Dieppe: The Main Landings

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The main bulk of the Canadian troops landed in front of Dieppe itself, in the teeth of heavy German fire. Many landing craft didn't even make it into the beach. The the tank support arrived late and the infantry were pinned down for the first minutes of the assault, causing chaos as men tried to press forward under withering fire from machine guns, mortars, heavy guns, and snipers. Eventually the tanks arrived, but the loose rocks of the beach meant they easily sank up to the axle and were barely mobile. Those that could get further inland were surprised by a massive wall that prevented them pushing into the city, another failure of Allied intelligence. Small groups of brave soldiers were able to push into the town itself, only to meet coordinated German resistance. A plaque beside the cathedral marks the spot where two Canadians were killed deep inside Dieppe itself.

As the beachhead became a bloodbath it quickly became apparent that the raiders were facing impossible odds. At 11 am the withdrawal began and by 2 pm it was completed. The tank crews bravely covered the retreating infantry, moving back and forth across the beach firing at any targets that presented themselves. Given the extreme conditions they were unable to reembark and all of the Calgarian tankers were either killed or captured.

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German troops walk up and down the beach on the afternoon of August 19 as a pall of smoke rises from a destroyed landing craft. The Germans were intent on turning Dieppe into a propaganda victory and immediately dispatched photographers to the battlefield to record the event. All these photos were taken by a German propaganda company.

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A German officer inspecting the battlefield stands over two Canadian soldiers shot down in front of a strand of barbed wire. The Essex Scottish and Royal Hamilton Light Infantry landed first on the beach and their armoured support arrived late. They faced withering machine-gun and mortar fire from the bluffs overlooking the beach and from within the town itself. Most were killed or captured.

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Two knocked out Churchill tanks and an armoured car are stranded on the beach. This was the debut of the Churchill tank but the pebble beaches made it easy for them to become bogged down. You can see that the pier has been extended sometime since 1942.

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This picture of an armoured car sunk to its axles in the pebble beach dramatically illustrates the difficulties posed by the beach conditions. During the Normandy invasion two years later all the major landing beaches were hard-packed sand, easy for men and vehicles to rapidly cross.

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A Churchill tank stuck in an anti-tank ditch at the end of the beach. Today the spot is the site of a promenade.

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Some tanks did make it off the beach, like Bert here, only to find all their routes of advance into the town blocked by anti-tank obstacles. They were forced to turn around and drive back and forth firing on German positions until knocked out or their crews forced to surrender. None of the tank crews landed on Dieppe made it back to England. The twin medieval towers in the background are now a museum commemorating the Dieppe Raid.

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German troops inspect the same Churchill. In the background can clearly be seen the Chateau Dieppe, a 12th Century castle that overlooks the town. You can get an idea of how light the preliminary bombardment must have been by how little the castle has been damaged.

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A third shot of Bert. Though most of the buildings on the waterfront have changed the church spire in the background can act as a reference point.

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