which in Lower Normandy were simply a thin line along the beaches, almost entirely without "depth".
NOTE: Laymen may not appreciate fully the difficulties of the Dieppe raid on the Naval side. All experience shows that no operation of war is harder than landing troops in darkness with precision as to time and place. In this, the first large combined operation of 1939-45, thirteen groups of craft sailed from three ports at varying speeds. The assault craft, we have seen, had a 10-mile run-in. As noted above, a high general standard of precision was attained in spite of these difficulties; but the plan was such that relatively minor inaccuracies had serious consequences. In other respects the plan for handling the naval assault force was an almost complete success, and served as a model for later and larger operations.
Dieppe served also to confirm the Germans in the belief that a basic consideration in the Allies' minds at the very outset of an invasion would be the capture of a major port, and thus encouraged them to devote their best efforts to developing heavy defences about such places. Thus the Germans were, as a result of the raid, centring their defence upon the ports when simultaneously the Allies, also in part as a result of the raid, were increasingly turning their attention to the possibility of invading over open beaches without immediately gaining a major port. The great con-ception of the prefabricated harbour owes something to the lessons learned at Dieppe concerning the difficulty of capturing a German-held port.
An uncovenanted result of the Dieppe raid was thus to warp the Germans' system of defence in North-West Europe to our advantage.
Table of Contents
Previous Chapter (4) * Next Chapter (6)