OPERATION JUBILEE ~
DIEPPE RAID - AUG 19 1942
Operation Jubilee, the Dieppe Raid was
very costly for Canadian forces but valuable lessons were learned in planning
future operations, especially D-Day. However, a 'History TV' documentary
(Aug 2012), based on 15years of research by David O'Keefe, provides fresh
insight into other top secret purposes behind the raid. See "Correspondence"
1942 was the
worst year of the war for the Allies. Great Britain could not boast a single
victory in the field. British and Commonwealth troops in North Africa were being
contained and driven back by the Africa Corps. In the Far East the Japanese were
dismembering and occupying substantial parts of the former British Empire. The
Americans were still feeling the after effects of their material losses at Pearl
Harbour and struggling to maintain what was left of their Philippine Army and
the Russians were being steadily pushed back as Hitler developed his thrust into
the Caucusus. The immediate outlook was bleak.
serious situation was on the Russian Front where immense armies were pitted
against each other in a fight to the death. There seemed to be no way of
stopping the German offensive. Stalin called loudly and often for an offensive
in the West to reduce some of the pressure on his armies. At this stage of the
war a Russian military collapse was considered a possibility with a consequent
catastrophic effect on the whole Allied war effort.
plea was strongly supported by the Americans, even though they themselves were
unable to provide significant material support, or troops, for an offensive in
the West. There was significant agitation by several senior American military
and naval leaders, that, unless an offensive in the West was developed and
executed within the short term, they would concentrate their efforts in the
Pacific against the Japanese. The general public also agitated for offensive
action to support the beleaguered Russians. Mass rallies held in both Trafalgar
Square in London and Madison Square gardens in New York, during April 1942,
called for "a second front now!"
therefore, unbearable pressure on Churchill and the British Chiefs of Staff to
develop and execute an offensive operation on the Western front - an operation
that would, it was hoped, either draw German divisions from the Russian front,
or at least hold the existing divisions in France in place thus preventing
additional reinforcements being sent to the East.
It was against
this menacing background that the Dieppe raid was planned and executed.
Plans & Preparations
men, it'll be a piece of cake!" - Canadian Major-General "Ham" Roberts briefing
his officers on the eve of the Dieppe raid.
conceived in April 1942 by Combined Operations Headquarters (C.O.H.Q.), and
subsequently code named "Operation Rutter", the Allies planned to conduct a
major division size raid on a German held port on the French channel coast and
to hold it for the duration of at least two tides. They would effect the
greatest amount of destruction of enemy facilities and defences before
withdrawing. This original plan was approved by the Chiefs of Staff in May 1942.
It included dropping paratroopers inland of the port preceding a frontal assault
from the sea. Such a raid was however vulnerable to weather conditions in the
area. Most importantly this size of raid would provide the Allies with much
needed experience in conducting an amphibious assault on a defended coast - the
last large scale amphibious assault by the British had been at Gallipoli during
the First World War. The planners therefore felt it was imperative that a raid
incorporating modern military techniques be conducted before a serious attempt
to breach Hitler's "Atlantic Wall" could be made.
For the first
time ever, in an amphibious assault, tanks were to be landed on the beaches to
support the infantry. There was a feeling that this innovation would ensure the
success of any landing attempt. The raid was scheduled for July 7th but was
firstly postponed 24 hours due to unfavourable weather conditions and then
postponed indefinitely after an aerial attack by German fighter-bombers on the
troopships and the supporting fleet gathered in the Solent. It was reasoned at
the time that the element of surprise, on which success depended, had been lost
and two troopships damaged could not be quickly and easily repaired or replaced.
The unsettled weather conditions added to the gloom as the prospect of success
became increasingly unrealizable. The troops and shipping were dispersed.
increasing Russian and American political pressure and public opinion to mount
an offensive caused Churchill and the Chiefs of Staff to look once more at the
previously planned raid on Dieppe. It was the fastest way to respond. Although
the original target selection and planning had been by C.O.H.Q., an
inter-service committee representing Air, Army and Naval forces had been busy
improving the plan and to make the operation less weather dependant. The
original paratroop component was replaced by commando forces landing from the
sea. The final plan, accepted by all 3 services and the Chiefs of Staff,
envisaged assault landings at eight separate locations in the vicinity of
Dieppe, with extensive air bombing support and fire support from a naval force
forces were to land in pre-dawn darkness. No. 3 Commando was to conduct two
landings eight miles east of Dieppe to silence the coastal battery near Berneval.
No. 4 Commando (including fifty U.S. Rangers) was to conduct two landings six
miles west of Dieppe to neutralize the coastal battery near Varengeville. Each
of the gun positions was held by more than one hundred Germans, and the two
landings by the commandos would enable them to effect a pincer attack on the
batteries. Both of these gun positions could easily range on assault ships
positioned off Dieppe and their neutralization was considered essential. The
main assault landing force was to be provided mainly by units of the Canadian
2nd division landing in four separate locations. These units were to land
immediately to the east of Dieppe at Puys and immediately west at Pourville half
an hour before the main assault. They're objective was to disable the guns and
machine gun nests on the cliffs that covered the main landing beaches east and
west of the town. The main assaults on two beaches in front of the town were
scheduled for the early daylight hours - essentially a frontal assault. The
total assault force consisted of some 6,000 men with another 3,000 sailors in
the naval force. There were also some 65 RAF squadrons of fighters, heavy
bombers and fighter-bombers. Dieppe was not thought to be heavily defended and
it was considered that, with tank support in the front line, this force would be
sufficient to accomplish the raid's objectives.
Jubilee commenced in the late evening hours of August 18th, 1942. There was a
veritable armada of over 230 ships assembled from southern English ports. It was
a warm moonless night as the ships headed across the channel to Dieppe. The
force commanders had no inkling that they were on a collision course with a
German convoy proceeding from Boulogne to Dieppe. Radar stations on the English
coast picked up these "unidentified vessels" and twice, at one thirty a.m. and
again at 2.30 a.m. on August 19th, they radioed warnings to the naval commander
Captain Hughes-Hallet. These warnings were not acknowledged and the raiding
force took no evasive action. The main assault troops were being convoyed in
large ships with their LCP's (Landing Craft Personnel) hanging from davits. Most
of the commandos made the crossing in their own LCPs which held about 20 men
each while the tanks crossed in their own LCT's (Landing Craft Tanks - 3 tanks
to each LCT). Just after the 3 a.m. the first shots in Operation Jubilee were
fired as troops in the larger ships were loaded into their LCPs and lowered for
the long run in to the beaches, The "point of no return" had been reached.
occupied 25 LCPs at the eastern end of the assault convoy. They ran into 5
German ships including armed trawlers escorting a tanker. In the resulting melee
several of the flimsy LCPs were sunk and the rest scattered. Any element of
surprise the assault force had counted on was now lost and the dispersion of
No.3 commando substantially prejudiced their planned suppression of the eastern
flank Berneval gun battery. Only a small percentage of the men allocated to the
task succeeded in arriving at their correct landing points and instead of an all
out attack on the battery they had to resort to sniping. However this proved
quite effective in keeping the German gunners occupied and there were no known
instance of this battery sinking any of the assault convoy ships off Dieppe. No.
4 commando executed an almost flawless operation and in hard fighting eventually
overran and neutralized the coastal battery on the western flank. An indication
of the severity of the struggle was the subsequent award of the Victoria Cross
to commando Captain Pat Porteous.
left - Cameron Highlanders of Canada.] The main assault landings by some 5,000
Canadians immediately encountered fierce opposition as an alerted and prepared
enemy was ready and waiting. Plan changes had eliminated the original heavy air
bombing attack and the substituted smoke screen was blown clear of the beach by
a southerly breeze. Nine tanks scheduled to land with the first infantry assault
were late due to navigational errors. Faulty intelligence had failed to reveal
the presence of many gun and machine gun positions in caves high up in the
cliffs to the side of the beaches. Nor was it realised the that the port was
indeed strongly defended by experienced German troops. The bombardment by 4
destroyers off the beach and the low level strafing attack by 5 squadrons of
Hurricanes proved inadequate to the challenge of suppressing the German
defences. Commander Harry Leslie RNVR, recalled the failure of the support ships
to depress their guns sufficiently to hit the German positions at either end of
the bay; the height of the sea walls had not been anticipated. His flotilla of
MLs were responsible for supporting the landing craft and he was awarded the
DSC for towing damaged vessels offshore to safety in very hazardous conditions.
All these factors contributed to a virtual slaughter of the first assault waves
as infantry and assault engineers, without covering fire for those first few
vital minutes, were cut down by enfilading fire on the beaches. Subsequent
assault waves piled into the first and were subjected to similar treatment. Only
13 tanks breached the promenade area but none broke into the town itself. A few
groups of Canadian infantry broke into the town but only confused and misleading
reports reached the force commander, Major-General Roberts, aboard his
headquarters ship. It was some time before the commanders afloat realized the
true situation on the beaches, and, unfortunately, not before the floating
reserve had also been sent into the carnage. At 9.40 a.m. the signal to withdraw
was sent to all the assault forces - "Vanquish 1100 hours". The naval officers
and ratings bringing in the landing craft to the beaches, as well as assault
troops trying to get to them, again suffered horrendous casualties from
withering German fire.
Canadian and British had been killed, wounded or taken prisoner. The Canadians
lost two thirds of their force, with 907 dead or later to die from their wounds.
Major-General Roberts unfairly
became the official scapegoat and was never to command troops in the field
again. Year after year, on August 19th, a small box arrived in the post for him.
Its contents a small piece of stale cake - a cruel reminder of his attempt to
boost morale at the pre-raid briefing "Don't worry boys. It will be a piece of
wrong? The operation was a tactical disaster and the Germans inflicted a sorely
felt defeat on the allied forces involved.
With the benefit of hindsight it is
evident that the final assault plan contained a number of flaws:
from a topographical viewpoint there were few locations on France's
coast that were less suited to an assault landing. The 100 ft and 200
ft cliffs lining the main landing beaches were ideally sited for
enfilade fire on the assault troops. The German defenders themselves
were well aware that the depth of the beach shale made it an
unsatisfactory landing ground for tanks.
intelligence provided to the assaulting troops was very poor. The
information on the German defences was hopelessly out of date while
more up to date information was available through ULTRA (the top
secret breaking of the German Enigma codes).
This more up to date information was, unfortunately, never passed down
to the assault commanders.
assault was viable only when certain conditions of time and tide
prevailed. These conditions (high tide at or near dawn) were as well
known to the German forces as they were to the British planners. It
was not surprising that during these periods of potential threat
German forces would be on heightened alert. Despite this the plan
counted on tactical surprise. Was it an error to believe that the
Germans were unaware of these factors?
war post-mortems have often focused on the changes to the original
plan in general and the withdrawal of the bombing force in particular.
It's arguable that these changes by themselves were not the
overwhelming decisive factor. Bombing was not a precision tool at the
time of Dieppe when pin point accuracy was needed to keep German
defenders running for cover. It's conceivable therefore that a much
heavier weight of offshore bombardment was needed than was provided.
If heavier capital ships had been present they could have kept the
defenders heads down until the troops were within a few meters of the
plan was heavily dependent on the critical timing of its various
components - there was little or no room for error or delay anywhere
without adverse knock-on consequences. The effect of this weakness was
compounded by poor communications which failed to update senior
officers of progress in time to take remedial action.
the Dieppe raid Allied planners were forced to review
their previously held supposition that the capture of a
significant port was an essential precursor to an invasion
of mainland Europe. This view had been justified by the
perceived scale of logistical follow up and support
following an invasion - it could, it was reasoned, only be
provided through established port facilities. So with this
option firmly placed on the back burner Dieppe became the
inspiration behind the development of Mulberry Harbours,
PLUTO (pipe-line under the Ocean), and other special
initiatives that later contributed to the success of
the Normandy invasion. It was also realized that much better
intelligence would be required - not only about the
defending forces but also on the topographical conditions in
and around the landing area. Better communications were seen
to be needed between the troop commanders afloat and the
assaulting troops and command decisions required better
organization. The need to develop armoured landing craft, at
least proof against small arms fire, was now considered an
as was the case for heavier bombardment of entrenched
defensive positions prior to the landing of men and
above: German soldiers inspect the wreckage on the beach.]
Who knows how
many lives were saved in later amphibious landings, particularly Normandy, as a
result of the casualties at Dieppe?
This failed assault had ramifications for
the German forces too. Their confidence grew in their ability to withstand an
invading force and they came to believe that the inevitable Allied invasion
would include an area with good port facilities. They subsequently concentrated
on providing stronger defences around the main ports to the detriment of open
[Photo; Canadian POWs in Dieppe.
In the middle/left of the photo is John Machuk of the Queen's Own
Cameron Highlanders of Winnipeg giving a wounded soldier the support of his
raid carried with it a high cost but the lessons learned were invaluable and led
directly to the success of the Normandy landings.
B J Mullen of 4 Commando courtesy of Frank Sidebottom. His late father in
law, Ben Clifton, served alongside the artist. Left to Right; Zero Hour, Through
the German Minefield, Withdraw from Beach, Rescue of US Airman in Channel and
Ben Clifton of 4 Commando, Ex York & Lancaster Regiment.
At a ceremony held in November 2003
to award Corporal Leslie Ellis a commemorative Dieppe medallion for his
part in the Dieppe raid, he recalled that he landed with the Royals at Puys...
"some say it was a dress rehearsal for the invasion (of Normandy) and some say
it was a whim of the top echelon. History says the Germans were waiting for us
and we didn't have a chance after that. We were all well-trained, we did what we
were trained to do. We were proud to have done it, we were soldiers ... we did
what we were expected to do."
The impact of that major battle may
still be debated but what remains certain is that the Canadian soldiers were
brave and there was "a feeling of pride" to serve with them. "They were a great
bunch of people. I was fortunate that I got over the (beach) wall and got back
with a few injuries and the Good Lord spared me. It all happened so fast." He
had made it behind enemy lines but as the power of the German ambush became
clear Canadian soldiers were forced to retreat.
When Ellis ran back to shore he found
the landing craft already weighed down with injured soldiers and he knew that if
he stayed at Dieppe he would either die from enemy fire or be taken prisoner of
war. So he decided to swim in the hope that he might be rescued. "There was no
sense for me to get on that boat so I took off my clothes and swam. I was
heading for England!" A soldier in a row-boat finally found him but he doesn't
remember being pulled out of the water. "I woke up in an anti-aircraft (naval
boat)," he recalled.
Ellis received the DCM (Distinguished
Conduct Medal) for his bravery. His citation as printed in
The London Gazette of
October 2 1942 read
The NCO landed with the first wave
at Puys, during the operation in the Dieppe 19 Aug 42. After a gap was blown in
the wire on the sea-wall, L/Cpl Ellis passed through the gap and proceeded up
the hill to the right; He immobilized booby traps, explored a recently abandoned
enemy post, and arriving at the top, engaged an enemy post east of the beach.
Finding himself alone, and seeing the second wave coming in, he returned to the
wall to guide them forward. Coming across a comrade paralyzed in both legs he
dragged him nearly back to the wall. Here the wounded man was killed and L/Cpl
Ellis himself wounded. He succeeded in crossing the wall and was evacuated
as a casualty. L/Cpl Ellis in this action
displayed the greatest initiative, skill and devotion to duty.
The Dieppe Bar is awarded to those who participated in the Dieppe Raid on
August 19, 1942, and is worn on the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal ribbon.
A silver bar, to be attached to
the ribbon of the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal (CVSM), has been designed
featuring the word DIEPPE in raised letters on a pebbled background. Above
this, the bar bears an anchor surmounted by an eagle and a Thompson
sub-machine gun. The design was created in consultation with the Dieppe
Veterans and Prisoners of War Association.
There are over 200 books listed on our 'Combined Operations Books' page
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Printed copy of the
Official Report by Combined Operations HQ of the Dieppe raid. 292 pages, 35
photos, 15 maps and 30 illustrations. £70.00 (2010) from MLRS Books - Military
Commando Training Manual
Considering the loss of life at Dieppe there was little good came of it except
lessons learned. However so successful was the raid by No 4 Commando that a
training manual based upon their experiences was published for the benefit of
future operations. Visit the above link and scroll down the page to see the
The Commandos at Dieppe: Rehearsal
for D Day
by Will Fowler. Published by Harper Collins 2000. ISBN 0 00
711125 8. Detailed account of the successful destruction of the Hess Battery by
No 4 Commando commanded by Lord Lovat.
Tragedy to Triumph, Brigadier General Denis Whitaker and Shelagh Whitaker,
1992, ISBN 0-07-551385-4 (Denis Whitaker was an infantry captain who landed on
the main beaches at Dieppe. One of the most authoritative books on the subject).
Shame and the Glory by Terence Robertson published by Pan 1965. 500 pages.
Revisited - a Documentary Investigation by John P Campbell. Published by
Frank Cass & Co Ltd.,1993. ISBN 0 71 463496 4.
(through the lens of the German war photographer) by Hugh Henry. Published
by Battle of Britain Prints International Ltd. ISBN 0 90 09176 2.
and the Dieppe Raid by Brian Loring Villa. Published by Oxford University
Press 1994. ISBN 0 19 541061 0.
Night by Derek Mills-Roberts. Published by William Kimber, London 1957.
the Sea by Peter Young. Published by William Kimber, London 1959.
at Dieppe by Earnest Langford. Published by Harbour, Madeira Park, BC 1992.
Dawn by R W Thomson. Published by Hutchinson, London 1956.
of Victory by R W Thomson. Published by Constable, London 1960.
from the Sea by Contre-Amiral Lepotier. Published by William Kimber, London
- The Jubilee Disaster by Ronald Atkin. Published by MacMillan, London 1980.
Rehearsal - The Story of Dieppe by Quentin Reynolds. Published by Random
House, New York 1942.
We Led the
Way: Darby's Rangers by William O Darby. Published by Presidio Press 1980.
Dawn of Decision by Jacques Mordal, Paris, France 1962. English translation
by Souvenir Press, London 1963. (Authentic account drawing on many German and
August 19 by Eric Maguire. Published by Jonathon Cape, London, 1963
Destined to Survive: A Dieppe Veteran's Story
by Jack A Poolton.
Dundurn Press, Toronto, 1998. 7¾" - 9¾". Personal reminiscences of a
Canadian Soldier taken prisoner at Dieppe in World War II. 144pp, photo
One of Churchill's greatest concerns during the war was the
submarine menace particularly in the Atlantic. It had the potential to bring
the UK to its knees as merchant ships carrying vital war supplies and food,
were sunk. However, the British ability to decipher the enemy's "enigma"
encoded radio transmissions gave the Allies a considerable advantage in the
battle of the Atlantic.
In early 1942 this advantage was lost when the Germans
changed from a 3 "rotor" system in their "Enigma" encoders to a 4 rotor
system. Not surprisingly, Allied shipping losses increased dramatically and
were fast approaching the tipping point where they would exceed the capacity
to replace them. It was, therefore, an imperative to crack the new encoding
machines since failure to do so could quite possibly lose the war. British
Intelligence was desperate to get their hands on any encoding material,
particularly those concerning enemy naval traffic.
Against this background, the History TV channel documentary
"Dieppe Uncovered" (Aug 2012) puts forward the proposal that the Dieppe raid
was a "pinch" operation i.e the whole purpose of the operation was to steal or
"pinch" the latest code books and machines from the German Naval HQ in Dieppe
or German ships in Dieppe harbour. It further maintains that Mountbatten was
persuaded by Ian Fleming (James Bond author), who at that time was directly
under the Chief of British Naval Intelligence.
On Fleming's suggestion, a small "commando" unit, AU 30
(assault unit 30), comprising a few select commandos dedicated to looting any
secret material found on raids, was formed in April 1942. A surviving member
of this unit recalled that their orders were to attack the German Naval HQ in
Dieppe and, in his words, to "kill Germans". The lieutenant in charge on the
day had the street address of the German Naval HQ with orders to remove any
secret material and to deliver it to Commander Ian Fleming who would be
waiting offshore during the raid.
AU30 was temporarily attached to the Royal Marine Commandos on
board "The Locust" as they attempted to enter the harbour. However, they were
driven off by heavy defensive fire so transferred to small boats for a second
attempt to land on a nearby beach. Once again they were beaten back.
Of the outcome of this raid there is no doubt, but the big
question the documentary raises is whether or not Operation Jubilee was a
cover for the "pinch" operation described above or was it just an adjunct to
the raid? The documentary's explanation of the attack plan on the town and
harbour can certainly be viewed as being in support of the "pinch" while other
more conventional reasons were simply promulgated to disguise this fact and to
deceive the enemy.
The possibility that the Canadian sacrifices had a nobler
justification than the "whim" of senior commanding officers will no doubt
provide some welcome relief for the veterans and their families.
George H Pitt (Canada)
Operation Jubilee, the raid on Dieppe was written by
George H Pitt of Canada.
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