Upon arriving in Dieppe, one can observe a pleasant port town with tourists and beaches. We arrived on Bastille Day so the town was full of people enjoying the fine weather and beautiful scenery. Relating this to the historic significance of this town in the Canadian narrative is difficult on first encounter.
The geography is severe; it is difficult to imagine how or why it was chosen for an assault. The sheer walls on either side of the beachhead offer a commanding view of the landing site. We were asked to simulate charging the beach. When looking up from the high tide mark to the beachhead and the heights above it is hard to imagine how any troops were able to get across. The emplaced guns would have an amazing vantage point from which to fire on the troops attempting to cross. Observing this it is clear that no permanent landing could have been imagined, and a tactical success could not have been the goal.
The strategic importance of the raid was clearly the motivation behind the operation. Offering hope to those suffering under German occupation and giving notice to the Russians that their western allies were committed to putting pressure on the Germans at any cost must have played a central role in the objectives of the raid. The evidence of the effect of the strategic importance is the number of Canadian flags hanging in the city. If Dieppe was so pointless and a failure as many Canadians have been taught, why are we so valued here? Speaking to locals here, they still appreciate our effort. Clearly the Canadian sacrifice was appreciated and at least the objective of lifting morale for the people of occupied Europe was successful.
I still struggle with the number of our casualties and the high chance of mortality for those committed, but at least now I understand the significance of the effort. I hope that the operational knowledge gained from this venture that was employed in later amphibious assaults was worth the grave price paid by our men in arms.
- Submitted by Mike