The Dieppe Raid – More Sapper Fatalities than D-Day: Tributes to the Fallen Sappers

Aug 19

By LCol K. Holmes, CD (Ret'd)

Dieppe Raid 19 August 1942 - Charles Comfort, National War Museum

2017 marks the 75th Anniversary of Operation JUBILEE, the Second World War Allied raid on Dieppe, France across the English Channel that took place on 18/19 August 1942. There were more Sapper fatalities during this operation than we were to suffer on the D-Day Invasion two years later. (See: Juno Beach Tributes: D-Day Fallen Sappers for a similar feature.)

Originally conceived as Operation RUTTER in April 1942, the Allies planned to conduct a major division-sized raid on a German-held port on the French Channel coast and to hold it for the duration of at least two tides. The aim was to affect the greatest amount of destruction of enemy facilities and defences before withdrawing. This ‘reconnaissance in force’ action was intended to test the defences of Hitler's continental fortress and the capability of the Western Allies to launch large-scale amphibious assaults against Hitler’s “Fortress Europe”.

WHITE and RED beaches looking east as seen from the castleThis operation was intended to give the Germans fear of an attack in the west and cause them to direct considerable effort to their Channel defences at the expense of other theatres of operation. The operation was also intended to provide an opportunity for the Allies to test new techniques and equipment and to gain knowledge and experience for an eventual invasion of Europe.

The first attempt to launch Operation RUTTER on 8/9 July 1942 was abandoned due to bad weather but it was revived almost immediately as Operation JUBILEE.  After several delays, the raid was set to go on 18/19 August. The Canadian-led assault force comprised some 6000 troops, 5000 of whom were Canadian, with the remainder being primarily British Commandos and 50 American Rangers. The Royal Canadian Engineer element comprised about 350 all ranks from 2nd Canadian Infantry Division that were grouped into a number of parties with the role of clearing the obstacles on the beaches and demolishing specific targets in-shore. Sketch map carried by Lt Millar pointing out his objective

The Raid, unfortunately, failed to achieve any of the objectives of the troops of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division. Within a few hours of the dawn assault on the heavily fortified port, 4000 of the men were either killed, wounded or taken prisoner. The raid lasted only nine hours but, among nearly 5000 Canadian soldiers involved, 907 were killed and 1874 taken prisoner. Assault engineers suffered almost disproportionately when they landed at Dieppe.  Of the 50% of the Sappers who were able to get onto the beach, only seventeen came back to England and ten of these were badly wounded and later died in hospital. There were a total of 27 Engineer fatalities – 23 were Killed in Action, one Died of Wounds, and three died while Prisoners of War. Some military historians believe that, despite the terrible carnage, valuable lessons were learned that made a great contribution to the success of the D-Day landings.

RCE Memorial at Newhaven, EnglandA memorial was erected at Newhaven, England in 1977 to honour those Royal Canadian Engineers who lost their lives as a result of the Dieppe Raid. Newhaven was chosen because they had embarked for Dieppe from Newhaven and because many of the wounded were put ashore at Newhaven following the raid. The monument was erected and financed by a group led by the 11th Field Company RCE WWII Veterans based in Sarnia, ON.

The monument was unveiled on 17 August 1977 to mark the 35th anniversary of the Raid. It has come to be regarded as a tribute to all the Canadian forces who took part in the raid and, indeed, to all those who served during World War II. An annual commemoration service is held in the gardens at Newhaven each August, usually on the weekend prior to commemorations held in Dieppe itself.

As part of our activities to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Dieppe Raid, the CMEA has written a tribute to recognize each Canadian Sapper who died on the Raid or while Prisoner of War. Our 27 Fallen Sappers are remembered by name on the monument at Newhaven. The Canadian Virtual War Memorial also honours their sacrifice. 

Take a moment to view the tributes to our Operation JUBILEE sappers who sacrificed their lives. Clicking on each name will take you to their personalised. You can scroll through the complete set to appreciate the many ‘average Canadians’ who responded to the call during Second World War.personalised. You can scroll through the complete set to appreciate the many ‘average Canadians’ who responded to the call during Second World War.