Nasty Surprise

A nasty surprise awaited Canadian Dieppe raiders early that morning August 19, 1942 after Germans were alerted.
A nasty surprise awaited raiders after some of their landing craft unexpectedly encountered a small German convoy resulting in a noisy, violent, running sea battle, their fate was sealed.

A nasty surprise awaited raiders that early morning August 19, 1942 after some landing craft unexpectedly encountered a small German convoy resulting in a noisy, violent, running, sea battle and the element of surprise was lost.

Alerted well prepared, well-entrenched, and strategically placed German coastal defenses immediately sprang into action putting concentrated mortar and machine-gun fire on the landing beaches so intense that Canadians suffered 3,367 casualties including 1,946 prisoners of war and 916 dead.

My photo, of German captured Canadian survivors marched through a Dieppe main street, was taken from this famous picture displayed at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.

The Raid on Dieppe, France was a battle doomed to fail from the start, a day of infamy, Canadians were just fresh meat for German guns and this disastrous adventure accomplished nothing in return for their tremendous sacrifice.

Despite best efforts of some spin doctors claiming that it helped prepare Allies for D-Day or was a British intelligence secret operation attempt to capture latest version of German “Enigma” secret code machine which maybe would have speeded up final destruction of Hitler’s Third Reich.

To give more spin and credibility to the code machine story they even included “James Bond” author Ian Fleming, who was with British intelligence during the war.

The whole mess according now deceased, retired brigadier-general Denis Whitaker, the most prominent of few Canadians penetrating into the town of Dieppe it was the morale, lack of discipline, and combat readiness among the troops that sealed their fate.

Back then Whitaker was a captain of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry and ended up their only officer returning to England unscathed at end of that horrible day.

An eyewitness to failed leadership and conduct by superior officers, who lacked initiative leading their men during that operation, lead to defeat however, on the bright side, according to him “it was the best thing that ever happened to his regiment because it cleared out all the dead weight.”

He remembered his regiment resembling a social club when joining it in 1936 its officers lacked real training instead playing soldier on weekends and when the regiment was sent overseas into battle the men were green never adequately prepared for the fighting moreover, arming was done only onboard ship, oily packaged Sten guns, when sailing towards their objective never really familiarized with their weapons.

On April 9, 2017 Canada marked the 100th anniversary of the First World War and the Battle of Vimy Ridge in France an official Canadian delegation including war veterans, special guests, youth, governor-general Johnson, and prime minister Trudeau attended the service at National Vimy Memorial.

Canadian troops captured Vimy Ridge in April 1917 earning a reputation as formidable, effective troops after seasoned British and French armies failed miserably against alerted well prepared, well-entrenched, and strategically placed Germans.

In preparation to capture this difficult ridge, Canadians carefully planned and rehearsed their attack and then their and allied British artillery intensely pounded German positions killing many and pinning down enemy machine gunners allowing the attack to move forward.

Canadians also used new tactics, special underground tunnels, improvements to artillery ammunition, and a new counter-battery system allowing accurate locating and destruction of hidden enemy field artillery positions moreover, Canadian troops were well-informed both of their objectives, tasks, and methods in the attack.

“Chaps, you shall go over exactly like a railroad train, on time, or you shall be annihilated,” warned Canadian Corps commander Sir Julian Byng and they all listened.

Victory however, was not cheap instead at a heavy cost: 3,598 Canadians killed and another 7,000 wounded in the stunning successful operation.

Two different wars, two different battle operations, both costly, both memorable however, the difference is that at Vimy the men were disciplined, well-trained, motivated, confident, well armed, familiar with their war equipment, and versed with their objective and how to do it. The troops also had respected, good leadership with knowledge very familiar of the whole battle plan and its risks, they were willing to follow.

Finally, Canadian high command were willing to break with British and French allies advice and being obediently part of the old boys club, instead opting to do battle a new way, saving their men being cannon fodder.

This is my contribution for WP weekly photo challenge:”SURPRISE”.

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