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Operation JUBILEE, Dieppe 1942 IV.

Author : 🕔07.05.2003 📕21.393
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German Luftflotte 3 was in the area of the landing active since the early morning hours. In poor daylight at 06.20, two Focke-Wulfs took off from the Abbeville-Drucat airfield with the task of reconnaissance at the mouth of the Somme River. The pilots of JG 26 Schlageter Oblt. Horst Sternberg and Uffz. Peter Crump made a low flight over the beaches at Dieppe, where they saw a number of boats and soldiers rolling up the coast. The two pilots landed safely at 07.33 at Abbeville and became the first Schlageter pilots to see the progress of Operation Jubilee.[8] Over the next few hours, Jafu 2 withdrew its aircraft from more distant bases and gradually sent them out in small groups over Dieppe. The British RAF has been over the invasion beaches since the landings began, and its squadrons have been supporting the ground troops so far. At about six o'clock the first squadrons arrive for direct air cover of the infantry units. The Schlageter Fighter Squadron sends most of its aircraft from Abbeville, where a hastily assembled 5th/JG 26 takes off at 0630, followed a few minutes later by a hastily assembled assembly of IIth/JG 26. At the same time, the Focke-Wulfs clash with the Spitfires of the Hornchur Wing, intended as the first component of the air umbrella. Gradually, more German aircraft of the JG 2 and JG 26 formations lift off from the Beaumont-le-Roger, Triqueville, Wewelghem and Saint-Omer-Arques and heading to Dieppe.

Our airmen left the moment they met the Hurricanes over the southern English coast and headed towards the French coast. The Czechoslovakians' task was to cover the Hurricanes as they attacked the German fast boats that were about to sail from Boulogne towards Dieppe. Upon reaching the other side of the Channel, the entire group would turn north along the coast towards Boulogne. However, the search for the booty comes up empty, so the Wing Commander decides to fly into the harbour and see if the fleet is hiding there. The pilots are immediately met by a multi-coloured barrage of anti-aircraft cannon fire. The pilots try to find their target in a hellish barrage, but are unsuccessful. There are no ships in the harbor.[9] The entire group disengages after losing one hurribomber and heads back to Dieppe. Along the way, they encounter several armed fishing boats. The five hurrybombers along with five spitfires immediately attack them. The Thirteen scores the first success of the day when F/Sgt Josef Pip (Spitfire EP 432, DU-R) manages to set fire to and subsequently sink one of the boats.[10] Even during the return journey, the pilots do not encounter the German boats and so they return to England, landing at 0935. The planes immediately go into the hands of mechanics and armourers who prepare the machines for the next flight in record time. During the break, the pilots devour the first news from the invasion front. They are not encouraging. The Commandos units have failed to capture the beaches and the German defences are inflicting heavy losses on the invaders. But the order to fly again is coming. The Czechoslovak squadrons will now operate separately. Twelve Spitfires of the Thirty-three Squadron take off at 10.23 a.m. along with the 350th Belgian and 307th American Squadrons to relieve the exhausted pilots of the other squadrons.

The air battle over Dieppe, meanwhile, is gathering momentum. Around 8 o'clock, it comes to blows with the Focke-Wulfs and MesserschmittsNorthweald Wing. The German pilots from Hohenstaffel/JG 26, I./JG 26 and II./JG 2 deprive the British of six Spitfires and lose five Focke-Wulfs themselves.[11] Half an hour later, II./JG 26 pounces on the Kenley Wing fighters. These include pilots of the 308th US Fighter Squadron, which loses two fighters in the fight. The Americans are part of the 31st Fighter Group, but its three squadrons were operating under three different wings that day. Several German pilots noticed the American insignia when they encountered them, and Oblt. Rolf Helmich of I./JG 26 even reported shooting down an Airacobra, apparently due to a misidentification of one of the 31st Fighter Group's spitfires.[12]

 

Luftflotte 3, meanwhile, is still withdrawing its fighters from isolated airfields and mobilizing its long-range bombers, which need more time to reach their targets.

Leight-Mallory deploys more and more squadrons into the air vortex over Dieppe. Just after nine o'clock, the Westmalling wing appears on the scene and in no time is involved in a huge carousel of manoeuvring aircraft. The German pilots score some easy victories as the spitfires are ordered to operate as low as possible to protect the ground troops. At 09.25 the highest combat alert is declared for all German units in the west. Additional German aircraft are directed from all over western France and Holland over Diepe.

 

Around 1000 hours, with the evacuation of the coast already underway, the pilots of JG 26 are ordered from Abbeville checkpoint to attack at low altitude whenever possible. At the same time, the number of aircraft over the Dieppe beaches is reaching such a level that it is no longer possible to identify individual opponents.[13] Focke-Wulfs and Messerschmitts taking off from Abbeville Drucat, Ligescourt, Beaumont-le-Roger, Théville and other bases have already had four or more launches during the day. The same number have G/Cpt Harry Broadhurst, DSO, DFC, who has been watching the entire battle from his Spitfire Mk. IX. The Germans try to shoot him down, but are confronted with his superb airmanship and lose one Fw 190. Broadhurst returns to England unscathed with fresh news for Leight-Mallory.

Between half past ten and eleven, the first large groups of German bombers appear over the battlefield. They are Do 217 E KG 2 Holzhammer from bases in Holland. The Focke-Wulfs from II./JG 26 are intended as their escort, and leave together after the 11th towards Dieppe. Groups of bombers from II./KG 40, I./KG 77 and III./KG 53 follow them.

By this time, the Thirty-Three, along with the 350th and 307th Squadrons, rush just above the surface towards the French coast. During the flight, the pilots encounter the first signs of a fierce battle. They see the faces of exhausted pilots as they try to drag their variously damaged aircraft to the English shores. Fifteen kilometres from the French shores, they climb to an altitude of 1,800 metres and unlimber their weapons. Just before eleven o'clock, our Spitfires are on the scene of the biggest aerial engagement since the Battle of Britain. The skies over Dieppe are swarming with Spitfires of two British wings battling German fighters. The Czechoslovaks are intended to provide top cover for the other squadrons fighting below them. Just after eleven, a target appears for them as well. A group of about ten Dorniers from III./KG 2, escorted by twenty Focke-Wulfs, probably from II./JG 26, approaches from the northeast. The Spitfires swoop down on the Germans and push the fight into the lower levels, where it turns into one huge grind of wildly maneuvering and firing aircraft. The full picture of the ensuing battle, however, is difficult to reconstruct. In the ensuing encounter, our pilots attack both Dornier and Focke-Wulfs. F/O Jiri Hartmann, for example, gets into a good firing position behind a black-camouflaged German machine, which he identifies as a Messerschmitt Bf 110. Probably a night fighter. He manages to fire on it, but the hit machine disappears into the clouds. That's how it is with most fights. The Czechoslovaks fire from all positions, but in the ensuing turmoil it's almost impossible to keep track of what's happened to the enemy. Just before 12:30 S/Ldr Frantisek Dolezal calls his pilots to return. The Thirty-Three forms up and heads for the English coast. Five minutes before 12:00, it lands at Redhill. No one is missing.

While the Thirty-Third was returning to its base, the Second Czechoslovak Squadron was heading for the scene. Thirty-Twelve took off from Redhill at 10.50am and its twelve spitfires set off with the 416th and 616th Squadrons towards Dieppe. She was over the French port thirty minutes later and immediately began patrolling between 1500 and 2000 meters. A few minutes later, German Focke-Wulfs descended on her from an elevation. The next round begins. During the dramatic encounter, our pilots hit their opponents several times, but as before, their comrades-in-arms lose their opponents in mid-air turmoil or in the smoke coming from the burning Dieppe. Sgt Miroslav Liskutin, the squadron's benjamine, takes a huge hole in his right wing from the fight. The fighter lacks lift and is in danger of crashing. Liskutín tries with all his might to keep the Spitfire in the air. He flies over the burning Dieppe, the departing invasion ships and finally, with his last strength, the English coast. Finally, he lands safely in Redhill, where he was never expected. The 13th is complete, not a single aircraft lost, not a single pilot lost.

Around the same time that the 312th Squadron was brawling over Dieppe, twenty-four B-17s from the 97th Bombardment Group 8th Air Army attacked the fighter base at Abbevile-Drucat. It is a desperate attempt by the Allied air force to stop the barrage of German fighters heading over Dieppe. The German planes are busy elsewhere and so cannot react in time. However, bombs dropped from high altitude cause negligible damage to the airfield. The bombing of one of the twelve airfields currently used by the Germans cannot seriously affect the course of the engagement. Yet this attack is a harbinger of future massive raids that will literally nail the Luftwaffe to the ground in the years to come.


An armoured Daimler Dingo and two Churchill tanks are stranded on a shingle beach. The nearest Churchill tank has a flamethrower mounted on its hull and the rear tank has lost its tracks. Both have extensions on the exhaust outlets to allow them to wade through the surf.
Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-362-2211-12 / Jörgensen / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 de, commons.wikimedia.org

From 4:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., other U.S. machines also appear at regular intervals over the battlefield; these are reconnaissance versions of the Mustang Mk I from 26th, 239th, 400th and 419th reconnaissance squadrons. They bring fresh battlefield news, paying for it with the loss of nine aircraft. Pilot II/JG 26 Ofw. Kruska shoots down one of them at 08.45 over Foret de Vron.[14]

Already, the boarding of surviving soldiers from the various beaches is underway. German fire is steadily increasing, mainly due to the heavy batteries that the special forces have failed to silence. The withdrawal of troops is being carried out with the intense support of the RAF, which is attacking German machine gun nests and trying its best to relieve the severely tested infantry. At around 12 o'clock, the landing craft, assisted by the destroyer Brocklesby, make their way to the beaches in front of Dieppe. Under heavy fire they manage to embark about 400 men and, covered by a smoke screen, bounce off the French coast. At 12.30 the tide begins to ebb and no more boats would reach the shore. The landing beaches are closed. It's all over.


The landing craft in flames, dead Canadians in the foreground. To the right is a concrete gun emplacement covering the beach; the steep slope is clearly visible.
Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-291-1229-12 / Meyer; Wiltberger / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 de, commons.wikimedia.org

As the ships move away from shore, the aerial umbrella shifts with them. But the list of casualties from the British side is not yet complete. Around 1pm, three Dorniers attack the destroyer Berkeley, which is covering the retreat of the invasion boats. Two bombs hit the ship and the crew abandon it. Finally another destroyer, the Albrighton, arrives and at 13.38 sinks the helpless wreck with a torpedo. It is the largest vessel the British lose that day. The Germans keep attacking the retreating vessels and send more bombers over the sea off Dieppe.

In the Kenley sector at Redhill airfield, meanwhile, the propellers of the Spitfires with the four white stripes on the engine cowling, intended as a distinguishing mark of Operation Jubilee, are revving up again. The Czechoslovak squadrons now go into action together. The objective: to cover the convoy's retreat from Dieppe. Ten minutes after two o'clock, the 312th Squadron takes off, and five minutes after that, the Thirty-third. With a full complement of 24 spitfires, both squadrons cross the coast over Brighton at 1435. Together with the 411th and 485th Squadron, they set course for Dieppe. After five minutes of flight, they see the returning convoy below them. Thirty-three patrols over the area until 15.40, but does not encounter the enemy. The 312th Squadron is more fortunate, encountering a group of Dorniers just before 3:30. Karel Kasal attacks one of them, but his guns fail. The Germans are eventually finished off by two Spitfires from another squadron. Kasal's number F/Sgt Josef Pipa also intervenes in the fight, damaging one Dornier. Another member of the Thirteen, Miroslav Liskutín, settles his account from the previous engagement. Together with another Spitfire he participates in the destruction of a night Dornier. F/O Josef Keprt achieves certain victory by sending another Do 217 E into the waves. 312 Squadron Commander S/Ldr Jan Cermak calls his pilots to return. The 310th Squadron lands at Redhill at 15.57, and the Thirteen Twelve thirteen minutes later. This marks the end of direct participation in Operation Jubilee for the Czechoslovak wing. Both squadrons flew 72 operational sorties for a total time of 122.02 hours. The Luftwaffe losses suffered in combat by our wing were: one and a half Do 217s shot down, three Do 217s and two Fw 190s probably shot down and fifteen aircraft damaged (9 Do 217s, 4 Fw 190s, 1 Ju 88, 1 Bf 110) plus one sunken gunboat. The main thing, however, was that the Wing did not lose a single pilot that day.


Canadian dead at Dieppe, August 1942
Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-291-1206-13 / Koll / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 de, commons.wikimedia.org

As the invasion fleet moved away from the burning Dieppe, the war in the air subsided. German squadrons were still sending their planes over the huge fleet crossing the Channel. Around 4:30 the weather over the Canal worsens and low clouds cover the ships, yet several Dornier's pounce on the vessels below. Thirty minutes after six, Maj. Schopfel, commander of JG 26, the last victory of his squadron that day. His victim is a Spitfire from 222 Squadron, which is damaged and crashes in England. The German squadron JG 26 Schlageter ends the day at 21.32 when its last patrol lands. In total, it made 377 individual sorties that day, achieving 28 confirmed victories with the loss of seven pilots. The entire Luftwaffe made 945 operational sorties that day of which the bombers made 145, JG 2 Squadron 423 and the aforementioned JG 26 made 377 sorties. Losses amounted to 44 destroyed and 14 damaged aircraft (Fw 190: 14 destroyed, 6 damaged; Bf 109: 3 destroyed, 2 damaged; Do 217: 19.12; Ju 88: 7.3; He 111: 1.0). As far as German fighters are concerned, 14 were killed and 7 were wounded; no losses are known for bomber units. Luftwaffe members reported a total of 123 victories, 87 fighters, 6 bomber crews and 30 flak operators.[15]


Canadian wounded and abandoned Churchill tank. In the background, a landing craft is on fire.
Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-291-1205-14 / Koll / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 de, commons.wikimedia.org

Although the RAF claimed to have won the air battle over Dieppe, the opposite was true. The Royal Air Force had flown a total of 2,955 sorties on 19 August 1942 (2,494 fighters, 103 bombers, 72 photo reconnaissance, 351 rescue) but lost 103 aircraft and 59 machines had to go into repair. A total of 69 airmen paid for the operation with their lives, 30 were wounded and 18 fell into captivity. Spitfire squadrons bore the heaviest losses, having to write off 75 machines, 32 damaged, 36 pilots killed, 18 wounded and 10 captured.[16]

It remained to add up the ground losses of the operation. 2,078 Canadians had returned to England, including about 850 men who had not landed at all. In the attack on the main objective of the operation, the port of Dieppe, 400 of the 2,000 men were killed and 1,200 were captured. The ground troops lost a total of about 3,500 men, more than half the force sent. Most of the equipment, including all 28 Churchill tanks and armoured vehicles, fell into the hands of the Germans. German casualties, on the other hand, were incomparable to those of the British. About 115 dead, just under two hundred wounded and about twenty missing are reported.

The Navy lost one destroyer (Berkeley), 33 landing craft, 550 men.


Canadian and British dead at Dieppe, August 1942
Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-291-1230-05 / Meyer; Wiltberger / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 de, commons.wikimedia.org


[8] Caldwell L. D., War Diary of JG 26 1939-1942, Silverbird, Pilsen 1999

[9] The absence of action by the Kriegsmarine on 19 Aug 1942 is partly explained by the report of the commander of Naval Group West dated 09.47. According to it, he advised against deploying submarines and torpedo boats east of Cherbourg because of the dense minefields and enemy numerical superiority. The deployment of surface vessels west of the Channel and in the Bay of Biscay does not seem strictly necessary.
Appendix G, Extracts from German Reports on the Dieppe Raid, para 11 (see Appendix 6)

[10] Rajlich J., Sehnal J., Stíhači nad Kanálem, Naše vojsko, Praha 1993

[11] Caldwell L. D., War diary of JG 26 1939-1942, Silverbird, Plzeň 1999

[12] Caldwell L. D., War Diary of JG 26 1939-1942, Silverbird, Pilsen 1999

[13] Ibid

[14] Ibid

[15] Rajlich J., Sehnal J., Stíhači nad Kanálem, Naše vojsko, Praha 1993

[16] Ibid

Serial

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Author : 🕔07.05.2003 📕21.393