Sunday, 19 August 2012

70th Anniversary of the Raid on Dieppe

Today is the 70th Anniversary of the Raid on Dieppe.

By The Numbers:
6,000: Allied troops involved in the raid. Of these, roughly 5,000were Canadian. The remainder were British commandos and 50 American Rangers.
907: Canadians killed. Of these, 807 were killed in action, 28died of wounds and 72died in captivity.
586: Canadians wounded.
1,946: Canadian prisoners of war.
106: Allied aircraft shot down.
13: Aircraft losses for the RCAF, inlcuding 10 pilots.1

Among those Sturgeon Pointer who served in WWII was Lieut. Sterling Ryerson.  He was the son of Eric & Mona Ryerson, and grandson of the old war horse, Major-General Dr. Sterling Ansel Ryerson. Their cottage was called Oakhurst. (The cottage was then sold to the Barretts who called it Coral Gables, then to the Tawastjernas who called it Green Gables, then to the Kozaks who now called it Manita.) He was captured at Dieppe.

Ryerson was serving with the Royal Regiment of Canada. “
The Royal Regiment of Canada landed near Puys along with three platoons from the Balck Watch of Canada and an artillery detachment who were tasked to neutralize machine gun and artillery batteries protecting the Dieppe beach. They were delayed by 20 minutes and the smoke screens that should have hidden their assault had lifted, with the advantage of surprise and darkness lost the Germans had manned their defensive positions in preparation for the landings. The well emplaced German forces held the Canadian forces that did land on the beach. As soon as they reached the shore, the Canadians found themselves pinned against the seawall and unable to advance. The Royals suffered severe casualties: of the 556 men in the regiment 200 were killed and 264 captured.” 2

Canadians dead on Blue Beach, Puys, Dieppe - August 1942
courtesy of the German Federal Archives
Lieut. Ryerson was interned at Oflag 7B Eichstätt, about 100km north of Munich. He was there until the camp was liberated by the Americans on 16 April 1945.

Annie Gray worked for the Ryersons as a housemaid. She collected the following article in her scrapbook.

The Old Times, a supplement of The College Times, published by the Upper Canada College Old Boys in January of 1943, wrote on Page 33 in their list of Prisoners:
     Ryerson, Y. Sterling ('25-'29), Lieut., H.Q. 2nd Can. Div., missing after Dieppe raid,
     now Canadian Prisoner of War No. 4084, Oflag VII B, Germany.

Trinity College School Record October 1943-August 1944, on page XVI under the caption, R.C.A.F. listed:
    1929-32 RYERSON, Y. E. S., Lieut., Royal Regt. of Canada (Prisoner of War).

Annie Gray mentioned that the summer after Sterling came home, she and the other staff who worked for the Ryersons were directed by Mrs. Ryerson never to look at or comment about Sterling’s wrists, as he had been shackled. Annie could not remember why. In his book Objects of Concern: Canadian Prisoners of War through the Twentieth Century, author Jonathan FW Vance wrote of the issue. Referred to as the Shackling Incident, it was the result of the German capture of the British plans to bind the hands of all prisoners to prevent them from destroying their documents. Despite the objections of the Canadians, the directive remained in the plans for Dieppe. When those plans were captured in the aftermath of Dieppe, the Germans were furious. In September of 1942, the German government announced that they would “chain all Dieppe prisoners unless the binding order was rescinded. A month later the threat was revived, with renewed vigour. Citing further investigation into the Dieppe case and an instance of the binding of prisoners during a recent commando raid, the German government announced that nearly 1300 POWs would be bound the following day. ... At camps around Germany, the shackling began on the morning of 8 October [1942]. At Oflag 7B Eichstätt, Canadian officers from Dieppe were taken from the main camp to a nearby fortress were they were handcuffed during daylight hours. After six months, the guards tired of shackling the prisoners merely handed them cuffs, which were hung on hooks in the rooms until it was time to return them in the evening.” 3

Dieppe has for a long time been a question mark. What did it happen. It appeared ill conceived and poorly handled. The purpose of the operation unknown. It has been suggested that it was done to appease Stalin, to keep the Western Front open, to do something, anything... It cost untold grief in thousands of Canadian homes. Military historian, David O'Keefe has spent the past fifteen years trying to find out what happened and why. He described the research as "... detective work with a series of small ‘eureka!’ moments. A bit like assembling a jigsaw puzzle. To see it all come together is a rush.”

"O’Keefe’s research has revealed that the raid was launched as a diversionary tactic designed to provide cover for a commando unit ordered to penetrate German naval headquarters — believed to be housed in the town’s Hôtel Moderne — and to board certain boats in the harbour, all in a bid to steal German code books and a code machine. In military parlance — and only at the very highest levels of command — the Dieppe Raid was dubbed a pinch operation. The head of the commando unit was none other than Ian Fleming, a Second World War British intelligence officer and the creator of spy extraordinaire James Bond.

O’Keefe presented his research to British naval authorities two years ago, and they admitted to the operation’s true motive.

“It changes our understanding of what Dieppe was all about,” O’Keefe said. “It was their admission that made all the time and effort worthwhile. The cat was finally out of the bag.” 4

This raid had been a part of ULTRA, the race to break the German Enigma code. One can only think what a pity it is that all those men and their families, who sacrificed so much, never knew the real purpose of the raid. And that the officers were forced to accept the blame and scorn and never hinted because they believed in the Official Secrets Act.  Even sadder is that it would still be a secret without the research of David O’Keefe.

Tonight O’Keefe’s documentary Dieppe Uncovered will air on History Television at 9pm on Sunday August 19thand will be rebroadcast at 8pm on Monday, August 20th.

1. Numbers courtesy of Legion Magazine’s 12 July 2012 article, Dieppe: They Didn’t Have to Die by J.L.
Granatstein ( ).
2. (
3. (p134-135– for more about this incident, the politics surrounding it and the Battle of Bowmanville – yes… the one in Ontario – read Mr. Vance’s book on-line). 
4.  Documentary puts the ghosts of Dieppe to rest by Kathryn Greenaway, THE GAZETTE August 16,

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