Dieppe Raid, 19th August, 1942

Discussion in 'NW Europe' started by 17thDYRCH, Aug 16, 2010.

  1. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Tab -
    So you would agree that it was sheer ignorance probably coupled by a touch of cowardice that the DD Tanks were launched too early which caused a great deal of the problems on Omaha and not a lot to blame Dieppe for....
  2. canuck

    canuck Closed Account

    So much was learnt from this raid that made the Normandy Invasion a success.

    The inference from that often accepted statement is that Normandy was built solely upon the tragic lessons of Dieppe. Missing from the discussion are the many amphibious landings which occurred in the interim (Torch, Sicily, Salerno, Anzio and U.S. Pacific operations). Certainly those much larger scale landings provided a more suitable testing ground and validation of new methods than the limited operation at Dieppe.

    It would be interesting to see a detailed examination of the progression in amphibious landing technologies and principles over the almost 3 years between Dieppe and Normandy. That would likely shed some light on precisely what lessons were drawn from each subsequent operation.
  3. wtid45

    wtid45 Very Senior Member

    I have followed this thread with intrest and while I confess to knowing very little of the events of Dieppe, I do know what a disaster it was and a ill concieved plan to say the least........ I can more than understand the feelings of our Canadian members, and having said that I would be intrested in thier opinions and others on this article.......... is it true Churchill never knew the raid was going ahead:huh:.
    Dieppe, 1942: The Experiment That Never Was

    Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.
    (It is sweet and fitting to die for one's country). -Horace

    There is something more mysteriously attractive than beauty: it is corruption.
    --Octave Mirbeau
    The French port of Dieppe (dee-EPP) lies on the English Channel, about 75 miles across the water from Newhaven, England. During peacetime, the ferry between these two has traditionally been the most convenient passage between the two countries. In the summer of 1942, the German army had been occupying Dieppe already for almost two years, and they had placed a sizable unit of soldiers and ordinance there to defend it against attack. This was not a major investment on their part, but merely a garden-variety defensive installation in one of the mid-sized ports along that coastline. They had not yet fortified all of the beaches in between the towns with larger and more complex forces , as they would later on when actually preparing for an allied invasion.
    At this point, Hitler was still winning the war. The British public was getting more and more impatient with its leadership, and clamoring for a "second front" to be launched against the Nazis in addition to the battles being waged by the Russians. The British Government was divided as to what to do next, however. Winston Churchill was the Prime Minister who wanted to take the offensive and take territories back from the Germans, and around him were all sorts of advisors both political and military. One of the ideas that had been kicked around in the war room was that of a "super raid," meaning the invasion of a port by a large force. The purpose was to divide the German resources and help the Soviets, and also bring on a massive air battle, and abandon the port again after holding it for no more than a day.
    One of these plans, called Operation Jubilee, was for raiding Dieppe. The young Louis Mountbatten, a cousin of the royal family had been placed in charge of Combined Operations, an allied planning unit. This new job was quite important, but some of the older, more experienced commanders considered him a light-weight, and they understood his position to be a public relations move on Churchill's part, rather than a sensible way to tighten the war machine. Mountbatten never received approval from the chiefs of staff for his raid on Dieppe, although he spent the rest of his life assuring the world that he had done so. Other, similar plans had been rejected by the chiefs, and he didn't want to waste an opportunity for personal glory just so that more skilled persons than he could consider whether these 7,000 men had any chance of living through the mission, much less succeeding. When Churchill learned of Jubilee's total defeat he was in Russia on a diplomatic mission. The news came to him as a shock, because he had not known that it was to be attempted. He did not say that Mountbatten had not gotten approval however, because to do so would have been to expose to the world the incompetence of his team, and this would cause major trouble even if admitted long after the war was over. The Chiefs had never given approval, and yet they didn't seem to care that all sorts of planes, ships, and loaded landing craft were being led away by Mountbatten, who did not have direct authority over that much of the military forces.
    The raiding party assaulted the beach "despite the fact that he did not have either the capital ships or the heavy bombers that alone could have counter-balanced the defenders' firepower and give the attacking force any chance at all," in the words of historian Brian Villa. Another strange question is why the party landed in daylight, and without a smoke-screen of any kind to hide the men from the cross-hairs of the German guns. Another again is why they advanced straight into a fortified harbor, rather than landing some distance down the undefended beach and coming in from the sides or from behind. It all seems like a classroom exercise on how to carry out a doomed mission, explainable only by Mountbatten's blind ambition and the absolute commitment on the part of Churchill and the royal family to protect him from paying the normal price for his reckless abuse of trust and power.
    Dieppe was not the last time Churchill's moral choices were, shall we say, strange? Before the war's end he had chosen not to relieve the famine-stricken population in Bengal and watched 3-5 million people die from starvation and disease there. More famously still, he had not instructed his bombing crews to destroy the railway lines leading into the German death camps, after the allies had achieved total command of the air space over Europe. In these two affairs, he could have prevented millions of deaths by making a few phone calls, but he just didn't. Mountbatten, in the present instance, was promoted further and became the supreme commander of the allied forces in Southeast Asia, eventually gaining the title "Earl of Burma" from the final victory in that region.
    At any rate, Operation Jubilee was the most costly and most embarrassing blunders of the whole war, on either side. No nation understands this better than the Canadians, since out of the 6,000 troops that assaulted the beach that day --most being from the South Saskatchewan regiment, Canadian second division --1,700 were killed or wounded and another 1,900 were captured and spent the rest of the war in internment camps. Only a handful made it into the town at all, which is no surprise because not one of the Canadians had any previous battle experience.
    Every tank that landed had to be sacrificed, mainly because their treads were not suited for the gravel at Dieppe and fell right off the tanks. Mind you, every person planning the attack can be presumed familiar with, and to have personally visited, the Normandy coast. 33 landing craft never made it past the beach. Aside from the gravel, there were anti-tank ditches and concrete barriers blocking all entrances to the town, all in plain sight.
    Down the beach a piece at a village called Puys (pwee), one of the two flanking maneuvers by a Canadian infantry battalion ran into what allied historians have termed "bad luck." The German commander had ordered a "practice alert" for his battalion, and the beach defenses fully manned. The men were met by machine-gun fire the moment they stepped from the landing craft. Hand grenades rained down on from the cliffs upon those who lasted more than a few seconds. If Allied Intelligence had been involved, they might have easily created a diversion or at least made sure that this German unit was elsewhere on the day of the raid. As it happened, Mountbatten's team was completely clueless.

    "There were pieces of human beings littering the beach. There were headless bodies, there were legs, there were arms. And they looked inhuman.... there were shoes lying around --with feet in them." --A Dieppe survivor Canadians are bitter about the massacre to this day, even though a good share of the blame goes to the Canadian General McNaughton, who could easily have refused to involve his troops because he was given no evidence that the War Cabinet had approved the mission. He simply took Mountbatten's word that everything was a go.
    The German casualties were about 600 men and 200 planes. Since the Allies lost only 100 planes, this attrition rate got some favorable mention. The relative advantage in the air has not been presented as a justification for the massive losses. For their part the Nazi commanders were somewhat bewildered by the ease by which they had defended the port.
    How and why did the British Government cover up the fact that one of its pet idiots, the incompetent but picturesque Louis Mountbatten, had jumped the chain of command and led thousands of soldiers --mostly from another country --into a virtual meat-grinder in order to put a few laurels on his own head? Their reasons were very clear. If they had admitted that this had happened, it would have caused a grave breach between Britain and not only Canada, but possibly all of the British Commonwealth nations. During the war such a scandal would badly undermine confidence in Britain's military leadership: a grave concern to say the least. Beyond that, the scandal could have undermined public confidence in the government itself, particularly since Mountbatten was able to pull it off because of his royal connections. The method ultimately used to cover up this atrocity was a bit more innovative: they called it an experiment.
    The disastrous Operation Jubilee was called the "rehearsal for invasion" even before the Invasion of Normandy (Operation Overlord) took place in June 1944. The two operations have been aligned into a direct relationship by command apologists incessantly for half a century, as though it had been possible to win the war only because valuable "lessons" were learned at Dieppe. On the eve of the Normandy invasion, the 3rd Canadian Division was told that "the plan, the preparations, the method and technique" of their new mission was "based on knowledge and experience bought and paid for by the 2nd Canadian division at Dieppe." Mountbatten swore by this formula for the rest of his life. "I do hope," he wrote in 1973, "the Dieppe boys will have at last understood that without their valiant efforts we could never have had Overlord."
    Diversion was one of the ways by which the aristocrat claims to have schooled the invasion forces. He called Jubilee "one of the great deception operations of the war," meaning that it misled the Germans into thinking that the invasion was to take place at a major port such as Cherbourg or Le Havre --ports capable of handling large-scale troop landings. This is not true because it would have been foolish to directly attack those ports anyway, but no one needed a suicide mission at Dieppe to learn this --it's a matter of strategic first principles.

    "An outdated or poorly conceived experiment often yields irrelevant data."
    --John Campbell Another alleged "lesson" learned at Dieppe was supposedly ways to jam or falsely trigger the defensive radar systems that the Nazis had in place along the European coastline. Historian John Campbell has very carefully examined all of the developments in radar technology during the course of the war, as well as the strategic proposals and counter-proposals for invasion that followed operation Jubilee. He discovered that there was little or no value placed on the Dieppe events regarding radar, and he points out that no new jamming devices were tried during the mission, that no German devices were captured, nor were the Germans tricked into using any devices they had not used before so as to expose a defense system the allies hadn't figured out.
    Historians have been mentioning too that while Jubilee involved a small force, a tiny clique of generals and a few miles of coastline, Overlord involved hundreds of thousands of troops, the total involvement of all the allied resources in the region, and an unbelievably complex coordination of intelligence, communications, and supply transport. To say that one determined the plan of action for the other is like saying that one can plan for surgery on a whale by dissecting a sardine. Another problem is the time lapse: the Germans had developed new radar technology and installed massive additional defense systems throughout France during the two years passing between Dieppe and D-Day.
    Also obvious is the time lapse: two years passed between the two operations. During the hiatus several large-scale amphibious landings occurred, all over Europe. Everything worthy of consideration for the Normandy invasion was tested after Dieppe. Thick encyclopedias on The Battle of Normandy exist, without making even a single mention of Dieppe. As one historian quipped, if it "was a rehearsal, ...it certainly wasn't a dress rehearsal."
    Mountbatten lived a long and luxurious life, but he was never to really forget Dieppe. A year before his death he said to a Canadian TV producer, "[I don not understand] Why they wish to go on revelling in the massacres with their martyrism. They [just] want to revel in their misery." Throughout the postwar life he said many times, "It is a curious thing, but a fact, that I have been right in everything I have done and said in my life." In 1979, while relaxing on his yacht, Louis Mountbatten was blown to pieces by a bomb planted by the Irish Republican Army.

    GUINEA PIG ZERO - Dieppe Experiment
    canuck likes this.
  4. 17thDYRCH

    17thDYRCH Senior Member Patron

    LOOie's quote through postwar life "It is a curious thing, but a fact, that I have been right in everything I have done and said in my life" says it all.
    I again refer to Don North's article posted by Jeburgh22. Operation Jubilee was a fiasco of the highest magnitude.

  5. martin14

    martin14 Senior Member

    In 1979, while relaxing on his yacht, Louis Mountbatten was blown to pieces by a bomb planted by the Irish Republican Army.

    self edited comment
  6. wtid45

    wtid45 Very Senior Member

    self edited comment
    I dont believe any member would argue the nature of Mountbatten's death at the hands of the IRA, was a cowardly murderous one........but it has nothing to do with his handling of the Dieppe debacle.
  7. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    Just to slightly dispel the theory (if there is/was one) of a lack of knowledge on Dieppe by the British Army..... The BEF had a huge presence there in 1939/40 - It was a Sub Base-Area and would have seen thousands of troops passing through there (IIRC forum member Nevil landed there in 1940) so they would have been well aware of the geography of the area in and around Dieppe. The only thing they would not have been so sure of would have been the German defences and capabilities.

    I suspect quite a few of the personalities mentioned in this thread that were with the BEF in 1940 would have been there to at some point during their brief stay in France.
  8. martin14

    martin14 Senior Member

    I dont believe any member would argue the nature of Mountbatten's death at the hands of the IRA, was a cowardly murderous one........but it has nothing to do with his handling of the Dieppe debacle.

    That wasn't what I had in mind, but bearing the fact that many on this

    ok, I'm going to really shut up now, and please let's move on.
  9. martin14

    martin14 Senior Member

    wtid, a couple of things about the article you posted...

    BBC - History - World Wars: The Dieppe Raid

    But, because no written record exists of the Chiefs of Staff approving the raid in its final form, it has sometimes been suggested that it was really Mountbatten who remounted it without authorisation. This is almost certainly nonsense. The Chiefs of Staff disliked Mountbatten, regarding him as an upstart foisted on them by Churchill, so any unauthorised action on his part would have given them the ammunition to recommend his removal. Since Mountbatten was not removed, and the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, General Sir Alan Brooke, in his frank and detailed diary, makes no mention of his having exceeded his authority, it seems unlikely that Mountbatten can be accused of mounting the raid without authority.

    I tend to agree with this, if Louie hadn't had approval, he would have been removed;
    instead he got promoted.

    The absence of prelim bombing and the Royal Navy pulling a no-show has been dealt with by other posts on this thread.
    There was a smoke screen laid.. but it was done too early, and the smoke had blown
    away exactly when it was needed.
    The lesson learned is bad timing does in fact cost lives.

    The Canadians could have refused the operation, but there was also pressure from home; we had been in Britain since 1939 and had done basically nothing since arriving.
    Canadians were eager to get into the fight, and if the Canadian leaders had refused
    Jubilee, there would have been hell to pay at home.

    'A Great Deception'
    There were plenty of other ways to deceive the Germans about where the real invasion
    was coming from; it wasn't necessary to sacrifice an entire Division to do so.
    It's just sheer idiocy, and a total lack of respect for human life.

    I would like to think Dieppe and other mistakes were part of the reason Eisenhower
    decided to stop on the Elbe at the end of the war;
    That does show some respect for the soldiers, and was the correct decision.
  10. canuck

    canuck Closed Account

  11. Wills

    Wills Very Senior Member

  12. freebird

    freebird Senior Member

    Randy -
    if anything it taught that Tanks should not be landed on pebble beaches - the whole thing had been cancelled by Monty as being unsecure- then the egotistical Mountbatten took over - and we all know the results - we then left a bunch of Churchill Tanks lying around for further study by the enemy - Monty still got the blame somehow

    Yes, it's obviously Monty's fault. (Not that bloody Monty again! :p )

    Don't forget Leigh Mallory and his obsession with bringing the Luftwaffe into battle - seems like supporting the ground troops was just considered a sideshow

    Well said Harry

    While there is no question that some important lessons were learned at Dieppe, Canadian veterans will tell you that much of the so called 'success' claimed for the raid was simply to offer some justification for the debacle. Many of those apparent lessons are so self evident that it stretches credibility to believe that the result could not have been predicted.
    Having stood on the beach at Puys it borders on being an act of insanity to have ordered that hopeless assault.

    Hard to disagree, they couldn't really admit that the "lessons" could have been learned without huge loss of life could they.

    I'll agree with that statement, the list of errors that even laymen can spot borders on the comic.. but ends in the tragic.

    Shall we consider the list of major errors ?

    1. Parachute drop, arranged then canceled.
    2. No preliminary bombardment.
    3. Straight on frontal assault, the WW1 guys would have been proud :mad:
    I guess no one thought the majority of German troops would be organized there
    4. Poor intelligence of the area.
    5. No campaign of disinformation to distract the enemy.
    6. No control of the air.
    7. Badly deployed smoke screens.
    8. Bad communications.
    9. Bad timing for arrivals, no surprise and no dark.

    I don't think I need to continue..

    And a minimal effort for close air support...
  13. freebird

    freebird Senior Member

    Hello Randy - welcome to the Forum.

    The effect of Dieppe's chert (not pebble) beach on the Churchil tanks is frequently overstated as, of the twenty-seven that made it ashore, fifteen successfully climbed onto the promenade, only four failing to do so directly due to a build up of chert. It is a matter for conjecture what may have been the outcome had the road blocks at the town entrances been destroyed as planned.

    You asked "Did Operation Jubilee contribute in any way to the success of Operation Overlord?" Thankfully Winston Churchill realised that it did.
    Dwelling on the lessons to be learned he wrote: ‘It was a costly but not unfruitful reconnaissance in force. Tactically it was a mine of experience. It taught us to build in good time various new types of craft and appliances for later use. Team work was the secret for success. This could only be provided by trained and organized amphibious fomations. All thes lessons were taken to heart.."

    Yet shouldn't this have been properly practiced on UK beaches first?
  14. Wills

    Wills Very Senior Member

    Most if not tall of the questions put here are answered in the Canadian reports above 131#. One sided? Maybe, truthful? Probably, these reports were published with a view to learning from mistakes. Over the years like much in history becomes a mix of truth, myth and wishful thinking. If the reports and contemporary anecdotes are not truthful, where do the authors get the information for books from?
  15. 17thDYRCH

    17thDYRCH Senior Member Patron


    Reading Capt. Browne's account of the Dieppe raid only reconfirms that the operation was doomed from the very start.
    Thanks for the links.
  16. Wills

    Wills Very Senior Member

    Yes, I made no comment myself on the operation -the documents do that! The basic principle of ratios - attacker to defender would sound alarm bells.

  17. freebird

    freebird Senior Member

    With out this raid on Dieppe then Normandy could have been a blood bath for the Allies. So much was learnt from this raid that made the Normandy Invasion a success.

    The need for specialised tanks was dealt with with a wide range of Hobart funnies and the Americans refused these...

    Mulberry harbour was thought up and built so that they would have there own port from the off, right down to a pipeline to bring fuel to France from England by a pipeline.

    Now Dieppe may have been an expensive lesson but it paved the way for victory from what they learnt from it.

    Tab, what lessons were learned at Dieppe that could not have been deduced from proper planning, trials & exercises?

    Had they tried multiple landings in various weather conditions on similar British beachs they would have found the problems landing the tanks.

    The development of specialized tanks was not the result of the Dieppe raid, as they were already in development for the Desert campaign in '41-'42 (Matilda Scorpion etc) and the need for certain specialized vehicles could have been done without actually landing in France.

    A landing exercise against a beach with obstacles would have shown the problem of

    There were already plans in place (& used) for demolition of port and airfield facilities to deny their use to the Axis, so somone in the logisitics branch obviously figured that a far larger volume of supplies was needed than could be brought through minor ports such as Dieppe, Cherbourg etc - and an alternative (Mulberries) was needed.

    Well it is nice to know that the raid was a disaster and we learnt nothing from it and went ahead making the same old mistakes. I wonder why we succeeded at Normandy, I know it was because the Americans did all the planning and we had no input at all.

    Were their lessons learned from the loss of the HMS Glorious?
    Certainly, on a clear day, with Axis battlecruisers about, it is important to keep a lookout and have aircraft patrolling.

    However the fact should have been obvious beforehand, and the truth of the matter is that the loss was due to bungled planning and incompetence.

    The same goes for the Dieppe landing, it was excused that "lessons were learned" rather than admit that it was just a badly botched operation probably that shouldn't have gone forward.

    I tend to agree with this, if Louie hadn't had approval, he would have been removed;
    instead he got promoted.

    Mountbatten had approval for a raid, but it seeems that the chiefs didn't expect that he would try to land the bulk of a division, with massive casualties.
    I'd have to look, but I seem to remember that Churchill & the C.I.G.S. were away in the MidEast at the time, and not aware of the full extent of the plans.

    As for Mountbatten's promotion, he couldn't be sacked as he was in-laws with the king, so was shielded from much criticism.
  18. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

  19. JackGe

    JackGe Junior Member

    Interesting that five pages into this thread and still no mention of David O’Keefe's research into the covert mission centered on the enigma machine and codebooks that were supposedly located at Dieppe. When he confronted British Naval authorities with his evidence, they acknowledged that he had discovered the truth. The only thing he hasn't found proof of (or admission), is the raid was centered around this 'spy mission'.

  20. idler

    idler GeneralList

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