SMHS meeting: the Dieppe Raid

21 Oct 2015

On 19th August 1942, over 6000 Allied troops crossed the English Channel tasked with capturing and holding the German occupied port of Dieppe for 12 hours. Operation Jubilee is still considered by many to be one of the bloodiest tragedies of WW2.

Our October meeting saw SMHS member Ed Tyhurst explore the reasons for the raid, details of the raid itself and the lessons learned from this fateful operation.

In 1942 pressure was mounting on Winston Churchill. Russia was demanding that the Allies open up a "Second Front" to divert Hitlerís attention from the East and Canadian Prime Minister MacKenzie King was demanding that Canadian troops stationed in the SE of England, since 1940, see some action. Severely weakened after the withdrawal of the British Expeditionary Force from France, Churchill was in no position to open up a new fighting front, instead he authorised a series of raids on the occupied channel coastal towns, many under the command of Combined Operationsí Louis Mountbatten.

Mountbatten wasnít happy with the plans for the Dieppe raid. He favoured using Commandos and Royal marines, rather than the Canadian Infantry. He also favoured a pincer movement rather than a full frontal attack on the harbour town Ė he was overruled. Dieppe was selected as it was just within range of the RAF fighters, allowing them to provide a protective umbrella for the seaborne assault. The Navy, failed to provide capital ships for the raid, fearing their destruction at sea by the Luftwaffe, which limited the anticipated pre-landing bombardment. Hitler had been strengthening his defences along the Atlantic Wall. These were particularly strong at Dieppe where obstacles blocked the routes from the beach; the Allies had underestimated their enemy.

At 04:50 No.3 and No.4 Commando landed at strategic sites either side of Dieppe. Tasked with seizing gun batteries, anti-aircraft guns and radar installations, these would clear the way for the main force intending to land on the beaches at 05:20. When the main force landed slaughter ensued. Tanks which had progressed quickly off the sandy beaches of the Isle of Wight in the run-up to the raid were rendered immobile on the chert pebbles of Dieppe, none made it off the beach. The infantry were expected to secure the town and establish a defended perimeter. They were cut down on the beaches or engaged in bloody battles in and around the seaside buildings, within a few hours they were ordered to withdraw; two thirds were to become casualties, dead, wounded or abandoned for capture.

Undoubtedly lessons were learned, and these were to prove vital when the Allies were to cross the Channel again on D-Day. In 1944 the Allies took with them their own harbours (Mulberry), negating the need to seize a well defended port. Amphibious vehicles were improved, tanks fared better on the Normandy sand. The offshore Navy monitorsí provided heavy bombardment and the RAF dropped parachutists to seize strategic targets prior to the main invasion.

Can this later success justify the bloodbath that was Dieppe? Edís talk certainly got us thinking.

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7.30pm for 8.00pm start
Function Room of the
Royal Oak Public House,
Station Street, Lewes,
East Sussex.

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