As dawn was breaking on the morning of 19 August 1942, Allied troops leapt ashore to the east and west of the French port of Dieppe. These were British commandoes accompanied by U.S. Rangers, tasked to silence the German gun batteries that flanked Dieppe. Other troops – the men of the 2nd Canadian Division – landed closer to Dieppe to capture the German positions that overlooked the port while, minutes later, the main body of the predominantly Canadian assaulting force began clambering from landing craft that had run onto the beach along Dieppe’s seafront. This was the start of Operation Jubilee, the Allies’ most ambitious assault upon Hitler’s so-called Fortress Europe – it quickly became a bloodbath.
The early months of 1942 had been difficult ones for Prime Minister Churchill. Stalin was demanding action in Western Europe to lessen the pressure of the 280 German divisions that were bearing down upon Stalingrad. Roosevelt was insisting that U.S. soldiers must start fighting the Germans in Europe, and Mackenzie King, the Canadian Prime Minister, desperately needed Canadian troops to become involved in the war to keep his politically divided nation together. Churchill’s response to these measures was to authorize a ‘super-raid’ upon German-held territory, and the target selected by the planners was Dieppe.
Apart from the notable success of No.4 Commando, the raid was a disaster with more than 50 per cent of the 6,086 men who landed being killed, wounded, or taken prisoner, plus all the Churchill tanks landed in support of the infantry suffered mechanical failure or were shelled into smoking wrecks. Yet amid the scenes slaughter, of confusion, and communication breakdown, were acts of almost unimaginable heroism, ingenuity, determination, and self-sacrifice to which the awarding of two Victoria Crosses paid a worthy tribute. There were also special missions associated with the raid, the details of which remained a closely guarded secret until long after the war.
This book opens a window on Operation Jubilee, allowing the reader a rare insight into the death and destruction inflicted upon the Allied force during just a few hours, and of the damage done to Dieppe itself, with many of the photographs being taken by the victorious German defenders. The raid saw the heaviest casualty figures experienced by Canadians in the Second World War, and the photographs in this book are a stark reminder of that fateful day in late summer of 1942.