| Canadian soldiers, airmen and sailors were the primary Allied participants in the ill-fated raid at Dieppe in August of 1942.
Nearly 5 000 Canadian soldiers took part. In addition to the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry and Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal, whose medal recipients are detailed here, several other Canadian units were represented in the Allied forces. Other Canadian regiments that participated included: the Calgary Tanks, the Calgary and the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders, the Royal Regiment, the Black Watch (Royal Highland), Essex Scottish and South Saskatchewan Regiments, the Toronto Scottish and the Royal Canadian Artillery. Corps elements came from the Royal Canadian Engineers, Signals, Service, Medical, Ordnance, Provost and Intelligence Corps.
The RCAF was represented by elements of nine squadrons: the 400th, 401st, 402nd, 403rd, 411th, 412th, 414th, 416th and 418th. The Royal Canadian Navy also joined with the Royal Navy to provide transportation and support.
British Army units totaling just over 1 000 men and a small unit of 50 US Rangers accompanied the Canadians in their efforts.
More than 900 Canadians lost their lives that day; over 400 came from the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry and Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal.
Two Victoria Crosses were awarded to Canadians as a result of their actions at the Dieppe raid; one to H/Captain John Weir Foote, the Chaplain of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry, and the other to Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Merritt, the Commanding Officer of the South Saskatchewan Regiment. There were numerous other instances of bravery under fire by the Canadian soldiers that day, and many medals were awarded as a result of those actions. The two Victoria Cross citations and those awarded soldiers of Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal and the Hamilton Royal Light Infantry appear below.
With the exception of Lt-Col. Merritt's citation, all of these documents have been archived at the Directorate of History and Heritage, National Defense, Ottawa and have, until this time, never been published. We thank the Directorate of History and Heritage for their cooperation and support in making these important historical records available for this use.
The citations are presented as they appear in the original documents, with the same abbreviations, grammar, punctuation and spellings.
The South Saskatchewan Regiment
Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Merritt, Victoria Cross
For matchless gallantry and inspiring leadership whilst commanding his battalion during the Dieppe raid on the 19th August, 1942. From the point of landing, his unit's advance had to be made across a bridge in Pourville which was swept by very heavy machine-gun, mortar and artillery fire: the first parties were mostly destroyed and the bridge thickly covered by their bodies. A daring lead was required; waving his helmet, Lieutenant-Colonel Merritt rushed forward shouting, "Come on over! There's nothing to worry about here."
He thus personally led the survivors of at least four parties in turn across the bridge. Quickly organizing these, he led them forward and when held up by enemy pillboxes he again headed rushes which succeeded in clearing them. In one case he himself destroyed the occupants of the post by throwing grenades into it. After several of his runners became casualties, he himself kept contact with his different positions. Although twice wounded Lieutenant-Colonel Merritt continued to direct the unit's operations with great vigour and determination and while organizing the withdrawal he stalked a sniper with a Bren gun and silenced him. He then coolly gave orders for the departure and announced his intention to hold off and "get even with" the enemy. When last seen he was collecting Bren and Tommy guns and preparing a defensive position which successfully covered the withdrawal from the beach. Lieutenant-Colonel Merritt is now reported to be a Prisoner of War. To this Commanding Officer's personal daring, the success of his unit's operations and the safe re-embarkation of a large portion of it were chiefly due.
Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal
Lieutenant Pierre Benoit, Military Cross
During the operations at Dieppe, 19 Aug 42, Lieut. Benoit, O.C. No 4 Platoon Fus. M.R. displayed the greatest coolness and daring in the face of the enemy. During the re-embarkation the ramp of his L.C.T. broke and resisted all attempts to hoist it back into position. With total disregard for his own safety Lieut. Benoit jumped into the bottom of the L.C.T., which was rapidly filling with water, and remained there, although exposed to intense enemy fire, until, with some assistance from others, he managed to get the ramp back into position. As the L.C.T. finally pulled out to sea, a number of casualties occurred among the A.A. Gun crews on the upper deck of the craft. The Captain called for volunteers to carry these men under cover, and Lieut. Benoit immediately went to the upper deck and organized their removal. Lieut. Benoit's courage and devotion to duty inspired all those around him.
Corporal Robert Berube, Military Medal
During the operations at Dieppe, 19 Aug 42, Cpl Berube, H.Q. Coy Fus. M.R., showed extreme coolness and courage under fire. While approaching the beach he fired his L.M.G. from the boat at enemy positions on the beach with considerable effect. When he landed, he advanced up the beach and continued to engage the enemy from a very exposed position. When the withdrawal began, with complete disregard for his personal safety, he carried a wounded N.C.O. over his shoulder to one of the boats. He made several trips between the boats and the beach carrying back a wounded comrade on each occasion. When the craft in which he himself finally embarked was found to be stuck in the sand, he was the first to jump out and, although under heavy fire, assisted Sgt Gagne and others to push the boat clear of the shore. Cpl Berube's action in bringing many of the wounded, although himself exposed to an intense fire, is worthy of the highest commendation.
Sergeant Pierre Dubuc, Military Medal
A daring and cool-headed soldier, Sgt. Dubuc of H.Q. Coy, Fus. M.R., after landing at Dieppe, 19 Aug 42, advanced across the beach with his party and engaged the enemy. In the subsequent fighting he was captured, but made good his escape and returned to the beach. Being unarmed he entered a tank whose crew had all been either killed or wounded, and fired every round of ammunition in it. Thereafter, under very heavy fire, he assisted wounded men to the boats.
At all times throughout the action Sgt. Dubuc displayed the greatest bravery, coolness, and initiative.
Lieutenant J. Duclos, Mentioned in Despatches
Lieut. Duclos led his men at Dieppe, 19 Aug 42, with courage and tactical ability. While attacking enemy posts from which he and his men were meeting with very heavy cross fire, he was wounded. Despite his wounds Lieut Duclos refused assistance and continued to direct his men with undiminished vigour. When at one point retirement became necessary he himself covered the withdrawal of his men to a new position. He continued to act with cool courage until the order to evacuate was received. He did not return from the operation.
Platoon Sergeant-Major Lucien Dumais, Military Medal
The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the following award in recognition of gallant and distinguished services in the field: The Military Medal. This Warrant Officer has escaped from captivity. During the Dieppe operation he successfully led a party into the Casino.
Captain Robert Hector Lajoie, Military Cross
From the moment that the L.C.T. which he was aboard approached the beaches of Dieppe at dawn on the morning of 19 Aug 42, until it turned about, bound for England, Capt. Lajoie, 2 i/c H.Q. Company, never left his post in the bow of the craft; despite heavy fire to which he was subjected. With great coolness he controlled and directed the fire of his men on whatever targets presented themselves. For more than three hours he continued thus, awaiting the order to land, an order which never arrived.
Just as the L.C.T. began its return journey the Officer in charge of the A.A. defence became a casualty, and Capt. Lajoie took over his duties. Standing on deck, fully exposed to the MG fire and the bombs of the harassing enemy planes, he continued to direct and control the fire of the A.A. guns until the cessation of enemy attacks. At all times he was in full control of the situation and displayed great courage and devotion to duty.
Regimental Sergeant-Major Rosario Levesque, Distinguished Conduct Medal
Regimental Sergeant-Major Levesque, a veteran of the Great War, saw action again at Dieppe, 19 Aug 1942. Landing with the Second-in-Command of the battalion, Regimental Sergeant-Major Levesque at great personal risk obtained for him all possible information as to the progress of the operation. He remained with the Second-in-Command until the latter was severely wounded and then crawled through heavy fire to inform the Command of Headquarters Company of what had happened and assisted him in directing further operations. During the withdrawal his coolness and initiative in directing men to the boats were invaluable. Throughout the action, Regimental Sergeant-Major Levesque performed gallant service and more than once risked his life to look after the wounded.
Lieutenant Paul Pierre Loranger, Military Cross
Lieut. Loranger, O.C. No. 3 Platoon Fus. M.R., having led his men on to the beach at Dieppe, 19 Aug 42, handled them in action with much tactical ability. Although severely wounded at the outset he continued to carry out his duties in a most courageous manner. Noticing that his C.O. was wounded and was attempting unsuccessfully to establish communication with Brigade and with Bn sub-units, Lieut. Loranger, despite his painful wounds, crawled over 200 yards to get instructions from his C.O. and then crawled back to his own post where he continued to give orders and control his men. During the withdrawal he refused assistance and although his legs were smashed, crawled towards the beach and into the water until he was finally hoisted into an L.C.T. He felt that others were more in need of help than himself. His courageous actions and self-denial are worthy of the highest commendation.
Lieutenant-Colonel Dollard Menard, Distinguished Service Order
Whilst in command of his battalion during the operation at Dieppe, 19 Aug 42, this officer displayed the highest qualities of courage and leadership.
Landing with the first attacking parties he was wounded almost from the beginning, but he continued to direct the operations of his unit by wireless under constant machine-gun, mortar and artillery fire. Later, in order to gain a better point of vantage he crept forward to higher ground but was again wounded. When finally taken on board an L.C.T., although wounded for the fifth time, he still insisted on organizing an A.A. defence and looking after his men.
He set an example in the best tradition of the service and was an inspiration to all ranks in his battalion.
Honorary Captain Joseph Armand Sabourin, Mentioned in Despatches
Prior to embarking for the raid on Dieppe, 19 Aug 42, H/Capt Sabourin, C.C.S., addressed the Bn, making the men realize not only the greatness of their task but also the price that might have to be paid for its successful accomplishment. During the actual crossing of the Channel his own attitude and words of encouragement kept the men alert and keyed up for the task ahead. Arriving at the beach in an R Boat, the padre started to go ashore but the wounded claimed his attention and he remained aboard to render what assistance he could. Whilst thus attending to the wounded, petrol cans on the side of the craft caught fire but Capt. Sabourin, undaunted continued his work. Subsequently he assisted in removing the wounded to a neighbouring L.C.T. where he had them placed under what cover was available. In addition he tended wounded men on the beach despite heavy fire. During the return trip to England Capt Sabourin paced up and down the boat encouraging the cheering the wounded.
Captain G. Vandelac, Mentioned in Despatches
Capt. Vandelac, with great coolness and daring, led "B" Coy Fus. M.R., in to the beaches at Dieppe, 19 Aug 42, through the barbed wire and into the town itself, where he and his men succeeded in inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy. This was one of the very few parties which actually penetrated into Dieppe.
When his revolver ammunition was expended he picked up a Bren gun and use it with telling effect. When the time came to withdraw, Capt Vandelac led the survivors of his company back to the beach and spared no effort to re-embark as many men as possible. When the boat became overloaded he refused to get aboard and instead clung to the side, declaring he would stay there until they reached another craft into which the surplus personnel could be transferred. Unfortunately in carrying out this transfer Capt. Vandelac was crushed between the two boats.
This brave officer's initiative and courage were beyond praise throughout.
Royal Hamilton Light Infantry
Lieutenant John Gibbons Counsell, Military Cross
During the Dieppe action, 19 Aug 42, Lieut Counsell was assistant to Major McLeod, the officer in charge of beach organization. After landing on the beach in front of the town he observed that the tanks were having difficulty in climbing the shale, and despite the very heavy artillery and machine-gun fire which was sweeping the beach, he directed and assisted in the placing of palings to assist the tanks in getting forward. Lieut. Counsell displayed great coolness and courage throughout. After being severely wounded, he continued to set an example which inspired all the other members of his party.
Honorary Captain John Weir Foote, Victoria Cross
Honorary Captain Foote, Canadian Chaplain Services, was regimental chaplain with The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry at Dieppe on 19 August 1942. Upon landing on the beach under heavy fire, he attached himself to the regimental aid post, which had been set up in a slight depression on the beach, but which was only sufficient to give cover to men lying down. During the subsequent period of approximately eight hours, while action continued, this officer not only assisted the regimental medical officer in ministering to the wounded in the regimental aid post, but time and again left this shelter to inject morphine, give first aid and carry wounded men from inside the landing craft where ammunition had been set on fire by enemy shells. When a landing craft appeared, he carried wounded from the regimental aid post to the landing craft through heavy fire with no consideration for his own safety. On several occasions this officer had the opportunity to embark but returned to the beach as his chief concern was the care and evacuation of the wounded. He refused a final opportunity to leave the shore, choosing to suffer the fate of the men he had ministered to for over three years. Honorary Captain Foote personally saved many lives by his efforts and his example inspired all around him. Those who observed him state that the calmness of this heroic man was he walked about, collecting the wounded on the fire swept beach will never be forgotten.
Lieutenant John Blake Gartshore, Military Cross
During the operation at Dieppe 19 Aug 42, Lieut. Gartshore commanded #13 P1, "C" Coy R H L I. He was in the first wave to land on the beaches, upon reaching which he not only directed the blowing of the first line of wire, but also blew the second line of wire after personally carrying up the Bangalore Torpedo. During the laying of the torpedo he was severely wounded in the right arm, but, nevertheless, carried on and led his p1 to the Casino. During the evacuation he assisted wounded personnel into the boats under very heavy fire. Lieut. Gartshore displayed great leadership, determination and power of command throughout the action. Not only was he an inspiration to his men, but by his efforts he brought to the boats at least three casualties who would otherwise have been left on the beaches.
Private Thomas William Graham, Distinguished Conduct Medal
A Bren gunner with the Protective Platoon of his unit during the action at Dieppe 19 Aug 42, Pte. Graham landed on the beaches with the first wave. When, during the cutting of the second row of protective wire, two of his comrades were wounded, Pte. Graham went forward in the face of very heave fire and succeeded in dragging them both back to safety. At a later stage, standing up under heavy fire, he threw two smoke canisters to cover the approach of his party to the Casino. In the Casino itself, when it was discovered that snipers were located down a passageway, Graham rushed in, threw two grenades and knocked out the snipers. Then, advancing to the town side of the Casino, with his anti-tank rifle he knocked out four machine-gun posts in the buildings on the Esplanade. When tanks later appeared on the Esplanade, Graham, although unable to communicate with them, displayed great initiative in directing their fire by firing his own Bren Gun at the walls around the enemy positions. The tanks observing his fall of shot then took over and knocked out the enemy posts. During the whole operation Pte Graham displayed great initiative and fearless courage under fire.
Captain Anthony Champain Hill, Military Cross
Captain Hill was second-in-command, Centre Company, The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry at Dieppe, 19 August 1942. On landing, this Company sustained heavy casualties including the Company Commander. Captain Hill immediately rallied the survivors and without deliberately picking any fights, found his way into the town, seizing enroute a road block as a present for the Royal Canadian Engineers. His radio was smashed and as there were many German strong points behind him still in action he was completely cut off. In spite of this he proceeded to mop up in the Eglise Street Remy area inflicting many casualties including the crews of enemy field guns near the artillery headquarters. By now he was being pressed, but by putting the front of a theatre (the back gave access to the Casino) in a state of defence he was able to beat off two counter-attacks. Before communication had been established the General Order for withdrawal had been issued. Eventually Major Lazier of "C" Company (Reserve) contacted him and he was ordered to move to the Casino and assist in its defence covering embarkation. He withdrew in good order bringing wounded and prisoners with him. Captain Hill's aggressive leadership was at all times magnificent; his perception acute. He quickly took advantage of opportunities offered and exploited them to the full. His devotion to duty in carrying out his allotted role although completely cut off and surrounded is beyond all praise. Captain Hill was responsible for moving the wounded and prisoners from the Casino to the Boats. This he did under heavy fire. He personally assisted in loading the Craft, and refused the opportunity of getting away himself. His courage was at all times an inspiration to the men under his command.
Lieutenant-Colonel R. R. Labatt, E.D., Distinguished Service Order
Lt.-Col. Labatt, by his personal leadership, courage and initiative, contributed in full measure to the action in which his unit participated at Dieppe 19 Aug 42, and from which he did not return. After the landing he quickly established his H.Q. on the beach and in person directed the attack of the battalion. For several hours he was in constant first hand touch with the situation and his direction of the companies was responsible for considerable success in forwarding the advance and in the destruction of enemy positions. I addition to these duties he was entrusted with control of the brigade in a wireless message received from the commander who had become a casualty. Col. Labatt stayed in the thick of things, under heavy fire, all through the engagement. He was in the rearguard of the withdrawal, and was last seen standing over his adjutant, evidently badly wounded, prepared to defend him. Col. Labatt was apparently unwounded, but was not among those who reached the evacuation craft. All ranks of the unit have paid tribute to the worth of his leadership and the inspiration of his example.
Major Harold Franklin Lazier, Distinguished Service Order
Major Lazier commanded the Reserve Company, The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry at Dieppe, 19 August 1942. On landing his Company came under heavy fire which pinned it down in front of wire. His route was slightly to the right of the Centre Company which suffered heavily in crossing the beach. Major Lazier realized he must keep moving or be shot to pieces. The wire was under particularly heavy machine gun fire but Major Lazier crawled forward and himself cut gaps in it in spite of the fact that others had been killed in attempting the same task. His men followed him through in good order. On entering the Casino, he quickly sized up the situation and organized it to cover the withdrawal of the center of the boats. He made constant efforts to get through to Captain Hill, cut off in the town and finally succeeded. Here he assisted in the withdrawal of this group and incorporated the survivors in his defence of the Casino. In the final stages he was successful in getting the wounded and prisoners who had been collected in the casino across the beach to the waters edge. He was the last man to leave the Casino. Major Lazier's courageous leadership and personal example were inspirations to all those under his command. His coolness and judgment never failed even under the most trying conditions.
Lance Corporal George Alfred McDermott, Military Medal
During the operation at Dieppe 19 Aug 42, L/Cpl McDermott, a regimental policeman, was attached to Bn HQ. He was one of the first to enter the Casino, where, single-handed he attacked and destroyed a German stronghold in the building at considerable personal risk. Subsequently, when it became necessary to withdraw from the Casino to the beaches, he displayed high qualities of leadership and skill in organization. Throughout the action Cpl McDermott displayed not only great courage and initiative, but also an excellent appreciation of the importance of military intelligence. He was most diligent in his efforts to obtain information about the enemy, and at the conclusion of the operation turned over to the I.O. of the 4 Cdn Inf Bde a diary and letters which he obtained during the raid. He also obtained German Training manuals, but lost them when he was blown out of one of the craft during the return journey. Further, during the operation he succeeded in taking several photographs.
Private Thomas McQuade, Military Medal
Pte McQuade showed great gallantry and courage during the operations on the beach. He volunteered to lay palings for the tank road-way, and helped carry out this work under heavy fire. He also was conspicuous in assisting in bringing in the wounded and in attending them on the LCT. This soldier displayed a high standard of courage and devotion to duty throughout the entire operation.
Corporal George Alexander Stewart, Mentioned in Despatches
Corporal Stewart showed marked bravery and determination on several occasions during the action. Assigned to the task of removing wire obstacles, he suffered wounds in his first attempt to blow the wire with a bangalore Torpedo. Persisting despite his wounds he returned to the task and managed to complete it successfully. Later he assisted in the laying of palings for tanks, and in carrying the wounded to cover under heavy fire throughout.
Company Sergeant-Major Jack Stewart, Distinguished Conduct Medal
C.S.M. Stewart, "B" Coy R H L I, displayed great courage and power of leadership during the operation at Dieppe 19 Aug 42. In company with Capt A.C. Hill, 2 i/c of "B" Coy R H L I he cleared not only the Casino and cinema but penetrated into the town of a greater extent than any of the other elements of the 4 Cdn Inf Bde. Throughout he led his men with great skill and initiative. C.S.M. Stewart set an excellent example of courage and leadership. After assisting in the withdrawal from the beaches, he himself swam for two miles before being picked up.
Private William Vergette, Military Medal
Pte Vergette was a rifleman in #21 P1, "B" Coy, R H L I. During the assault on the Casino in the Dieppe Operation 19 Aug 42, and the further advance towards the town, Pte. Vergette displayed great initiative and leadership, in that, after the NCOs of the p1 were killed or wounded, he assumed command and led his men in a very gallant fashion throughout the remainder of the operation, despite the fact that he himself was wounded. Through his efforts and leadership about 25 of the R H L I succeeded in penetrating to the park on the South side of the Casino.
Captain William Denis Whitaker, Distinguished Service Order
Capt. Whitaker commanded the Protective Platoon of Bn HQ R H L I during the operation at Dieppe 19 Aug 42. The task of this party was to clear the buildings around St. Remy Church and there establish Bn HQ. Capt. Whitaker landed with the first wave, directed the cutting of both rows of wire on the beach and organized the necessary covering fire for "B" Coy's advance on the Casino. He himself then proceeded to the Casino with his party, where after clearing the building and organizing a defence against counter-attack, he led a large party of all elements of the Bn towards the town. Later he directed the withdrawal of a great portion of the Bn from the town and Casino to the beach and supervised their re-embarkation. Capt. Whitaker's conduct throughout the action was outstanding. He was at all times cool and collected and displayed great courage and initiative in the command of his troops. Capt. Whitaker was an inspiration to all ranks of the Bn.
Private Harry Wichtacz, Distinguished Conduct Medal
The original citation can not be located. The archival record provides only the following details:
The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the following award of recognition of gallant and distinguished services in the combined attack of Dieppe:
The Distinguished Conduct Medal
No. B.37767 Private Harry Wichtacz, The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry (Wentworth Regiment).