Dieppe Raid


The Dieppe Raid

The Dieppe Raid, codenamed Operation JUBILEE, began at dawn on August 19, 1942. The objective was to briefly invade the German-occupied port of Dieppe, France, destroy predetermined targets and return to England as quickly as possible. It was hoped that this would cause the German Army such concern that it would strengthen its English Channel defences at the expense of other areas of operation.

The Allied situation in the spring of 1942 was grim. The Germans had penetrated deep into Russia, the British Eighth Army in North Africa had been forced back into Egypt, and in Western Europe the Allied forces had been pushed across the English Channel to Britain.

At this point the Allied forces weren’t strong enough to mount Operation OVERLORD, the full-scale invasion of Western Europe. Instead, the Allies decided to mount a major raid on the French port of Dieppe. It was designed to test new equipment and gain the experience and knowledge necessary for planning the great amphibious assault that would one day be necessary to defeat Germany. Also, after years of training in Britain, some Canadian politicians and generals were anxious for Canadian troops to experience battle.

The Raid

The Dieppe Raid of August 19, 1942 was one of the worst disasters of the Second World War. Nine hundred and seven Canadian lives were lost on that day and 1946 other Canadians were captured and forced to spend the remainder of the war as prisoners.

The troops involved totaled 6100 of which roughly 5000 were Canadians, the remainder being British Commandos and 50 American Rangers. The raid was supported by eight Allied destroyers and 74 Allied air squadrons (eight belonging to the Royal Canadian Air Force).

The plan called for attacks at 5 different points on a front of roughly 16 kilometres. Four simultaneous flank attacks were to go in just before dawn, followed half an hour later by the main attack on the town of Dieppe itself. Canadians would form the force for the frontal attack on Dieppe and would also go in at gaps in the cliffs at Pourville four kilometres to the west and at Puys to the east. British commandos were assigned to destroy the coastal batteries at Berneval on the eastern flank and at Varengeville in the west.

A German naval convoy was unexpectedly encountered enroute to the beaches and the resulting sea battle left little chance of surprise. The narrow beach at Puys with its lofty cliffs allowed German soldiers to be strategically placed. Success depended on surprise and darkness, neither of which prevailed. Failure to clear the eastern headland enabled the Germans to enfilade the Dieppe beaches and nullify the main frontal attack.

The raid also produced a tremendous air battle at a high cost. The Royal Air Force lost 106 aircraft, the highest single-day total of the war. The Royal Canadian Air Force loss was 13 aircraft.

Bad timing, inadequate equipment and mis-communication caused the entire mission to be plagued by disaster. On almost every front, the enemy was ready for the Canadians and was able to defeat them quickly. The battle was over by early afternoon. Some claim it was a useless slaughter, others maintain that it was necessary to the success of D-Day two years later. Despite the controversy, there is no dispute about the performance of the Canadians involved. Although Dieppe was not a military victory, it was an impressive and memorable example of Canadian gallantry and endurance.

The Dieppe Raid, France, on August 19, 1942, was a pivotal moment in the Second World War. With virtually all of continental Europe under German occupation, the Allied forces faced a well-entrenched enemy. Some method had to be found to create a foothold on the continent, and the Dieppe Raid offered invaluable lessons for the successful D-Day invasion in 1944, saving countless lives in that momentous offensive.

The Cost

Although valuable lessons were learned during the Dieppe Raid, a steep price was paid. Of the 4963 Canadians who embarked for the operation, only 2210 returned to England, and many of these were wounded. There were 3367 casualties, including 1946 prisoners of war; 913 Canadians lost their lives.