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Raid on Dieppe 

The Layout of the Assault 
by Pete Bublitz 

The raid on Dieppe, during the time it was being planned, was likely COHQ’s most anticipated operation to date. This can be verified by the immense military force taking part in the attack. Men from a total of ten to twenty battalions and regiments would cross the English Channel as the ground assault force for the raid. They would be supported by both a large naval fleet and a vast number of Allied Air Force squadrons. This reconnaissance-in-force was to be undertaken for a series of purposes. This raid was intended to test numerous factors, including:

• the Allies’ ability to attack and capture a coastal port or town under enemy occupation;
• their ability in operating and handling a large amphibious force;
• the effectiveness of new weapons, equipment, and vehicles (i.e. the Churchill tank), in combat; and
• the maximum strength and capabilities of German defenses along the coastlines.

Observations made from these factors would be used to influence further planning and preparations for an even larger amphibious assault in the months and years following Operation Jubilee. Once on the other side of the Channel, the men were to land on eight separate beaches at seven neighboring towns. These towns were stretched out along an 18-20km span of coastline. The ground troops’ main tasks during the raid would be strenuous in the highest degree. Their main objectives included:

• the destruction of most or all German heavy defenses, the radar station in Dieppe, and the facilities of the St. Aubin airfields;
• the capture and evacuation of German officials and naval barges in Dieppe’s harbor; and
• the capture of 302nd Division’s central HQ, believed to be located in Arques-la-Bataille.

The beach sectors, upon which select regiments would land, would be given color codenames: Orange, Green, White, Red, Blue, and Yellow. Not only would they land in different spots, but they would be ordered to land at opposing times. These times were to take place during the dawn hours, when the sun was six to twelve degrees below horizon.

The Yellow and Orange Beaches

The two flanking attacks undertaken by 3 and 4 Commando were to take place at 0450 hours (4:50 a.m.), a half hour before the main raid on Dieppe was set to begin. To the east of Dieppe, Lieut.-Col. Durnford-Slater, his 3 Commando, and 39 U.S. Rangers under Capt. Roy Murray would land at the beaches of Berneval (Yellow Beach I) and Belleville-sur-Mer (Yellow Beach II). Each official would land with one of the two forces at the separate beaches. They were assigned with one specific task: the men who landed at Yellow Beach I were to attack the Goebbels Battery on its right flank, while those landing at Yellow Beach II were to attack the Battery on its left flank. After their targets had been disabled and their objectives accomplished, the Rangers and Commandos would be picked up by their embarkation ships and return to English ports.

Similar tactics would be used by Lieut.-Col. Lord Lovat and 4 Commando in completing their mission objectives. They were to land west of Dieppe, at the beaches of Vasterival (Orange Beach I) and Quiberville (Orange Beach II). Over 80 Commandos under Major Mills-Roberts would come ashore at Orange Beach I, while Lovat and 160-plus Commandos were to land at Orange Beach II. The Commandos at Orange I were to undertake a frontal assault on the Hess Battery, while the Battery’s rear would be outflanked by the Commandos that landed at Orange II. Once Hess Battery had been knocked out and all other objectives had been met, 4 Commando would also be evacuated and returned to England (Ford 42, 45).

Green Beach

The total Canadian landing force would be divided among three central coast towns in the Dieppe area. Two of these landings would serve as additional flank attacks that coincided with the Commando raids. At the town of Pourville (codenamed Green Beach), two assault regiments from Brig. Southam’s 6th Brigade would be disembarked. The South Saskatchewan Regiment, which the first waves at Green Beach were comprised of, was also scheduled to land at 0450 hours. Upon landing, the Regiment was to secure a beachhead along the Scie River’s banks for the waves that followed. Once secure, the S. Saskatchewan’s A and D Companies were to maneuver towards Dieppe’s western outskirts, seize the outlying radar station, and capture garrison emplacements located at Quatre Vents Farm and Dieppe’s western headlands. It was at the latter rendezvous point that the two companies were meant to link up with companies from the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry (scheduled to land at Dieppe’s White Beach sector a half hour after the South Saskatchewan Regiment landed). Meanwhile, the Regiment’s B and C Companies would advance forward to secure the town of Pourville itself, and then shift to take the western cliffs looming above Pourville.

Half an hour after the Green Beach assault began, the Cameron Highlanders of Canada were scheduled to arrive on the shores of Pourville. Once landed, they would cross through the area made secure by the South Saskatchewan Regiment. Once beyond the bridgehead, its first objective was to proceed southward along the Scie River and capture the Luftwaffe airfield at St. Aubin. Because their landing would coincide with those at the main beaches of Dieppe, the Cameron Highlanders’ secondary objective was to link up with breakout companies from the Calgary Tanks prior to reaching the St. Aubin airfield and capturing. Once this was captured, the newly united force was to shift east and capture what was suspected to be the Divisional HQ of the 302nd in Arques-la-Bataille (Leasor 102-104; Ford 31, 33, & 55-56).

Blue Beach

The fourth flank attack scheduled to begin at 0450 hours would be carried out by 4th Brigade’s Royal Regiment of Canada. Accompanying the Royal Regiment would be an individual company from the Canadian Black Watch Regiment. They would land east of Dieppe on the shores of Puits (Puys), which was codenamed Blue Beach. Their main objectives were to knock out a number of defense emplacements, as well as two heavy weapons batteries, and secure the headlands east and west of Puys. Once they had gained a foothold on the beach, the troops were to breakout in three directions towards the outskirts of Puys. A main assault force was to maneuver west and attack the headlands that dwarfed the eastern districts of Dieppe. They would also destroy an Anti-Aircraft battery located near the headlands. At these headlands, once they had been secured, the attack force was to link up with the Essex Scottish Regiment from Red Beach and march into Dieppe. A second task force was to move eastward and carry out the task of disabling defense posts along the eastern cordon of barbed wire. Finally, a third task force was to progress southeast of Puys and destroy the four 100mm howitzers that made up the Rommel Battery. Like the men involved with the other flank attacks, the troops at Blue Beach were to be evacuated once their objectives had been met (Mellor 26, 50; Ford 31, 54).

The Red and White Beaches

The largest and central force of the raid was to land on the beaches of Dieppe itself. The total number of regiments landing there would be divided and assigned to a beach on each side of the town’s harbor. On the shores of Dieppe’s western district, codenamed White Beach, the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry Regiment and large companies from the Calgary Tanks were to disembark. On its eastern district shores, codenamed Red Beach, the remainder of the Calgary Tanks would be landed alongside the Essex Scottish and Royal Marines. The Toronto Machine Regiment would provide covering fire for the infantry troops, while the Royal Canadian Engineers were to clear away placed obstacles so that the Calgary Tanks could advance through Dieppe and beyond it. Standing by as a floating reserve would be the Fusiliers Mont Royal Regiment. Along with the Provost Corps, they would serve as the beaches’ main defense once they had been secured until all assault forces had been evacuated.

Upon landing at White Beach, the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry was to break up into two company forces that shifted in different directions. One force was to move eastward, meet up with companies of the Essex Scottish and Calgary Tanks from Red Beach, and then proceed south to take the town square in the heart of the city. The remainder of the R.H.L.I. would shift west around the Casino and advance toward the headlands, upon which the Chateau stood. Reaching the top, the force was to knock out what remained of three or four 75mm guns and capture the Headquarters of both the 571st Regiment and its 2nd Battalion. Once these objectives were completed, the R.H.L.I. units would again split into two groups. One of the groups was to undergo a 180-degree turnaround to link up with the landing forces that took the town square, while the second group would advance further west along the headlands to meet up with units from the South Saskatchewan Regiment. At the same time, the main assault force of the Calgary Tanks was to advance south of the original German defense perimeter, link up with the Cameron Highlanders, and take the St. Aubin airfield. From there, they were to shift east and destroy the four 150mm howitzers of the Hitler Battery. Once these were put out of commission, they were to proceed further east, capture the 302nd’s Divisional HQ, and take with them all vital German personnel and intelligence when they were ordered to be evacuated.

At Red Beach the Essex Scottish, the Royal Marines, and the remainder of the Calgary Tanks were to secure the town’s northwestern docks and transport back to the naval force with ships captured from the harbor. When the Royal Marines had reached the edge of the northern docks, they were to split up into two forces heading in opposite directions. One would proceed north to secure the beachfront’s eastern edge and link up with units from the Essex Scottish. Two other E.S. forces were to head west towards White Beach. One of these groups was to link up with the R.H.L.I. and Calgary Tank units heading toward the town square. The third group was to break off from the group heading west and move south towards the town’s peninsular area that protruded in the harbor. It would then cross a pair of bridges that connected the town’s two sides through the peninsula over to the town’s east side. Once across, the E.S. would swing northward along the east docks, capture the Regiment’s 3rd Divisional HQ, and retrieve all vital personnel and intelligence that could be taken back to England (Mellor 26, 63; Ford 30-32, 35, 61, & 64).

Support from the Seas

The Commander of the Naval Forces, Capt. John Hughes-Hallet, would control at least 237 ships during the operation. Firepower support for the amphibious troops would come from eight destroyers, one large gunboat, and numerous escort craft ranging from steam gun boats to Free French Chasseurs. The nine or ten most heavily armed ships were the HMS Locust, HMS Alresford, HMS Bleasdale, HMS Berkeley, HMS Albrighton, HMS Garth, HMS Brocklesby, HMS Fernie, ORP Slazak, and HMS Calpe. The Calpe would serve as the HQ ship for the operation’s main commanders, including Maj. John Roberts, Hughes-Hallet, Air Marshal Trafford Leigh Mallory, and numerous others. Providing the landing crafts needed for transporting troops to the shores were nine Landing Ships: the HMS Glengyle, HMS Queen Emma, HMS Princess Beatrix, HMS Prince Charles, HMS Princess Astrid, HMS Prince Albert, HMS Prince Leopold, HMS Invicta, and HMS Duke of Wellington. The nine ships would provide sixty Assault Landing Craft (LCA), eight Support Landing Craft (LCS), and seven Mechanised Landing Craft (LCM). Twenty motor launches (ML) and ten Landing Craft Flotillas were also involved in bringing troops to shore. Aside from two Landing Craft Tank (LCT) Flotillas and one Landing Craft Flak (LCF) Flotilla, there were a total of seven Landing Craft Personnel (LCP) Flotillas. Two of these would disembark men at Yellow Beach, another three would land men at Green Beach, while two would be used as floating reserves off the main Dieppe coast.

The ten capitol ships were to start a naval bombardment on assigned target towns ten to twenty minutes before the first troops landed there. Providing additional fire support were twelve motor gun boats (MGB), four steam gun boats (SGB), and seven Chasseurs from the Free French Navy. The total naval force would ship off from the ports of Southampton, Newhaven, Portsmouth, Shoreham, and Gosport, among others. The heaviest naval artillery they were equipped with, however, happened to be weapons ranging from 4in. guns to 20mm light cannons. Since the idea to execute a heavy bombardment during the preceding hours had been dropped, it would also be decided that no battleships or other large naval craft would be involved in the operation. The most effective means of a bombardment that could give the ground troops enough support would have to come from the air (Ford 25-26, 30, & 33-36).

Support from the Skies

Overlooking the Air Force branch of the operation, Air Marshal Leigh-Mallory assigned the task of providing air support to an Inter-Allied Air Force. A majority of the air power would come from the RAF’s Fighter Command Group No. 11, in the guise of forty-eight Spitfire, eight Hurricane, three Typhoon, five Boston, one Beaufighter, two Blenheim, and four Mustang squadrons (a total of at least seventy-one R.A.F. squadrons). A number of the involved RAF fighter squadrons were made up of pilots from various Allied forces including the U.S., Canada, Free French, Poland, and New Zealand. The number of pilots from each of these Allied nations was so plentiful that select squadrons were made up of pilots representing a single country of origin and original service (take the 350th Belgian and 332nd Norwegian Spitfire Squadrons, for example). Supporting the fighters was up to four B-17 squadrons from the USAAF 97th Bombardment Group.

The provided squadrons for the air assault were to embark on their missions from twenty-five Air Force bases scattered throughout southern England. Twelve of these bases resided in the areas surrounding London, while the other thirteen were located along the southern English coastlines. Since the night bombardment’s cancellation also applied to the Air Force, it was decided that bombing raids and strafe-and-run targets would be limited to the German airfields and coastal defenses around Dieppe. This air support was intended to begin around the same time the naval “bombardment” was scheduled to begin, just prior to the landing of the flank attack troops at their assigned beaches.

During the operation, the Combined Air Force would be assigned with two objectives: to serve as a source of firepower support for the ground forces and to sever the defense capabilities held by the Germans at Dieppe. The latter objective was intended to affect the degree of which the first objective would be achieved. Support from the RAF and USAAF squadrons was to be provided by carrying out numerous tasks that included:

• disabling heavy gun emplacements inside and outside of Dieppe;
• bombing German defense positions scattered along headlands around the Dieppe area; and
• knocking out major defenses along the target beaches through strafe attacks.

These tasks, among others, were to be carried out before the ground troops landed and continue while they were carrying out their own missions. When troops at the beaches had finished all of their objectives, the air squadron presence was to be elevated to its highest level of support and remain at that level until the final troops were evacuated. Attempting to meet the two aforementioned objectives, it was hoped, would bring about a third objective: to coax the majority of Luftwaffe squadrons (stationed in the regions that neighbored Dieppe), into engaging the RAF squadrons. Planners estimated the preliminary attacks made on German defenses would entice the bulk of the local Luftwaffe into air combat. Doing this was estimated to not only deliver huge losses to the number of German fighters and bombers, but also diminish the rate of casualties inflicted upon the ground forces by Luftwaffe fighter planes. How the progress of the Allied Air Force squadrons’ missions would carry out lied on the other side of the Channel they would fly over during the early hours of August 19th (Franks 15-31, 207-208; Ford 26, 36-7, & 78).

- - -

Copyright © 2005 Pete Bublitz.

Written by Pete Bublitz.  If you have questions or comments on this article, please contact Pete Bublitz at: as4893@wayne.edu.

About the author: Pete Bublitz, whose first and middle names are Jonathan Peter, is an undergraduate student enrolled at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. His main school-based interest, in terms of courses, is to take up a history major among others. His personal interests include, but are not limited to, getting lost, music, comedy, and last but not least history.

Published online: 07/23/2005.

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