Operation "Jubilee" - 19 August 1942 - The Raid on Dieppe
This August marks the 71st anniversary of the Raid on Dieppe and once again offers us an opportunity to reflect on the gallantry and sacrifice of those who died that day.
Shortly after 0500 hours 19 August 1942, units of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division, supported by the Royal Navy, Commandos and Squadrons of the RAF and RCAF, landed on the beaches before and flanking the Normandy town of Dieppe. The bitter struggle of the ensuing nine-hours resulted in the highest single day losses suffered by the Canadian Army during the entire Second World War. Of the 4963 Canadian troops who embarked for the Raid, 3367 (or 68%) became casualties and 907 died.
At least 25 ex-cadets were involved with this Operation and of these; seventeen were part of the attack force. Three ex-cadets, #1425 Capt. W.R. Dillon, # 2383 Capt. E.R. Eaton and # 2661 Capt. Douglas G. Purdy, were Killed-in-Action while nine others were taken Prisoners-of-War.
Ex-cadets holding senior command appointments were: # 891 Maj-Gen. J.H. Roberts, GOC 2nd Cdn Inf Div and Force Commander; #1623 Brig. C.C. Mann, Deputy Force Commander and #1432 Brig. W.W. Southam, Commander, 6th Cdn Inf Bde. Three of the assault battalions were commanded by ex-cadets; # 1620 Lt-Col. R.R. Labatt commanded the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry; # 1866 Lt-Col. C.C. I. Merritt, the South Saskatchewan Regiment, and # 2290 Lt-Col. D. Menard, the Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal. Two (of the eight) RCAF Squadrons providing air support were commanded by ex-cadets: # 2320 S/L C.J. Fee, commanded 412 Squadron and # 2366 S/L R.C.A. Waddell, commanded 400 Squadron.
Many decorations, including three Victoria Crosses, would be awarded for gallantry at Dieppe. The Victoria Cross was won by a British officer and by two Canadians; Captain the Reverend J.W. Foote, Padre of the RHLI and ex-cadet #1866 Lt-Col. C.C.I. Merritt, CO of the South Saskatchewan Regiment.
The Distinguished Service Order (DSO) was generally awarded to officers above the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel for meritorious service and both senior Commanders; #891 Maj-Gen. Roberts and #1623 Brig. Mann received the award. When awarded to Lieutenant-Colonels and below, the DSO was deemed a gallantry award, a decoration just short of the Victoria Cross. #1620 Lt-Col R.R. Labatt, Royal Hamilton Light Infantry; #1841 Major Douglas Cunningham, Cameron Highlanders of Canada; #2290 Lt-Col Dollard Menard, Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal; and #2357 Capt. W.D. Whitaker, Royal Hamilton Light Infantry would all win the DSO.
Due to the disastrous losses, the Raid remains controversial to this day. While historians may condemn the senior commanders and staff planners who failed to grasp the fundamentals of amphibious warfare there can be no question of the gallantry displayed by the officers and men of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division who fought and died that day. The Dieppe Memorial stained-glass window in Currie Building is a daily reminder of those ex-cadets who fought the good fight seventy years ago and who took, "Truth-Duty-Valour," to the stony beaches of Dieppe.
Blow out, you bugles, over the rich Dead!
There's none of these so lonely and poor of old,
But, dying, has made us rarer gifts than gold.