Despite only lasting nine hours, the Dieppe raid had left 907 Canadian soldiers killed, 2460 wounded and 1946 taken prisoner. On 19, August 1942, on the northern coast of France, 6000 soldiers, 4963 being Canadian, fought at Dieppe, leaving Canada with a 67% casualty rate.
This leads us to the big and controversial question, “Were the casualties as a result of the raid of Dieppe justified with the lessons learned?” Looking back, it shows that the lessons learned were not worth the high mortality rate, due to the number of hardships it resulted to, it’s lack of planning and the fact that the lessons learned were common sense. By the end of Dieppe and after nine hours of intense battle, the raid was over, however, it had left the beaches littered with dead soldiers, weapons, shrapnel and broken down tanks. The day of the raid, a pigeon returned back to headquarters from Dieppe with a dire message that read, “very heavy casualties in men and ships. Did everything possible to get men off but in order to get any home had to come to sad decision to abandon remainder. This was a joint decision by naval and military Force Commanders. Obviously, operation completely lacked surprise.” (Gray, 2004, p. 392).
The letter was from commanders, who had witnessed the great loss at the front lines. This goes to show how horrific the scene was and the sacrifices soldiers had to make. These losses did not only affect soldiers and the military but was also heartbreaking to the families back home in Canada. Families had their sons, fathers, brothers, and husbands stripped away consequently from Dieppe. Mothers back home, hoping to see their sons again and children having to grow up without their father around, affected thousands of families. Less than half of the soldiers who were sent to Dieppe made it back to England, many of which were wounded. An article from The Globe And Mail honors the stories of Canadians with family connections to the Dieppe raid, one of the stories by Lynne Skromeda reading, My grandfather, Stephen Skromeda, fought in the Dieppe raid for the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders.
… He was killed on the shores of Dieppe and is buried in the cemetery in France.
My grandmother spent the rest of the war scanning newsreels, refusing to believe he was gone. She never remarried. My father was only 3 1/2 when he lost his father so he never really knew him.
It affected him his whole life. He died in 1995 and in 1997, while backpacking in Europe, I took some of my father’s ashes with me to the cemetery there to inter them with his dad so they could be together in death in a way they never could be in life. (The Globe and Mail 26 Mar. 2017). Stories like these go to show how the deaths of the soldiers from Dieppe affected real people who cared about them.
Hundreds and thousands of Canadian families alike had to endure this heartbreak and trauma as a result of the Battle of Dieppe.In addition, Canada went into the raid, unprepared to fight a battle like Dieppe and were destined to have failed. Due to the poor planning of the raid by military officials, the Allies faced a 67% casualty rate at Dieppe.
Whitaker, a retired brigadier general, who has experienced the training and preparation of Dieppe first hand, explained it as “the officers had no real training …
I don’t know who the hell dreamt it up, but they didn’t know anything about fight a war.” he continued, “It was terrible planning, just awful, absolutely ridiculous.” (Kelly, The National Post August 17 2012). The plan the Allies went about at Dieppe was heavily flawed.
Initially, the success of Dieppe depended on the element of surprise, but when they had lost that, the Allies had no other plan. The Allies’ plan seemed to have relied on luck for success as officials were aware that Dieppe was heavily guarded, but decided to go anyway. Aerial bombardment was called off due to civilian casualties and there was inadequate naval support. The use of tanks had also backfired, as of the 29 tanks planned to land, only 15 had made it off the beaches due to the deep waters and rocky beaches of Dieppe. It was unwise for the planners not to have realized that the Germans would be attacking from the cliffs, as well as the inaccuracy of estimating the German strength. The Germans seemed prepared, and some believe that they have known about the attack as the BBC had been broadcasting warnings to civilians in the area to leave due to the high probability of action.
If the Allies were better prepared, they could’ve avoided the thousands of casualties that were a result of the Dieppe raid. Many are told to believe that Dieppe is justified by the lessons learned during the raid and was crucial for the success at Normandy, although the lessons seem to have been common sense and did not need to risk thousands of lives in order to have had known. Lessons include to not assault on heavily defended ports, communication on the battlefield needed to be improved, heavy firepower from air and sea was necessary, aerial bombardment before the battle to destroy enemy defenses and better tanks and technology was needed. A controversial argument while discussing the raid of Dieppe is whether or not the Allies should have known this beforehand. In an article written by a historian, Timothy Balzer, he has discovered that “the Canadian and British records revealed that Combined Operation Headquarters (COHQ) and other allied authorities planned in advance to portray any failure as success and to manipulate the press to further this claim”(Balzer, 2004 p.
411). Much like WWI, propaganda and censorship were present during WWII, especially after Dieppe, to skew the truth and to keep Canadian’s morale alive. Only a month later, when the complete list of casualties was published, that the brutality of the raid sank in. 134 pages of names were released, however, Canadians continued to believe the “lessons learned” were able to justify these great losses.
To this day, the defeat at Dieppe is being used as propaganda for the success at Normandy. Although the outcome of the raid of Dieppe cannot be changed, the disastrous repercussions should be acknowledged, rather than being refuted.The extremely high mortality rate in such a short period of time cannot be justified by the lack of training or by the lessons learned.