At dawn on 19 August 1942, Allied forces launched a major amphibious raid on the French coast around the port of Dieppe. Though some intelligence was gathered and lessons were learnt, the raid was a costly failure.

Background

By the spring of 1942, Nazi Germany had conquered most of mainland Europe and was battling Allied forces in Russia and North Africa. In the Far East, Japanese forces had launched a devastating surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and Allied colonies in Southeast Asia.

Not yet capable of launching a full-scale invasion of Western Europe, Allied commanders agreed to launch a raid on the French coast at Dieppe in the hope of gaining important experience, boosting morale and troubling German forces. Codenamed Operation Jubilee, it would be the first significant Allied action on the continent since the withdrawal of the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk in 1940.

The Raid

At dawn on 19 August 1942, Allied forces began their seaborne assault around the port of Dieppe at five different points. Among them were 6,100 servicemen of the 2nd Canadian Division including 50 tank crews and British Commando units, with attached American and Free French personnel. They were supported by more than 250 naval vessels and some 1,000 aircraft.

While Commando units aimed to attack the German artillery batteries on either flank of the town, the 2nd Canadian Division targeted the ports and coastal defences, port structures and other strategic buildings including radar and aerodrome installations.

The first assault force unexpectedly encountered a German convoy, meaning that the defenders were alerted and the crucial element of surprise was lost. The Allies had also underestimated the strength of the German garrisons. In the ferocious fighting that followed, only the raiding parties on the edge of the main assault came anywhere near their ambitious objectives. By early afternoon, the raid was over and casualties were heavy. Survivors were evacuated back across the channel, but many were killed, wounded or taken prisoner.

Aftermath

By the end of the day, some 3,600 of the raiders were killed, wounded, missing or captured. Naval forces suffered 550 casualties and almost 120 aircraft were lost. The raid was a costly failure although the Allies acquired some intelligence and learnt operational lessons which contributed to future successful amphibious landings.

Related Cemeteries & Memorials

Dieppe Canadian War Cemetery in France commemorates some 950 commonwealth servicemen of the Second World War, of whom nearly 190 remain unidentified. More than 730 servicemen who died during the Dieppe Raid are buried in the cemetery while others lie in various locations along the coast and at Rouen, where many of the wounded were taken to hospital.

Brookwood Military Cemetery is the largest CWGC cemetery in the United Kingdom. Among the 4,000 servicemen and women of both world wars are 40 who died during the Dieppe Raid.

Brookwood 1939-1945 Memorial commemorates nearly 3,500 men and women Commonwealth forces of the Second World War, of whom nearly 200 ground forces who died during the Dieppe Raid.