By LCol K. Holmes, CD (Ret'd)
Operation JUBILEE, the WW II raid on Dieppe, France across the English Channel took place on 19 August 1942. Originally conceived in April 1942 as Operation RUTTER, 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. They would 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”.
An earlier attempt to launch Operation RUTTER in July 1942 had been abandoned due to bad weather but it was revived almost immediately as Operation JUBILEE. Operation JUBILEE was intended to foster German fears of an attack in the west and compel them to direct effort to their Channel defences at the expense of other theatres of operation. The operation was also to provide an opportunity to test new techniques and equipment and gain knowledge and experience for planning an eventual invasion.
The assault force comprised some 6000 troops, 5000 of whom were Canadian, with the remainder being British commandos and 50 American Rangers. Some elaboration of the Engineer activities in Operation JUBILEE can be found at pages 100-111 of “The History of the Corps of the Royal Canadian Engineers: Volume II.
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 start of the assault at dawn 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.
Some military historians believe that despite the terrible carnage, valuable lessons were learned from the Raid which made a great contribution to the success, two years later, of the D-Day landings.
The Royal Canadian Engineer participation in the Dieppe Raid comprised about 350 all ranks from 2nd Canadian Infantry Division. The largest sapper element was from 7th Field Company, with about 100 from 2nd Field Company, 65 from 11th Field Company, 25 from 1st Field Park Company and a few details from the 2nd Road Construction Company and the Mechanical Equipment Company. We continue to research the names of the sappers who participated in Operation JUBILEE and, to date, have identified some 210 sappers. A complete list of those who participated is published on this site at https://cmea-agmc.ca/nominal-roll-known-rce-personnel-operation-jubilee-... with a downloadable copy attached. Of this Engineer force, there were a total of 27 fatalities – 23 were Killed in Action, one Died of Wounds, and three died while Prisoners of War.
Lt William Alexander Ewener and Lt John Edward Rogers Wood were awarded the Military Cross, L/Sgt GA Hickson and L/Cpl MD Sinasac received the Distinguished Conduct Medal and A/Sgt Skippon, L/Sgt Trower and L/Cpl J. Fisher each received the Military Medal. A number of others were Mentioned in Dispatches including Lieutenant WA Millar, taken prisoner and dubbed the 'Great Canadian Escaper' by the Germans.
A memorial was erected in 1977 at Newhaven, England, in honour of members of the Corps of Royal Canadian Engineers who lost their lives as a result of the Dieppe Raid of 19 August 1942. It was erected and financed by the efforts of a group lead by the 11th Field Company RCE WWII veterans based in Sarnia, ON. They chose Newhaven as the location for their memorial because they embarked for Dieppe from Newhaven and because so many of the wounded were put ashore at Newhaven following the Raid.
The monument was unveiled on 17 August 1977 to mark the 35th anniversary of the Raid. An annual commemoration service is held in the gardens at Newhaven each August, usually on the weekend prior to commemorations held in Dieppe itself. The monument 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.
The following 27 Fallen Sappers are remembered by name on the monument at Newhaven:
|Spr||Barnes||Harold Edward||2nd Fd Coy|
|Spr||Bergey||Oliver Loraine||2nd Fd Coy|
|Spr||Bisset||William Nichol||2nd Fd Coy|
|Spr||Bockus||Leslie Ernest||2nd Fd Coy|
|Spr||Breau||Raymond Amon||2nd Fd Coy|
|Spr||Brown||William Albert||2nd Fd Coy|
|Spr||Charbotte||Peter||2nd Fd Coy|
|Spr||Cowlishaw||Frank||2nd Fd Coy|
|Spr||Davison||Alexander Russell||11th Fd Coy|
|Spr||Elliott||Delbert Alvin||2nd Fd Coy|
|L/Cpl||Gage||Thomas R||2nd Fd Coy|
|L/Cpl||Hall||Alfred Harry||7th Fd Coy|
|Spr||Hodson||Cyril||7th Fd Coy|
|Spr||Jones||Glynn||1st Fd Park Coy|
|Spr||Maville||Joseph John||2nd Fd Coy|
|Spr||McCaslin||William Henry||1st Fd Park Coy|
|Spr||McGie||Chester||2nd Fd Coy|
|Lt Col||McTavish||Gordon Howard||Comd|
|Lt||Millar||William A||7th Fd Coy|
|Sgt||Murray||Ronald Charles||7th Fd Coy|
|Spr||Oliver||Sydney George||11th Fd Coy|
|Spr||Ramsay||John||11th Fd Coy|
|Cpl||Russell||Thomas Daniel||2nd Fd Coy|
|Spr||Sharp||Clarence Joseph||7th Fd Coy|
|Spr||Shova||Elmer||11th Fd Coy|
|Spr||Smith||Hugh||11th Fd Coy|
|Spr||Williams||Stuart||7th Fd Coy|