Sunday Morning, July 13, 2014. Today we left the First World War’s Western Front behind and travelled west from Amiens to the English Channel port of Dieppe, France, a distance of about 100 km. New town, new war. Dieppe, of course, was the site of the disastrous landings by Allied troops in the Second World War. Of the 6,100 troops who attacked Dieppe on August 19, 1942, nearly 5,000 were Canadians. There were 3,367 casualties on that day, 1,946 Canadians became prisoners of war, and 916 Canadians lost their lives. The Dieppe Raid was a bloodbath, pure and simple.
I suppose it was fitting that it was raining when we arrived at the Dieppe Canadian War Cemetery south of Dieppe. There are 707 Canadians buried here. The cemetery is unique in that it was created by the occupying Germans, and the headstones have been placed back to back in long double rows typical of German burials, but unlike any other Commonwealth war cemetery we visited.
Our first view of Dieppe itself and the main landing beaches came, not long afterward, from the cliffs above Dieppe at the site of an old German bunker. As I gazed at the beach below I couldn’t help wonder what the planners of the raid had been thinking. From this vantage point it was obvious that anything landing on the beaches below would be a sitting duck to the German defenders above. The main attack was made across the pebble beach in front of us. German troops, concealed in clifftop positions and in buildings overlooking the promenade, were well prepared for the Canadian arrival and they swept the beach with machine-gun and shell fire. All attempts to breach the seawall were beaten back with terrible casualties and only one small platoon ever managed to infiltrate the town itself. Two Canadians won the Victoria Cross for their valour during the Dieppe raid.
Later we had a chance to walk on the beach and visit the small park created at the western end of the esplanade by the town of Dieppe. Called Le Square du Canada (Canada Square) it has a monument dedicated to the long and warm association with Canada of the Dieppe region, stretching all the way back to Samuel de Champlain. Mounted on a wall nearby a plaque commemorates the Raid on Dieppe with these words:
“On the 19th of August 1942
on the beaches of Dieppe
our Canadian cousins
marked with their blood
the road to our final liberation
foretelling thus their victorious return
on September 1, 1944.”
The pictures which follow are from our Dieppe collection. They can also be viewed separately from the Photo Gallery menu above. Click on any image to expand it and navigate through the gallery. In gallery mode, clicking on the information “i” will display the caption.