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Murder at Dieppe Richard Housser On August 19th, 1942 a mixed force started a raid against the Normandy coast in the area of Dieppe. The Allies learned a great deal about the German defences from the raid and realized that better reconnaissance, preparation, and intelligence was needed for a successful attack, especially if one of bigger magnitude was planned further north along the coast of Normandy later in 1944. The Dieppe raid was planned as an amphibious assault by mixed forces along the West coast of France. The raid was to be an experiment of landing technique with the objective to take and briefly hold a portion of the coast. 1 Only a few of the defensive installations were destroyed.2 When the Allies landed on the beach they came under heavy fire from the Germans along the coast under the command of General Kurt Zeitzler.3 Within the first few hours the communication with the task force commander and the beach was lost. The raid was a complete failure from the planning stages throughout the attack itself. The attacking force was approximately six thousand men. 4,963 troops were from Canada4, including the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry, the 14th Canadian Army Tank Regiment, the Royal Regiment of Canada, the Canadian Black Watch, the South Saskatchewan Regiment, the Essex Scottish, The Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada, and Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal.5 The Canadians were aided by the British with the accompaniment of approximately 1,057 troops of the Royal Marine “A” Commando. The Americans sent approximately 50 United States Rangers which were sent to the two flanking batteries. All six thousand of the troops were transported on a 273 ship fleet.6 The army was committed a flying force of 800 aircraft; 600 Spitfires, 24 Hurricane fighter- bombers, 24 medium bombers, 48 Army Cooperation Mustangs, which were used for reconnaissance, and 36 Blenheims, which were used to lay smoke screens.7 Most of the aircraft were there to fight against the Luftwaffe; only a few would end up helping the attack and only for a short time. Major General J.H. Roberts, commander of the 2nd Canadian Division during the raid, was also given 58 brand new Churchill Tanks that he would use for support on the beaches. Dieppe was only supposed to be the first serious encounter that the Allies had with the enemy. It was not to be the invasion of Europe and it was never supposed to be bigger then a “reconnaissance in force” 8. The results from the raid at Dieppe would give the Allies the idea of the magnitude of the task they would be presented with. Sadly, no one wrote anything down on the day of the raid so all the information about Dieppe will never be ultimately perfect. There were three main beaches and two artillery batteries along that section of the French coast that would be the targets for the combined force. The furthest east beach was Yellow I and II beach at Belleville-Sur-Mer, the Goebbels Battery9. The next beach closer to Dieppe, going west, was Blue beach at Puys. Then was White and Red beach at Dieppe. Green beach, continuing west, located at Pourville. The last beach, the Hess Battery, was Orange I and II beach located near Varengeville-Sur-Mer.10 In 1939 the 1st Canadian Infantry had reached the shores of Britain. The 2nd Canadian Infantry arrived and the formation of the Canadian Corps took place, which became the 1st Canadian Corps at the end of 1940. By the summer of 1942, the Canadian troops had already been stationed in the U.K. for two and a half years. When headquarters was organized, Lieutenant-General A.G.L. McNaughton was in command. The combined force of Canadian and British troops trained for two main purposes: defence of South- east England and preparation for a return to Europe in force 11. If the British Isles survived the threat of German invasion then there 1 Elizabeth-Anne Wheal, Stephen Pope, and James Taylor, Dictionary of the Second World War, (London: Grafton Books, 1989) Pg. 133 2 John Keegan, The Times Atlas of the Second World War, (Great Britain: Times Books Limited, 1989), Pg. 87 3 Elizabeth-Anne Wheal, Stephen Pope, and James Taylor, Pg. 133 4 Brigadier General Denis Whitaker, Dieppe: Tragedy to Triumph, (Whitby: McGraw-Hill Ryerson Limited, 1992) 5 Ibid, Pg. 10-15 6 Ibid, Pg. 3 7 Ibid, Pg. 13 8 T. Murray Hunter, Canada at Dieppe, (Ottawa: Balmuir Book Publishing, 1982), Pg. 1-4 9 John Keegan, Pg. 86 10 Ibid 11 T. Murray Hunter, Pg. 4 would be no need to an offensive role. The Canadian troops were only receiving realistic training called “battle drill” which used live ammunition.12 Lieutenant-General H.D.G. Crerar, the commander of the Canadian Corps during their training and left shortly before the raid, urged the importance of raiding activities. After this issue was brought up the sailors, soldiers, and airmen learned to cooperate together as a team. They all participated in combined training. Vice-Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten was in command of the C.O.H.Q (Combined Operations Headquarters) which possessed two main functions: the organization of raiding activities on the continent with limited objectives and the development of the equipment and techniques for such amphibious operations. 13 The C.O.H.Q. decided on the Normandy port and resort town of Dieppe because the town was in easy reach of an assault launched from south England as well as in range of Allied fighter aircraft. They found it to be like Dover, a town located in a break of unscalable cliffs. The early planning of Dieppe was for an assault with support from parachutists, gliders, and tanks. The planners for the raid also made an alternative plan of only relying on the flank assaults, but it was discarded. On April 25 the C.O.H.Q. came up with an outline plan which had been approved by Mountbatten. The plan was for heavy bombardment from the air then a full frontal attack; tanks would only be initially deployed on the main beach front. When the outline was complete it was approved but there had been no Canadian participation in the planning. McNaughton finally approved the Canadians to help in the detailed plans. General McNaughton was informed that he was to select troops to send over for the assault. McNaughton decided to send Major General Roberts with the 2nd Canadian Division. At about 1:20 in the morning of August 19, 1942, radar on the Sussex Coast picked up echoes from an enemy convoy in transit from Boulogne to Dieppe directly in the path of the 6000 man force. 14 Warnings were sent to the fleet of the Allied but no one received the messages. About an hour later two more radar stations picked up the German convoy and sent warnings again but no one replies. At the Puys beach all the men were awake as they had been on high alert anticipating an attack. The German commanding officer at Puys, Hauptmann (Captain) Richard Schnösenborg told his troops that the dawn of the 19 th would be perfect weather for landing, it would he high tide at the dark of dawn. 15 When the captain was going to sleep one of his adjutants came rushing in and said there had been reports of noise at sea. On further confirmation he was told that it was probably the convoy due at an estimated time of 5:00AM that morning, so Schnösenborg decided to head back to sleep. His sleep was interrupted again because of the noise so he decided if he was not going to get any sleep, he would get the whole battalion up and call a morning alarm exercise. 16 General Roberts had called off the bombing attacks because he knew that the rubble that was caused would get caught in the tank treads and would stop them. His tanks were only to provide support until a signal was given for all the troops to withdraw. Of all the beaches, he knew that his frontal battalions would surprise the enemy. Major General Conrad Haase was the commander of the 302 Division that was occupying the beaches along the Dieppe sector.17 While being in command he made sure the beaches were not going to allow foreign support to make landfall. He sent tanks to the beaches and they were caught in the shale, he also knew that any of the tanks that did make it past the beaches would find the anti-tank barricades. Roberts was only concerned about two main things: inexperienced naval crews, because they could be inaccurate in landing the troops, and if there would be enough fire support for the troops as he had been refused to obtain more guns and more powerful battleships. 18 There had been 150 original bombers that would hit the towns but Roberts was persuaded by the air force to cancel all 12 Ibid, Pg. 5 13 Ibid, Pg. 6 14 Brigadier General Denis Whitaker, Pg. 3 15 Ibid Pg. 6 16 Ibid, Pg. 8 17 Ibid, Pg. 11 18 Ibid Pg. 12 of them because their chances of hitting targets was slim. They didn’t know about the beach material or the barricades that were emplaced at the beginning of each street leading into the town. When the Luftwaffe had spotted assault ships near Portsmouth and Southampton the town of Pourville was put on high alert on the night of the 18th while they were practicing alarms. German engineers dug and fortified slit trenches and were ready for the attackers expected at any time. 19 While the Germans had plenty of reserves, General Roberts only had one reserve battalion of Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal and in the plan they were to take up defensive positions while the rest of the raiding force withdrew. The Intelligence reports Roberts had received were completely misinforming. It was stated that there was only 1, 400 poorly trained Germans from the 110th Infantry Division and 500th Division Artillery.20 The beaches were also said to be suitable for landing infantry and armored fighting vehicles. Roberts thought he was sending everything he had against one German battalion. It was to be a one-tide duration embarking at 11:00AM, so they would only hold for five or six hours. The Germans were larger then what the intelligence reports said. It was not one battalion from the 110 th Division; the 110th had been at the Russian front throughout the war. The force at Dieppe was made up of one division of three battalions from the 302nd Division. 2,500 Germans had been an addition to bring up the 302 nd to strength. Major General Haase had the ability to call on the 10 th Panzer Division that was 40 miles from Dieppe. The 10 th was one of the most powerful panzer divisions. In case of British attacks Hitler had moved 3 other divisions to the northern France from Russia; the Leibstandarte S.S. Adolf Hitler, S.S. Division Das Reich, and a parachute division.21 Major General Haase believed it was important to have as many mobile reserves to support strong points. At 3:00AM hundreds of LCPs (Landing Craft Personal) were loaded with troops and lowered into the water. Now it was too late for Roberts to call off the raid. In the lead of all the LCPs were an armed motor launch and flak landing ship. The only problem was that the protecting ships were six miles ahead of the landing crafts. They did not receive any instructions to give close detail support. Four of the 32 landing crafts that were sent first returned with engine trouble. The German Port Commandant at Dieppe did not like the weather report at all; high tide was to be at 4:03AM, slight breeze and visibility of 700m. It was ideal conditions for an attack from sea, so the port commander issued a “threat of danger” 22 alert. They had been told at the port entrance to expect the German convoy at around 3:30-4:00AM. Their convoy was made up of five motor vessels escorted by a mine sweeper and two submarine-chasers. At 3:50AM, the port commander received a signal that a small fight had erupted between, what was assumed to be the German convoy and British naval forces. At 3:47AM General Roberts saw a flare shoot up into the morning sky, from one of the destroyers which meant something was wrong. Gun fire then erupted; once this fight began the entire costal defence had been alerted.23 No.3 Commando attacked Petit Berneval, also named Yellow I and II beach. The collision with the German convoy jeopardized the mission from the beginning. The strength of the commando was reduced to less then a third. Only seven LCPs touched down on a beach, six of those were at Yellow I and only one at Yellow II.24 The battery at Berneval was fully alerted. The landing at Yellow I was 20 minutes behind schedule, 120 men and a few rangers made it ashore. The battery received reinforcements from; the 302nd division’s anti-tank and reconnaissance battalions and infantry from the 570 th regiment and divisional engineers. The commandos that made it ashore were at a disadvantage because of missing equipment. After five hours of fighting, Yellow I was forced to surrender near 10:00AM. 37 troops were killed including one American Ranger, believed to be the first person killed in battle.25 82 men were taken prisoner by the Germans. 19 Ibid Pg. 15 20 Ibid 21 Brigadier General Denis Whitaker, Pg. 16 22 Ibid, Pg. 17 23 Ibid, Pg. 235 24 T. Murray Hunter, Pg. 18 25 Ibid Yellow II was successful where Yellow I was not. The troops from the single LCP made it ashore and climbed up the pegs from the barbed wire. After half an hour of being on the beach the commandos were ready to attack the seven-gun battery.26 The troops were able to get close enough to snipe the German men, it was reported that no rounds were fired from the battery while the commandos were attacking. It was a critical stage that the commandos attacked; they gave other troops a little slack from the artillery. The commandoes were aided by the diversion with Yellow I, when the commandoes at Yellow II were running low on ammunition they returned to their LCP and made it off the beach. No.4 Commando was sent to Varengeville-Sur-Mer, also named Orange I and II beach. They were successful at silencing the Varengeville battery. “The six 15-centimeter guns were capable of firing two 113 pound shells every minute over a 13 mile range.” 27 100 gunners of the No. 813 Army Artillery troop manned the battery, which had protection by wire entanglements and a flak tower. 252 troops made up the No. 4 Commando including the rangers. 88 men were sent to land on Orange I and the rest to Orange II, a beach near Quiberville. The Germans forgot to extinguish a lighthouse which helped the commandoes find their way but also helped the Germans find the raiding forces.28 Machine-guns and Mortars were firing upon the commandoes but a smoke-screen gave some help in making it ashore, as well as fighter bombers that were assigned to attack the battery. The beach was not manned properly so the commandoes were able to make great success up the cliff. Snipers from the attacking force took out gunners and mortars landed on piled ammunition which had devastating results. Lord Lovat, the commander of No.4 Commando, led a bayonet charge over open ground to the gun pit where he was wounded for a second time.29 When all the Germans were gone, the commandoes prepared the battery with explosives, planning to split the barrels like bananas. On their way back to the beach the French people they passed offered them wine. The Germans lost 28 men, 33 were wounded, and four were taken prisoner. No.4 Commando lost 12 men, 20 were wounded, and 13 were reported missing. The third of the fourth flank attack was at the town and beach of Puys, Blue beach. Three platoons of the Black Watch of Canada were attached to the Royal Regiment of Canada. They had the task of “Capturing the tactically important east headland, it could bring enfilading fire on the main beaches of the port and destroying local objectives such as machine-gun posts, anti-aircraft guns and a four-gun field battery.”30 The landing on Blue beach would be difficult because of the topography and the German defences. It was a narrow beach for them to land on, there was a 12-foot high seawall which was lined with barbed wire, and there were many pillboxes and strong points. Their only hope of any success was to surprise the Germans. The Germans were fully alerted from when they heard shooting at sea and when the convoy had been met. They landed 20 minutes later then they had planned for the first assault. The Germans were so prepared at Puys that only 60 men fended off the assault.31 When the landing crafts were as close as they could reach they let down the doors. The Germans were killing the men before they could step off the boats. The reconnaissance they received said there was no barbed wire but the commander, Lieutenant-Colonel D.E. Catto, of the Royals insisted on having Bangalore torpedoes. 32 Several of the torpedoes were used but few men got through the gaps made. The German fire was covering the entire beach, and most of the casualties were caused by disguised pillboxes. The stones on the beaches became dangerous when mortars hit, they flew in all directions. The worst part at Puys was trying to evacuate the troops off the beach. A motor launch and two landing crafts were ordered back to the beach when they received a message asking for someone to get them off. All three came under heavy fire and only one craft reached the beach. The one that made it was getting all 26 T. Murray Hunter, Pg. 18 27 Ibid Pg. 19 28 Ibid 29 Ibid, Pg. 20 30 Ibid 31 Ibid Pg. 21 32 Ibid the attention of the fire and it was broken in two and sank; only three survivors were picked up by other landing crafts. 33 The German reports from the 571st Infantry Regiment say that the Royal Regiment of Canada surrendered at 8:35AM and that 500 of the Royals were dead or captured.34 Only two officers and 65 men from the Royals made it back to England.35 Pourville: Green beach, the last Flanking beach. It was successful at this beach surprising the Germans; they arrived on schedule. The task of the South Saskatchewan Regiment (SSR) was to secure Pourville in 30 min so the Highlanders of Canada could pass through and carry on to St. Aubin. There was a special target of the SSR was a radar station that contained secret equipment and records. The troops cut thorough the barbed wire and made it through before the Germans opened fire on the beach. The BBC helped by broadcasting to the French people, warning the Dieppe population about the raid as soon as it began. 36 On the outskirts of Pourville, the SSR was heavily engaged at the radar stations and the bridge over the River Scie. They made it across by walking, without taking cover but were not able to get their target at the radar stations and a nearby artillery emplacement. With difficulties of observation, the destroyers could not provide effective fire to targets from sea. The Highlanders gave the SSR some extra time to make sure it was all set for their objective. Those ten minutes turned into 30 when the Highlanders encountered navigational issues due to the low levels of light navigators were not able to differentiate spots for landing. They were led by a piper onto the beach in plain view of the enemy; the commanding officer who encouraged them to run in was killed as soon as he jumped onto the rocks. 37 The main body of the Highlanders moved inland but they were coming up against reinforcements, Germans from the 571 st Infantry Regiment including an anti-tank company and infantry gun platoon who blocked the crossing over the Scie. The Highlanders were not able to match this and were forced to withdraw. After traveling a mile and a half inland, they were the unit that made the furthest distance. The Highlanders believed the withdraw time was 10:00AM but General Roberts had set the original time at 10:30 and then changed it to 11.38 This was to confirm there was adequate air support and there was enough time to contact the Highlanders. Twelve landing craft were sent but came under heavy fire, four or five were sunk. When the landing craft couldn’t make it ashore and all the Highlanders were running low on ammunition, they decided to surrender. The South Saskatchewan Regiment suffered total casualties, including prisoners, of 19 officers and 320 other ranks out of the 523 who embarked for the mission. 39 There were similar numbers for the Cameron Highlanders of Canada, 24 officers and 322 other ranks out of 503 were prisoner, dead or missing. There were a total of 31 officers and 590 men that returned to England.40 The main assault took place on Dieppe, with codenames White and Red beach. At Dieppe, like most of the other beaches they were delayed landing, which lost the element of surprise. The partial success on the flanks at Berneval and Varengeville assisted the attack on Dieppe. Nine Churchill tanks were to land with the infantry in the first landing and in “floating reserves” were the Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal.41 The support given by the light bombers and fighters from the R.A.F. was an important aspect because the smoke bombs made thick clouds that allowed troops to make some movement without the Germans being able to observe. Hurricanes were sent to strafe beach defences, which provided time for the infantry to unload from the landing crafts. The tanks were further away from their target due to navigational problems again. The Germans recovered quickly from the air and sea attacks resuming fire on the beaches as fast as they could. “The first minute or two after the craft touch down are of crucial importance, and it may be said 33 T. Murray Hunter, Pg. 23 34 Ibid 35 Ibid 36 Ibid, Pg. 24 37 Ibid 38 Ibid Pg. 26 39 Ibid 40 Ibid Pg. 27 41 Ibid. that during that minute or two the Dieppe battle on the main beaches was lost.” 42 The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry had the task of capturing the Casino and advancing inland to destroy anti-aircraft and machine-gun positions. On Red beach the Essex Scottish landed without difficulty. Once they were on the beach, there was nothing for protection, they made three attempts to get over the seawall but received heavy fire. In a short time they lost a third of their strength killed or wounded. One party from the Essex made it over and were able to reach their objective to find it on fire, they returned to the beach where the remainder of the battalion was taking defensive positions.43 The three field companies of Royal Canadian Engineers had the task of clearing a path through the minefield and assisting the Calgary Regiment’s tanks to get across the beach.44 The engineers were terrible loses, in one section only two of the 16 men reached the safety of the seawall. 29 tanks made a successful trip to the beach but only 15 made it over places in the seawall that were low enough to cross. General Roberts ordered the Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal to land on Red beach and exploit the situation. They were dispersed along the entire front of the Dieppe beach. By this time nobody knew what to do. Some of the Essex were with the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry and some were with the Fusiliers. The Royal Marine “A” Commandos were then sent to White beach but along the way when they found there to be no smoke to hide them a commander had them all turn back to the cover of the smoke except his craft was still headed to the beach.45 Orders were issued for the troops to withdraw from white and red beach near 9:00AM for the 11AM withdraw. The small landing crafts traveled back to the beaches covered by naval and air support. Few crafts went to the Essex beach; confusion began when Green beach received the ones intended for Red beach. The Germans were still giving everything they had at the Allied force that was trying to escape. When noon came, troops on the beaches knew nothing was coming to get them, it would have been impossible to evacuate them. A message was received saying troops had surrendered. Of the 4,963 Canadians 350-400 were evacuated off the main beaches, 2,210 were brought back to England. The Canadian army suffered 56 officers, 851 other ranks fatal and 158 officers and 2303 non-fatal casualties (including P.O.W.). The British casualties were 18 officers and 157 other ranks, 2 officers and 12 men killed. The Royal Marines had 7 officers and 93 other ranks of those 4 officers and 27 other ranks were killed.46 The navy suffered greatly in ships and men. They lost the H.M.S. Berkeley, 5 landing craft tank, and 28 smaller landing craft. 550 naval men were casualties, 75 were fatal, and 269 were missing or taken prisoner.47 Dieppe could have been a success, but instead it was a failure. If General Roberts was to have known about the German convoy en-route to Dieppe then chances are it would not have happened on August 19, 1942. If they had waited they would have saved so many lives; it was just this one message that someone didn’t get, or thought nothing of it. The message was sent from the radar stations at 01:24 in the morning to Captain John Hughes-Hallet but there was no message it was received. In a post-Dieppe report it was said that Hughes-Hallet did receive the messages but thought that the vessels in the convoy had entered Dieppe’s harbors.48 Hughes-Hallet later said that he did not receive any messages, so with the confusion Lord Louis Mountbatten was asked to investigate. In his report it said the captain did receive the warnings that were in the same time frame as the German convoy encounter but the convoy in the warning was a different convoy and “had nothing to do with the German vessels met at 0350 hours.” 49 Also, not enough research was compiled on the French Coast. The Allies did not do a very good job of figuring out their target before trying to get to it. If they had sent more Aerial reconnaissance planes over the beaches they could have found out that all the beaches were composed of pebble, shingle, and shale. If they knew what type of surface it was then they would have known that the tanks would not have been very useful on the beaches and that it would be okay to bombard the city because chances are with those 42 Ibid Pg. 29 43 Ibid Pg. 30 44 Ibid Pg. 32 45 Ibid Pg. 37 46 Ibid Pg. 40 47 Ibid Pg. 41 48 Brigadier General Denis Whitaker, Pg. 18 49 C.O.H.Q.:Letter from Mountbatten to Crerar, October 5, 1942 beaches they wouldn’t take tanks by sea. The bombing would have taken out the major German strong points. They would have seen where there were wire entanglements, where they would have needed Bangalore torpedoes. They could have spent more time on figuring out how the troops would have to get up the cliffs, they wouldn’t have seen any of the pillboxes, so maybe the Germans are hiding them, maybe under ground or in a building. The Dieppe raid was a complete failure. Although there were some minor successes, there was nothing that made a positive difference in the world we live in today. The nation lost hundreds of good, everyday, average Canadians that had jobs and families in the small communities across Canada. There is no reason that Mountbatten should have covered up the mistakes he made; he should have accepted the fact that he screwed up…big time. I am lucky enough to have ties to the Dieppe raid and of the stories that I have heard from my grandmother, it was like sending men to the gallows. Before passing away John G. Housser had the rank of Brigadier General and the award of the Military Cross. While on the beach at Puys (Blue beach), he was a captain of “D” Company and spent two and a half years in Oflag VIIB in Eichstätt the Prisoner of War camp. Now after reading what torture they were forced to observe and receive angers me that Mountbatten would organize this attack. The men were forced to see their friends and sometimes family members killed, this left many scars on the men that would not allow them to live normal lives again. It was a huge part of history but it was a huge fault, it ruined lives and people in the army still don’t fully realize that, until they do we need to continue learning about the raid and informing everyone what happened in the past, which should never, ever happen in the future. Bibliography: Copp, Terry. No Price Too High. Whitby: McGraw-Hill Ryerson Limited, 1996. Holmes, Richard. Imperial War Museum: The Second World War in Photographs, London: Carlton Books Limited, 2000. Hunter, T. Murray. Canada at Dieppe. Ottawa: Balmuir Book Publishing, 1982. Keegan, John. The Times Atlas of the Second World War. Great Britain: Times Books Limited, 1989. Wheal, Elizabeth-Anne. Pope, Stephen. Taylor, James. Dictionary of the Second World War. London: Grafton Books, 1989. Whitaker, Denis. Dieppe: Tragedy to Triumph. Whitby: McGraw-Hill Ryerson Limited, 1992.
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