Thursday, September 29, 2016

Books re Combined Operations


By Brereton Greehous

I purchased DIEPPE, DIEPPE online recently at AbeBooks and I will read it to the end. Already, however, I am recommending it for those interested in WW2 history, Canadians at war, and particularly those who are interested in learning more about the handful of Canadians who served in RCNVR and Combined Operations at that time. The book includes excerpts from Al Kirby, whose story about the Dieppe raid is already featured on this website.

In the introduction to DIEPPE, DIEPPE one reads the following:

       Dieppe, Dieppe... In Canadian ears the word resounds with all the ritual solemnity of a funeral bell. 'Life, struck sharp on death, makes awful lightning,' wrote Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and in our national memory Operation JUBILEE has made such awful lightning that fact is sometimes hard to separate from fiction.

       Some facts are all too clear, however. Four thousand, nine hundred and sixty-three Canadian soldiers embarked for Dieppe on 18 August 1942. The next day 907 of them, or better than 18 percent, were either killed on the beaches in some horrifying 11 hours, or subsequently died of wounds, or died in enemy hands. Another 2,460, or nearly 50 percent, were wounded, and the 1,874 taken prisoner included 568 of those wounded. Only 336 of the 2,210 who returned to England (between two and three hundred of whom had not even landed) got back unharmed. (Page 9)

With the use of excellent story telling and the aid of a multitude of photographs from the National Archive of Canada, Department of National Defence, Imperial War Museum (London) and ECP Armees, Greenhous presents the story of Dieppe in great detail. He writes:

       This book attempts to pull together, at a popular level and in relatively brief fashion, the various strands of policy and personality, grand strategy, operations and tactics, by land, sea and air, that brought about the 'awful lightning' of Dieppe.

Greenhous points us toward "the first coherent account" of the raid penned by Colonel C.P. Stacey (the Canadian Army's official historian) entitled Six Years of War from 1955, and toward other excellent resources. His introduction concludes:

       Whenever practicable the words of actual participants in these events have been used - they are distinguished by italic type: and (since recollections often change over the years in favour of more dramatic, amusing or self-serving versions) with the notable exception of Albert Kirby's unique memoir they are as contemporary, or near-contemporary, words as research permits.

Here are but a few of the historic photographs found in DIEPPE, DIEPPE:

Caption: In Scotland, on a wet and windy July day, Prime Minister Winston Churchill and (to his immediate right) his Combined Operations adviser, Admiral of the Fleet Sir Roger Keyes, watch a practice landing in 1941. Page 21
[Photo credit - Imperial War Museum (IWM), London]
Editor's note: Soldiers appear to be wearing metal helmets*

Caption: Vice-Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten, described as a War Lord 'with no weakness except a total inability to judge men correctly, whether they were his cronies or his subordinates,' questions a soldier while inspecting Canadians at a Combined Operations training centre in 1942. Page 35
[Photo credit - Imperial War Museum, London]
Editor's note: Canadian sailors, perhaps including Albert Kirby and Doug Harrison, appear to be standing at attention in the background, likely at HMS Quebec, Inveraray.

Caption: With one arm still raised in fatal agony, a badly burned body lies on the barbed wire-strewn shingle of Red Beach . In life, this soldier was most probably a sapper whose backpack of high explosive was set alight by enemy fire; the Germans had no flamethrowers in action at Dieppe. Page 99
[Photo credit - ECP Armees]

Caption: Surrounded by the litter of war, and with his face covered with field dressings, a wounded man aboard an LCA waits for medical help. Page 101
[Photo credit - ECP Armees]

Editor's note: I have studied the above photo carefully and cannot make out exactly where the wounded man is lying amidst the dead (possibly) and debris. My father was asked or ordered to clean out ALCs after they returned to England (e.g., Newhaven, Shoreham, Portsmouth or Southampton) and he refused. He lost his first mates at Dieppe.

Please link to more Books re Combined Operations (re Sicily)

*Editor's note: Below is a recent photograph of my father's metal helmet. He is seen wearing it during the initial stages of the invasion of North Africa, November 8, 1942.

Unattributed Photos GH

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