2017 marks the 75th Anniversary of the Dieppe Raid, also known as Operation JUBILEE.
The battle is of particular importance to the King’s Own Calgary Regiment because it was the first engagement for Canadian tanks in battle and it was the first Canadian amphibious operation to deploy tanks.
The Dieppe Raid was not a success; however, historians credit the lessons learned during this difficult battle for the success of the Normandy invasion two years later.
The tanks were adapted for amphibious operations up to a depth of six feet with an experimental procedure that had never been tested under battle conditions. Using rubber balloon fabric, tall, box-shaped ducts (known as louvre extensions) were fitted to the air intake vents and the exhaust pipes were extended above the water line. Upon successful landing on land, the waterproofing could be blown off by electrically-triggered cordite charges. Of 29 tanks launched at the Dieppe Raid, only 2 drowned.
The next obstacles for the tanks was the chert beach, which had not been tried during training. To prevent the tanks from becoming bellied down, they laid chespaling tracks, which were flexible rolls of chestnut fencing, “similar to wood-slat snow fencing but made with tough split-slats.” The track bundles weighed about 250 pounds, were approximately 25 feet long and could be wired together to form a continuous track. The tanks did not become bogged down unless they swerved off the tracks. Under heavy fires, two-thirds of the tanks successfully crossed the beach and the sea wall to patrol the promenade.
The tanks roamed the promenade during the morning and engaged German positions but couldn’t penetrate the many concrete barriers blocking entry into the town. The combat engineers were pinned down under heavy fire on the beach, unable to destroy the barriers hindering the tanks. The defensive forces were highly underestimated in the planning. The tanks later withdrew onto the beach to form a ring of steel to help protect their fellow Canadians as they were evacuated. Many of the tank crews fired all of their ammunition before the order to surrender was passed, and they were captured by the Germans.
The Calgary Tanks suffered heavy casualties during the raid; only two members of the on shore tank crews managed to get away and the remainder were either killed or taken prisoner. 13 killed in action, four wounded, and 157 taken prisoner following the surrender. The Commanding Officer Lieutenant-Colonel J.G. Andrews was killed in action when his tank attempted to go ashore to reinforce the landing. For those taken prisoner, they spent the remainder of the war in prisoner of war camps under harsh conditions. The Regiment lost most of B Squadron, elements of C Squadron, and Regimental Headquarters during the Raid. The Regiment had to be reconstituted before it saw action again in Sicily, Italy the following year.
The King’s Own Calgary Regimental Association, accompanied by many serving members of the Regiment, will travel to France this August to honour the valiant Canadians who tried to achieve the impossible: who died, were wounded, or captured during the battle on 19 August 1942.
The 11 day tour will include visits to memorials, monuments, and cemeteries around Northern France.
The Regimental Association will unveil a monument to commemorate the sacrifice in the presence of those who fought and survived that horrible day. The unveiling of the monument, created by Cranbrook, B.C., artist Richard Hessler, will be a lifelong memory for all involved, whether present or not.
Read more about Richard and the monument here.
Doc Alexander’s Blog – Doc Alexander was the medical doctor with the Calgary Tanks.
Events in Canada and France