“Oil, water and blood were over everything…” – Dieppe Raid 70th anniversary
“Oil, water and blood were over everything – it was an awful mess – one Tank, my Blitz and carrier along at the front of the boat. We brought up the rear of the Convoy being practically the last to leave the French coast, and thanks to Naval and Air Force protection, arrived safely in New Haven harbour, without further incident at about 9 p.m. And were taken to our berth by tugs and unloaded at 11:30 p.m. We started out with one hundred and seventeen Military men and thirteen Naval – we returned with thirty Military and three Naval men. Five of the returning Military men were slightly wounded, including myself. All of the three Naval men were wounded.”
That is a teaser from Doc Alexander’s Dieppe journal. The rest of this highly-detailed journal will come on August 19 as part of the 70th anniversary of the Dieppe Raid – Operation Jubilee – where according to Veterans Affairs Canada casualties totaled 3,367, including 913 Canadian dead and 1,946 prisoners of war.
Doc Alexander was at Dieppe. Along with his staff of four medics and two ambulances, Alexander was on the Regimental Headquarters Squadron Tank Landing Craft (TLC No. 8) along with three Churchill tanks, Ringer, Regiment and Rounder, commanded by Capt. Aussie Stanton, Lt. Col. John Andrews, and Major John Begg, respectively. While Ringer and Regiment did leave the landing craft, only Ringer made it onto the beach. Stanton and his crew were captured. Regiment drowned in six feet of water and Andrews and his crew were killed. Rounder, meanwhile, remained on the landing craft. Doc Alexander was awarded the Military Cross for his actions during Dieppe.
At 7 a.m., about an hour after the first wave of tanks had gone ashore, Doc Alexander wrote: “The Coast was now clearly visible, daylight had come, but from now on all my references to time are very inaccurate. As far as the eye could see, the sea was covered with ships of all descriptions. We could see forms in near the shore which we took to be our leading T.L.C. There was a deafening roar over all, and smoke from firing guns and smoke screens were making visibility difficult, but the firing from the shore batteries did not seem excessive and nothing was really bothering us then as we were probably one-half mile from the shore.”
That would change as TLC No. 8 reached Dieppe’s beach and came under fire from the German defenders. The rest of Doc Alexander’s account of Dieppe will go live August 19.
The 14th Canadian Armoured Regiment (The Calgary Regiment) of the 1st Canadian Armoured Brigade would become the first tank regiment to attempt an amphibious landing.
An excellent synopsis of the Dieppe Raid can be found at the Juno Beach Centre website.