On August 19th 1942 a 9 hour raid against the Germans was poorly preformed on the Beaches of Dieppe. Many Mistakes were made by the allies but with that came the knowledge of what not to do in the next raid. The allies learned to plan better, size-up the enemy, and realise what battle techniques and weapons should stay and which should go.
The allies didn’t plan the raid very well. Operation Jubilee, the raid, was supposed to take place 2 months earlier but was canceled due to unwanted weather conditions with that the soldiers were aloud to return to their barracks. Even though the name of the operation changed from Rutter it is still very possible that a German soldier or spy could have learned about this potential raid and that would take away the element of surprise, a key point in this plan. Another poorly planned event was the main landing at Dieppe; there was only 11 miles for 182 vessels and the closer together they were the easier it was for the Germans to shoot and capture them. The timing was delayed from an unsuspecting German Convoy, although this was an accident and could not have been prevented the allies should not have continued with the raid after this encounter. Not only was timing crucial to the overall plan but with the ear aching noise produced by the combat between boats Germans above the bluffs could easily hear it and that took away any chance of having a surprise attack. Reflecting on what they did wrong the allies learned to plan better in raids such as the successful D-Day, Sledgehammer, and Roundup.
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A very important lesson learned was to not underestimate the enemy. The Germans did very well in protecting themselves: they put complicated barb-wire along the beach which ended up being more than a struggle for the allies to conquer. They also had dug deep dips at all the entrances to Dieppe so that it would be virtually impossible for a tank to enter the city. As good as they were protecting themselves they were better at assaulting the allies. Their Mortar shells were beyond powerful and their “Focke-Wulfs” were able to fly overhead constantly. Something intelligent the Germans were able to accomplish was devise a radio system where the range could be exceeding distances. Off of this expert technology it is probable that they were able to pick up on Canadian headsets and anticipate their next move. The allies did make sure that on the upcoming raids they made sure to anticipate possible German defences and prepare for them.
Thirdly, it is very important to take into account what the allies learned about their own battle techniques and weapons. They discovered that their battle drills were quite applicable when raiding the actual houses. It is said that they were in and out so fast it might appear that they had been raiding houses since the day they joined the army. Since this was one of the only good things to come out of this raid the allies kept it fresh in their mind to keep these drills for other raids. The weapons that were used were not very good. The tanks were not designed to travel over the rocky beach and resisted to movement in a mere matter of minutes since departing the boats. The artillery used, Bren guns and Tommy guns, was mediocre and in some instances their trajectory was too low so that their missiles failed to reach the appropriate destination. Although that was an unwanted nuisance it was not the main issue, the real problem was the lack of weapons. Since this was supposed to be a surprise attack the allies wished to be light in order to move quickly among the sea. This would include not bringing very important bombs and mortar shells and heavier guns, these weapons were close to or equivalent to the German artillery. After this event the allies made sure to correct their tanks and ended up inventing the “Crocodile” and the “ Duplex-Drive” which were a big success for many raids.
Although the raid on Dieppe seemed like a big failure, it actually set an example of what not to do, and taught many people valuable lessons. It is well argued that without these mistakes future raids would have been an ultimate failure. this is also recongised in the words of Mountbatten: ‘that for every live lost at Dieppe, ten were save at D-Day'.
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In August 1942, Winston Churchill, Great Britain’s wartime prime minister, flew to Moscow and there met for the first time the Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin. Fourteen months before, on 22 June 1941, Hitler had launched Operation Barbarossa, Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union, the largest military invasion ever conducted. Almost immediately, Stalin was urging Churchill to open a second front by attacking Nazi-occupied Europe from the West, thereby forcing Hitler to divert troops to the west and alleviating in part the enormous pressure the Soviet Union found itself under. Now, as Churchill prepared to meet Stalin, German forces were bearing down on the strategically and symbolically important Russian city of Stalingrad.
Churchill knew that if Germany were to defeat the Soviet Union then Hitler would be able to concentrate his whole military strength on the west. But although tentative plans for a large-scale invasion were afoot, to act too quickly, too hastily, would be foolhardy. Churchill withstood Stalin’s pressure. There would be no second front for at least another year. But, in the meanwhile, Churchill was able to offer a ‘reconnaissance in force’ on the French port of Dieppe, with the objective of drawing away German troops from the Eastern Front. Whether Stalin was at all appeased by this morsel of compensation, Churchill does not say.
Thus, in the early hours of 19 August 1942, the Allies launched Operation Jubilee – the raid on Dieppe, 65 miles across from England. 252 ships crossed the Channel in a five-pronged attack carrying tanks together with 5,000 Canadians and 1,000 British and American troops plus a handful of fighters from the French resistance. Nearing their destination, one prong ran into a German merchant convoy. A skirmish ensued. More fatally, it meant that the element of surprise had been lost – aware of what was taking place, the Germans at Dieppe were now waiting in great numbers.
Pictured: German soldiers defending the French port of Dieppe against the Anglo-Canadian raid, 19 August 1942.
What followed was a disaster as the Germans unleashed a withering fire from cliff tops and port-side hotels. A Canadian war correspondent described the scene as men tried to disembark from their landing craft: the soldiers ‘plunged into about two feet of water and machine-gun bullets laced into them. Bodies piled up on the ramp.’ Neutralised by German fighters, support overhead from squadrons of RAF planes proved ineffectual. Only 29 tanks managed to make it ashore where they struggled on the shingle beach, and of those only 15 were able to advance as far as the sea wall only to be prevented from encroaching into the town by concrete barriers.
The Dieppe Raid, which had lasted just six hours, was a costly affair – 60 per cent of ground troops were killed, wounded or taken prisoner. The operation left 1,027 dead, of whom 907 were Canadian. A further 2,340 troops were captured, and 106 aircraft shot down. An American, Lieutenant Edward V Loustalot, earned the unenviable distinction of becoming the first US soldier killed in wartime Europe.
Despite the failure of Dieppe and the high rate of losses, important lessons were learned – that a direct assault on a well-defended harbour was not an option for any future attack; and that superiority of the air was a prerequisite. Churchill concluded that the raid had provided a ‘mine of experience’. In charge of the operation, Vice Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten, cousin to King George VI, would later say, ‘If I had the same decision to make again, I would do as I did before … For every soldier who died at Dieppe, ten were saved on D-Day.’ Hitler too felt as if a lesson had been learned. Knowing that at some point the Allies would try again, he said, ‘We must reckon with a totally different mode of attack and in quite a different place’.
Pictured: Canadian prisoners of war being lead through Dieppe by German soldiers.
The attack would come almost two years later – 6 June 1944.
D-Day: History In An Hour, published by William Collins, part of HarperCollins, is available in various digital formats, only 99p / $1.99, and audio.
See also article on the Raid on Saint Nazaire.