Aug. 15–19, 1944: 72nd anniversary of the Dieppe Raid

Calgary Tanks Churchill "Blossom" of 9 Troop, B Squadron commanded by Lt. Marcel J.A. Lambert sits where it had broken its track in the chert after swerving off the wooden chespaling, designed to give the tanks traction in the loose stones. Behind Blossom, Tank Landing Craft No. 5 burns. Source: Dieppe Through the Lens, Hugh G. Henry Jr./After the Battle. Rob Alexander collection.

Aug. 15 – Continuing the process of getting settled. Everything taking shape again. Allied landing in southern of France today.

Aug. 16 – Another very busy day. Our K of C Supervisor – A. Sullivan replaced today by YMCA, Mr. Jim McNab. Just started writing this when a German plane swooped down over camp. Here comes another one. Will have to put light out. No damage done.

Aug. 17 – Order to report to Corps H.Q., then recce a new site for my Hospital. The spot chosen is near a railroad, and dug into the bank are numerous old German tanks. We are moving in the morning from Basse which is five miles south west of the Caen, through “Ifs”, “Fontenay-le-Marmion”, Caillouet, to the road junction just north of Bretteville-sur-Laize, then east to about a quarter of a smile south of Cintheaux. For the next two days we will be very busy. War news is good. Here comes another German plane. They are a real nuisance at night, but not in evidence in the the day time. Just hear today of Brig. Booths death.

Aug. 18 – At 9:00 a.m. Sgt. Major Gordie Champagne, Mr. Dibb and I went forward to lay out our new camp. At 11:30 the vehicles arrived bearing Evacuation, Reception, Pack Stores and Stretcher Dump and eighteen men. At 1 p.m. – Harley Street arrived, at 3 p.m. admitting staff arrived and at 6 p.m. everybody was here with the exception of Light Section which was still in Basse. Everything is up and we are running along merrily.

Aug. 19 – 2 years ago today – Dieppe. Last night, British flares lit up the pocket constantly, and bombers were over them all night long. This morning General Corps conference at Cailloat. News good. IN a few days we expect to reach the Seine; then the next line will be my old friend the Somme. After the Somme, the we really expect only rear guard action to the frontier. More convinced than ever that the war will be over by Nov. 11/44.

July 11 – Aug. 14, 1944

First off, my apologies for neglecting updating the journals for the past month. It has been one of those months. I was a single dad for three weeks while my wife was off upgrading her teaching skills and then we made the move from Canmore into Calgary, the home of the Calgary Tanks and of Doc Alexander, and now, finally, life has settled down enough to allow me to get back on track. If you haven’t had the chance to read about Doc Alexander’s experience at Dieppe, I shared that story with author Elinor Florence, who posted it this week on her blog Wartime Wednesdays. Unlike other stories about Dieppe, this one shares the role of medical men during a small sliver of that raid, Aug. 19, 1942. And now, as they say in the Calgary Regiment, Onward!

Rob

July 11 – We are on a 2 hr. notice to move. Will move to vicinity of Secqueville-en-Bessin – about halfway between Bayeux and Caen. The V.D. Section will be leaving us, and a Dental Office, lab and technician will be coming. They will be a great help. Capt. Kearney, our new Dentist – arrived this afternoon.

July 12 – A movement meeting at Tac. Corps H.Q. at Cairon. We are moving to Thaon about eight miles north of Caen. We move off at 2 a.m. tomorrow and will be open by 12 noon. The V.D. Section is staying with us.

July 13 – 2 a.m. We headed the convoy to our new location. The 9th and 10th FDS and 8th Field Hygiene follows us. We head south to the main Bayeux Caen Road, travelled south east to Bretteville L’Orgueilleuse, then north to Camilly, then north east to Thaon and landed in our field at 4 a.m. We let the boys sleep until daybreak, at 6 a.m. started to erect our canvas. At 9:30 a.m. we were open for patients. At noon, an Exhaustion Centre Unit came to us for attachments and in the evening a company of 2 M.A.C. – twelve ambulances arrived for attachment. We have now twelve officers and one hundred and forty seven other ranks.

July 14 – We are filling up and are very busy, but we are enjoying it immensely. we had a very bad air raid both this afternoon and in the night. We had a lot of casualties brought in. The sky was absolutely aglow for over one hour.

July 15 – We have over one hundred cases in and have evacuated a lot. Today has not been as busy as yesterday, but still we are going on all fours.

July 16 – Brig. Fenwick visited us and wanted a little more dispersal, so we had to move all our tents. Probably tomorrow some other Brigadier will come and we will have to move back again.

July 17 – Another M.O. attached, and we are very busy, about one hundred and forty cases in and we are evacuating all the time. Air raids every night, but not nearly as bad as the last two nights.

July 18 – Terrific bombardment and the most planes I have ever seen in the air at once. The din is terrible. A big push has started. We are ordered to prepare for a hundred battle casualties tonight. 10 p.m. Have just had a cup of tea and piece of cake with Major McNeil. Very few casualties coming in – but the guns are certainly roaring plenty. The big advance has started and there is a big Tank battle in progress south of Caen.

July 19 – Went to Corps first thing this morning. We are having difficulties in evacuation. There is very poor Medical organization, but perhaps it will straighten out. Today the Brig. has been here and everybody else, but our knowledge has not increased much. Patients are still rolling in and everything is under control. Apparently the attack is being very successful, so I suppose in a few days we will be moving up again. Just received word of Gerald’s death. Poor Mayme and Bryron.

July 21 – Was so busy all day yesterday and last night – had no time to write. Very busy today too. Over one hundred exhaustion cases in yesterday. We have evacuated about 85 cases today, admitted some but are ready for a big rush tonight. We had two hundred and forty three cases under canvas this morning. It is certainly keeping us busy.

July 22 – Maj. McLarren and Q. from 13th British F.D.S. visited us tonight. He and I chummed together on the boat over. He is a Scotsman commanding a Welsh F.D.S.

July 23 – Mac and I went down south of Bretteville L’Orgueilleuse to pay a visit to the 13 F.D.S.

July 24 – 2 & 3 CCS have moved forward today, but we have to stay behind to run this awful Exhaustion Centre. Oh well somebody has to run it and I suppose we have to be the ones.

July 25 – My forth sixth birthday today. One year ago I was in Sicily. We had a very heavy air raid last night, lasting the greater part of the night. The big attack is on this morning, but no details are available as yet. We are prepared to handle about two hundred casualties today. Supper time – some casualties have come in, but not great number yet. We are prepared for several this evening.

July 26 – The attack was not the success expected, so every thing is back where it started. We had eighty-six in yesterday, and a quite a few today.

July 27 – Drove in to Bayeax No. 7 Canadian Hospital, found #8 setting up along side of it, so dropped in and had a chat with Chas. Bennett.

July 28 – Busy making out a report of activities. our Auxiliary Service Man arrived today and is holding a picture show tonight. The war news is still good. Was down to Corps H.Q. today – Hospital not nearly so busy.

July 29 – Fourth Div. have all landed now. Last night we had quite a bit of air activity around, but were not hit at all. Everything is very quiet – only a little over one hundred patients in. Imagine we will be moving in a few days.

July 30 – Attended a general conference at Main Corps. H.Q., held at Cairon. A lot of the usual routine things were taken up. Slim Hooker came to our Unit today – he will drive the Q.M. truck. The news of the advances on all fronts is very cheering.

July 31 – Everything is very quiet on our front. We have only sixty five cases in. We rather expect something will start up in a few days and we probably will move up to do another job. We are awfully tired of this job and will be so glad to really get doing something.

August 1/1944 – A visit from Brig. Farmer this morning. A little bit busier today, but all is quite quiet on this front. This afternoon we looked up to see a parachute descending on us. A young American Flt. Lieut. Carls from Pennsylvania had had his Liberator knocked out from under him. He landed right in the middle of our Camp. We took him in, gave him a drink and supper and then drove him over to an R.A.F. Station. A very pleasant visit.

Aug. 2 – Gus McCarrol from 10 Fld Amb. just dropped in for a visit. He came back from Italy with me and is expecting to go back to Canada as an instructor. My staff of Officers has increased again It now consists of:
Capt. Place
Capt. Carson
Capt. Anderson
Maj. Birch
Capt. Walker
Capt. Geggie
Mr. Dibb
Maj. Ellis
Maj. McNeil
Capt. Frasier
Capt. Harrison

Quite a family. The news from the front is awfully good today. Perhaps the end is nearer than we think. A lot of letters arrived today, dated Feb. 1-9 — they had all been to Italy

Aug. 5 – Nothing of particular interest has happened in the last couple of days. The work has been steady but by no means heavy. Have visited by lots of M.O.s from other Units. Yesterday the Red Cross representatives were here and today I have sent Ronny in to Bayeaux for some supplies which they promised to give us. The war news continues awfully good, but all is comparatively quiet on the Canadian front.

Aug. 6 – In the evening I drove to Corp H.Q. – then was detailed to drive Brig. Farmer over the Medical Units. We went to Caen and visited 9 and 10 F.D.S. – 2nd and 3rd CCS – 5th DS, then north of Thaon to 6 CCS. A big push is expected on our front. 2nd Corp now consists of 2nd, 3rd and 4th Can. Div., 2nd Armoured Brigade, Canadian, a British Armoured Bde., 51st Scottish Div. and the Polish Armoured Div., some Corps – we will continue to run Exhaustion, V.D.G. and sickness for this show, and will then exchange with one of the other F.D.S. We expect to be very busy this week.

Aug. 8 – Last night at 11 p.m., the Lancasters and Liberators went over in mass and bombed the country in front of Caen. This was followed by a heavy barrage and then the attack. It is now 1 p.m. and we are all set up for a large number of casualties, but so far there has been only the usual run. It will probably get heavy this afternoon and evening.

Aug. 11 – Very hot for the last few days. A good deal of air activity over our heads. We are busy again, but do not know yet the extent. All our available canvas is up.

Aug. 12 – Very busy. Order to move just in. We cannot close but most be open right outside of Caen at 6 p.m. Trickling move as no additional transport available. We evacuate, admit and move at the same time and are really running two places.

Aug. 13 – Complete move to a spot opposite Carpiquet on this main Bayeux Caen road, about one mile from Caen. It is a horrible spot, but we have managed to fix it up pretty well.

Aug. 14 – Order to repeat move. We open at Baase, about six miles south east of Caen. Patients pouring in and everybody’s on the jump. A real air rad to start our day – our camp is lit up by flares like a city. Not damage done, but a wonderful exhibition of fireworks.

July 9-10, 1944

July 9 – ABout 1:30 a.m. one German plane swooped low over our camp and gave us a splash of machine gun fire. No one was hurt, but the Plane itself was brought down shortly afterwards. Sunday today – Church Parade in a few minutes. At 12:30 noon we received word to move. We went out and made a recce, went to RCASC called out three trucks and were ready to move off at 3:40 p.m. We travelled west to Crouilly, then south west on the Bayeux Road, to a spot about one mile north of Esquay sur Seulles. It is now 7:30 p.m. and we are all set up in a lovely orchard, a much nicer harbour than the one we left. We are just now stringing up the light. Went down to “Goldsmith,” a concentration center and met and guided 9th F.D.S.(Field Dressing Station) to their harbour.

July 10 – Went to Camilly and Le Fresne-Camilly this morning – worked all afternoon on loading tables. This evening dropped down to 3 CCS and 9FDS. Expect to move in a few days.

The following July 10 recap is from the website The Battle for Normandy at http://www.ddayoverlord.com

July 10, the Northern part of the town of Caen is finally liberated, more than one month after D-Day, whereas the totality of the city was to be precisely captured in the evening of June 6. This delay of 34 days is the proof of the dead end in which the Anglos-Canadians are. Once the Northern sector of Caen (almost entirely destroyed by the bombardments) captured, the British military forces decides to focus on the key position of hill 112, located 3 kilometers South-west of the capital of the Calvados, Caen. This offensive is part of the Jupiter Operation, which aims at boring the front in the valley of Odon, South-west of Caen, and to cross the Orne river in this sector.

The 8th British Corps launches its offensive on July 10 in direction of the hill 112, and if its progression is supported by the fighter-bombers and by the Allied artillery, the German resistance remains very strong and limits the British movements in this sector. Hill 112 is defended by the soldiers of the 2nd SS Armoured Corps, which are conscious of the strategic importance of this position. Indeed, it defends the accesses of the Southern area of Caen, held by the Panzergroupwest led by Eberbach.

The 43th British Infantry division Wessex moves towards the village of Maltot, 6 kilometers South-west of Caen, and whereas it manages to enter the city, the German defenders of the 9th and 10 SS Panzer Division push back the attackers. By using a heavy fire they isolate some British soldiers in the village: the Allies losses are very heavy and they are obliged to fold up a few kilometers in the North of Maltot.

The Americans progress with difficulty to the North of Periers and of Saint-Lo, and this in spite of the intensive bombardments of the aviation and of the Allied artillery. The American soldiers face in this area the very bloody fighting known under the name of the hedgerows war. They painfully leave the marshy area in the South of Carentan and progress untiring, although very slowly.

July 8, 1944: The bombardment of Caen continues

The terrific bombardment and air attacks from last night are continuing. Thee is a roar over the whole front this morning. The report is of fighting in Caen. From Camilly this morning, we could look down on Caen, which seemed to be almost completely enveloped in smoke. The greater part of Corps H.Q., rear is now in – all my Unit is back with me with the exception of an RAP (Regimental Aid Post) at Tac H.Q. and three, 3 ton lorries which are still loaned out for hauling rations to new troops landing.

July 4-7, 1944

July 5 – Gordie Champagne and I in our jeep set out to visit our two detached groups. Were bypassed from Pierpoint to Fontaine-Henry on the east, then south to Thaon, south to Cairon, beyond which we cannot go – then north on the main road and visited Capt. Anderson in his RAP at Camilly, then north to visit Capt. Geggie in his light section set up outside of Le Fresne-Camilly, then back home. This part of the country is becoming very familiar.

July 6 – Main H.Q. Corps is landing today. Was up to Le Fresne-Camilly twice today. No new orders for us. The roads today are completely smothered in convoys going both ways. The news is very encouraging and it looks as if something big is about to start pretty. Terrific bombardment tonight. Several small German air raids.

July 7  – Corps H.Q. Recce arrived during the night. I brought my Light Section home and sent Capt. Carson, Ambulance and two men up to Rear until Geo. McGarry gets in to take over. That will probably be tomorrow. The other Medical Units have not arrived yet. There must have been a very heavy air raid

just beyond the German Lines. There was a steady roar and the sky was filled with Lancasters and Hurricanes coming back with their protective covering of Spitfires. There were hundreds of planes. One apparently hit by German A.A. blew up almost over us and fell to the earth in flames. At least 5 escaped and parachuted down from here it looked as if they would land in the sea. Just after I had written this, another wave of about the same size came over. Caen was one objective. We had several German planes over here after dark.

A Handley Page Halifax of No. 4 Group flies over the suburbs of Caen, France, during a major daylight raid to assist the Normandy land battle during Operation CHARNWOOD. 467 aircraft took part in the attack, which was originally intended to have bombed German strong points north of Caen, but the bombing area was eventually shifted nearer the city because of the proximity of Allied troops to the original targets. The resulting bombing devastated the northern suburbs. Royal Air Force official photographer. This is photograph CL 347 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums (collection no. 4700-19)

A Handley Page Halifax of No. 4 Group flies over the suburbs of Caen, France, during a major daylight raid to assist the Normandy land battle during Operation CHARNWOOD. 467 aircraft took part in the attack, which was originally intended to have bombed German strong points north of Caen, but the bombing area was eventually shifted nearer the city because of the proximity of Allied troops to the original targets. The resulting bombing devastated the northern suburbs. Royal Air Force official photographer. This is photograph CL 347 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums (collection no. 4700-19)

June 28 – July 4, 1944, France

June 28 – Capt. McDonald and Champaigne arrived in my jeep and we moved up to area at Amblie about two miles from Reviers. Some of the trucks arrived that night.

June 29 – At last, all our vehicles are here – we are dispersed around the edges of a field, all camoflaged. The General ordered us to move our tent three times. We are the only Canadian FDS (Field Dressing Station) in France, and the the first Unit of the Second Corps, so are the butts for all the stuff the Generals can think of.

June 30 – Rained very heavily last night – very heavy bombardments going in. The boys are busy tearing down and re-erecting trucks. In a few days all will be back to normal again. Last night a horse lay down on my tent and unfortunately I was in the tent. Today we have a barbed wire fence around the tents. Our M.I.R. is the only thing we have open. We will probably sit this way until the rest of the Corps arrives, but it is not a bad place to sit. Jim McKeller is here as Advance Party for 2 CCS. This afternoon I was visited by Brig. Fenwick, Brig. Farmer and Col. Watston and Col. of the 14th Field Amb. We my be setting up in a few days time. An awful lot of air activity today. We are comfortably situated here.

Google maps

Google maps

July 1/44 – Jim McKeller, a Capt. from Corp H.Q. and myself went forward to the area of Le Fresne-Camilly to recce a harbour for main Corp H.Q. and 6th FDS. The spot chosen is on the main road to Caen about eight miles north west. This afternoon I sent Hans Geggie and his light section as an advance party. We expect to move on Monday July 3rd. We still will not open as a hospital but simply consult.

July 2 – Very quiet day today. Lt. Col. Lockhead of the 17th Light Field Amb was over to visit. We are standing to for a move but may not move until day after tomorrow. Beautifuly dinner today of roast beef and green peas. Very heavy bombardment tonight.

July 3 – Rain pouring down. Drove out to Light Section, then returned in time for Pay Parade. Maj. Coates of 3rd Div Pay Corps had lunch with us. We are not moving today and still have no definite word about tomorrow.

July 4 – Drove out to visit Hans Geggie and his Light Section at Fresne-Camilly this morning. Very heavy bombardment last night and an advance near Caen. Tac. H.Q. moved to Camilly this afternoon – we sent Capt. Anderson, Cpl. Heatley, two men, and ambulance and two 160 lb. tents. We also sent three, 3 ton Lorries to help rations. Will not get my whole Unit together for about one week.

June 23-27, 1944 – Juno Beach

June 23 – Large convoy of transports and Tank Landing Craft are leaving tonight. Air raid last night. We sent a case to shore with acute appendicitis. Concert party on board tonight, conducted by Can. Corps H.Q. – assisted by our orchestra. We expect to sail tomorrow night.

June 24 – We expected to sail but for some unknown reason a large convoy went out but we remained behind. Gen. Simmons was taken off board tonight, we think he is being flown to Normandy. Concert party tonight.

June 25 – Hundreds of planes over today. Church Parade taken by Capt. Walker. No excitement. We expect to sail tonight. 8:05 p.m. – Our men are briefed and we are now pulling out on the Estuary of the Thames. First air attack, but only a fool doodle bug which landed one mile away from us. We expect to enter the Straits of Dover in a couple of hours, so may get a few odd bursts from their long range guns. We expect to in about tomorrow night and will land on Juno Beach, just near Baeux.

June 26 – Uneventful night, we all had to sleep in the hold and it was very stuffy. We have had morning inspection and are now sitting in the Ambulance on deck. It is very rainy and foggy this morning. I imagine about now, we must be somewhere off Worthing in the English Channel. 10 p.m. – we pull in by the Cherboug Penninsula

and drop anchor. The sea is alive with ships of all sorts and descriptions. We are remaining on board tonight. The trip over has been entirely uneventful.

June 27 – We are putting in towards the Beach – but do not know what our next step is. At 8 p.m. a L.C.T. (Landing Craft Tank) pulled alongside and the marching parties climbed by rope ladder to the deck and pulled into shore. The tide was going out so we could not get right in. Our vehicles waded to shore, assisted by a caterpillar and then we were carried to dry land on the same caterpillars. We landed Graye Sur Mer and marched to the Assembly Areas, then marched to “Ellow” a short distance east of Banville, where we bedded down for the night. Several air raids during the night, but none near us. Our two ambulances are down the road about one mile. We expect our full convoy along shortly, when we will all proceed to Amblie.

Captain Earl Bourbonnais, 23rd Field Ambulance, Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps, inoculating Nicole Pierre, Basly, France, ca. 27-28 June 1944. Credit: Lieut. Ken Bell / Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-190148

Captain Earl Bourbonnais, 23rd Field Ambulance, Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps, inoculating Nicole Pierre, Basly, France, ca. 27-28 June 1944. Credit: Lieut. Ken Bell / Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-190148

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