Naden Band set to honour Raid of Dieppe

Raid of Dieppe

PO2 Katrina Bligh, Naden Band ~

As Aug. 19 approaches, Canadians from all walks of life will remember the sacrifices soldiers made in the face of insurmountable challenges 75 years ago. The Naden Band of the Royal Canadian Navy will represent the Royal Canadian Navy at four 75th Anniversary ceremonies held in Dieppe, Puys and Pourville over two days.

For more information:


On August 19th, 1942, more than 6,000 Allied forces initiated the Dieppe Raid, code name Operation Jubilee, on a 16-kilometer stretch of heavily fortified coastline in occupied northern France. That day was to become the bloodiest chapter for Canadian soldiers in the whole of the Second World War.

Three years into the war, the Allies were faced with a grim outlook. German U-Boats were inflicting heavy casualties in the North Atlantic, enemy troops were penetrating steadily into the Soviet Union and North Africa, and ‘Fortress Europe’ was considered nigh impregnable. In these dire circumstances, a plan began to take shape to capture and briefly hold Dieppe, a fortified port within striking distance of the Royal Air Force’s fighter aircraft.

The objectives of this fledging plan were ambitious. They included the destruction of Dieppe’s military defences, shipping and airfield facilities, power stations, radar, and the capture of documents from the German divisional headquarters at Arques.

Simultaneously in Canada, there was growing pressure to get Canadian soldiers to see action after years of training and work ups on British soil. After performing admirably in several full-scale exercises, the 2nd Canadian Division was chosen as the primary force for the raid. In total, 5,000 Canadians, 1,000 British, 50 United States Army Rangers, 58 tanks, and 74 Allied air squadrons, as well as a supporting force of 237 ships and landing craft from the Royal Navy, were slated to fight together in Dieppe.

The raid was separated into six colour-coded beaches: Orange and Green west of Dieppe at Varengeville-sur-Mer and Pourville, White and Red at Dieppe, and Blue and Yellow to the east at Puys and Berneval-le-Grand.

Allied forces, operating with the element of surprise, would begin at daybreak at the beaches west and east of Dieppe, before the main landing force swept into the town itself half an hour later. The 14th Canadian Army Tank Regiment of Calgary would provide armoured support for the infantrymen and the Royal Air Force would engage the Luftwaffe in the skies. The primary objective was to capture and hold Dieppe for 12 hours before retreating and destroying whatever facilities they could.

Before it even began, the success of Operation Jubilee was compromised by several factors. French double agents had alerted the Germans to Allied interest in northern France. The Allies vastly underestimated the fortifications and readiness of German troops.

The planning for the raid was also insufficient, as all the exercises had been held on sandy beaches as opposed to the pebble beaches at Dieppe that jammed and incapacitated the tanks. This raid was also a trial by fire for new military technologies, mainly the Tank Landing Craft and Churchill Tank.

Before the break of dawn, the raid began as the western and eastern flanks engaged the coastal batteries at Orange and Yellow beach. The hostilities immediately alerted the Germans at Blue beach, which prepared them for the next assault.

The Royal Regiment and Black Watch of Canada had been delayed by 20 minutes, long enough for the smoke screen at Blue beach to clear and their cover to be blown.

At Green beach, the South Saskatchewan Regiment managed to land without being detected, but most of the Regiment had landed too far west of their objective. This caused them to try and enter Pourville from the only available bridge that crossed the River Scie. The Germans were waiting for them and halted their progress, inflicting terrible casualties.

Soon after, the main assault on White and Red beach began. The Allied forces were able to land, but were immediately pinned to the beach by enemy fire coming from the hills and town. Their casualties were compounded by the delayed arrival of the tanks, which could not enter Dieppe due to a combination of the seawall, jammed tires, and heavy fire.

There were small groups of men from the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry and Essex Scottish Regiment who were able to enter the town, but their progress was small and the toll was heavy. The only contingent to reach their objective was the Commandos at Orange Beach, who destroyed the coastal battery at Varengeville.

At 0940 the raid was abandoned and evacuation from the main beaches began.

By 1400 all operational amphibious craft departed, leaving 1,950 trapped or injured Allied troops to surrender and become POWs for the remainder of the war.

Almost all units suffered heavy losses, but of particular note was the Royal Regiment of Canada whose 556 men were either killed or captured at Puys. One of the few survivors from Blue beach was a local Victoria man by the name of Henry Arthur Slater (1920-1964), who served under the Third Canadian Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment. He managed to climb the barbed wire-strewn cliffs and take out a couple of enemy belligerents before being wounded and captured. He remained a POW until the war ended. His daughter, Cherryl Halbert, recalls him saying of the raid, “No matter how hard I try to convince myself that it was a success and that the Allied forces received any benefit from this raid, I can’t.”

In its aftermath, the Allied losses were exceptionally high. Of the 5,000 Canadians who landed at Dieppe, 3,367 were killed, wounded or taken prisoner. British and American soldiers added 210 to the list of the dead. In addition, the navy lost the destroyer HMS Berkeley and 33 amphibious landing craft, and the RAF lost 106 aircraft.

Despite the massacre at the beaches, the hard lessons learned at Dieppe were crucial to the success of later Allied operations, mainly Operation Overlord (D-Day).

Filed Under: Top Stories

About the Author:

RSSComments (0)

Trackback URL

Leave a Reply

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a Gravatar.