Veteran Stories:
John Joseph Reid “Johnny” Barron

Army

  • Private John Barron of The Royal Regiment of Canada, London, England, 1945, shortly after his repatriation from three years in German prisoner of war camps.

    Elizabeth Barron (Widow)
  • John Barron on the beach of Dieppe, France, 1983.

    Elizabeth Barron (Widow)
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"We surrendered three times and the third time, we made it stick. It came from headquarters apparently and we just stood up and put our hands up in the air and that was it. That was the end of the battle for us."

Transcript

It seemed to me that we sailed about 3:00 in the morning [August 19, 1942], arriving, supposedly arriving at Dieppe [in Normandy] by around 5:00, but we didn’t, we came in about an hour later because we were held up by E-Boats [also Schnellboot, the German motor torpedo boats] in the [English] Channel. And a small convoy apparently got tangled up with us, so there was a little gunfire and then we were slowed down. So we landed in daylight instead of in sort of semi-daylight. And they [the Germans] were sort of waiting for us. Served a hot breakfast, lots of lead flying around. It was kind of exciting.

Within a half an hour after we left the Channel port of Southampton [England], we knew that we were going to Dieppe. Most of us felt like hurling ourselves overboard and swimming back to England. We didn’t think too much of going into a battle zone where it had already been scrapped as far as we were concerned. So it was kind of a surprise to us, a shock too.

Well, as far as we knew, the plans for the raid had been discovered about two months before that, when we were supposed to go the first time, back around, it was about the end of June [1942]. We were surprised on the boats by the [German] aircraft coming in and bombing and straffing and we were taken off the ships and sent on leave and told that the raid had never been used. Much to our surprise and horror, we were told that we were going into Dieppe after all and we didn’t think very much of that at all. Yeah.

It was a beautiful hot sunny day when the sun finally did arise. And as far as I can remember, it was very warm and I don’t mean just from the action, I mean the weather was warm. And very calm. And the Channel was very calm at that time and no swell of any kind. Just a lot of chaos from shells bursting and destroyers zooming back and forth. But there wasn’t any heavy weather at all.

As far as I can remember, we didn’t have any camouflage on at all, just straight uniform and no markings on it of any kind. All markings had been removed so that they couldn’t tell what divisions or regiments we came from. But we got the signal to load into the assault landing craft and we went swarming down the netting on the sides of the ship. And loaded into the assault landing craft. And then we, with some difficulty, got into a different flotillas to make the, the run into shore. And at one point, one of the flotillas got mixed up a bit and there was a man hailing everybody, trying to get the flotilla together and a very loud voice, through a loud hailer, which was very alarming because there were U-Boats [German submarines] out on the Channel and we were afraid that we would be discovered.

However, that went through okay and then we inadvertently ran across a small platoon of fishing boats or something like that, we were sort of paralleling the coast. And there was an U-Boat in custody with, or taken care of that flotilla and they immediately opened fire on us because we ran afoul of them. Somehow or another, we got away from them but they did fire a few bursts across the top of the landing craft and some bullets hit the scaling ladders on top and sprayed some bits of lead and cartridge down into the boat. I got a little tiny sliver in one leg and the chap next to me got a, a cracked kneecap and the other one got a load in the throat and both those men stayed onboard and went back to England subsequently.

But then we made the final run in and everybody ran off the boat [around 6:00] and there were very heavy casualties running up the beach. One man on each side of me was killed and then he just fell to the deck right to the sand or the gravel and I threw myself down and then things got a little bit hot, so I picked myself up and ran for the wall. And there I stayed for about five hours after that or five and a half hours before the final surrender. We surrendered three times and the third time, we made it stick. It came from headquarters apparently and we just stood up and put our hands up in the air and that was it. That was the end of the battle for us. Although there were still a lot of bombs going off and shells being fired and so forth all around. But in our little corner, that was the end of it for us. I was only able to fire my Bren gun [British light machine gun] and throw smoke grenades and hand grenades. But apart from that, I don’t know that I ever hit anything. I just fired a lot of lead towards the shore, over the top of the wall and then sprayed bullets all over the place. So I imagine I hit something, I don’t know what though. But I can’t actually say that I, that I really killed any enemy soldiers or anything, did any real damage. I do know that my smoke grenades helped three of our chaps get back over the wall again. They had gone over and they were stuck there, so had to wait until the smoke came over and fortunately, I threw smoke in the right direction and they got back over because of it. So that did help in that respect. But apart from that, I don’t think it did anything too much, really. Except take up space and fire a lot of lead.

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