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Canadian soldiers taken prisoner by the Germans at Dieppe. - AN19900076-952
Canadian soldiers taken prisoner by the Germans at Dieppe.

Dieppe Raid, 19 August 1942

Five thousand troops of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division, along with a thousand British troops, many of them commandos, attacked the French port of Dieppe on the English Channel Coast in August 1942. Led by Major-General J. H. Roberts, the force was supported by ships of the Royal Navy and aircraft of the RAF and RCAF. The purpose was to make a successful raid on German-occupied Europe over water, and then to hold Dieppe briefly. The results were disastrous.

The German defences were on the alert. The main Canadian landing on the Dieppe beach and flanking attacks at Puys and Pourville failed to reach any of their objectives. Only the commandos enjoyed any success.

After nine hours fighting ashore, the force withdrew. Over one thousand were dead and two thousand prisoners were in German hands, more prisoners than the whole Canadian Army lost in either the North West Europe or Italian campaigns. The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry, largely made up of soldiers from the Hamilton area, had taken 582 soldiers into the thick of the fighting. 197 of them were killed or died as prisoners and 175 became prisoners of war. Many of the prisoners and many of those who got back to England were wounded. Two Canadians received the Victoria Cross for their bravery.

In the air above the landings, the RAF waged its most intense air battle on a single day in the whole war. The Allies lost 106 aircraft (including thirteen RCAF machines and ten pilots), and the Germans 48 aircraft.

Behind the failure lay a poor, overly complex plan, insufficient fire support from aircraft and artillery, and inadequate training of troops for their first test of battle. Yet lessons were learned for later amphibious landings in the Mediterranean and at Normandy.

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