Dieppe 1942

The Dieppe Raid is famous for the Calgary Regiment’s first operational use of the Churchill tank; less well known is the minor role the Calgary Highlanders played in the battle.

The Soviet Union was facing the prospect of at worst, defeat, and at best another costly summer of campaigning as the war on the Eastern Front approached its first year anniversary in the spring of 1942. Calls for a western Allied invasion of Europe were coming not only from the hard-pressed Soviets, but from a vocal and growing number of citizens in the United Kingdom. Arguments between the top British and American commanders were waged over readiness to participate in such an venture, and the British managed to have their desires take precedence; the western Allies would take the war to Germany and Italy through North Africa and later the Mediterranean. It was felt that an aggressive programme of raids on the Channel Coast could keep the Germans off balance, anticipating a major landing and tying up large numbers of troops in western garrisons and preventing their employment against the Red Army in the east.

The commando raids also served real strategic objectives; the Raid on St. Nazaire, for example, while costly also prevented the battleship Tirpitz from having a useable port in France to use as a base of operations; the dry dock there was the only one on the French Atlantic coast capable of berthing the large ship for repairs.

The 2nd Canadian Infantry Division

During his tenure as commander of South-Eastern Command (which he almost immediately renamed “South-Eastern Army”), British General Bernard Montgomery inspected the various Canadian units in the UK, giving his assessments on not just formations but individual infantry battalions, to the senior Canadian commanders in the United Kingdom. He rated the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division as better than the 1st, and in the 2nd Division, he rated the 4th and 6th Brigades as superior to the 5th. As a consequence, the Calgary Highlanders were fated not to participate in the training for the Dieppe Raid.

German Defences

The Dieppe region was garrisoned by soldiers of Infanterie Division 302, arriving in the area in April 1941 after a short stretch of garrison duty in Germany. While the division had been sent to France with its three regiments at full strength, many ethnic Germans were transferred after the invasion of Russia, as replacements for formations in the East. They were replaced with conscripts from the conquered territories, such as Poland, Czechoslovakia, Belgium and the Soviet Union. By the time of the Dieppe Raid, the division was equipped with a high proportion of captured and pre-war equipment of foreign manufacture.

Soldiers and sailors of the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) and Kriegsmarine (Navy) also made up part of the Dieppe garrison, including a naval unit with eight 3.7cm antitank guns and two heavy anti-aircraft batteries manned by Air Force troops.

Infanterie Division 302 was charged with defending 100 miles of coastline, with Dieppe in the centre of the divisional area. An armoured reserve of Panzer Division 10 was located a few hours away by road. Other reserve formations in the sector included 1. SS Panzer Division “Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler” and Luftwaffe Division 7. The terrain along the coast consisted mainly of high chalk cliffs; what few beaches were present were defended by concentrations of defensive positions, barbed wire, and mines. Natural beach exits were often steep gullies, into which concrete emplacements were placed, also with wire and mines or booby traps.

The town of Dieppe proper was ringed with barbed wire, roadblocks and pillboxes. Weapons emplacements (machine guns and light anti-aircraft guns) facing seaward were located along the sea front inside the town as well as on the flanking heights (“headlands”, as they were known). Four batteries of guns were located within the Dieppe defences, including 4-inch and 5.9-inch guns directly within the defensive perimeter. The headlands overlooking the town and beach had eight 75mm guns.

The beach exits in front of the town consisted of roads leading away from the broad promenade; these streets were barricaded with concrete anti-tank obstacles and covered by fire. The beach itself had two separate barbed wire obstacles emplaced, one on the shingle and another on a low sea wall, the latter being seven feet thick. Pillboxes at each end of the seafront housed weapons, including 5cm anti-tank guns.

The Plan

The plan for the raid was drafted by the staff of the new Chief of Combined Operations, British Lord Louis Mountbatten, recently promoted to the rank of Vice Admiral. His assistant, naval Captain John Hughes-Hallett also played a part in devising the plan, and after the initial raid was cancelled, took over as naval force commander for the remounted operation.

Operation RUTTER

Planning for initial raid, codenamed RUTTER, began on 25 April 1942. Training began on 20 May with the raid itself scheduled for July 1942. The 2nd Canadian Infantry Division was selected to provide two infantry brigades for the main landings with tank support from the 14th Canadian Army Tank Regiment (Calgary Regiment), drawn from the 1st Canadian Army Tank Brigade. British Commandos and Airborne troops would supplement the raiding force, landing by sea and air on the flanks and behind the main objectives.

That objective was the port facilities in Dieppe, in which German landing barges were anchored. Other German installations in the area included a radar station and, it was believed, a divisional headquarters. The goal of the operation was to seize the port for a short period, withdrawing the raiding force the same day as the landing. It was hoped also to capture a German landing craft and gain insight into German radar technology. A secondary goal was to bring about a decisive air battle between German day fighters and aircraft of the Royal Air Force. August 1942 was the start of American participation in the Combined Bomber Offensive, with two and four-engined bombers of the United States Army Air Force beginning to attack targets in France.

As planning continued, many elements of the original draft were changed; an anticipated aerial bombardment of the town of Dieppe was deleted, as was an anticipated heavy ship-to-shore bombardment of the seafront of the town. The Raid was scheduled for 5 July 1942, but weather postponed the operation two days running, after which time it was finally cancelled.

Operation JUBILEE

The plans for the raid were resurrected on 10 July 1942, and rechristened Operation JUBILEE. The decision to remount the raid is a subject of controversy; historian Brian Loring-Villa presents the case that the remounting was never authorized by his commanders – in essence, the Combined Chiefs of Staff (ie the Chief of the Imperial General Staff (senior British Army officer), and the senior British air and naval officers) and Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Great secrecy among even participants of the Raid hampered some aspects of the planning and execution of the plan.

For a minor example, brand new Sten Guns had been issued for the July raid, and required much cleaning and modification to work without flaw. (Dieppe would in fact be the first combat use of the Sten by Canadians). The Stens were withdrawn in July, but when the raid was remounted, brand new Stens were issued out less then 24 hours before the landing, giving no time for users to degrease and prepare the weapons for action.

Other more serious problems arose; failure to involve (or even inform) the Joint Intelligence Committee of the Inter-Service Security Board in the remounting meant that no new intelligence on enemy dispositions would be added to that in hand. For example, the failure to inform the Joint Intelligence Committee or the Inter-Service Security Board meant none of the intelligence agencies were involved, so no current information was added.

Loring-Villa has suggested a deliberate leak of news of the Raid to the Germans in an additional chapter of later versions of his book, mentioned above. There has been no substantiation of this; C.P. Stacey in the Official History was adamant that the Germans were not forewarned of the Raid. Loring-Villa raised the point in his book that if a German divisional commander wanted to test his garrison’s abilities, he might sit on any information received on a limited raid on his stretch of coastline, in order to see how his men reacted. No other historian seems to have discussed this hypothesis in detail.

What is not disputed is that the 252 ship convoy carrying the JUBILEE force sailed from various ports on the night of 18 August, and met with a German convoy unexpectedly early on the morning of 19 August. Several craft carrying British troops of No. 3 Commando were torpedoed.

Yellow Beaches

Due to the convoy action, only a handful of commandos were put ashore, and only 18 men engaged their target. Unable to destroy the coastal guns, they engaged the German crews with small arms fire and successfully suppressed the positions.

Orange Beach

No. 4 Commando turned in the most successful performance of any Allied troops on 19 August, landing in good order and destroying their targets.

Blue Beach

The landing at Puys by the Royal Regiment of Canada and a company of the Black Watch was delayed by navigation errors and the element of surprise was sacrificed by a landing in daylight. The narrow beach, at the foot of a steep cliff and defended by just 60 Germans, was immediately brought under heavy machine gun and mortar fire. Of the Canadians engaged, 225 men were killed, 264 surrendered and 33 returned to England. Some Canadian casualties had resulted from a grenade-priming accident on the transport ships during the channel crossing.

Green Beach

At Pourville the South Saskatchewan Regiment and the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada landed in good order, though they came in west of the Scie rather than astride it as planned. The SSR were halted by concrete blockhouses, occupied buildings, and a defended bridge over the river. Both regiments suffered heavily, though the C.O. of the SSR, Lieutenant Colonel C.C.I. Merritt, personally led attacks across the bridge and into the occupied houses on the far bank of the river. He was captured, and after release in 1945 awarded the Victoria Cross.

Red and White Beaches

The main landings at the town itself were supported by Hurricane aircraft strafing the town front. A simultaneous landing of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry on the right and the Essex Scottish on the left was to be supported by the 14th Canadian Army Tank Regiment (Calgary Tanks), though in the event, the tanks arrived late. Engineers tasked to destroy obstacles were unable to move in the face of heavy fire and the attacking infantry were driven to ground. Limited advances into the town were made by both infantry battalions, notably through a large beach-front Casino, which was in the process of being demolished by the Germans at the time of the raid due to its proximity to the landing areas.

The tanks were hindered by the chert beach; stones entering the tracked suspension caused broken track pins. Some tanks managed to cross the chert and approach the town, but concrete obstacles prevented their exit from the beach. The armour of the Churchill tanks proved impervious to enemy fire; not a single Canadian crewman was killed while inside his machine. The tanks expended their ammunition on targets of opportunity, and many crewmen were captured, having stayed at their posts to cover the withdrawal of the infantry.

Due to communications problems, the floating reserve was committed to the main beach, and troops of Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal were landed during the morning as well, suffering heavy loss. No. 40 Commando Royal Marines was also ordered ashore, though their commander wisely refused to land as he examined the beach on their run to shore.

The order to withdraw was moved up to late morning from the scheduled time of early afternoon.

While the battalion was not committed to that battle, the action is nonetheless a significant event in Calgary Highlanders history. The first Calgary Highlander to die in combat was Captain T.M. Insinger, serving as a divisional staff officer at Dieppe that day. As well, 21 men of the mortar platoon under Lieutenant Jack Reynolds were assigned to the raiding force, and the first Calgary Highlanders to be rewarded for bravery included Sergeant Bert Pittaway, Sergeant Bill Lyster and Private “Red” Anderson, all of whom received Mention in Despatches for their actions during the raid, as described in the account quoted below.

Calgary Highlanders Mortar Platoon Personnel who participated in the Dieppe Raid

The remainder of the battalion was ordered to Portsmouth to help the wounded men disembark, as well as to guard prisoners. The ashen faces of the returning survivors were a grim dose of reality for any Calgary Highlander who even briefly wished that he had been able to go as well. In the days to come, German planes dropped propaganda leaflets over Southern England with photographs of the Dieppe beach littered with dead men and wrecked equipment.

The quoted material below comes from an article by Bill Lyster’s wife Eswyn Lyster that originally appeared in Legion Magazine, and was then reprinted in True Canadian War Stories (Legion Magazine, 1986)..


The men of 3 Platoon of the Calgary Highlanders had been away from their unit for several weeks competing with mortar platoons of the Black Watch and Maisonneuve Regiment.  Battle schools, schemes, and exercises were so much a part of the Canadian infantryman’s life in England that nobody thought it particularly significant when the Calgarians chalked up the best score.  Everyone’s mind was on the scarcity of leave.

Wearing good battledress, the men boarded a transport one afternoon.  As usual, Private Red Anderson carried a base plate and sights.   When Lieutenant Jack Reynolds passed out special tags, Private Dusty Rhodes spoke up: “Hey, you guys, we had these same tags on the Isle of Wight.  I’ll bet we’re going to Dieppe.”  But nobody else had been on that May exercise for an assault that was cancelled because of weather conditions, so they said, “Pull the other leg, Rhodes.”


Lieutenant Jack Reynolds
(Calgary Highlanders Museum photo)

Sergeant William Lyster
(Calgary Highlanders Museum photo)

Sergeant Bert Pittaway
(Calgary Highlanders Museum photo)

Private “Red” Anderson
Joan Anderson Photo
(reprinted from the book Alberta in the 20th Century, Volume VIII)


The truck headed south on the quiet Hampshire lanes.  It was a warm summer’s day, August 18, 1942.

Near Portsmouth, progress was slowed by dozens of military vehicles, all converging on the dockyards, where 3 Platoon marched on to a flat-bottomed craft with a large 6 painted on its side.  Officially it was landing craft tank (LCT) 163, commanded by Thomas Andrew Cook, RNR.  Already it was crowded with three tanks, a bulldozer and Canadian servicemen, including Calgary Regiment tank crews.  (Note – this was Number Six Troop of the Calgary Tank Regiment under Lieutenant Jack Dunlap) Reynolds led his men to a space between a tank and one side of the craft.   Sergeants Bert Pittaway and Bill Lyster, buddies since training camp in Shilo, Manitoba, noticed that two tanks bore their Christian names.   Almost immediately LCT 6 began to pull away from the dock.  Everyone had the feeling of being inside an overcrowded box because the steel sides of the craft only allowed a clear view of the sky.


Back at Halnaker Camp, near Petworth, Sussex, Captain John Bright, adjutant of the Calgary Highlanders, was writing in the regimental diary: “No. 3 Platoon (Mortars) was reported to be coming back to camp but did not turn up.  Further messages revealed that they were putting on a demonstration for the RAF.”

Anderson climbed up on a narrow walkway on the LCT to get a better view.  As they cleared the harbour he saw that other landing craft, equally crowded, were ahead of them.  Reynolds assembled his men and announced: “We’re on our way to France.”

BERT and BILL disembarked onto the beach at Dieppe.  BERT made it to a point east of the Casino, where it had its left track blown off.  BILL also maneuvered in the vicinity of the Casino, firing at various targets on the beach front and up on the west headland.   Above, BERT lies abandoned in front of the Casino. ECP Armees Photo DAT 2126 L44


“I knew it” said Rhodes.  This time nobody argued, but Reynolds could tell they were still skeptical.  Too much phoney war, he thought.  Too many schemes.  His face serious, he read out the orders.  Then he unfolded a map.

“This is the town of Dieppe,” he said.  “We’ll be landing on this section of the beach, code-named Red, just before sunrise.  We’re to set up at the tobacco factory, here, and give covering fire.  At 11:00 hours we’re to rendezvous here, at the church, and make our way back to the landing craft.  Anyone who can’t rendezvous or get off the beach is on his own.”

Then he distributed escape kits containing waterproof maps and packets of French francs.  Fingering the notes, Private Bill Simpson said: “This can’t be a scheme.  The army doesn’t give money away unless it absolutely has to!”

But with the clear, blue sky overhead and the leisurely progress it felt the same as all those other exercises, even when the order came that steel helmets be worn.

Eventually one man began writing a letter.  Others followed suit and Pittaway wondered how this mail would get to its destination.

“Here, Red, I owe you.”  Someone pushed £6 in to Anderson’s hand. Always a soft touch for a loan and a good poker player to boot, he stood amazed as debt after debt was paid.  “Well I’ll be a hairless Highlander,” he said.  “They should put on more raids like this.”

The long twilight faded in to a warm and cloudless evening.  After a haversack lunch the men tried to settle down for the long night.   Anderson leaned against some sacks almost as uncomfortable as the steel deck.   By the earthly smell he guessed they held potatoes.

LCT 6 had been riding steadily in a calm sea, but about 23:30 it swayed slightly.  More ships were joining the small convoy and they jockeyed for position as they passed in line astern through the swept section of a minefield.   Unaware of the hazards mere yards away, Reynolds and his men shifted uneasily, cussing the army brass that in its wisdom had decided blankets weren’t necessary for this short voyage.

At 02:00 the moon set and in the darkness the men dozed fitfully.  Only the even throbbing of the engines broke the silence.  They were travelling slowly, keeping pace with the slowest vessels.  They were not due in to Dieppe until first light.

At 03:47 a star shell burst overhead, illuminating the interior of LCT 6 like sudden daylight.  Up ahead ships were exchanging fire and the convoy broke formation.  As the star shell faded, a tremendous explosion lit the sky and in the confusion another craft came partly across their bow.  The jolt skidded Anderson across the deck.  “I can’t swim,” he shouted.  “What the hell do we do now?  Jump overboard?”

“We can’t,” yelled Pittaway above the din.   “No bloody lifebelts.  It’s against marine regulations or something.”  He was laughing nervously, but he was thinking ‘By God, we’ve had it.’

But as suddenly as the firing began it was over.   Eyes strained by the sudden glare of star shells and gunfire became accustomed once more to the darkness.  Only the stars shone brilliantly from the black, cloudless sky.  But sleep didn’t come.  In every mind was the dreadful thought that by now the French coast must be on full alert.  The men had no way of knowing that the eight-vessel German convoy they’d encountered was steaming to Dieppe unaware it had been in the midst of a raiding force.

Just before 05:00 Allied light bombers and fighters came out of the north flying low, almost at mast level.  Flashes of light and faint whomps showed that the Dieppe garrison was under attack and was retaliating with anti-aircraft fire.

With each mile the noise grew louder and almost imperceptibly the sky began to lighten in the east.  Eventually Lyster scrambled up the side, but he could see little more than the dark silhouettes of the other craft and a false dawn reddening the sky over Dieppe.  With an ear-splitting roar the four-inch guns on several escorting destroyers opened fire on the coast.  Billows of white smoke rose from the shoreline ahead, signalling that the forward assault landing craft were almost at touchdown.  With a curious, sick excitement, Lyster called down: “Mortar platoon, load rifles!”  The craft was picking up speed and someone set his rifle butt down heavily on the deck, perhaps to steady himself.  A shot whistled past Lyster, missing him by inches.

“Gees, did I hit you, Bill?” The man was almost in tears.

Lyster was shaken.  “You just missed my ass.   Save your bloody ammunition for the beach!” he said, sliding down to the comparative safety of the deck.

Pieces of shrapnel began clanging against the craft.   Suddenly Reynolds, who was squatting beside Anderson, said “My God, man, you just got hit!”  Anderson looked down at a long tear in his battledress trousers and a piece of metal that lay on the deck between them.  He thought shock must have numbed his leg, but found his skin wasn’t even cut.  He dropped the piece of shrapnel in his pocket.

Now shells were exploding inside the LCT and Pittaway called to some of his men who had been passing time by helping the galley crew peel potatoes.  They’d scarcely joined the rest when the galley received a direct hit that killed most of its crew.  Then a mortar bomb exploded nearby and blew an army service corps man into Anderson.  They writhed on the deck, covered with a wet, sticky substance, the man shouting in a French Canadian accent that he’d been killed.   “No you haven’t, you fool…It’s those God damned potatoes!”

Another explosion, this time in the engine-room, sent thick, acrid smoke in all directions.  Shouts of “Gas!” went up.   Pittaway, his throat searing, thought for the second time that morning: “We’ve had it!”  This time we’ve really had it!”  Their respirators were with their blankets back at the battle school, but it was a smoke canister that had been kicked loose by the explosion.  The craft swung wildly to port as the helmsman, overcome by fumes, lost control.  Then the engine-room burst into flames.

Anderson and a few others manned a hose, but it had been shot so full of holes they doused themselves instead of the fire.  Others had better luck and a new helmsman took over.  Now, only 70 yards from the beach, the canister smoke mingled with the white smoke-screen drifting over them.  Still, the wheelhouse took a direct hit that killed the second helmsman.


Again the craft swung hard to port.  A medic, who was climbing up to reach a stretcher, lost his hold.  Below him stood an infantryman, his old-fashioned, long style bayonet fixed.  The medic crashed down, driving the bayonet through his thigh.  Pittaway, who helped two others pull the blade out, saw that it had pierced far enough to lift the skin on the other side.

A new man took the wheel and within minutes he too was killed.  A fourth man brought the craft under control and they approached the beach from a different angle.   With yards still to go, they came out of the smoke-screen in to brilliant morning sunshine and a storm of gunfire.  LCT 1 – officially 145 – was lying out of action broadside to the beach.  Using it as partial cover, they crossed the last stretch of water.  The men swayed as LCT 6 finally touched down on the shale.  The gates creaked open, the ramp fell and they saw Red Beach.

LCT 1 after the battle, lying at the eastern edge of the Dieppe beach ECP Armees. Photo DAA 2815 L28


Rough shingle sloped up to a huge roll of barbed wire parallel to the shore.  Beyond it, more beach ended at a sea-wall and promenade.  Well back from the promenade a row of buildings was dominated by the twin chimneys of the tobacco factory.  From his limited viewpoint, Reynolds could see dozens of dead and wounded crumpled on the stones.  “Red Beach,” he thought bitterly.  “It’s well named.”

With the ramp down, their last bit of protection was gone.   A shell hit the nearest tank and ricocheted through Reynolds’ men, just catching Pittaway’s shoulder patch.  He had dodged instinctively to the left, which saved his life.  The Calgarians watched in horror as the shell struck a man crouched nearby.   The force lifted his steel helmet and knocked him to the deck with part of his head torn away.

The tanks were ready to move, but the bulldozer was the first to trundle down the ramp.  Reynolds watched the operator with awe, thinking: “He’s up there with nothing around him but his tin hat and he’s not batting an eyelid.”  The bulldozer travelled only a few yards before the man was dead.

Two tanks followed, turning left and right.  The first went about 10 yards, hit a mine and lost its tracks.  The second went a little farther before being stopped by heavy gunfire.  A third, the one called Bert, went straight ahead and over the wire.  As it lumbered on, the wire sprang back into place, halting the progress of the troops who were pouring out of the LCT.  Caught in the murderous fire that seemed to come from all directions, they were adding their bodies to those already strewn in front of the craft.

Aboard LCT 6 the situation was chaotic.  Medics, under heavy fire and often injured, strove to comfort the wounded and dying.  On the bridge skipper Cook was still in command, but most of his crew were dead or badly injured, including the gunners at the exposed port and starboard anti-aircraft pom-pom guns.   The 30 or so infantrymen still aboard fought the fires and assisted the medics.

The skipper was calling “All ashore!” but Reynolds felt he would lose every man on the beach.  He ordered that the mortars be set up on deck.  Anderson began the drill, but found his base plate wouldn’t grip on the sloping deck.  “I can’t make the damn thing secure,” he reported.   Reynolds swore.  “Why the hell didn’t they give us a few sandbags?…”

The tide was rapidly going out.  In a few minutes the LCT would be stranded.

“No more ashore!” the skipper ordered.   “Up ramp!”  But the ramp chains had been damaged and the struggling men could get it only part way up, so that the doors would not swing shut.  Slewing badly, the craft pulled off the beach and came alongside LCT 1, which seemed about to sink.  A line thrown to the stricken craft was shot away in a hail of gunfire.   Abandoning the idea of taking it in tow, skipper Cook signalled to the few survivors.  They swam across to LCT 6, machine-gun fire dimpling the water around them.  Four ratings came aboard, followed by a young RNVR sub-lieutenant, his wet, red hair gleaming darkly in the sunshine.  “My 22nd Channel crossing,” he grumbled, “and the worst one yet!”

The intensity of fire lessened as LCT 6 moved in to deeper water and headed for the main anchorage where the larger ships directing operations were under aerial attack.  The red-haired officer asked for men to handle the pom-poms and Reynolds detailed Lyster, Pittaway and Anderson and other groups to take turns.  It was difficult at first, requiring two men to co-ordinate the traverse and elevation mechanisms and a third to handle the clips of ammunition, but despite their exposed positions these new gun crews felt a surge of energy and a profound relief to be fighting back at last, even if their accuracy left something to be desired.

Most casualties, including the man with the bayonet wound, were transferred to the hospital ship.  Only the most critically injured were kept on board for fear they would not survive being moved.  Among them, miraculously, was the man with the head wound.

New British naval crews came aboard and worked on the steering mechanism.  There was constant harassment from enemy aircraft and those below were amazed to see the red-headed officer above decks, coolly shaving off his day’s growth of beard.  Reynolds and his men became aware of their itching chins and their hunger.  By Anderson’s count it was 16 hours since they had last eaten.

Word came that they were going back in.  Men were already awaiting rescue on Red Beach under cover of a thick smoke-screen laid down by Allied planes.  Those on LCT 6 shrank from the idea, but the craft swung round and joined a group of small assault boats heading in.  The enemy were firing blindly in to the smoke.  The small boats, travelling faster than the LCT, ran in to the fierce barrage with devastating results.  Within minutes many were holed or blown apart, the remains of their crews struggling in the water.  Up on the guns Lyster and Pittaway fired in to the tobacco factory.  They little realized that the firest started that day would deprive Frenchmen, already suffering enemy occupation, of several weeks’ tobacco rations.

A bearded individual was standing in one of the surviving boats waving them in.  “He must be drunk,” said Anderson, trying to account for the man’s disregard for his own safety.  But drunk or not, he had a boatload of Canadians and there were more in the water around him.

In later years, Lyster and Pittaway and the rest couldn’t remember how many times they travelled between the beach and the anchorage, picking up men from the boats and the water.  They could only remember the fear that gripped their empty stomachs and made breathing difficult – and the bearded man who always seemed to be waving them in.

On the last run to the anchorage, a Messerschmitt came through the smog that hung thickly over the battle area and dived straight towards them.   Lyster and Pittaway got it in to their sights and saw their tracers plunging in to its belly.  Suddenly the plane seemed to shudder.  Pouring smoke and flame, it passed over their heads and crashed in to the sea.  An almost-hysterical cheer went up from the dirty, weary men aboard LCT 6.

At last the order came to head home.  For most of the mortar platoon the journey was a blank and there was only a mild stir when they stopped to pick up a downed RAF pilot.

It was dusk when they arrived back in England.   They’d been away just over 24 hours.  The wounded were taken off first, the man with the head wound still living, although surely death was only hours away.   Anderson slipped on the gangplank and hung from the guardrail, his feet dangling in space.  “My God!” he thought, “I get this far and now I’m gonna drown in a friendly port!”  But strong hands soon pulled him to safety.

After interrogation the men were given a stiff rum.   On the journey back to Halnaker Camp, Anderson couldn’t stop talking.   “Imagine,” he marvelled, “they kept asking me, what did I see?   I said ‘I saw a helluva lot!  and they said did I see any dead guys?  I said ‘I saw lots of dead guys,’ and they said did I see any planes and I said ‘I saw hundreds of planes.’  Where the hell did they think I’d been?”

Private Simpson leaned towards Lyster.  In the dim light of the truck he looked anxious.  “Sergeant, I’ve lost my rifle.”   Under normal circumstances this was a cardinal offence.  “Well, if that’s all you’ve lost,” Lyster assured him, “you’re damned lucky.”

At Halnaker they had something less than a hero’s welcome.   It was necessary to rouse Corporal Barnes, the assistant quartermaster.

“What the hell did you do with your blankets?” he wanted to know.  The strong smell of rum didn’t ease his suspicions.

Pittaway grabbed him.  “Look, we’ve been to Dieppe and we’re cold, tired and none too friendly.”  After that everyone wanted to help.  They’d heard radio reports of the raid and how the Canadians had suffered almost 3,500 casualties in a force of 5,000.  The men at Halnaker wanted to know every detail.

“Never mind that,” said Anderson, “how about something to eat.”

When Lyster and Pittaway finally reached their quarters, Lyster said: “Bert, did you ever imagine we’d be back here all in one piece?   We’re damned lucky, all of us.”

“Lucky?” said Pittaway.  “Luck be damned.  It’s a bloody miracle.”

Lyster laughed.  “Old Barney was sure we’d flogged those blankets.  For a second there I thought you were going to hit him.”  But Pittaway was sound asleep


The men of the mortar platoon had survived the Raid, though Lieutenant Reynolds was mistakenly reported missing and had to hurriedly cable his wife to say “Disregard any rumors.  I’m OK.”   Reynolds was called on to give evidence that the man who was injured by the bayonet had been accidentally hurt and that it was not a self-inflicted wound.

After the Dieppe Raid, pamphlets like this were dropped over England from German aircraft; the showed Canadian dead and wounded, as well as the wrecks of military equipment on the main beaches.  This example fell on the Canadian garrison at Aldershot on the night of 8/9 September 1942.  Farran’s history tells us that these leaflets were also dropped on the Calgary Highlanders.

Artifact and photos kindly donated by Jim Curley.



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