FAINT FOOTSTEPS, World War II.
Dieppe Raid Pt. 1: Norwich Boy Cool Under Pressure
“It was a dark night in August when we crossed the Channel toward Dieppe. Just at dawn we could discern the coast of France. Out of the dark sky and into the light outlining the coast came a (British) plane diving on gun positions on shore, the guns in his wings and cannon in the nose twinkling much like a ‘Hallowe’en sparkler’. Then, just as he reached treetop height, so it seemed, he pulled out and let his bombs go. He zoomed up and set off for home, ‘a job well done’.” (The London Free Press, February 5, 1944)
Newspaper headlines from February 5, 1944
The phrases “a job well done” and “like a Hallowe’en sparkler” are positive and apt descriptions of the action of one plane Buryl witnessed that truly memorable morning above France’s coastal waters. He may not have seen, however, a sea fight between Canadian and German boats that took place 2 - 3 hours earlier.
And unfortunately, that event had devastating consequences.
One, Sub-Lieut. C.D. Wallace became Canada’s first casualty of the day (at about 0345 hours) when flotillas of landing craft on the extreme left flank of the assault made a fatal encounter with a well-armed German convoy in the English Channel.
Two, any hopes for a surprise landing - high on the list of priorities for the 6,100 Allied troops involved - were dashed.
Al Kirby of Woodstock, who manned another landing craft in the same waters (and who learned his destination was “Deepy” from a Canadian soldier on board) says the following: “Shortly before 0400, the sky ahead of us suddenly lit up with a myriad of tracers knifing into the heavens. We all realized that we were getting close to our target... (and) now it appeared that the enemy was awake and at action stations. (Page 52, Combined Operations by Londoner Clayton Marks)
So, shortly after the “job well done” described by Buryl McIntyre, came the formidable, bristling German response that ultimately resulted in the death, wounding or capture of over 3,600 troops, the vast majority from Canada.
“I saw my lieutenant, the flotilla officer, ‘get it’ because he did not know the meaning of fear,” Buryl says. “I saw ship’s gunners being strafed and standing to their guns. I can remember a Bren gunner standing in plain view of wicked cross fire, pouring all he had into the Jerries to cover his mates’ landing.”
What passing-bells for these who died as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
Dieppe, Dieppe, B. Greenhous
"Perhaps the most famous of all Dieppe photographs; but captions rarely
mention that the body second from the bottom of the picture is that of a
U.S. Army Ranger, judging by his American-style gaiters."
As found in Dieppe, Dieppe by B. Greenhous
Photo Credit - ECP Armees
In spite of the hellfire coming from several directions, Buryl stayed at the controls of his barge, and when his lieutenant was shot (almost as soon as they touched the beach) Buryl took command. He landed the troops, then reversed direction in search of “the nearest destroyer to get help for his officer.”
Buryl skillfully maneuvered through a heavy stream of speeding boats, all hoping to escape fire from German planes. At one time a barge drew alongside to offer assistance and its tie rope wrapped itself around Buryl’s propellor. His engine stopped, but without hesitation “Buryl dropped into the water (and) swam around to the stern of the tossing barge.” He eventually unwound the rope and continued his search for help.
Finally McIntyre was able to safely deposit his stricken officer aboard a destroyer, and after standing by for nine hours, “a senior officer commanded him to take his barge home to an English port” 70 miles away.
The fate of the unnamed officer is unknown, but when Dieppe honours were released Buryl McIntyre was mentioned - “for coolness and courage in emergencies.”
Buryl McIntyre (left), Doug Harrison; two Norwich boys.
More to follow.
Please link to Editor's Column: As Published in Norwich Gazette (8)
Unattributed Photos GH