'Dieppe,' the miniseries
It has been called the most controversial battle Canadians have ever fought. On Aug. 19, 1942, after nearly three years of waiting in England for a chance to fight, Canadian troops were sent to raid the French coast at Dieppe. But the Germans were ready for them, and the attack became a massacre. Of nearly 5,000 Canadians sent to Dieppe, only 2,000 returned. More than 60 years later, the operation remains divisive: was Dieppe an essential trial run for D-Day, or a shocking waste of lives?
In this clip from Prime Time News the two men join historian Jack Granatstein in a discussion of the controversial miniseries, which has just aired on CBC-TV. Among the subjects they discuss: Was Mountbatten just a "vain blowhard" who unilaterally pushed the raid without consulting the experts? Did the Allies learn lessons that would prove vital in the invasion of Normandy? And why is Dieppe such as a "festering wound" in the Canadian psyche?
• The film juxtaposed the daily life of Canadian Army soldiers stationed in England with the strategic thinking of the high command who would order them into combat.
• Partly to rebut of the CBC feature, in 2001, The War Amps released a film of its own, entitled Dieppe: Don't Call it a Failure. The one-hour documentary was produced by Cliff Chadderton to "tell the positive side of the story," emphasizing the heroism of the troops and the lessons that were eventually applied on D-Day.
• The War Amps emphasize the fact that the Canadians bravely carried out a monumentally difficult attack on a fortified seaside town. Choosing to view the troops as a "reconnaissance force," the War Amps film champions the view that "the lessons of Dieppe saved thousands of Canadian lives on the D-Day invasion of Normandy nearly two years later." (Source: War Amps website.)
• Though Lord Mountbatten is frequently blamed for the poor planning of the Dieppe raid, some people feel the scapegoat ended up being a Canadian, Maj.-Gen. J.H. Roberts. Roberts served in the First World War and won a Military Cross at the Somme in 1916. He went overseas again in 1939, and was the only Allied commander to withdraw from France with all his guns. In April 1942 he was put in command of the 2nd Canadian Division.
• Though he had no part in the planning of the Dieppe raid, Roberts was in charge of ground troops. From his command post aboard HMS Calpe, Roberts had little idea how badly the assault was going. He discovered the true extent of the debacle only after the troops had retreated. Nonetheless, Roberts was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his participation.
• However, Maj.-Gen. Roberts was soon criticized for displaying tactical weakness during a D-Day practice exercise. He spent the rest of the war supervising reserves in England.
• In his book The Generals, The Canadian Army's Senior Commanders in the Second World War, historian Jack Granatstein argues that Roberts simply was not up to the task of commanding a division.
Program: Prime Time News
Broadcast Date: Jan. 3, 1994
Guests: Jack Granatstein, John Krizanc, Brian Loring Villa
Host: Peter Mansbridge
Last updated: July 29, 2013
Page consulted on January 5, 2015
All Clips from this Topic
Canadian veterans recall being decimated on the beaches of Dieppe.
A Canadian veteran discusses his secret mission to spy on German radar...
Atop Dieppe's now peaceful cliffs, three Canadian veterans share tearf...
Canadian author Timothy Findley presents an essay on how the triumph a...
Three Canadian women recall the heartbreak of absent husbands, and the...
A Department of Defence book commemorating Dieppe neglects to mention ...
Peter Mansbridge leads a discussion on the fact and fiction behind a c...
Canada finally gives special recognition to the veterans of Dieppe, 52...
A moving poem pays tribute to a single fallen soldier.