Dieppe...what was the intent?

Discussion in 'NW Europe' started by jimbotosome, Mar 4, 2006.

  1. jimbotosome

    jimbotosome Discharged

    Hey folks,

    Does anyone know what the idea of the Dieppe raid was? My thinking is that even if it was successful, what then? Regardless of tactical failures what are the chances of keeping it? Does anyone know the mindset and who decided it should be undertaken?
  2. plant-pilot

    plant-pilot Senior Member

    I was always told that it was undertaken for several reasons.

    Churchill didn't want to be seen as just sitting round waiting to be invaded. Launching an attack on the mainland, even one that was not likley to succeed was to show that they were trying at least.

    It was also used to test tactics and equipment. Dieppe showed the need for specialized vehicles and equipment for the actual landing phase. If they hadn't tried it for real they would never have found that out for sure. It certainly flattened out the learning curve for the Normandy landings. It could be argued that the Americans decided not to take advice on the preparations for Normandy off the British and Canadians because although they did have the experience of Dieppe, it had been a failure and they weren't convinced that the advice wasn't taken from a flawed experience.

    It kept the German defenses on their toes. They couldn't relax as they had attacked in force before and there was no telling when they would try again.

    At the end of the day, they might just have got lucky, caught the Germans knapping and got a toe hold on the mainland. It is however not very likely that it could have been consolidated and would probably been pushed back into the sea easily.
  3. jimbotosome

    jimbotosome Discharged


    Good answer. I am curious, Dieppe would be after the start of the war with Russia. Are you saying that Churchill was still paranoid of the Germans invading, even then?
  4. ErikH

    ErikH Senior Member

    While I have not completed the page, you can find some info on the 'Rationale' here.
    The 1942 raid on the French port of Dieppe, code-named Operation Jubilee, was spearheaded by Churchill's new Chief of Combined Operations, Louis Mountbatten, who chose the Canadian 2nd Division to lead the attack. The aim was to seize and hold a major Channel port, test new amphibious equipment, gather intelligence from prisoners [and possibly Enigma-encoded German radio traffic] and gauge how the Germans responded to an invading force. A primary goal was also to boost Allied morale, devastated by losses in North Africa and Russia.

    Churchill hoped the use of Canadian troops would satisfy the Canadian commanders following the long inactivity of Canadian forces in England. General Andrew McNaughton, who commanded the First Canadian Army and General H.D.G. Crerar, commander of I Canadian Corps eagerly accepted this chance for Canadian soldiers to get some combat experience. They had been stationed in Great Britain for two years without having ever engaged the enemy in a major operation. Canadian public opinion was starting to question this inactivity, and Canadian soldiers were raring to go.

    Churchill also wanted some good news to counter the defeats in Africa that Spring. The British press were clamoring for action, the Soviets were pushing Roosevelt to open a second front in Europe, and the overconfident Americans in turn were pressuring Churchill to mount some kind of operation. The British Prime Minister, who felt that one Gallipoli in a lifetime was enough, balked at a full-scale assault with litle chance of success. But he gave the green light to Mountbatten.
  5. Delta Tank

    Delta Tank Member

    To All,

    I have not read this book however, I did attend a WW II Conference where the author discussed his book and the purpose of the Dieppe Raid. The following is a good review of the book that I copied from Amazon. The title of the book is:
    One Day in August: Ian Fleming, Enigma, and the Deadly Raid on Dieppe Paperback – November 22, 2022

    “The disastrous British raid on Dieppe in August 1942 during World War II in which nearly a thousand men (mainly Canadians) were killed and several thousand wounded or captured has been described by some as the worst Allied blunder of the war. It has also been compared with the grievously flawed Gallipoli campaign in World War I. For many years, historians have debated why the Dieppe raid was conceived and launched. While losses in war are inevitable, it seemed to many that the cost of the raid far outweighed the generalized and bland reasons put forth by the British government and military leaders involved in this expedition, which satisfied very few.

    Through the tenacious research and efforts of historian David O’Keefe pouring through thousands of more recently declassified documents, the mystery has been solved. The primary mission of the raid was to capture the German Enigma code machine and related documents. Though the British had earlier cracked the code of the Enigma three-rotor machine through “pinching” (stealing) efforts, the introduction of the new four-rotor machine in 1942 was gradually drawing a curtain over British decoding efforts. The results were increased and successful German submarine and other naval attacks against Allied supply convoys in the Atlantic that threated the lifeblood Britain needed for its war efforts.

    Although prior “pinching” operations against smaller targets such as trawlers or other naval vessels (including on occasion submarines) proved successful, the British powers-that-be felt that a larger raid was needed not only to capture what was perceived to be a treasure trove of machines and materials at Dieppe but to cloak the entire affair with a large-scale attack so as to not to alert the Germans as to the primary target. Secrecy was at a premium, and most of the commanders “on the ground” were not aware of this mission.

    Given various planning flaws explained in this book (and also Robin Neillands’ fine book on Dieppe published before the declassified documents became available), the raid was a fiasco despite the bravery of many fine men who ran into a buzz saw at Dieppe.

    O’Keefe’s account reads like a spy thriller at times as he carefully and meticulously builds his case. Particularly interesting is his history of prior successful British pinching operations. His authoritative familiarity with cryptology is on full display here. While at times the discussion becomes a bit wonky with such details, various British military and intelligence departments, and their acronyms, O’Keefe quickly pulls the reader out of the thicket of detail and provides clear analysis and explanations. It is a fascinating and sobering account.

    What is truly tragic is that a mere ten weeks after the raid, a successful “pinch by chance” by Royal Navy personnel from a U-Boat at Egypt provided the necessary documents to crack the German four-rotor code machine and shine a bright light on German naval communications with U-Boat commanders. So many Canadian and British lives lost or damaged for no reason at Dieppe.

    The entire matter was covered up during and after the war for secrecy reasons. It makes one doubt the accuracy of any political or military memoir to see how the various participants discussed Dieppe after the war. Despite knowing the real reason for the raid, they justified it with bogus reasons and made false statements.

    Most survivors and many families of the dead never learned the justification for the raid before their deaths and surely were bitter for the rest of their lives. O’Keefe concludes his book with a conversation with a survivor who never knew the real rationale for the raid. O’Keefe informed him. What followed is a poignant reaction I will leave other readers to encounter without my spoiling the moment for them.

    Many World War II books rehash the same material. One Day in August is an original book that should be read by anyone with interest in the war as it covers so much ground and does it so well.”


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