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Who was responsible for Dieppe?

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?

The raid on Dieppe was designed to teach the Allies how to invade Europe. Instead, it became an abject lesson in how not to conduct a coastal assault. The position was heavily fortified. The attacking troops and leaders were inexperienced. There was no heavy bombardment, and no battleship support. On the 20th anniversary of the Dieppe raid, CBC-TV's Close-Up asks the former commanders who approved such a plan. But they find nothing but finger pointing. 
. The original battle plan for a raid on Dieppe (Operation Rutter) called for a risky frontal assault after a heavy bombardment. But the British Navy had recently lost several ships in action, and refused to commit a battleship. Similarly, the air force did not want to risk its bombers, and planners decided that a heavy aerial bombardment would cause needless civilian casualties.

. When the first attack was called off, Chief of Combined Operations Louis Mountbatten pressed to remount the attack, despite concerns from other planners that too many men had been briefed for the plan to remain a secret. In a television interview after the war, Mountbatten said, "I felt that even if the Germans knew that an operation had been planned against Dieppe and then abandoned, that the very last thing they'd ever imagine is we would be so stupid as to lay on the same operation again."

. The renewed assault plan was criticized by British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery and Maj.-Gen. J.H. Roberts, commander of the 2nd Canadian Division, but Mountbatten won out. According to Brian Loring Villa, author of Unauthorized Action: Mountbatten and the Dieppe Raid, Mountbatten pushed ahead with the plan without getting the required authorization from the joint chiefs of staff.

. Though his role in Dieppe is controversial, Lord Louis Mountbatten was one of the most celebrated heroes of the Second World War. Dashing and powerful, Mountbatten was first cousin to the king of England. His father had been Britain's First Sea Lord (head of the British Royal Navy) and Mountbatten came under enemy fire many times as a destroyer captain early in the war. In 1941, Churchill made Mountbatten to Chief of Combined Operations.

. After the war, Mountbatten oversaw the granting of independence to India. He continued to serve in the British Admiralty, becoming First Sea Lord and Chief of the Defence Staff. Critics like Brian Loring Villa say Mountbatten used his political and royal connections to avoid any serious negative accusations for his role in the Dieppe raid. His relationship with Canadian veterans remained frosty, however, and he was received coolly during his visits to Canada. Mountbatten was killed by an IRA bomb in 1979.
Medium: Television
Program: Close-Up
Broadcast Date: Sept. 9, 1962
Guest(s): H.D.G. Crerar, Hughes Hallott, Sherwood Lack, A.G.L. McNaughton, Bernard Montgomery, Louis Mountbatten, Walter Skrine, C.P. Stacey
Interviewer: George Ronald
Narrator: J. Frank Willis
Duration: 12:43
This clip has poor video.

Last updated: January 19, 2012

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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