Like Dunkirk the Dieppe Raid was a military disaster
dressed up as a victory. The losses have since been described as akin to those
at the ill-fated Charge of the Light Brigade.
Involved were six thousand troops. These included 5,000 Canadians, the rest
being made up of British Commandos, a few Frenchmen, and a token force from
the U.S. Ranger battalion. They raided Dieppe on August 19, 1942. The result
was a bloody massacre and humiliation for the allied forces.
Nevertheless British archive papers released in 1972 show that Lord Louis
Mountbatten, Chief of Combined Operations, informed the War Cabinet that the
raid had gone 'very satisfactorily."
As might be expected the American Press went even further by giving the
impression that the Americans (with a little help) had spearheaded the raid on
Dieppe and opened up Europe for the Allies. "We Land in France' screamed the
New York Times whilst the New York World-Telegram boomed, "Tanks and U.S.
Troops Smash to the French Coast.'
Ross Munro of the Canadian Press Agency explained, "I never really felt,
except maybe on the Dieppe raid, that I was really cheating the public at home."
We can assume that they might not have been very impressed with the casualties.
The most accurate summary of Dieppe was actually written by a German PK man
who visiting a nearby Luftwaffe station afterwards wrote: "As executed the
venture mocked all the rules of military logic and strategy."
In fact 907 Allied troops were killed, 2,460 were wounded, and 1,874 were
taken prisoner. Of the 2,210 who did make it back to England only 36 were
unhurt despite the fact that 200 had not even made it to the French shore.
During the raid allied air power suffered its biggest single day loss of the
war when 106 aircraft were downed. Without a single exception every tank crew
became a casualty and overall 60% of the invading force was marked as
The plan had been for just 10% casualties. In his report Lord Louis
Mountbatten wrote that the planning had been excellent, air support faultless
and naval losses extremely light. He added that of the 6,000 men involved
two-thirds had returned to Britain.
German loses were 500 dead and very few prisoners of war. That so few were
taken prisoner might have had something to do with an Allied predisposition to
casually shooting prisoners. Ross Munro had witnessed one such incident when
Canadian troops shot eight German prisoners-of-war.
INTERESTING FOOTNOTE: During the raid on Dieppe the local population
assisted the Germans in fighting off the marauding British and Canadian (and a
few Americans) troops. The port's German defenders were bolstered by locals
braving the fighting to bring them water, food, and in some cases, ammunition.
Such was the German appreciation of the town peoples actions during the raid
that Hitler later approved the repatriation of French POW's to the region soon
afterwards. An act of generosity he had never felt previously obliged to
According to Arvid Fedborg's Behind the Steel Walls, Field Marshall Erwin
Rommel giving an interview to neutral correspondents in Berlin, described the
British as 'cowards whose methods of fighting were dishonourable.'
THE FUHRER'S NOTORIOUS 'COMMANDO ORDER'
Adolf Hitler personally ordered that members of British raiding parties be
summarily shot whether he had surrendered or not. True enough but as usual
this is half the story.
This order was given after a British Commando raid on the Channel Island of
Sark went wrong. A number of German prisoners had been taken but the attacking
force had to withdraw in a hurry under heavy German fire.
The bodies of four German prisoners were later found with their hands still
bound – and their throats slit from ear to ear. It was only after this
horrendous event that the German leader issued his Commando order.