Thursday, January 12, 2017

Commandos: RCN Beach Commando "W"

Little Known Canadian Units - Royal Canadian Naval Beach Commando "W"

By E.G. Finley (Lieut., Royal Canadian Navy),
and Ed Storey (Sgt., Canadian Military Engineers) 

W Commando - Royal Canadian Navy Beach Commandos

Photo Caption - Lt. Donald Sutherland W-1 Beach Master, and others from the unit. Photo courtesy of Bill Newell, veteran of W Commando who adds " Lt. Sutherland at the left end, Lt. Eric Findlay on the extreme right, and myself partly behind John Fox in the center of the front row." Photo as found at Commando Veterans Assoc.

An informative, eight-page article can be found at a Canadian Military History website about the Canadian commando, a unit that was formed later in the war to take on many important responsibilities and activities related to landing crafts and amphibious landings. These activities were linked to the Combined Operation organization plans for D-Day Normandy and beyond.

In the article we read about the origins of the beach Commando:

In September (1943), as a direct result of the Allied leaders deliberations at the August 10-18 Quadrant Conference in Quebec City, the Canadian War Cabinet Committee authorized, among several major naval commitments; the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) to form a Beach Commando and a Beach Signal Section, with training in Britain to be completed by the spring of 1944.

The article informs the reader about how men were organized and then trained in Scotland:

By early December 1943, most of the required Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve (RCNVR) personnel had received their appointments and arrived in Ardentinny, Scotland, to undergo the basic beach commando training in HMS "Armadillo."

The article features several of the 100s of photographs by Lieut. Gilbert A. Milne and Lieut. "Bus" Arless, Canadian naval photographers, and we learn the new recruits turned much of their emergy towards such activities as: 

assault courses, route marches, over-night bivouacs, beach drills, cliff climbing and unarmed combat lessons. During this intensive training, being soaking wet and cold seemed to be everyone's perpetual state.... 

The full article with excellent accompanying photographs can be seen at the following link: Little Known Canadian Units - Royal Canadian Naval Beach Commando "W"


A Group of RCN Commandos.

Photo Caption: A couple more pictures of members of W Commando, Royal Canadian Navy Beach Commandos, sent in by Bill Newell who adds "The photos of our unit taken at HMS Vectis, on the Isle of Wight, just prior to D-Day". Photo as found at Forum for Commando Veterans Assoc.

Please link to Commandos: Origin and Purpose of Canadian Beach Commandos

Unattributed Photos GH

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Commandos: Origin and Purpose of Canadian Beach Commandos

Royal Canadian Navy Beach Commando “W”

Researched and Written by: Ed Storey, CD
Edited by: Hugh Spence

Commando training: Survival - Old-School style​
Photo credit - Black Belt Forums

Many Canadians in Combined Operations who initially trained on landing crafts in early 1942 (and then participated in the raid at Dieppe, and the invasions of North Africa, Sicily and Italy), came back to Canada in December, 1943. It is then, in Halifax, they met some Canadian commandos for the first time.

In my father's memoirs I read:

It would be fitting here to say, to wherever camp or ship we went - and we were at many - we were called ‘new entries.’ Even after two years overseas, when we arrived back at Halifax and fell in, the first words we heard were “for the benefit of you new entries.” How humiliating can they get? Then you got the rules.

We met a lot of sailors, who were shortly to go through what we went through already, and they called themselves commandos. They sure were in for a rude awakening. We were never called commandos, only combined operations ratings, and we were the first from Canada to go overseas.

My father and his mates, early entries into Combined Operations, would have had some experience working with commandos during training exercises in 1942 and 1943 but may not have heard much about the origins and progress of Canadian Beach Commandos. 

The following article, published by The Friends of the Canadian War Museum, explains the development and duties of Royal Canadian Navy Beach Commando “W”. It begins:

As a result of heavy casualties sustained by Royal Navy Beach Parties during the 1942 Dieppe raid (Operation Jubilee), Britain set up a specialist training centre for future Beach Parties at the Royal Navy Combined Operations base in northwest Scotland, HMS Armadillo. 

The site was located at Ardentinny (west of Glasgow). It was suggested by Admiral Mountbatten, Chief of Combined Ops, the units be called “Beach Commandos”. 

The article continues:

The principal tasks of the Beach Commandos involved disembarking troops and vehicles from assault and follow-up landing craft, organizing and supervising suitable beach areas, and loading serviceable returning vessels with wounded and/or prisoners. 

As well, during withdrawals the Beach Commandos organized the loading of landing craft.

Plans for Operation NEPTUNE (the amphibious invasion, June 6, 1994) stated that Beach Commando units (85 members) and Royal Navy Beach Signals personnel (30 members) "would join with a 443-man Army Beach Company to form a Beach Group."

Please link to the full article: Royal Canadian Navy Beach Commando “W”

Please link to Books: Royal Canadian Navy Beach Commando W

Unattributed Photos GH

Monday, January 9, 2017

Books: Royal Canadian Navy Beach Commando W

Royal Canadian Beach Commando W, Parts 1 and 2

By Eric Gault Finley

Illustration of Able Seaman Armand Therien designed and created by
D. O'Malley and J. Duprau. Computer screen image. 

This book is very rare and important for those gathering information about Canadians who trained and served as Beach commandos during WW2.  It was originally written by Eric Finley in 1944, and was (much later, but it's never too late) digitally reproduced by Richard Laughton in 2009.

It can be purchased at market value, e.g., at AbeBooks (printed on demand), or downloaded at no charge (e.g., as a PDF file or in other formats, with restrictions) from the following site:

RCN Beach Commando W: Part 1 & Part 2

I say 'rare' because I have read only one other memoir of a Canadian Beach Commando. His name is Peter Alfred Neuman, and the memoir was given me freely by his son Michael. I present it here to you as well.

Please link to Memoirs re Combined Ops, "Peter Neuman - Boy Soldier"

I say 'important' because the book, offered as a whole file or in two parts (Pt. 1 is about the unit's establishment, training and operations, and Pt. 2 shares stories by the commandos themselves) provides extensive facts, details and photographs seldom compiled in one place.

Canadian Navy commandos training at Scottish assault course in 1944.
Photo Credit - Gilbert Milne, R.C.N. Photographer

Online, the book is introduced in the following manner:

One of the many lessons learned from the Dieppe Raid was the need for highly trained personnel to supervise beach areas during and after an assault. This was assigned to the Beach Commandos and principally entailed disembarking troops and vehicles from assault and follow-up landing craft, organizing and supervising suitable "beach" areas, and loading serviceable vessels either with wounded and/or prisoners.

I encourage readers to visit the informative site - RCN Beach Commando W: Part 1 & Part 2

For other books listed on this site:

Please link to Books: Combined Operations, 1940 - 1942

Unattributed Photos GH

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Article: Canadian War Correspondents on the Move

Remember Their Names

 Photo - The Montreal Star (microfiche at University of Western Ontario, London)

The photograph above appeared in The Montreal Star on Monday, July 5, 1943, just a few days before Operation HUSKY commenced, i.e., the Allied invasion of Sicily. It depicts Canadian war correspondents living out-of-doors, perhaps as they accompany Canadian troops during manoeuvres or prepare to find an assigned troop ship, very likely in or near Algiers, North Africa.

The caption above the photo ('Sampler: No Savoy Suites Available Now!') is interesting, in my opinion, because many of the Canadians in Combined Operations - who participated gallantly in the task of transporting troops and all material of war ashore on landing craft during the upcoming invasion - lived in caves near Avola for 3 - 4 weeks and called their accommodation 'The Savoy'.

A caption accompanying the above photo in the Star reads as follows:

London's Savoy is headquarters for the foreign press corps in the United Kingdom. But for Canadian reporters assigned to accompany invasion forces, days of hotel service may be just about over. Digging into his kit for a toothbrush - or a morning seltzer - in the centre of the picture is Sholto Watt, The Star's war correspondent, during extensive manoeuvres with Gen. McNaughton's men. At left, in stocking hat, is Ross Munro. Still abed, right foreground, is a sleepy fourth-estater identified as Francis H. Fisher, formerly of Montreal, now head of British United Press in Britain. Seated, right rear, are Fred Griffin, Toronto Star; Capt. Kim Beattie, and Bill Stewart, of the Canadian Press.

For those who are attempting to locate more information about Canadians in Combined Ops or other details about the role of Canadians during WW2, I would recommend they remember the names of the Canadian war correspondents and try to locate their news releases. Many newspapers of the era are still available today, often as microfiche, and can be found in libraries, archives, universities, etc.

(Editor: For example, the above photo was found in microfiche copies of The Star in my home city, London, Ontario. I became interested in that newspaper after reading, in a Canadian veteran's memoirs, that someone from The Montreal Star accompanied him on a landing craft from Sicily to Italy in 1943).

The following story, which features the names of many correspondents linked to Canadian WW2 stories, appeared in The Toronto Globe and Mail on July 15, 1943:

Photo is of a PDF file displayed on a computer screen. GH

The articles states:

Algiers, July 14 (CP). - Seventeen war correspondents accredited to the Canadian forces are reporting the invasion of Sicily for the Canadian people. Four of them accompanied the original assault force. The rest came to North Africa with reinforcements which arrived just as the invasion started.

The four at the front are Ross Munro of the Canadian Press, Peter Stursberg of the CBC, Bill Wilson of the British United Press, and Lionel Shapiro of the Montreal Gazette. Shapiro was chosen by lot from among Canadian independent war correspondents in Britain.

Of the 13 other correspondents, one is accredited to Allied headquarters, five are accredited to air force headquarters and seven others are awaiting their chance to move up toward the front. All but two are from Canada. Bill Stewart of Riviere-du-Loup, Que., is at Allied headquarters for the Canadian Press.

Others on the Scene

Accredited to air force headquarters are Andrew Cowan of the CBC, formerly of Calgary; Bob Vermillion, recently attached to the B.U.P. by the United Press of America; Ralph Allen of the Toronto Globe and Mail; J.A.M. Cook of Sifton newspapers, and Louis V. Hunter, Canadian Press.

Maurice Desjardins of Montreal, fourth Canadian Press man in the area, covers French-language newspapers on events of special interest to them.

The other Canadian war correspondents on the scene are Jim Chambers, recently attached to the B.U.P. of Canada by B.U.P. of Britain; Sholto Watt, Montreal Star; Fred Griffin, Toronto Star; Major Bert Wemp, Toronto Telegram; Dick Sanburn, Southam newspapers, and Wallace Reyburn, Montreal Standard.

Technicians Assist.

The CBC has two technicians assisting Cowan - Alex McDonald of Kingston, Ont., and Paul Johnston of Edmonton.

A number of Canadian Army public relations officers now are in the Mediterranean theatre to assist the war correspondents in their work. Lt.-Col. C.S. Wallace of Toronto is in charge of all arrangements at this end. Major Royd Beamish, formerly of the Globe and Mail, commands No. 1 Canadian Public Relations Detachment. 

Please link to Article: News Clips Linked to the 'Dieppe Report'.

Unaccredited Photos GH

Friday, January 6, 2017

Article: News Clips Linked to the 'Dieppe Report'.

Many Officers Reported Missing at Dieppe Are Alive.

25-year old clipping from The Hamilton Spectator, Sept. 18, 1942 issue.

War stories undoubtedly appeared on a regular basis in The Hamilton Spectator, and all other Canadian newspapers, from 1914 - 1918. Such was the case as well 25 years later, during World War II. Three recent entries on this website shared the official report related to the Dieppe Raid that appeared on Sept. 18 and 19, 1942 in The Spectator and Toronto Globe and Mail respectively. (Link to the report appears at page bottom).

Along with the official statement there also appeared related pieces of news, e.g., some about men who had been involved in the Dieppe operation. Several of those clippings appear below:

From The Hamilton Spectator, 1942

The newspaper reports the following concerning the Essex Scottish leader:

Windsor, Ont., Sept. 18. - (CP) - Lieut.-Col. F.K. Jasperson, of Windsor, officer commanding the Essex Scottish Regiment at Dieppe, previously reported missing, believed killed, is alive and a prisoner of war in Germany, relatives said today following word received from the International Red Cross.

Twelve Windsor officers of the regiment previously reported missing now are believed prisoners of war, word received by relatives from the International Red Cross said. Others were: Capt. W.L. McGregor, Lieut. A.D. Mothersill, Lieut. P.D. Ambery, Lieut. Jack Prince, Capt. Bryan S. Wilson, Lieut. J.M. Brick, Lieut. W.H. Scott, Major J.M. Green, Major E.H. Williams, Major Edward Henry and Capt. R. Turnbull.

Five More Safe

Calgary, Sept. 18 - (CP) - Five officers of the Calgary Tank Regiment, reported missing after Canadian forces led an attack on Dieppe last month, are prisoners of war in Germany, their relatives in Calgary were informed by cable last night. They are: Major Charles H. Page, Capt. George Valentine, Capt. Allan H. Turney, Lieut. T.L. Taylor and Capt. C.R. Eldred.

The cables were all similar, stating the information that the men were prisoners had been received through the International Red Cross society. They said further information would follow later.

Three Torontonians

Toronto, Sept. 18 - (CP) - Three Toronto officers of the Royal Regiment of Canada, previously reported missing, or missing believed killed at Dieppe, were reported last night prisoners of war in Germany.

Major Brian McCool, reported missing, believed killed, was officially said by the International Red Cross a prisoner of war.

Lieut. John Graham Housser is also said in the hands of the Germans. He was reported missing.

Lieut. John Darsavel is a prisoner of war, after being reported missing in the Dieppe action.

From The Hamilton Spectator, 1942

The Spectator recorded the following:

Ottawa, Sept. 18. -(CP)- The defence department to-day singled out in its 5,000 word statement statement on Dieppe the bravery of two Canadian soldiers - Lieut.Col. C.C.I. Merritt, officer commanding the South Saskatchewan Regiment, and Lance-Sgt. G.E. Hickson, of the Seventh Field Company, Royal Canadian Engineers.

Colonel Merritt, a Vancouver man whose wife is listed by the army as living at Belleville, Ont., is missing. Sergeant Hickson got back to England safely.

"Where all were brave, it is difficult and perhaps invidious to quote individual cases of gallantry," said the department, "but two such instances are mentioned here merely as examples of the manner in which Canadian officers and men maintained the traditions of the Canadian army and the honour of their country."

Shows Way to Men

When Colonel Merritt's battalion was held up by fire at a bridge on which many men had fallen, he walked back and forth across the structure, waving his helmet and calling, "See, there is no danger here." Then he led his men across and cleared enemy positions on the other side.

He led detachments against strong road blocks, personally disposing of a sniper and led parties against machine-gun posts. When last seen he was gathering weapons and organizing a defensive position to cover the withdrawal of the last parties of his unit.

On Demolition Job

Sergeant Hickson was assigned to a demolition task in the town and, unable to go to it directly, attached himself to an infantry platoon. When the platoon's officer and senior non-commissioned officer were put out of action, he took command and led them to the casino, which he entered by blasting a hole through a wall.

With another charge he blew in the steel door of a concrete gun emplacement inside the casino and killed the gun crew. He destroyed a six-inch naval gun and two machine-guns, then reorganized the rest of the platoon and led them against heavy opposition into the town. He was one of the last men evacuated from the beach.

Photo Caption: Dead Canadians still litter the beach in this photograph, looking across Red Beach to the harbour entrance. In the foreground, a largely-undamaged Landing Craft Assault; behind it a burning Landing Craft Tank. Photo Credit - ECP Armees, as found in Dieppe, Dieppe by B. Greenhous

From The (Toronto) Globe and Mail, 1942

The Globe and Mail reports the following:

Belleville, Sept. 18 (CP). Lieutenant-Colonel Cecil C.I. Merritt, singled out by Defence Minister Ralston for his exploits in the Battle of Dieppe*, is a great grandson of Sir Charles Tupper, one of the fathers of Confederation. Previously reported missing, it was only today his wife was informed that he is now a prisoner in Germany. He was officer commanding the South Saskatchewan Regiment.

A graduate of the Royal Military College, Kingston, Colonel Merritt is a partner in the law firm of Walsh, Bull, Tupper & Company of Vancouver. Mrs. Merritt, eldest daughter of Jamieson Bone, former mayor of Belleville, is now living here with her two children.

(*Editor's Note - the first time I have seen the raid described as the Battle; italics mine).

Photo Caption: Standing among a number of bodies, a German officer wearing the ribbon of the Iron Cross speaks to two men who may be Canadian prisoners while a German soldier, hands on hips, surveys the damage. Photo Credit - ECP Armees, as found in Dieppe, Dieppe by B. Greenhous

From The (Toronto) Globe and Mail, 1942

About 'two airmen at Dieppe' The Globe reports the following:

London, Sept. 18 (CP). Canada's ever-growing honor's list was increased today with announcement of awards to four Canadian airmen, two of them for heroism during the Dieppe raid.

The Distinguished Flying Cross went to Flight-Lieutenant James Whitham of Edmonton; Pilot Officer George Allen Casey, Mitchell, Ont., and Pilot Officer George Pepper, native of Belleville, now living in England. Sergeant Clarence Scott of Tisdale, Sask., was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal.

Scott's award resulted from a thrilling episode over Dieppe. He was wireless operator-air gunner, in an aircraft detailed to attack a selected target prior to the troop landings. The bombing was accomplished, but on the return flight his aircraft was attacked by a Focke-Wulf 190 and set afire.

As the plane plunged into the sea near the French coast, Scott gave the enemy a final burst from his guns. He was thrown clear when the plane struck the water and soon became aware his two flying companions were in the wreckage.

The gunner inflated his "Mae West" jacket and swam to the spot where his crewmates had come up unconscious. Scott held the pilot's head above water while he inflated his jacket, then he inflated the crashed plane's dinghy and pushed the pilot into it. Next he swam to the observer's side, blew up his jacket and got him into the dinghy. He was spotted by a British aircraft which sent a rescue launch. Scott suffered a sprained ankle and a deep cut over the eye.

Casey was wireless operator-air gunner in the leading aircraft of a formation of bombers detailed to carry out a smoke-bomb attack in support of the Dieppe operations. He met considerable fire and his plane was hit repeatedly. One engine was put out of action and casey was wounded in both thighs while his R.A.F. co-gunner was injured critically.

The bombs were released from low level and Casey, disregarding his injuries, engaged enemy defenses whenever they came within reach of his guns.

Whitham, member of a famed Canadian fighter squadron, received his decoration for bravery and initiative in a large number of sorties over enemy territory, while the award to Pepper was for consistent and skilful flying in the face of danger.

From The Hamilton Spectator, 1942

The Hamilton Spectator goes on to report the following:

Ottawa, Sept. 18. - (CP) - A spokesman for national defence headquarters said last night he understood that some relatives of men who participated in the large-scale raid on Dieppe August 19 had received notification that soldiers previously listed as missing were prisoners. 

Such notification would be based on information received through the International Red Cross.

Defence Minister Ralston said Tuesday that 2,547 officers and men were missing as a result of the Dieppe attack. He said total casualties were 3,350.

It has been assumed, however, that at least some of those posted as missing have been captured. In the case of those taken prisoner, word as to their fate would take some time to reach national headquarters.

One Ottawa couple received word last night that their son, Lieut. T. McDonald Saunders, is a prisoner. He was listed as missing in a defence headquarters casualty list of Dieppe missing issued Tuesday.

An outstanding oarsman, Lieutenant Saunders was with the Royal Canadian Artillery. He is a son of Mr. and Mrs. Allan J. Saunders.

Word that another well-known officer is a prisoner was received by relatives here. He is Lieut. Frank Lafortune, who also had been listed as missing.

  From The Hamilton Spectator, 1942

The report mentioned the following:

Ottawa, Sept. 18 - (CP) - Spotted through to-day's defence department statement on the Dieppe battle are brief bits of unqualified praise for the Canadian soldiers, sailors and airmen who took part.

These are the ones that stand out, aside from those referring to individual acts of gallantry:

"Throughout this operation the conduct of all ranks of the Canadian military forces engaged, and their determination to capture their objectives at any cost, were beyond all praise."

"Although they came under the heaviest forms of artillery, mortar and machine-gun fire, and confronted situations comparable to the most dangerous tasks assigned to troops in the last war, there was not the slightest hesitation, and all ranks evinced the keenest desire to come to grips with the enemy."


"In not one of these (documents on the operation) is there the slightest suggestion that so much as one man of the Canadian army failed in his duty."


"The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry - attacking with great dash - had succeeded in capturing the Casino, which was.... most heavily fortified."


The article goes on to mention other descriptions of gallantry and sacrifice found in the lengthy report. The full report can be read in three parts in an earlier post on this website. A link to the official Canadian statement is provided below:

Please link to Article: The Official Statement on the Dieppe Operation.

Unattributed Photos GH

Article: The Official Statement on the Dieppe Operation.

Many Details of the Combined Operation Against Enemy Forces.

Photo Caption: Perhaps the most famous of all Dieppe photographs....
Photo Credit - ECP Armees, as in Dieppe, Dieppe by B. Greenhous

On August 19, 2017 the 75th anniversary of the Dieppe Raid will undoubtedly be recalled in many ways. A good deal of material about the raid can be found on this website - and in many many books and reports.

A few weeks after the Dieppe Raid occurred, lengthy reports appeared in newspapers, at home and abroad. An official statement was released by Canadian Defence Minister Ralston on September 18, 1942. It appears below in three parts, as found in The Hamilton Spectator and Toronto's The Globe and Mail:

Please link to Article: Dad Had Sailed These Same Waters

Article: Only "Highest Standard" Troops at Dieppe (3).

"Conduct of the Troops Beyond All Praise."

Photo Caption: Brig. W.W. Southam. Who led his men at Dieppe and also
helped plan the raid. Now is a prisoner of war. Photo - The Globe and Mail

August 19 of this year (2017) will mark the 75th anniversary of the Dieppe Raid. A good deal of material about that significant raid has already been shared on this website - and in many many books and reports - and I am certain a good deal more will be shared this year and in the future, here and by several other sources.

A few weeks after the long-remembered raid took place, lengthy reports appeared in newspapers, at home and abroad.

An article published in the September 18, 1942 issue of The Hamilton Spectator, as well as Toronto's The Globe and Mail the following day, continues:

Withdrawal Dangerous Under Terrific Fire

Withdrawal following a raid of this sort is always a most difficult and dangerous operation; and in this instance it was especially so as the enemy had succeeded in bringing into action a number of mobile batteries, mortars and additional infantry.

Although this enabled him to organize very heavy fire on both the beaches and the sea approaches, and the ships and craft lying off Dieppe, in spite of excellent fighter cover, suffered sporadic attacks by dive bombers, the navy most gallantly went into the beaches again and again to take off the troops, and officers and other ranks of the military force ashore performed many acts of gallantry in carrying wounded men to the landing craft.

During this phase, destroyers closed the beaches almost to the point of grounding, in order to support the re-embarkation by fire and to pick up survivors.

The expedition returned to England under an umbrella of air force fighter cover which prevented any serious interference by enemy aircraft. In England, dispersal arrangements were most efficiently organized by the Canadian headquarters concerned, and all return ing officers and men were given hot food on arrival. The wounded were immediately dispatched to hospital and the remainder were returned to their unit areas.

Commandos returning to Newhaven in their landing craft (IWM)
Photo Credit - Normandy, Then and Now

Naval and Air Support and Protection

The splendid assistance given by the Royal Navy has already been referred to. No terms could be too warm to describe it. There are on file statements by many members of the Canadian military forces, from private soldiers upwards, which testify to their deep understanding and most grateful appreciation of the manner in which the naval forces ran all risks to assist the troops.

Air cover and bombing were likewise magnificent, and drew equally warm tributes from the troops and from the navy.

Throughout the operation, both the air force and the navy provided smoke screens at the times and places where they were required which greatly reduced casualties to ships and personnel.

The distinguished part played in these operations by both Canadian sailors and Canadian airmen excited the warmest appreciation on the part of the Canadian army. Considerable numbers of Canadian naval officers and ratings were engaged on board the naval vessels; one flotilla of landing craft was almost entirely manned by Canadian naval personnel.

Soldiers Are Rescued From Overturned Craft

Numerous cases of gallantry on the part of such personnel were recorded. At one point, light craft ventured into extremely heavy fire to rescue men of the Royal Regiment of Canada, who were clinging to the bottom of an overturned landing craft close to shore.

Of these rescue craft, one was commanded by a Canadian officer, and in another a Canadian rating and an English rating sacrificed their lives to save these soldiers. Two army co-operation squadrons of the R.C.A.F. attached to formations of the Canadian army overseas participated in the operation. Both did gallant work and suffered losses. Canadian fighter squadrons likewise played a brilliant part. Many Canadian airmen served in R.A.F. squadrons engaged in the operation.

Conduct of the Troops Beyond All Praise

Throughout this operation the conduct of all ranks of the Canadian military forces engaged, and their determination to capture their objectives at any cost, were beyond all praise.

Although they came under the heaviest forms of artillery, mortar and machine-gun fire, and confronted situations comparable to the most dangerous tasks assigned to troops in the last war, there was not the slightest hesitation, and all ranks evinced the keenest desire to come to grips with the enemy.

Literally hundreds of documents relating to this hazardous operation now have been examined. In not one of these is there the slightest suggestion that so much as one man of the Canadian army failed in his duty.

Where all were brave, it is difficult and perhaps invidious to quote individual cases of gallantry, but two such instances are mentioned here merely as examples of the manner in which Canadian officers and men maintained the traditions of the Canadian army and the honour of their country.

Lieut.-Col. C.C.I. Merritt, of the South Saskatchewan Regiment, acted with most distinguished gallantry throughout the operation. When his battalion was held up by very hot fire at a bridge on which many men had fallen, Colonel Merritt walked back and forth across the bridge, waving his helmet and calling, "See, there is no danger here," He then led his men across and cleared the commanding enemy positions on the other side.

After many acts of bravery during the day, including leading detachments against strongly defended road blocks, personally disposing of a sniper and organizing and leading parties for the destruction of enemy machine-gun posts which were harassing his men, this most gallant officer was last seen collecting automatic weapons and organizing a defensive position to cover the withdrawal of the last parties of his unit from the beach.

Hero of Engineers Lands With R.H.L.I.

Lance-Sgt. G.E. Hickson, of the 7th Field Company, Royal Canadian Engineers, was assigned to a demolition task in the town and landed with the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry. As fire was too heavy to move directly to his objective, he attached himself to an infantry platoon, and when this platoon's officer and senior N.C.O.'s were put out of action, took command and led them to the casino.

Here he used an explosive charge to enter through the walls, and reached a large concrete gun emplacement. He blew in the steel door of the emplacement with another charge, killing the gun crew, and subsequently destroyed the six-inch naval gun in the emplacement, as well as two machine-guns.

He then reorganized the remaining men of the platoon and, in the face of heavy enemy opposition, led them into the town as far as the Church of St. Remy. Only when he found his party alone and unsupported did he withdraw it to the Casino. Subsequently, he was among the last men to be evacuated from the beach.

Such deeds as these will be long remembered.

Results of the Operation Are Being Studied

It has already been made clear that comparatively little can be said at present concerning the results of the raid. The operation is still being most carefully studied with a view to extracting from it every possible lesson which may assist us in future operations and the value of the experience gained at Dieppe will appear only in the future course of the war.

At the present time, no public analysis of the lessons learned is possible without giving assistance to the enemy. Certain points of importance can, however, be made here.

A large naval force crossed the Channel and approached the French coast. Protected by powerful air support, it remained of that coast for many hours, with the loss of but one destroyer and a number of small landing craft. This was a significant achievement.

Although Dieppe was a very strong place, military forces were landed on the enemy-occupied beaches, and heavy tanks in large numbers were transported across the Channel and successfully landed. The importance of this has already been referred to.

British tanks stranded on shingle beaches. LCT (Landing Craft, Tank)
burning in background. Photo Credit - Normandy, Then and Now

It can be stated that the organization of combined command worked out in such detail in advance of the operation functioned most admirably. The three services worked together in perfect co-ordination, and in this respect the result of the operation has been to afford complete confidence in the effective co-ordination of the efforts of the services in large combined operations.*

A special point concerning the air aspect of the operations can be made. This extensive raid compelled the enemy to concentrate air squadrons from many distant points and to commit a large force to action. Even night fighters, night bombers and training squadrons were thrown into the fight. This gave the R.A.F. a valuable opportunity, and in the intense air fighting over Dieppe the german air force suffered losses in aircraft amounting to a very serious strategic reverse.

As for the more limited and local objectives of the raid, enemy batteries and a radio-location station were destroyed; heavy casualties were inflicted upon the enemy and prisoners of war were brought back; and one and possibly two armed vessels were sunk.

For the lessons learned and the advantages gained the forces engaged, and particularly the land forces, paid a very heavy price. The history of similar operations in the past serves to indicate that heavy losses are to be expected in amphibious operations of this type directed against a fortified coastline held by a determined and alert enemy.

At Dieppe the losses suffered were probably due in part to the misfortune of the chance encounter with the escorted German tanker. Such small circumstances are often important in operations of this kind.

The Canadian military units engaged in the Dieppe operation gained combat experience which will be of great value to them in future operations. The troops have returned from the enterprise with added confidence in themselves and, in particular, in the leadership of their officers and N.C.O.'s, which from start to finish was of the highest order.

British and Canadian prisoners at Dieppe, August 1942
Photo Credit - Normandy, Then and Now

All ranks of the units concerned, and especially those which have suffered most heavily, are anxious for another opportunity of contact with the enemy which will enable them to exact from him a further reckoning for the losses which they have suffered on this occasion.

The heroism both of those who fell and those who returned will be a source of future inspiration to all ranks of the Canadian Army.

* * * * * 

*Editor: This statement would be disputed - even to this day - by many veterans of Dieppe, and past and present writers and observers.

More will follow related to other articles presented on the same news pages as the report in The Hamilton Spectator and The Toronto Globe and Mail

Please link to Article: Only "Highest Standard" Troops at Dieppe (2).