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Operation JUBILEE, Dieppe 1942 III.

Author : 🕔07.05.2003 📕16.442
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While passing through the minefield, the 5th Group fleet was delayed and had to make up the delay at an increased speed. The 5th Group consisted of 23 landing craft (LCP) transporting men of the 3rd Commandos to the eastern beaches. Escort was provided by three armed vessels.

At 0445 hours, German Naval Command West received the following message: "At 03.50 our naval convoy was attacked 4 kilometers from Dieppe by enemy surface forces. This is most probably a routine attack on convoys." Meanwhile, on the surface of the Channel, a drama that few of the planners of Operation Jubilee had anticipated was unfolding.

At 0347, the 5th Landing Group encountered a German convoy consisting of five schooners and three U-boat destroyers. A brief firefight broke out, during which one of the schooners was sunk and the rest of the German convoy scattered, but the noise of the battle alerted the defenders ashore.

At 05.00, 15th Army headquarters informs Army Group B that LXXXI Army Corps confirms an attack on the German convoy at Dieppe. All coastal posts, naval forces and air units have been alerted in this connection.

At 05.30, the 15th Army completes its report to HQ: "According to information we have received from LXXXI Corps, the enemy bombed Dieppe at 05.05 and is landing in the Berneval-Dieppe-Pourville-Quiberville area."


Plan of Attack

Around South England's airports, ground staff are waking up sleepy pilots. A quick English breakfast follows and soon the sound of aircraft engines is echoing through the airport. Mechanics are warming up the engines, armourers and electricians are checking the last bits and pieces. Our pilots are ready at 04.30, but they are not in the first wave of fighters heading into the morning fog. An hour of unbearable waiting follows. The British Spitfires come back with empty magazines and dry tanks. One of the first waves of aircraft to appear over Dieppe included a representative of Czechoslovak fighters in the RAF ranks. In the line-up of the 611th Fighter Squadron flew F/Lt. Jiri Maňák, who claimed damage to one Fw 190 at five minutes to six over Dieppe. Shortly before eight o'clock, it was finally the turn of the other Czechoslovak pilots. They slowly leave the protective boxes in the cockpits of their machines and roll to the start of their first action of the day. Suspecting that the German fast torpedo boats had left Boulogne (this was the 4th Fast Torpedo Boat Fleet) and were heading for the flank of the invasion fleet, RAF Headquarters decided to deploy two squadrons of Hurricanes against them, accompanied by two Czechoslovak squadrons. The first to take off was 310 Squadron with twelve Spitfires led by S/Ldr František Doležal. The Thirteenth followed with twelve machines two minutes later. Also in the air with both squadrons is Wing Commander W/Cdr Karel Mrazek, who is flying a Spitfire AR502 with the initials KM. The wing is heading south to the English coast. At the rendezvous point, they meet up with 24 Hurricanes from the 3rd and 43rd Squadrons from Tangmere and Shoreham bases. Then the entire formation will drop just above the surface of the Channel and head for the French coast.

The men of the No. 3 Commandos, meanwhile, were fighting on the eastern edge of the landing zone. An attempt to drop British troops on Yellow 1 beach at Berneval failed completely. The landing craft carrying the men of the British Commandos collided with a small German convoy before reaching their starting position. The noise of the naval battle alerted the defenders on the coast, and in no time the boats found themselves in a hail of heavy machine-gun fire. Then a battery of heavy guns opened deadly fire off Berneval. Silencing these four naval guns of the Gobbels battery was the main task of the 3rd British Commandos. Few of the British soldiers were likely to reach Yellow 1 beach. In any case, when the decision was made to evacuate the beach at 09.50, the boat sent out mistakenly arrived at Blue Beach, where it embarked nine Canadian soldiers from the sinking ship. It found none of the British Commandos.


No. 3 Commando returns to Newhaven after the Dieppe raid, August 1942
commons.wikimedia.org

The second part of the battalion, which landed on Yellow 2 beach at Belleville-sur- Mer, fared slightly better. Only one boat managed to reach the shore unharmed, where it dropped off twenty Commandos. They quickly set off from the beach and by 0530 were on top of the cliff. In co-operation with the fighters, who supported their advance by attacking the battery, they succeeded in pinning down the German garrison and thus neutralising the German guns for an hour and a half. At 0800 the beach was evacuated. This section of the Commandos had only one casualty. The ships then took them back to Newhaven harbour. The small group under Major Young had pulled off a real coup. Although they failed to take the battery, they managed to keep the crew's attention by firing long enough to keep their guns from threatening the main invasion force. Nevertheless, at about 9 o'clock the Germans resumed firing from Gobbels Battery on the landing craft in front of Dieppe.

At the other end of the landing party, 250 men of Lieutenant-Colonel Lord Lovat's No. 4 team had a similar task, that of disarming the German shore battery. On their way to the coast, their landing craft were lucky to avoid three German patrol craft which had sailed to the aid of a German convoy which had collided with the 5th Landing Group. The landings on Orange Beaches 1 and 2 went perfectly at 0450 without any sign of resistance from the German side. This was followed by a carefully timed raid by British Spitfires from 129 Squadron Mysore on Battery Hess. The British Commandos then passed through the village of Varengeville and attacked the positions of six German naval guns of the 813th Coastal Battery. The attack was conducted from the rear and was 100% successful. Most of the garrison was killed by the explosion of the ammunition magazine and then slaughtered by the attacking British soldiers. Battery Hess was captured. The mission accomplished, Lovato's men withdrew back to the beaches where they boarded waiting boats at 0815. The embarkation was already taking place under heavy German fire, making it very difficult. No. 4 Commando had 11 dead, 22 wounded and 13 missing. After the operation was over, the capture of Battery Hess was judged to be the most successful part of the whole attack at Dieppe. Lord Lovat, who was probably the only one to shine at Dieppe, commanded the 1st Special Purpose Brigade in the southern part of Sword during the Normandy landings.

The blue beaches at Puits were the target of troops of the Royal Regiment of Canada. The main target was a four-barrel battery of naval guns bearing the name of another of the great Germans, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. Due to delays, the first landing boats touched the surface in almost full light at 05.06. The Canadians met stiff resistance. Several boats sank with their crews. Soldiers who made it to the beaches were pinned down by German machine-gun fire heavily supported by heavy rounds from the Rommel battery. Only a small group managed to fight their way off the beach. However, the Germans soon cut off their retreat route and forced them to surrender, which they did at about 4 pm. At 11 a.m., British ships attempted to make a boarding party of surviving Canadians, but the German fire was so heavy that they were unable to reach the beaches. The Royal Regiment of Canada soldiers' first steps on French soil cost 483 dead, wounded and missing.


The dead soldiers of the Royal Regiment of Canada on Blue Beach near Puits. The height of the seawall is clearly visible, the machine gun emplacement visible over the guard's head is conveniently placed for firing along the wall.
Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-291-1230-13 / Meyer; Wiltberger / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 de, commons.wikimedia.org

West of the city, the South Saskatchewan Regiment was to attack. It was to take Pourville, a nearby radar station, and finally support the advance of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry further inland. This sector also had a battery, although it was only a strong anti-aircraft gun emplacement at Quatre Vents Farm. Here too the Canadians met strong resistance. Nevertheless, the various detachments succeeded in achieving their objectives. Company A silenced several machine gun nests and attacked a radar station, which it failed to capture because of strong resistance. C Company captured Pourville and B and D Companies went on the attack against Quatre Vents Farm. However, the Germans were prepared here too and inflicted heavy casualties on the attackers. The Saskatchewan troops were further reinforced by the Queen s Own Cameron Highlanders, but even these failed to break through the German defences and so it was decided to begin evacuating these Green Beaches as well.

The main attack was to be made thirty minutes after the flanking attacks by the following formations: at the western end of the sector the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry, at the eastern end the Essex Scottish Regiment, and support was to be provided by the 14th Calgary Tank Regiment, with the Royal Marine Commando and Royal Mount Fusiliers in reserve. The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry was to link up with the troops advancing from Pourville and together take the German headquarters at Arques la Bataille. Subsequently, detachments of engineers were to land to clear the passages for the Churchill tanks. Then infantry units, supported by armour, were to penetrate the town and take it.

The bombardment of the coast began just after five o'clock and at 05.23 the first troops touched the French sand. Enemy fire was not heavy and the Canadians had only light casualties. But then the German fire intensified and the troops on the beach lacked the support of tanks, which were not due to land until the next wave. When the boats carrying Churchill tanks were able to land, the beach passages were again lacking to allow the attack to develop. The engineers failed to blow up the concrete walls preventing the tanks from penetrating into the town where they could support the small groups of infantrymen who had meanwhile penetrated the promenade and occupied several houses in the centre. Only about half of the 28 tanks landed managed to break through from the beach and support the infantry. The situation worsened when the troops on the beaches began to be decimated by battery fire, which failed to be destroyed during supporting attacks on the flanks. Operation Jubilee began to degenerate into a bloody slaughter in much of the invasion sectors. Soldiers pinned down by fire could not move back and forth. The tanks that were supposed to support them were mostly stranded on the beaches and thus useless. Indeed, only a handful of soldiers managed to break out of the beaches and occupy some buildings in the city. During a brief briefing on the destroyer Calpe it was decided to send the Royal Marine Commando and Royal Mount Fusiliers, which were ready as backup, to assist the western sector of the beach. Lieutenant-Colonel J.P. Phillips' 370-man Commandos boats set off, covered by a smoke screen, to assist the Canadians at 0830. Within half an hour it was all over. The troops landed directly into a deadly barrage, without being able to change anything about the course of the engagement. A third of the troops were virtually wiped out. In addition, the awakened Luftwaffe began to harass not only the huge fleet of landing craft, but its bombs began to fall on their own beaches crowded with soldiers and equipment.


Bodies of Canadian soldiers of the 14th Calgary Tank Regiment lying among damaged landing craft and Churchill tanks after Operation Jubilee.
Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3192368

 

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Author : 🕔07.05.2003 📕16.442