The Dieppe Raid The Perspective of a Canadian Soldier Who Was at Normandy on D-Day

by Reginald R. Dixon
Friday, August 23, 2002

The following was passed to John Robson who wrote an excellent article in the Ottawa Citizen, Wednesday, 21 August 2002, “Dieppe was bloody, but successful”.

My sources of information include the “Bodyguard of Lies”, the single most important book of World War II, ISBN 0-553-01064-6 Bantam Books, 1975; and, “The Canadian Army 1939 – 45 An Official Historical Summary”, Col. C.P. Stacey, King’s Printer, 1948.

The Bodyguard of Lies is an account of the way the British were able to use their ability to read the German Top Secret messages during the Second World War. This enabled the British to deceive the Germans, not only as to where and when the actual invasion of France would take place, but as in the battle in North Africa when information was passed to General Montgomery about German intentions almost at the same time as German General Rommel was being informed by his German masters. Also, during the invasion of Normandy and liberation of Europe, when both the British general and the American Generals were being informed about enemy intentions and movements via Bletchley Park Manor House, the HQ of the British code breakers. Flamboyant General Patton also was passed information enabling him to make his dash without enemy surprises.

Histories or critiques written within thirty years after the war, which are concerned with strategy, are therefore suspect; the writers did not have access to all the information. Substantive information was only released, by the British Government, thirty years after the war. Also suspect are those stories written after that date if they ignored or distorted the facts. This is especially true for Canadians and their views on the Dieppe Raid. Views which, in my view, have been shaped by and for political reasons to enable the Liberal Government to stay in power.

A US plan for the invasion of France was made in Washington, and was for a frontal assault on the most strongly held part of the coast at Calais – Boulogne. It was code named Sledgehammer. The British opposed this plan. They did not want another Ypres and Somme. They devised the plan which would, by the aid of Ultra, make Hitler believe the attack would be upon the Calais- Boulogne front, but the actual invasion would take place in a less defended part of the coast – Normandy. There was thus always a friction between the Sledgehammer American Generals and the British. Fortunately for the British, Canadian, and American troops who would have to do the job, the British point of view prevailed, and General Eisenhower had to keep his generals under control, which was in the best interests of the men and winning the war.

Thus the RAID on Dieppe became part of the deception plan. There were three attempts to mount such a raid. They were called. “Jubilee” “Overthrow” and ‘Rutter”. It must also not be overlooked that Stalin was putting great pressure on the British and Americans to “Open a Second Front NOW”. An impossible demand in 1942, but – if a raid could be made that could divert German attention, and cause them to hold German Divisions in France and the Low Countries instead of sending them to the Russian Front, it would assist to that end.

Thus was the Dieppe Raid born. And Canadian insistence that Canadian troops be used.

The British also wanted to learn and try out some combined operations using land, sea and air forces. Of course this brief account cannot possibly explain all the detail. The reader will have to read the books noted, which should be required study for all teachers, historians, especially Canadian and American.

General Crerar arrived in England in 1939 and was placed in charge of Canadian Military HQ, in London.

In December 1939 the PPCLI were sent to England, leading the way for the 1st Canadian Division. General A.G.L. McNaughton commanding.

At this time J.L.Ralston was Minister of Finance. He is described as “a lawyer and nitpicker.” He and McNaughton clashed over reality of war versus the law. 6 June 1940 McNaughton resigned, and Crerar became commander of the 1st Canadian Army. General Pearks then Commanded the 1st Canadian Division. The 2nd Canadian Division arrived in England October 1941.

September 1941. Cross channel raids had been discussed between Canadian General A.G.L. McNaughton and UK General Paget. After the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940, plans for two small RAIDS already existed ,and it was hoped by McNaughton that the 2nd Canadian Division might be able to carry them out.

On March 1942 Admiral Mountbatten’s Combined Operations HQ had two main functions assigned to it. One, the organization of RAIDING parties to do immediate damage to the enemy, and, Two, the development of equipment for the INVASION of Europe when the time came. It was with both these aims that the Dieppe raids were planned and carried out.

The British had initially planned a commando raid on the radar station and installations at Dieppe. Canadians did participate in a small raid on HARDELOT just south of Boulogne 19-20 April 1942, but the Canadians never got to land for reason of weather plus defective compasses or compass reading.

The British has decided that the British troops for the Dieppe raid would come from the South Eastern Command HQ area. Monty said that while he had been “pressed” to agree to a composite British – Canadian force, he had replied it would be essential to maintain unity of command.

General Crerar recommended the 2nd Canadian Division supply the troops. This information was passed to General McNaughton who in turn passed it to the Prime Minister in Ottawa under a MOST SECRET heading.

May 1942. Operation Rutter. The Rutter planners who were commanded by General Montgomery, insisted on two vital conditions for the raid – Secrecy and Surprise.

It was to be a frontal attack by two Brigades of the 2nd Canadian Division, supported by Commandos and twenty-eight of the new Churchill tanks. Naval forces would include some 200 ships including destroyers for bombardment. Troops were to get ashore, infiltrate some agents, capture some Germans, they were to withdraw on the second high tide. 56 Squadrons of RAF fighters, more than were available at the Battle of Britain, were to engage the enemy fighters.

Those plans were approved on 13 May, 1942.

Canadian military and political authorities could have vetoed Canadian participation, but the 1st Division would have taken unkindly to that decision, which would have branded them as inadequate.

The Russians had just lost 250,000 men in the battle for the Crimea and there was great public outcry in Canada and the USA, and from Communists and their sympathizers in the UK, USA, and Canada to do something to help out the Russians. The British realized an invasion of France was impossible in 1942, but Molotov The Soviet Foreign Minister, went to Washington and saw President Roosevelt, who, after talking to General Marshall agreed a Second Front, beginning in August 1942, in only ten weeks time, was feasible. A public statement by Molotov and Roosevelt was broadcast to the world, but Churchill poured cold water on the idea when Molotov returned to London on his way home.

11-12 June. Meanwhile combined trained was being carried out on the Isle of Wight. A dress rehearsal for the raid was carried out at Bridport on 22-24 June.

Churchill and General Brooke then went to Washington, and found General Marshall, fully backed by Secretary of War Stimson, still dangerously intent on launching raw American troops to land from the sea and defeat a battle trained and hardened German Army. On 21st June the Germans captured Tobruk and the British Army was in retreat. On July 2nd the British 8th Army stopped the Germans at El Alamain, and Operation Rutter , the planned raid on Dieppe was abandoned.

Canadian General Crerar on taking over command from McNaughton was determined to get raiding opportunities for his troops. He urged both General Montgomery and Commodore Lord Louis Mountbatten to give the Canadians a chance.

On the 3rd of July 42 the troops were on board the two ships which carried the landing craft as life boats are carried, and had been fully briefed on what they were to do. However, on the 7th, German aircraft discovered them as they were waiting in the Solent for tide and weather, and their bombs passed through the hulls of both ships while still at anchor, but the bombs did not explode. The Navy then decided the weather was against a landing at that time. Montgomery then said “The raid should be called off for all time”. He was then urgently needed in North Africa and went on to defeat the Germans who had taken over from the defeated Italian Fascists. From there he was posted back to the UK to command the Normandy Campaign which he did – carefully and brilliantly.

On the 15th of July, and with the disaster at Tobruk having convinced General Marshall that the British did not know how to fight the war, he arrived in London. How could Churchill convince the Americans, how could he prove, that a Second Front in Europe Now would be a monster disaster? Churchill therefore gave orders for Operation Rutter to be revived. This time it became known as Operation Jubilee. Such a raid would show how impossible an invasion was at that time.

Operation Jubilee. During this time the Germans who suspected a massive attack on the coast in the area of Calais-Boulogne, has strengthened the area, and their forces were placed on various states of alert. The planning took place in the greatest secrecy. No notes were to be taken. Canadians, who on Canadian insistence were part of the raiding force, were told they were going on an exercise. Not even the First Lord of the Admiralty Mountbatten was told why now 250 ships would be needed, the ships were to sail from various ports, and meet at sea.

British Colonel Stanley resigned, he said he would not be part of a plan which would risk 5000 loyal Canadian troops just to keep Russia and Stalin in the war.

On 20th July the Americans, including Eisenhower and US commanders, were all for attacking the French coast immediately. All except the US Naval Commander, who sided with the British and said the sea was too treacherous. By 22 July the two sides were still deadlocked. The US delegation then consulted the President who told them they would have to mount an operation elsewhere. Those with Operation Sledgehammer minds found a new focus for their energy in North Africa.

19 August 1942. The actual raid on Dieppe took place. The action of the Calgary Tank Regiment should be mentioned here, for Canadians have been subjected mainly to pictures of damaged Churchill tanks bogged down on the beaches, together with derogatory comments.

The reality was – there were 23 personnel landing craft carried on the ships, but on the way over the convoy made contact with a German naval patrol, and gunfire ensued in a violent short range battle in which both sides suffered damage. There was danger of complete loss of surprise.

If the operation were to have been cancelled it would have to be cancelled before 0300 hours because of the tides and being able to turn the convoy, travelling in the darkness, around.

Not only that, but the Naval force commander’s wireless communication with his HQ in the UK had been smashed during the encounter with the German patrol. Thus the Raid continued.

In WAR all the planning and care taken, can be altered by enemy action. There are no legal referees to shout foul ball – War is just brutal kill or be killed, and if you want to survive as a nation the whole nation must have the stomach for it.

The Calgary Tank Regiment had been equipped with 30 new Churchill tanks. Of the 27 that landed about half crossed the sea wall. They were not all bogged down on the beach which was the impression spread around by German photographs and propaganda and echoed by the McKenna Brothers and National Film Board. The tanks got up onto to promenade, and the German 37mm anti-tank gun shells bounced off them. The tanks were stopped only by the huge concrete road blocks on the streets leading into town. The Engineers had the task of destroying the concrete obstacles but, war being what it is, were unable to do so.

Prime Minister King on 8 September 1942 said in the House of Commons “I personally, regarded the Dieppe ASSAULT, to which I gave my sanction, as an indispensable preliminary to full-scale operations.”

The raid on Dieppe did help to convince the Germans that an invasion could be defeated on the beaches if the coastal defences were made strong enough. This influenced German strategy, to Allied advantage when the actual INVASION of Normandy began. The Rommel story illustrates that. He wanted to have the German armoured divisions in place along the whole coast. Hitler was convinced by the British Deception Plan that the attack would take place in the Calais Boulogne area and Rommel was left holding an empty bag for several days after the real invasion in Normandy began. As part of that Deception Plan General Patton, in England, was given command of a fictitious invasion army, but that is another story.

It must also never be forgotten that the men, the N.C.Os, and officers engaged in that raid acted with the greatest of bravery and devotion to duty as united Canadians, as Canadians had acted in previous wars. That history of sacrifice makes all the more despicable the actions of two recent Prime Ministers of Canada, who opposed the war against Hitler and Mussolini and Tojo of Japan, which have reduced our armed forces to zilch.

Canadian people should ask themselves, what would have happened if the British had rejected Canadian participation for whatever reason. They would have been castigated for that too by the likes of the McKenna Bros. and Liberal politicians. Mr. D. Pratt, MP. for example, went to Dieppe for a Liberal flag waving and photo opp. He has ardently supported Chretien’s dreadful and treacherous policy towards our armed forces as long has he has been a politician.

Canadians, especially in the last 50 years have been totally deceived by the Trudeau- Chretien Governments and their anti-British propaganda. Those two have tried to remove all reference to the British heritage of those forces. Most politicians now have an abysmal knowledge of Canadian history, including that of Canadian participation in the Second World War.

One other matter is certain. Loyal Canadian soldiers, sailors or airmen were NOT carrying the ‘Liberal logo’ maple leaf flag. That flag was forced on Canada by closure in Parliament, (shut up and sit down) thirty years after that war had ended. Many, including people in the liberated countries, now even believe it was the flag carried in the Second World War by the Canadian liberating troops.

It seems now that loyal Canadians who served, were killed or wounded, all did so in vain; for, the Government of Canada is now in the hands of one man who was then running in the streets of Montreal, Quebec, helping Pierre E. Trudeau oppose both the war and Canada’s participation in it, that is Jean Chretien.

Reginald R Dixon.

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