Dieppe landing: Operation Jubilee
The origins of the Normandy landings
Dieppe Raid – August 19, 1942. Bodies, wrecked tanks and flaming landing craft testify to the violent allied assault in the Dieppe area.
Objectives of Operation Jubilee
Operation Barbarossa, launched by the Germans on June 22, 1941 against the armies of Stalin, marks the beginning of a fierce resistance of the Soviet forces on their own soil. The Germans have engaged most of their divisions to the east, having no direct enemy to the west.
However, conscious of the likelihood of an allied landing in western Europe, the Germans decided, in order to concentrate a maximum of their forces against the troops of the Soviet Union, to protect the seafront West by a series of fixed fortifications, supposed to stop any enemy amphibious assault: it is the birth of the Atlantic Wall.
Very quickly, the Allies developed a military operation aimed mainly at relieving the Soviet front and testing the German defenses facing England. To carry out this objective, 5,000 Canadians, 1,100 Britons, 56 Americans and 15 Free French soldiers were put on alert during the summer of 1942.
This combined operation, however, must bring very important information to the Allied forces in preparation for a larger landing in the following months, still in the north-west of Europe, then also being prepared (Operation Overlord).
Operation Jubilee strategy
The objective of the allied troops is simple: soldiers must land at dawn, destroy important artillery positions, destroy a radar and an airfield. Once these actions carried out, the troops would then be re-embarked by the allied navy with possible German prisoners.
On 18 August 1942 in the evening, nearly 250 British war ships headed for the coasts of northern France in the direction of Dieppe. Air support is ensured by the presence of 58 squadrons that protect the convoy.
|On the beach of Dieppe, the wrecks of ships and tanks testify to the ferocity of the fighting. Photo: Bundesarchiv.|
Five landing areas (over 17 kilometers) have been designated, all located in the vicinity of the city of Dieppe.
To the west, Commando N°4 had to attack in the vicinity of Vesterival and Varengeville-sur-Mer, where there were positions of major German artillery which had to be destroyed. A few kilometers west of Dieppe, the South Saskatchewan Regiment and the Cameron Highlanders of Canada must capture Pourville and advance towards the airfield.
The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry, Essex Scottish, Mount Royal Fusiliers, the Royal Marine and the 14th Canadian Army Cavalry Regiment (28 Churchill tanks) attack directly in front of Dieppe. They land on the beaches codename “White” in the west and “Red” in the east. On their left flank, the Royal Canadian Regiment lands on the beach area codename “Blue” and must advance towards Arques-la-Bataille.
Finally, to the east, the British soldiers belonging to Commando No. 3 land in front of the localities of Berneval-le-Grand and Petit-Berneval, where important German artillery positions were installed.
Conduct of Operation Jubilee
On August 19th, at five o’clock in the morning, the Allied troops landed on the beaches of Seine-Maritime region in Normandy and were welcomed, despite the effect of surprise, by fierce and murderous fire. German soldiers, belonging to the 302nd Infantry Division, took advantage of their ideal defensive positions: German positions were located at the top of high cliffs and the pebbles on the beach slowed the tanks and the infantry advance.
For British No. 3 and No. 4 commandos attacking on the western and eastern flanks of the invasion area, operations were generally conducive to the allied forces and the German artillery batteries were largely destroyed: the commandos reached the summit of the cliffs by taking natural or man-made ravines and accomplished their objectives as far as possible.
|On the beach of Dieppe, Allied casualties and tanks were photographed by Nazi propaganda. Photo: Bundesarchiv.|
But in front of Dieppe, the situation of the Allied troops is much more worrying: despite some breakthroughs by Canadian soldiers inside the city, most troops fail to overcome the obstacle of the beach. The Allies, suffering from high losses and a lack of communication between the various engaged units, decided to stop the operation and to re-embark all the valid units, while the tanks were abandoned on the spot. It was 9:30.
Operation Jubilee was over, the losses were catastrophic for the allies, but the Atlantic Wall was tested.
Results of Operation Jubilee
From a human point of view, Operation Jubilee is a real catastrophe. Of the 6,086 allied soldiers engaged, 4,397 were reported missing, taken prisoner, wounded or killed. The Canadians were the most affected during this attack: 907 of them were killed. 550 British soldiers also lost their lives.
The Allies quickly produce numerous reports that help to understand why the operation has taken on such a large failure scale. The most striking findings were that lack of air support for the landing forces, a prior bombing would certainly have seriously handicapped German troops while armored support was ineffective.
|Body and wreckage on the beach of Dieppe after Jubilee operation. Photo: Bundesarchiv.|
Operation Jubilee brings a lot of extremely important information to Allied leaders who have now tested the reactivity of German forces behind the Atlantic Wall. These data, paid at the price of blood, were very useful to the Allied military as part of the preparation for Operation Overlord.