Tomorrow marks the 75th anniversary of the Dieppe Raid (or Operation Jubilee) on 19 August 1942 and as a tribute, I would like to share some of my photos taken in 2008.
When I first visited Dieppe in June 2008 with my spring semester classmates from the BISC, I knew very little about the significance of Dieppe or Canada’s role in the port town. The year we visited marked the 66th anniversary of the Dieppe Raid.
All around the town there were many plaques and memorials to the fallen Canadian soldiers, as well as the soldiers (from the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division) who liberated Dieppe on 1 September 1944. And if that wasn’t a reminder to the young Canadian visitors wandering around town, the Dieppe inhabitants (mainly middle-aged and elderly) were delighted to greet us (whatever our ethnicity) and thank us for what our predecessors (I have no idea if any of my classmates’ grandfathers had been in Dieppe during WWII) had done for them.
Of the 6,100 Allied troops sent to Dieppe, 4,963 were Canadians, around 1,000 were British, and around 50 were American. And of the nearly 5,000 Canadian troops, 907-916 died, 1,946 became prisoners of war, and 2,460 were wounded.
“The enemy, almost entirely Canadian soldiers, fought — so far as he was able to fight at all — well and bravely.” – Headquarters of German 15th Army, 1942
The Shingle Beach of Dieppe
The casualties suffered by allied forces did not truly sink in until I stepped on the rocky (or shingle) beach. I imagined the bullets showering the beach from the cliffs and ricocheting off the sharp rocks (aka chert) that would also pelt the soldiers arriving on the beach in the early hours (4/5am) of 19 August 1942. Even on a fine day in Dieppe, I found myself struggling to maintain my balance as I walked on the uneven surface.
What a disaster…
The museum is housed inside the former Municipal Theatre (built in 1826 and remodelled) on Place Camille St Saens. It was opened to the public in June 2002 on the 60th anniversary of the Dieppe Raid.
The Dieppe Canadian War Cemetery in the town of St Aubin sur Scie was first created by the Germans in 1942 for the mostly Canadian and British soldiers who died during the Dieppe Raid in 1942. The double row of tombstones stand back to back, which is common in German cemeteries. As the Allies didn’t want to disturb those buried, the layout remained. The DCWC was designed by Philip Hepworth in 1949 and is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Of the 948 Allied members buried in the DCWC (who died between 1939-45), 707 are Canadians. There are 187 unidentified members.
Most of us were 19 when we visited Dieppe, the same age as the majority of Canadian soldiers who lost their lives on the rocky beaches of Dieppe. We are now 9 years older but the young men who died on 19 August 1942 shall always be 19. May they rest in peace.