A group of Canadians led by a woman from Barrie, Ont. travelled to Dieppe to mark the 75th anniversary of the Canadian raid and pay tribute to the men killed and taken prisoner during that battle, which happened on this day in 1942.

Dieppe Cemetery

The Dieppe Canadian War Cemetery in France (Brett Stringfellow/Dieppe Blue Beach Every Man Remembered/Facebook)

Jayne Poolton-Turvey, along with about 50 others with family members who served in the Royal Regiment of Canada, travelled to the town in northern France with letters, photos and Canadian flags to place on soldiers' graves.

"The graveyard is very overwhelming," Poolton-Turvey told Wei Chen on CBC Radio's Ontario Morning. "We've become very connected to these men, it was very personal. We know their stories."

 

The Dieppe raid was a pivotal moment for Canada in the Second World War. It was partly an attempt to boost morale by demonstrating that Allied troops could attack and temporarily seize a German-held port. It was also aimed at gathering intelligence and damaging German coastal defences.

But the raid was a failure. More than 900 Canadian soldiers were killed, with several thousand wounded and hundreds taken as prisoners of war.

Poolton-Turvey's father, Jack Poolton, survived the raid but was taken prisoner. He unsuccessfully attempted to escape several times, but did survive and returned home to Canada.

Jack Poolton Dieppe

Items from Jack Poolton, a prisoner of war who fought and was captured in the Dieppe raid 75 years ago during the Second World War. (Jayne Poolton-Turvey/Facebook)

For the past several years, Poolton-Turvey has been working on a non-profit project called "Blue Beach: Every Man Remembered" to honour the Royal Regiment soldiers, including her father, who landed at Dieppe. Their trip to Blue Beach for the 75th anniversary was part of that project.

Blue Beach Dieppe

Descendents of those who fought in the Dieppe raid took part in a tour to try to walk in their forefathers' footsteps at Blue Beach. (Dieppe Blue Beach Every Man Remembered/Facebook)

"We have been researching ... to find a photo of each of these men, as well as information," she said. "The ultimate goal is to produce a book." 

Interviews with the family members of soldiers who fought at Dieppe were often difficult.  While speaking to CBC Radio from Dieppe, Poolton-Turvey told Wei Chen about an interview with a soldier's daughter that was particularly emotional.

"A woman up in Bracebridge ... her father died on the beach. She never met him. And for an entire hour interview, she wept. She's still grieving 75 years later," recounted Poolton-Turvey. "Finally, their fathers, grandfathers, uncles are going to be remembered."

Dieppe tour travellers

Jayne Poolton-Turvey and other descendants of soldiers in the Dieppe raid travelled to the French town to pay tribute on the 75th anniversary of the Second World War battle. (Dieppe Blue Beach Every Man Remembered/Facebook)

The intensive research their group has undertaken for the project gave the trip to Dieppe additional poignancy for Poolton-Turvey.

"It was over-the-top emotional because it's like we know these men personally."

with files from CBC Radio's Ontario Morning