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Dieppe: The Aftermath

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The raid's failure was the result of a mountain of planning errors. Where to even begin? Air supremacy had not been gained and the Germans actually inflicted greater losses on the RAF than the RAF did to the Luftwaffe. Distracted by the fierce aerial battle raging above the beaches, barely any tactical air support could be given to the troops on the ground. In an effort to spare the lives of the civilian population only a perfunctory naval bombardment had been made. While the desire to protect French civilian lives was laudable, it meant the German forces remained intact, and had their guns trained on the beaches when the landing craft approached. The choice of a well-defended port, bounded on both sides by steep cliffs, made the raid near suicidal from the get-go. As can be seen most tragically at the Beach at Puys, the geography limited the attackers to an easily predictable set of attack paths where the experienced Germans defenders concentrated their defenses. The Churchill tanks were inadequate, with guns too light to inflict any damage on German pillboxes, and they easily became bogged down on the pebble beach.

Yet all of these errors were rectified by 1944. The Allies returned to France with overwhelming air and naval support, attacking across sandy open beaches and avoiding heavily defended harbours altogether. They brought specialized tank support with them designed to destroy heavy defensive positions. War, especially modern combined arms warfare, has a steep learning curve, and the raid on Dieppe was no exception. Lord Louis Mountbatten, the Dieppe raid's commander, certainly justified the raid in these terms, saying "I have no doubt that the Battle of Normandy was won on the beaches of Dieppe. For every man who died in Dieppe, at least 10 more must have been spared in Normandy in 1944."

Nevertheless these flighty words offered little consolation to the thousands of families who had lost loved ones.

Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-362-2209-14

German generals tour the beach after the battle.

Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-291-1237-07A

Fallen Allied soldiers float in the surf on the beach.

Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-362-2206-29

German troops inspect a destroyed Allied landing craft on the spot where a French family enjoys the beach today.

The Canadians Return, 1944

In the summer of 1944 the 2nd Canadian Division, the same unit that landed at Dieppe two years before, liberated Dieppe. They made an emotional entry into the city and staged a parade to mark the occasion. For the men who had left so many of their comrades behind on the beaches, it was a stirring triumph.

Essex Scottish Pipe Band

Pipers from the Essex Scottish lead a parade through newly liberated Dieppe two years later. Many of the survivors of the raid in 1942 reentered the port in 1944, this time as victorious liberators.

Doc Alexander Photo Blog

Thousands of French civilians turn out to cheer men of the 2nd Canadian Division as they march past Dieppe's town hall.

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