The Dieppe Raid, also known as The Battle of Dieppe, Operation Rutter or later on Operation Jubilee, during the Second World War, was an Allied attack on the German-occupied port of Dieppe on the northern coast of France on 19 August 1942. The assault began at 5:00 AM in the morning and by 9:00 AM the Allied commanders had been forced to call a retreat. Over 6,000 infantrymen, predominantly Canadian, were supported by large British naval and Allied air force contingents. The objective was to seize and hold a major port for a short period, both to prove it was possible and to gather intelligence from prisoners and captured materials while assessing the German responses. The Allies also wanted to destroy coastal defences, port structures and all strategic buildings.
No major objectives of the raid were accomplished. A total of 3,623 of the 6,086 men who made it ashore were either killed, wounded, or captured (almost 60%). The Allied air forces failed to lure the Luftwaffe into open battle, and lost 106 aircraft. The Luftwaffe only lost 48 aircraft while the Royal Navy suffered 555 casualties. The catastrophe at Dieppe later influenced Allied preparations for Operation Torch and Operation Overlord.
In the immediate aftermath of the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Forces from Dunkirk the British started on the development of a substantial raiding force under the umbrella of Combined Operations. This was accompanied by development of techniques and equipment for amphibious warfare. In late 1941 a scheme was put forward for the landing of 12 divisions around Le Havre based on a withdrawal of German troops to counter Soviet success in the East. From this came a proposed test of the scheme in the form of Operation Rutter. Rutter was to test the feasibility of capturing a port in the face of opposition, the investigation of the problems of operating the invasion fleet and testing equipment and techniques of the assault.
The origins of the raid were unusual. Various raids had been planned, but the Dieppe raid was brought into reality only by the desires of the new Chief of Combined Operations, Louis Mountbatten. One of Mountbatten's principal assistants, Captain John Hughes-Hallett, served as Naval Commander of the raid. The actual raid was undertaken without the approval of the Combined Chiefs of Staff and many elements in the planning suffered from the unofficial nature of the raid.
The previous Chief of Combined Operations, Roger Keyes, who had commanded the famous raid on Zeebrugge in 1918, had been ordered to organise raids on occupied Europe. He was replaced by Mountbatten in 1941, through the direct intervention of Winston Churchill, and a number of raids took place – notably Operation Archery (Vaagso, Norway), Operation Biting (Bruneval), and the larger attack at St Nazaire to put the drydock out of action. Detractors of Mountbatten have pointed out that all the raids prior to Dieppe were originated under the leadership of Keyes.
The 1942 raid on Dieppe was initially planned for July and code-named Operation Rutter. The aims were straightforward: to seize and hold a major port for a short period, to test the possibility of gathering intelligence from prisoners and captured materials, and to examine the German reaction. The allies also wanted to destroy German coastal defences, port structures, and all strategic buildings. The nature of combined operations would also allow the Royal Air Force to draw the Luftwaffe into a large, planned encounter and the use of Canadian troops would, it was hoped, satisfy the Canadian commanders following the long inactivity of Canadian forces in England. Churchill grew more supportive as the defeats in north Africa incited a wave of press and parliamentary criticism.
Operation Rutter was approved in May 1942. It consisted of a main attack onto the Dieppe town beach, two flanking attacks by paratroops, a thousand sorties by Allied air forces and a naval bombardment. The Canadian 2nd Division would lead the attack, elements advancing as far as Arques. The operation was scaled down, especially the RAF bombing support, as destruction of the town, and civilian casualties, were not desired, but the troops boarded their ships on 5 July. In an ominous occurrence foreshadowing future events, on the eve of Rutter's departure, which coincided with the final day of favourable maritime conditions forecast, German bombers swept through and attacked the 250 strong Allied flotilla moored off the south coast of England. In addition to causing the abortion of Operation Rutter, it also illustrated to the Allied command how difficult maintaining the element of surprise would be in carrying out such an invasion.
Almost all concerned believed that a raid on Dieppe was now out of the question; however, though Montgomery wanted it cancelled indefinitely, Mountbatten did not. He began reorganising the raid from 11 July as Operation Jubilee. There has been debate over whether or not Mountbatten received the permission of the Chiefs of Staff to continue at this point. He claims that verbal permission was given to increase security, but none of the Chiefs of Staff or Churchill can recall granting this permission. Either way, Mountbatten instructed his staff to proceed in late July. This confusion over the lack of top-level go-ahead resulted in certain dislocations in the planning. For example, the failure to inform the Joint Intelligence Committee or the Inter-Service Security Board meant none of the intelligence agencies were involved, consequently the operation was mounted on information that was months out of date, and flawed to begin with.
The paratroopers, who were dependent on weather and the availability of aircraft, were replaced by commandos. Flank attacks were to seize the headlands. To this was added an attack on a German HQ and an airfield further inland.
Operation Jubilee still relied on the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division under Major-General J.H. Roberts to attack Dieppe, Puys and Pourville, while the paratroop assault on the flank gun batteries was replaced by an amphibious assault by British Commandos and United States Army Rangers.
Ground support was provided by 58 of the new Churchill tanks, to be delivered using the new Landing Craft, Tank apparatus. The tanks had a mixture of armament with QF 2 pounder gun-armed tanks fitted with a close support howitzer in the hull operating alongside QF 6 pounder-armed tanks. In addition, three of the Churchills were equipped with flamethrower equipment and all had adaptations enabling them to operate in the shallow water near the beach.
Dieppe and the flanking cliffs were well defended, although the 1,500 strong garrison from the German 571st Infantry Regiment was in poor condition. They were deployed along the beaches of Dieppe and the neighboring towns, covering all the likely landing places. In respect to machine guns, mortars and artillery, the city and port was adequately protected with a concentration on the main approach, (particularly in the myriad of cliff caves), and with a reserve at the rear. The defenders were stationed not only in the towns themselves, but also between the towns in open areas and highlands that overlooked the beaches. A unit of only 150 soldiers, for example, defended the beaches at Dieppe, while a smaller unit of 50 soldiers defended the beaches at Puys. Whilst lacking in terms of infantry capacity, the German defence would focus on setting up extensive defensive perimeters throughout the area. Elements of the 571st defended the radar station near Pourville and the battery over the Scie at Varengeville. To the west the 570th Infantry Regiment were deployed near the battery at Berneval.
The massive Allied air support for the operation amounted to about 70 squadrons, with the overwhelming majority coming from RAF Fighter Command, including 48 squadrons of Spitfires. It included all three Eagle Squadrons.
The Allies, in reverse to the Battle of Britain, were at the extent of the operating range of most fighters and had a limited time over target, while the Luftwaffe were mostly flying from or could refuel at nearby airfields. This enabled the Luftwaffe to maintain air superiority over the battle area once they had concentrated their effort. RAF efforts were also hampered by reliance on the Spitfire Mk V, which was significantly outclassed by the new Focke-Wulf Fw 190, their main opponent.
The opposing Luftwaffe forces were: Jagdgeschwader 2 and Jagdgeschwader 26 (JG2 and JG 26), with 200 fighters, mostly the Fw 190 and about 100 bombers from Kampfgeschwader 2 (KG2), KG 45 and KG 77, mostly Dornier 217s. On paper at least, the Allies would have a numerical advantage.
Minesweepers cleared paths through the English Channel for the shipping. The Landing craft were escorted by Motor Gun Boats, Motor Launches, and Landing Craft Flak for fire support. An estimated total of 250 ships and landing craft were assembled, not including Royal Navy minesweepers and destroyers.
The Allied fleet left various ports on the night of 18 August and as they approached the French coast early on 19 August, serious tactical problems developed.
The mission of Lieutenant Colonel John Durnford-Slater's No. 3 Commando was to neutralize a German coastal battery (code named GOEBBELS), near Berneval, which could fire upon the landing at Dieppe some six km to the west. The three 170 mm and four 105 mm guns of 2/770 Batterie had to be out of action by the time the main force approached the main beach.
The craft carrying No. 3 Commando, No. 5 Group, approaching the coast to the east were not warned of the approach of a German coastal convoy that had been located by British "Chain Home" radar stations at 2130 hours. German S-boats escorting a German tanker torpedoed some of the landing craft and disabled the escorting Steam Gun Boat 5. Subsequently Motor Launch 346 and Landing Craft Flak 1 combined to drive off the German boats but the Group was dispersed, with some losses, and the enemy's coastal defences were alerted. Only a handful of commandos under the second in command, Major Peter Young, landed and scaled the barbed wire-laced cliffs. Eventually 18 Commandos reached the perimeter of the GOEBBELS Battery via Bernevall and engaged their target with small arms fire. Although unable to destroy the guns, their sniping of the German gun crews prevented the guns from firing effectively on the main assault.
In a subsidiary operation, Operation Cauldron, No. 4 Commando, including a handful of French commandos and U.S. Rangers, landed in force and destroyed their target, the artillery battery at Varengeville (codenamed Hess), providing the only success of Operation Jubilee. Most of No. 4 safely returned to England. This portion of the raid was considered a model for future commando raids. Lord Lovat became famous as an officer here on Orange Beach (and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his part), and Captain Patrick Porteous attached to No. 4 Commando, won the Victoria Cross for bravery. 
The Canadians in the centre suffered greatly, at least in part due to the inexperience of Roberts, who unwisely committed the reserve force to the main beaches. Poor small unit leadership has also been blamed for failures once men went ashore.
The landing at Blue Beach near Puys by the Royal Regiment of Canada was delayed and the potential advantages of surprise and darkness were lost. The well-placed German forces held the Canadians that did land on the beach with little difficulty. A total of 225 men were killed, 264 surrendered and 33 made it back to England. The beach was defended by just 60 German troops, who at no time felt the need to reinforce their position. Several platoons of the Black Watch were also employed at Blue Beach; some of their casualties were suffered in a grenade-priming accident on the transport ships during the channel crossing.
On the other side of the town at Pourville (codenamed Green Beach) the South Saskatchewan Regiment and the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada made it ashore with few losses. The Saskatchewan advance on Dieppe was soon stopped while the Camerons were halted just short of their objective. With time running out, both regiments suffered more as they withdrew; the bravery of the landing craft crew allowed 341 men to embark but increasing pressure meant that the rest were left to surrender. Another 141 had died. The commanding officer of the Saskatchewans, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Cecil Ingersoll Merritt was awarded the VC for his gallantry before being made a prisoner-of-war.
One of the special objectives of the Dieppe Raid was to discover the importance and accuracy of a German radar station emplaced on the cliff-top just to the east of the town of Pourville. To achieve this, RAF Flight Sergeant Jack Nissenthall, a radar specialist who had also completed Commando training while stationed in Yugoslavia, was attached to the Saskatchewans. He was to attempt to enter the radar station and learn its secrets, accompanied by a small unit of the Saskatchewans as bodyguards. Nissenthall volunteered for the mission fully aware that, due to the highly sensitive nature of his knowledge of Allied radar technology, his Saskatchewan bodyguard unit were under orders to kill him if necessary to prevent him being captured. He also carried a cyanide pill as a last resort. Nissenthall and his Saskatchewan bodyguards failed to enter the radar station due to strong defences, but Nissenthall was able to crawl up to the rear of the station under enemy fire and cut all telephone wires leading to it. This forced the crew inside to resort to radio transmissions to talk to their commanders, transmissions which were intercepted by listening posts on the south coast of England. The Allies were able to learn a great deal about the arrays of German radar stations along the channel coast thanks to this one simple act, which helped to convince Allied commanders of the importance of developing radar jamming technology. Jack Nissenthall managed to escape back to England despite a large number of the Saskatchewans being captured..
The main attack was at three points: the 14th Canadian Army Tank Regiment (Calgary Regiment) in the middle with The Essex Scottish Regiment to the east and The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry to the west. Attacking 30 minutes after the flanking assaults and onto a steep pebble beach, all the groups were met with intense fire. The eastern assault was held at the beach. By the end of the raid, The Essex Scottish Regiment had suffered 121 fatal casualties, with many others wounded and captured. The western assault gained a hold in a shore-front casino but few soldiers made it across the road and they were soon held. The tanks arrived a little late to discover that their landing point was difficult. Twenty-nine of 58 tanks disembarked, two "drowned" in deep water, 27 made it ashore but only 15 managed to climb the chert pebbles of the beach and cross both the anti-tank ditch that the Germans were still digging, and the seawall onto the esplanade under fire from pill boxes and flanking cliff top positions. However, they were completely stopped by anti-tank walls blocking exits from the Esplanade, were immobilized, or later returned to the beach to cover the withdrawal. The engineers whose job it was to clear such obstacles were unable to do so because of heavy fire which the tanks could not suppress. Back on the beach, the tanks provided fire support, as best they could, and greatly aided in covering the withdrawal.
The supporting naval bombardment was supplied by six Hunt class destroyers; these had been designed to escort convoys and as such lacked an appropriate coastal bombardment round or sufficient weight of broadside, and did not have the range to destroy the German strongpoints without themselves coming under heavy fire. They were also unable to communicate directly with those on the shore to make their bombardment effective.
The debacle was compounded when, acting on fragmentary messages, the reserve was committed to the Dieppe beach at around 0700 hours. The 584 men of Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal took fire during their run-in to the beach and once ashore, with only 125 returning to England at day's end. The other part of the reserve comprised 369 men of "A" Commando , General Robert's reserve and, in their first action, ordered to White Beach to support "if possible". The first of their craft landed under withering machine gun fire and their commander, Lieutenant Colonel Joseph "Tiger" Phillips, put on white gloves to semaphore the order to his landing craft to withdraw. He was hit and killed in the process. All but one saw the signal and withdrew, though several craft were already hit. None of the Commandos who landed advanced more than a few yards onto the shore.
At 1050 hours a general order to withdraw was issued.
Casualty figures vary: according to one source, of 6,090 men, 1,027 were killed and 2,340 captured. The Official History of the Canadian Army: Six Years of War (Vol 1 2nd ed) gives 907 Canadians being killed, including those while in captivity. Some 2,210 Canadians of 4,963 who were sent made it back to England; nearly 1,000 of these never landed at Dieppe. The total number of fatal and non-fatal casualties, some of whom were evacuated off the beach, is given as 3,367. In the battle overhead the Allied air forces lost 119 aircraft while the Luftwaffe lost 46. A total of 29 of the 58 tanks sent were landed and lost. German personnel losses amounted to 311 killed, wounded, and missing.
Brigadier William Southam brought ashore his copy of the assault plan, classified as a secret document. Although he attempted to bury it under the pebbles at the time of his surrender, he was spotted and the plan retrieved by the Germans. The plan, later criticised for its size and needless complexity, contained orders to shackle prisoners. The Germans later also received reports of the bodies of German prisoners who had possibly been accidentally killed by German fire during the Canadian withdrawal washing ashore with their hands tied. When this was brought to Hitler's attention he ordered the shackling of Canadian prisoners, which led to a reciprocating order by Churchill for German prisoners in Canada. Both orders quickly lost momentum in prison camps and were abandoned after intercession by the Swiss. It is however, believed to have contributed to Hitler's decision to issue the Commando Order later that year.
There have been various attempts to re-evaluate the raid against larger objectives. Picknet, Prince and Prior in Friendly Fire... (2005) describe the raid's origins arising from fundamental disagreements between the Allies over strategy. The USSR was demanding a second front be opened immediately, to relieve the pressure on them of German attack. They suspected the West of being quite happy to see the Communists and Nazis destroy each other. Roosevelt in reality was eager to accommodate Stalin, and also motivated by domestic politics. Left-wingers were following the Soviet line, former anti-war Isolationists were asking pointedly why Japan was not to be dealt with first, and the Press were impatient for action either way. Without consulting his other ally, Roosevelt therefore promised to Molotov during meetings in Washington May/June 1942, that he was prepared to hazard up to 120,000 men that year to help relieve pressure on the Eastern front (knowing well that they could not and would not be American forces, still organizing and building up).
Churchill was against the premature opening of a second front.. While he fully appreciated the need to keep the Soviet Union in the war and America focused on the European theatre, and therefore saw the political logic for a show of force, understandably he balked at a full-scale strategic commitment uncertain of success. Playing for time, he agreed to countersign their Washington Communique promising a second front in 1942, on the understanding it was to be "misinformation". The raid became the British response to this American and Soviet fait accompli, a counterpart, unasked for "compromise". No evidence has ever come to light to support the rumours that the operation was deliberately sabotaged. Nevertheless its failure had a desirable effect for the British on American overconfidence. One example of this retrospective justification was the presence by 1943 of 33 divisions on the Atlantic Wall.
First-hand accounts and memoirs of many Canadian veterans who documented their experiences on the shores of Dieppe remark about the preparedness of the German defences as if they knew of the raid ahead of time. Commanding officer Lt. Colonel Labatt testified to having seen markers used for mortar practice, which appeared to have recently been placed, on the beach. Furthermore, upon touching down on the Dieppe shore, the landing ships were immediately shelled with the utmost precision as troops began exiting. The recent target practice and subsequent precision shelling is indicative of a well-prepared army. In another instance Major C. E. Page, while interrogating a German soldier, found out that 4 machine-gun battalions were brought in specifically in anticipation of a raid. However, the most compelling information supporting German foreknowledge resides with the numerous accounts of interrogated German prisoners, German captors, and French citizens who all conveyed to Canadians that the Germans had been preparing for the anticipated Allied landings for weeks. The German Army was clearly ready for an assault at its peak strength in 1942, mainly because of the high level of training for German soldiers and the large number of German military personnel still available for the defence of France during the summer. Historian Brian Loring Villa goes further and suggests in his book that news of the raid may have been deliberately leaked to the Germans.
On 17 August 1942, the clue "French port (6)" appeared in the Daily Telegraph crossword (compiled by Leonard Dawe), followed by the solution "Dieppe" the next day; on 19 August, the raid on Dieppe took place. The War Office suspected that the crossword had been used to pass intelligence to the enemy and called upon Lord Tweedsmuir, then a senior intelligence officer attached to the Canadian Army, to investigate the crossword. Tweedsmuir, the son of John Buchan the author, later commented:
"We noticed that the crossword contained the word "Dieppe", and there was an immediate and exhaustive inquiry which also involved MI5. But in the end it was concluded that it was just a remarkable coincidence – a complete fluke".
Mountbatten later justified the raid by arguing that lessons learned at Dieppe in 1942 were put to good use later in the war. He later claimed, “I have no doubt that the Battle of Normandy was won on the beaches of Dieppe. For every man who died in Dieppe at least ten more must have been spared in Normandy in 1944." The amphibious assaults at North Africa were only three months away. The more successful Normandy landings took place two years later, in 1944.
Following the experience at Dieppe, the British developed a whole range of specialist armoured vehicles which allowed their engineers to perform many of their tasks protected by armour, most famously Hobart's Funnies. These vehicles were used successfully in the British and Canadian landings in Normandy in 1944. Improvements were also made in shore-to-sea communications, and many more and bigger ships were used for ship-to-shore bombardment.
Based on Brian Loring Villa's book, "Unauthorized Action: Mountbatten and the Dieppe Raid," the Dieppe Television docudrama (1993), was critical of Mountbatten and another planner, General Montgomery.  The film is an accurate portrayal of life for the common soldier of the Canadian Army in England. A low budget meant only the attack on Blue Beach is depicted; however, the focus of the film is divided between the grand strategic aims of the high command, the operational aims of the division staff, and the personal lives of the soldiers.