The organisation that planned and executed attacks against mainland Europe was known as Combined Operations, and was not a service in its own right but had to rely on the cooperation of the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force (the cooperation of the Army had been secured as it already had a force of Army Commandos with which to operate) to provide the means by which it carried out its attacks. The head of Combined Operations, Lord Louis Mountbatten, joined the Chiefs of Staff Committee in March 1942, which put Combined Operations on a par (theoretically) with the other services. Churchill, under pressure from the Allies and public opinion, suggested large-scale landings in Norway or the Cherbourg Peninsula. These were considered by the Chiefs of Staff to be impractical, but they did suggest a large-scale raid against a port somewhere along the Pas de Calais coastline, within the protective umbrella of Fighter Command. Seven such ports were examined and rejected, but the next along the coastline, Dieppe, was accepted as it was just seventy miles from Newhaven (close enough to allow a surprise attack with the force approaching under the cover of darkness) and still well within range of Fighter Command’s aircraft. On 4 April 1942, Mountbatten gave the order for his staff to draw up plans.
The size and scale of the operation made it too large for Army Commandos to carry out by themselves so regular troops from the Home Forces would be involved, most likely coming from Lieutenant General Bernard Montgomery’s South Eastern Command. It was decided that Canadian troops, already located in the south-east since the beginning of the war, would be used, although Montgomery later claimed that the final decision to use them came not from him, but from his superior, General Sir Bernard Paget. By 1942 there were over 200,000 of them, organised into three infantry and two armoured divisions, several armoured brigades and artillery formations. The Canadians were an all-volunteer force and so were keen to see action, three years having trained and performing garrison duties leading to morale problems. Their commander, Lt Gen R G L McNaughton (who was to eventually command the Canadian First Army) was asked to provide troops for the operations and selected the Canadian 2nd Infantry Division (commanded at the time by Major General John H Roberts) to supply the necessary manpower. In fact, as the operation was to be larger than anything previously attempted, all three services would be contributing significant forces to it. There would be over 6,000 troops landing with the Royal Navy having the responsibility of transporting the troops to their objective, landing them, then embarking them again to return to the UK, as well as supplying supporting gunfire to neutralise enemy installations. The RAF would protect the operation from the unwelcome attention of the Luftwaffe by fielding the largest fighter screen since the Battle of Britain.
By 9 May, the main elements of the plan had coalesced and taken shape and so the outline was put in front of the Chiefs of Staff Committee and adopted. Intelligence indicated that Dieppe was not particularly heavily defended and that the beaches in the vicinity were suitable for the landing of infantry and tanks. While there were some misgivings about adopting this variant, most notably from Mountbatten, featuring as it did a direct frontal assault on the most heavily defended part of the Dieppe beachfront, most were optimistic about its chances.
Operation Rutter was planned to take place between the 4 and 8 July. After weeks of training and preparation the troops embarked on their craft but the order to sail was not given as the period of time when the tides were most suitable coincided with a bout of very unsettled weather. On top of this, the Germans spotted the convoy gathered in the Solent and bombed them. While very little damage was done, it was possible that the enemy would now be alerted to the fact that some sort of amphibious operation was about to be undertaken. This, coupled with the weather getting even worse, forced the operation’s cancellation.
The plan for Operation Jubillee was very similar to that for Operation Rutter, but did differ in a number of aspects, principally in the use of commandos instead of airborne troops. The Allied forces (under Military Force Commander, Major General John H Roberts) would land on seven separate beaches and then form a single lodgement on the coast:
The majority of vessels available to Captain John Hughes-Hallett (Naval Force Commander) were light ones or landing craft. The only real firepower to protect the ships of the fleet and bombard the enemy shore came from the 4in guns of the eight destroyers and one gunboat. The remaining weapons ranged from the 3in guns of the steam gunboats to the 40mm and 20mm guns of the support vessels. The lack of firepower would be a crucial mistake, as even the 4in guns could do little damage to heavily protected enemy gun emplacements, pillboxes and bunkers and only serve to keep the gunners heads down. Moutbatten had asked for a battleship to accompany the raid to engage targets that were on the shore with enough firepower to do some damage but be accurate enough to stand a chance of not obliterating the entire town. The Navy Chiefs, terrified of loosing a capital ship to German air power, swiftly rejected the idea and it was decided to leave the task of shattering the German defence to the RAF.
Another difference between Jubilee and Rutter was that Hughes-Hallett decided that as the troops were already trained and dispersed, the seaborne operation would proceed differently. He wanted to avoid the possibility of the force be detected and attacked by German aircraft and so the ships could remain dispersed and the troops concentrate at the nearest ports of embarkation and sail the evening they boarded. The troops could also move to Dieppe directly in their assault craft, avoiding the need for them to be transferred from landing ship to assault craft. Jubilee would be launched from a variety of south coast ports, including Newhaven, Gosport, Portsmouth, Shoreham and Southampton and each flotilla's departure would be timed so the fleet would arrive off the coast at Dieppe at the correct moment. Most would be leaving in darkness, but the ships from Southampton would have to leave while it was still daylight because of the longer journey and so would be disguised as a coastal convoy to avoid detection.
The two main objectives for the RAF during Jubilee were to firstly, provide air cover for the assault and secondly attack the enemy's defensive capability. The size of the landings however meant that Air Vice Marshal T. Leigh-Mallory could contemplate a third objective. He intended to literally and metaphorically throw the 'gauntlet' down to the Luftwaffe and entice it into battle. It was likely that as the landings developed, the Germans might view this as a prelude to a full-scale invasion and react accordingly. The RAF therefore had some sixty-eight squadrons available, more than that available to Air Chief Marshal Dowding at any time in the Battle of Britain. The RAF intended to take on the Luftwaffe over Dieppe and defeat it. However, as the planning proceeded, one of the first things that were abandoned was the great nighttime bombing raid over Dieppe. Leigh-Mallory felt it was not the best way in which to use bombers and that such a raid would put the enemy on alert. The Military Force Commander also felt that such a bombardment would create a great deal of rubble that would clog the streets and hinder the progress of the tanks. As an alternative, Leigh-Mallory proposed that diversionary attacks be made on German airfields in northern France, cannon-firing aircraft would strafe the German beach defences and Hurricane fighter-bombers would attack individual targets with 250lbs bombs. As the plan that was to be implemented slowly slipped from that originally envisaged, the great pre-assault bombardment by the RAF's heavy bombers and the Navy's battleship became further and further diluted until it was reduced to fighter-bomber raids and strafing attacks by Hurricanes and light selected gunfire by destroyers and a gunboat. The ground forces assaulting Dieppe would pay the price.
On the extreme flanks, the large coastal guns of the Hess and Goebbels batteries covered the sea approaches with their ten 150mm guns. These weapons were in fact the responsibility of the Kriegsmarine and were manned by naval personnel. They were sited well outside the Dieppe defence zone and the 302nd was just too stretched to provide the necessary infantry to protect them. While there had been some disagreements between the Army and Navy about the exposed position of the guns and their vulnerability, a compromise had been reached but no action had been taken by the time of the raid. The town itself was the responsibility of Oberstleutnant (Lt Col) Hermann Bartelt's 571st Infantry Regiment. His headquarters was in the Château overlooking the main beach in Dieppe but he had just two depleted battalions totalling some 1,500 men to cover Varengeville in the west, to Berneval in the east. Just 50 men guarded the beach at Puys and 150 men at Dieppe. While the initial defence was thinly held, such defensive emplacements still presented a formidable obstacle to any assault force and the Germans, knowing this, had planned around it – Haase held half his men back in reserve and had Corps (four rifle battalions at Dunclair) and Army (10th Panzer Division at Amiens) reserves within fifty miles.
The Canadian 2nd Infantry Division arrived in the UK under the command of Major General V W Odlum in the late summer of 1940. Three battalions (The Royal Regiment of Canada, Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal and the Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa) were diverted to reinforce the garrison on Iceland, an important base that sat astride the Atlantic sea-lanes from North America. The UK wanted the whole of the division to be posted there, but the Canadian Government considered that public opinion would be against the use of Canadian forces as permanent garrisons abroad. The British eventually agreed, and the Icelandic garrison was taken over by the 49th (West Riding) Division.
The organisation, training and equipment of the Canadian Army was broadly similar to that of the British Army, with the Canadian 2nd Infantry Division consisting of three brigades, each of three battalions, a machinegun battalion, three regiments of field artillery and supporting services. The brigades were the 4th, 5th and 6th and consisted of the Royal Regiment of Canada, Royal Hamilton Light Infantry, Essex Scottish Regiment (in the 4th), Black Watch of Canada, Le Régiment de Maisonneuvre, the Calgary Highlanders (in the 5th), Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal, the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada and the South Saskatchewan Regiment (in the 6th). Support was provided by the Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa (the machinegun battalion) and the 4th, 5th and 6th Royal Canadian Artillery Field Regiments, along with the 8th Reconnaissance Regiment (14th Canadian Hussars). Maj Gen Odlum was replaced by Maj Gen John H Roberts in late 1941 and brought a new impetus to both training and performance – something that, along with morale, had been in steady decline due to the long period of relative inactivity in the UK. Roberts replaced many of the older officers in the division by moving them to other jobs and the younger officers that replaced them boosted the men’s morale. He began a series of exercises and training programmes that the men could channel their excess energy into.
On 8 May 1942 came news that the division would at last be involved in a specific operation. Roberts selected the six battalions making up the 4th and 6th Brigades and training began in earnest on the Isle of Wight on 20 May. The Isle of Wight was perfect for such training as it was isolated from the mainland, which helped security and had a large number of beaches that could be used in the training of amphibious operations and a number of high chalk cliffs, similar to those either side of Dieppe. As training began in earnest, it was apparent that not only the physical fitness of the troops had to be improved but their combat training as well, and so the Isle of Wight was sealed once all the constituent components of the operations had assembled. As the date for Operation Rutter approached the division prepared itself for action. Rutter however was cancelled and the troops were dispersed back across South East England, not knowing that in a few short weeks they would in fact see action under the guise of Operation Jubilee.
The objectives and target of the plan remained unchanged; the only major difference being that instead of using airborne troops to capture the large German coastal batteries, they would be seized by seaborne assault using No. 3 Commando to assault the Goebbels Battery at Berneval and No. 4 Commando to attack the Hess Battery at Varengeville. The first Commandos had been formed in the summer of 1940 with the majority of their number coming from the Independent Companies that had been formed to act as guerrillas in the event of invasion or to act as ship-board raiding parties and land behind enemy lines. The new Commandos were much larger than the Independent Companies (twenty officers and 270 men) with twenty-four officers and 435 men and were organised into a headquarters and five fighting Troops (each of three officers and sixty men) along with support and communications services. Their main task was to take the fight back to the enemy and attack installations, provide reconnaissance and flank protection to major operations. They were highly trained, specialised infantry who were lightly armed and had flexibility of organisation.
No. 3 Commando had been raised in July 1940 under Lt Col J F Durnford-Slater and was involved in such raids as those on Guernsey, the Lofoten islands and Vaagsö, while No. 4 Commando, under Lt Col The Lord Lovat, had been established at about the same time and participated in the Lofoten Raid as well as providing manpower for other raids, such as St Nazaire. No. 3 moved from Scotland to Seaford in Sussex, while No. 4 moved down to Weymouth. Both Commandos started intense planning on how to take the batteries as well as training and exercising so that not only did the men's fitness improve but men were crossed training to several other tasks so that in the event of casualties, the critical tasks could still be carried out. No. 4 practised their assault in Lulworth Cove while No. 3 trained coming ashore on the chalk cliffs of the Sussex Downs. As the raid approached, both Commandos were fully trained and raring to go. As it happened, a group of American officers were attached to the Combined Operations HQ at the time, hoping to get experience of commando techniques. The senior officer was Brigadier General Lucian Truscott who had recently formed the first modern American Commandos, the Rangers (whose lineage as it happened, went way back to the American War of Independence). Truscott had raised the US 1st Ranger Battalion in June 1942 along the same lines as the British Commandos and performed the same training at the Commando Basic Training Centre near Achnacarry in Scotland. Mountbatten asked Truscott if he would like some rangers to accompany the mission in order to giv them some experience and insight to battle conditions. Trusott readily agreed and some six officers and forty-four men were selected to accompany the Allied force.
The Order of Battle for Operation Jubilee thus comprised:
1. Army Forces (under the command of Major General John H Roberts):
Destroyers: HMS Calpe (HQ ship); HMS Fernie; HMS Brocklesby; HMS Garth; HMS Albrighton; HMS Berkeley; HMS Bleasdale; and ORP Slazak.
Sloop and Gunboat: HMS Alresford and HMS Locust.
9th and 13th Minesweeper Flotillas
Landing Ships: HMS Glengyle (LSI Large); HMS Queen Emma (LSI Medium); HMS Princess Beatrix (LSI Medium); HMS Prince Charles (LSI Small); HMS Prince Albert (LSI Small); HMS Prince Leopold (LSI Small); HMS Princess Astrid (LSI Small); HMS Invicta (LSI Small); and HMS Duke of Wellington (LSI Small).
Escorting Craft: Motor Gun Boats (MGB) Nos. 50, 51, 52, 57, 312, 315, 316, 317, 320, 321, 323 & 326; Steam Gun Boats (SGB) Nos. 5, 6, 8 & 9; Motor Launches (ML) Nos. 114, 120, 123, 171, 187, 189, 190, 191, 193, 194, 208, 214, 230, 246, 291, 292, 309, 343, 344 & 346; Free French Chasseurs Nos. 5, 10, 13, 14, 41, 42 & 43.
3. Air Forces (under the command of Air Vice Marshall Trafford Leigh-Mallory)
RAF Fighter Command No. 11 Group
Spitfire Squadrons: 19, 41, 64, 65, 66, 71, 81, 91, 111, 118, 121, 124, 129, 130, 131, 133, 154, 165, 222, 232, 242, 302, 303, 306, 307, 308, 309, 310, 312, 317, 331, 332, 340, 350, 401, 402, 403, 411, 412, 416, 485, 501, 602, 610, 611 & 616.
Hurricane Squadrons: 3, 32, 43, 87, 174, 175, 245 & 253.
Typhoon Squadrons: 56, 266 & 609.
Boston Squadrons: 88, 107, 226, 418 & 605.
Blenheim Squadrons: 13 & 614.
Mustang Squadrons: 26, 239, 400 & 414.
Beaufighter Squadron: 141.
USAAF 97th Bombardment Group
B-17 Squadrons: 340th, 341st, 342nd & 414th.
The division arrived in the area of Dieppe in April 1941 after spending a short time doing garrison duty in Germany. It soon settled into occupation duties and Haase organised the division to police the local population and to defend the locality – at the time it was at full strength and fully manned. The situation did not long remain stable however. The flow of new recruits from the training schools in Germany did not meet the needs of the campaign in the east, which seemed to devour men and material with a voracious appetite and so both personnel and equipment was gradually taken from established formations in the field. Little by little, the German national composition of the 302nd was gradually diluted with foreign conscripts, many of which varied in the enthusiasm as to serving the Third Reich. Much of the modern weaponry was replaced by older, pre-war or captured equipment (even some British!) leading to a strain on the logistics system, as spare parts and ammunition were increasingly harder to come by. Most of the transport was horse-drawn, with bicycles and French trucks also commandeered. However, static troops that concentrate on a defensive task (not excluding local and limited counterattacks) do not necessarily need the latest equipment in formidable concrete emplacements and defensive positions and obsolescent machineguns, even second-rate troops can give a good account of themselves.
How to cite this article: Antill, P. (6 April 2001), Operation Jubilee: The Disaster at Dieppe – Part 1: 19 August 1942, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_dieppe1.html