Landing craft en route to Dieppe, France, during Operation Jubilee, 19 August 1942.Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-171080 Restrictions on use: Nil Copyright: Expired
An unidentified Canadian soldier, who is armed with a Thompson machine gun, escorting a German prisoner who was captured during Operation Jubilee, the Dieppe raid. England, 19 August 1942.Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-210156 Restrictions on use: Nil Copyright: Expired
"There was very little beach. There was a sea wall and then a very steep cliff and that's what we were up against. And grenades and shell fire was just pouring at us. And you could see a whole line of people lined up in front of the sea wall just where they fell. They fell when they hit the beach actually, they were just like shooting fish in a barrel."
Training for and cancellation of Operation Rutter [initial plan to attack Dieppe in July 1942, cancelled chiefly because of poor weather]
But we trained, heavy training, mandell type of training on the Isle of Wight [England] and when they hit the two ships, well like I say, the one we were on started to sink so they took us off. And the other one, it didn't roll to the bottom but, anyway, it killed two sailors on its way through. And then when they boarded us on another ship, before we got to our destination, the raid had been cancelled. So, for all intents and purposes, that was the end of that.
Training for and attack on Dieppe [Operation Jubilee, 19 August 1942, Second Canadian Infantry Division attacked the port city and towns to the east and west, incurring heavy causalities, the decision to remount the raid remains controversial]
We continued training in a place called Little Hampton [England] and, oh, we were bearing our full loads of ammunition and battle gear every day. And they marched us one morning after breakfast, from the mess hall, they marched us over to the headquarters building and stopped us there. And left us standing while the officers went and had a meeting. But anyway, my brother happened to be in the same unit but he didn't have the invasion training and he was on the steps of the building and I yelled at him, “Hey.” He said, “Hey what?” I said, “If I don't come back, look after my gear.” “What the hell do you mean, you're not going anywhere.” Well, I said, “Maybe yes and maybe no but we smell a rat. So just in case, look after my gear.” He did because we just boarded in trucks from there, drove to the harbour and climbed on a mother ship and they told us that we were going to the same place we had all the training. We had sat on the ships for a week in the first place and just went over the battle plan and whatnot. And they said, “We're going to the same place, all your objectives are the same, you've seen all the aerial photographs,” and they said, “there’s one small change.” “And what's that?” “Instead of a five percent casualty, we expect 50 percent,” which was a nice piece of news. But anyway, the next thing, we were crossing the channel. During the night, we weren't about halfway in the channel on the mother ships and then put in the landing craft and went the rest of the way in the landing craft.
We were supposed to land under the cover of darkness. But unfortunately, we were a bit later, the sun was up and the enemy seemed to be waiting for us. When we came out of the smoke, we were right in sight of the shore and the sun was up. And as soon as we came out of the smoke, of course, they started firing at us. The platoon I was with was the reserve platoon but the first thing I saw, really, there were three of us in the front position in the landing craft, lieutenant and his batman and I was the platoon runner. And, when we come out, we were, oh, awful close to the shore and they had dropped the ramp, the two fellows on either side of me, they made a mad jump and went in over their head. I hesitated just long enough when I jumped, I landed only up to my ankles in the water. And hell broke loose.
There was very little beach. There was a sea wall and then a very steep cliff and that's what we were up against. And grenades and shell fire was just pouring at us. And you could see a whole line of people lined up in front of the sea wall just where they fell. They fell when they hit the beach actually, they were just like shooting fish in a barrel.
I think our plan was any casualties up until a certain time be evacuated from the landing site. After that time, we would take them with us to the place where we were going to leave, north of the land. Well, they sent in two landing crafts to pick up wounded and you wouldn't want to see what happened with that. One landed right by, I got hit right away and one landed right in front of me and I said to myself, “Am I bad enough to get on that?” because I could still maneuver. I said, “No, I'm not bad enough.” And it didn't even stop, it just dropped them back right off again and the one over, about 100 yards over, it was a big crowd made a run for that one from under the shelter of the sea wall. And they ran out into the open and that you wouldn't want to see. They just opened up and gave it all they had and bodies in the water, a big red stain in the water and that only got out about 50, 100 yards and it sunk. So there was no more attempts to pick up wounded.
When it was finished, they took us off the beach to a small town at a school yard and then some of our own fighter planes strafed, it was one of their targets and it strafed us while we were in there. We had a few casualties there from our own.
They walked us that day, I don't know how far we walked, straggled along, wounded, the whole gang of us. There was a wedding going on in a big French church, people, people were just coming out on the front steps when we went by, dragging a lot of wounded people with missing clothes because they'd been in the water and they'll remember that wedding day.
At one time, they put chains on us and that sounds funny but it wasn't funny. Actually, before they brought the chains, they tied the boys up, we missed that because we were in hospital and weren't tied. But they tied them up right straight together and tied them tight and if they could find a little slack between their wrists, they'd really crank it, like a binder twine. And see, we wounded that were in hospital missed that, but by just the time we got out, they brought the damn chains and there was a big cuff on each wrist and about, oh, 12 feet of heavy chain in between the cuffs. They put them on in the morning and took them off at night. And they weren't pleasant.
So they moved us up to another camp and they sent us out to work and there were 24 of us. Went out to that big farm. Then we worked there for a year I guess, it about, well, with guards right at our backside. We did farm work, we planted potatoes, we hoed potatoes, we dug potatoes. And that's the only good thing about that, we could eat all the potatoes we wanted. But anything else, just wasn't there. The work was hard, the hours were long but at least, I think back on it, it kept us from going crazy. You know, if you're just sitting, sitting around, with nothing to do, it's pretty hard on the mind.
The spring of 1945, I guess, they started us on the road marching. The prisoners that were in eastern section, we were then getting ready to move into the northeast. They had us moving west. Prisoners in the western section, they had them moving east so there was prisoners all over the country walking.
That was also damn hard, awfully hard. Just on the road every day. Every night, they'd stop at a farm, all the farms had to be, not all were pleasant, manure pile and whatnot out in the middle of the yard. And that's where we stayed. Or in the barn.
Happened, that was, I was liberated on my 25th birthday, the third of May 1945. That was the best birthday present I've ever had.