Skip to comments.History Television doc sheds new light on Dieppe, 70 years after invasion
Posted on 08/18/2012 10:03:29 AM PDT by iowamark
DIEPPE, France - Dieppe has long been a word that has made Canadian war veterans swell with pride and wince with sorrow. Ron Beal didn't like the sound of the word when he first heard it spelled out 70 years ago as his regiment's top secret military target. The first three letters, he points out, spell DIE "and when we got there, that's exactly what we did."
Beals, a member of the Royal Regiment of Canada, is one of a handful of surviving war veterans who share first-person insights in the illuminating new documentary "Dieppe Uncovered." The 90-minute film premieres Sunday night at 9 p.m. ET/PT 70 years to the day of the Dieppe invasion on History Television.
Produced and directed by cinematographer Wayne Abbott ("Deep Wreck Mysteries: Unsinkable Battleship"), the film draws on 15 years of meticulous research conducted by military historian David O'Keefe to make the case that the doomed dawn raid had a purpose and a complexity that went far beyond its legacy as a military failure.
O'Keefe, who served with the Royal Highland Regiment, just never bought some of the popular beliefs about the raid. Some said it was a sop to Russian demands for a second front in Europe and to provide a testing ground for D-Day. The sacrifices paid at Dieppe over 900 Canadians killed in roughly three hours of savage bloodshed did not, in O'Keefe's estimation, justify the means.
Another 2,000 troops were captured that terrible August 19th, and many spent the next year-and-a-half shackled to one another.
O'Keefe likens his Dieppe discoveries to pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Among the revelations he made as he scanned through hundreds of declassified, ultra top secret war files in a London archive was the extent of involvement in the planning of the raid by Ian Fleming, the British espionage agent who later gained fame as the author of the James Bond spy novels.
Fleming, O'Keefe surmised, saw Dieppe as a full scale "pinch raid," an opportunity to create a tremendous diversion of troops and tanks while a top secret special force of elite commandos snuck a block or two into town and raided what had been identified as the enemy's makeshift military headquarters.
Fleming's goal was to gather valuable code intelligence at a time when complex Axis espionage machinery was thwarting Allied efforts. When O'Keefe presented his findings to the keepers of the British code break intelligence, they confirmed his discoveries and released more documents.
The suggestion that Dieppe was a diversion for intelligence gathering missions was also made in 1976 in "A man called Intrepid," the best-selling biography of Canadian spymaster William Stephenson.
This article is being written at Dieppe's charming Les Arcades hotel, a harbour inn looking out over a crowded marina and located right next door to the German headquarters Fleming was hoping his forces would raid.
The Les Arcades is festooned with the red and white maple leaf flag, as are many buildings and parkways in and around Dieppe.
"This is a town that has never forgotten what Canadians did that day," says Abbott, who, together with O'Keefe, has made many trips to the city in over a year of production on the documentary.
"You see Canadian flags here every day not just this 70th anniversary weekend."
This weekend, though, they are everywhere above stores and in the windows of restaurants, on the backs of bicycles and cars, in flowerbeds and across billboards.
Some can be spotted on the towels and bathing suits of many of the hundreds of tourists sunning themselves on stone and pebble beaches which stretch for miles along the shore of this historic, coastal French town.
The two main beachfronts were code named "Red" and "White" on the day of the invasion. Now they are celebrated with those colours as a tribute to the Canadians. Back from the beachfront, dozens of green army tents, jeeps and other artifacts from the Second World War are on display. Ceremonies are being held at the site of the Canadian and other allied soldier cemeteries in and around Dieppe.
Canada's Minister of Veteran Affairs, Steven Blaney, joined seven Canadian veterans who fought at Dieppe as they returned to the beach Friday.
"These are our heroes," declared the minister, who also praised the documentary to be shown to veterans and officials here Saturday for helping to bring closure to a pivotal chapter in Canadian military history. "We finally have a true picture of what happened that day," said Blaney.
For Ray Gilbert, making his fifth pilgrimage to Dieppe, what happened that day has never been a mystery.
The spry 90-year-old Calgarian fought the battle from inside one of the Allied forces new Churchill tanks, which he says was just not designed to handle the round stones of "White" beach.
There likely will not be too many more annual reunions for the dwindling number of valiant Canadians who fought on these shores that day. The people of this French channel port show no signs of every forgetting their effort, however. O'Keefe and Abbott hope "Dieppe Uncovered" will remind Canadians at home about a defining moment of wartime sacrifice celebrated with maple leaf pride half a world away.
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Most History Television programs are streamed from the globaltv.com website starting the day after they are broadcast. I will post a link tomorrow if this doc is available onling.
I have observed that newspaper coverage of the ETO is more detailed and timely than coverage of the PTO.
Would love to see this documentary. I’ve read quite a bit about D-day, and whatever I could find about Dieppe, which wasn’t much. In the US few people seem to know about the Canadian heroism at Dieppe, or even that a battle happened there, which is very sad.
In memory of the brave Canadians at Dieppe!
I believe the Germans erected some sort of monument to the Canadians at the time, or allowed the local French to do so?
I read a story many years ago about the Browning Hi-Power getting it’s first real combat test at Dieppe.
These were Canadian ones made by Englis. The verdict was that it performed superbly.
Dieppe is another good example of the willingness of the British to use Commonwealth troops when high casualties may be expected.
On the other hand, it’s always been my understanding that the target of the raid was the radar installation, not the local headquarters.
A surprising number of people in France, particularly the coast, including people whose grandfathers don’t even remember WWII, actually LIKE Americans and are nothing at all like the people you usually see on television.
What would your impression of the US be if you thought that all Americans are like Bloomberg and other NYC dwellers?
Walter Cronkite’s series about WWII include an episode about Dieppe.
I got to thinking about it and realized those first Brownings issued by Canada would have been made in Belgium.
When William Inglis died in 1935, the new Toronto Island Ferry was named after him in appreciation of his significant contribution to the city's industrial and cultural progress.
Two years later, an American named Major J.E. Hahn, purchased the company and made significant changes to its operations. Under Major Hahn's leadership, the company assisted in the World War II effort by manufacturing guns for the Canadian and British governments. More than 17,800 people were employed at this time creating the need for expansion at the Strachan Avenue plant.
When the war ended in 1946, the company began to manufacture consumer products for the first time. Fishing tackle, house trailers, oil burner pumps and domestic heaters and stoves were among the diverse products offered.
In the same year, John Inglis Co. Limited negotiated with Nineteen Hundred Corporation (later Whirlpool Corporation) to manufacture home laundry products. The wringer washer was introduced in 1946, and in 1950, production of the automatic washer was added. The line of appliances expanded quickly to include electric and gas dryers, and dishwashers.
By 1966, Inglis had become the leading producer of domestic laundry appliances in Canada. In 1967, a refrigerator plant was opened in Stoney Creek, Ontario near Hamilton and production of dehumidifiers was added there in 1970.
In 1972, Inglis produced its one-millionth automatic washer and began manufacturing and selling appliances under the Whirlpool brand name. A year later the company began operating under the name, Inglis Limited. During the late 1970s, Inglis Limited continued to grow by building a new warehouse and sales and service facility in Laval, Quebec; expanding its automatic washer manufacturing facility in Toronto; and producing compact washers.
This doc is from History Television, a Canadian channel not affiliated with the History Channel.
Not sure from this what you thought I was saying, but I think you have it wrong. I went to the D-Day celebrations in Normandy about 10 years ago, and it was very moving.
I spent the D-Day anniversary day at St Mere L’Eglise, where they still have a replica of the paratrooper with parachute stuck on the church spire.
When the American or British veterans came to the ceremonies, they were swarmed by French people thanking them. I treasured my chance to talk to a few of the veterans, and it was obvious the French people did as well.
Thanks! I don’t watch much TV, but I’ll try to track it down.
Actually, since Vimy Ridge the British got into the habit of giving Canadian units missions that they didn’t think their own troops could accomplish, often after they had already tried and failed. That’s why the Canadian Army was given the task of securing the Scheldt Estuary and liberating Holland; the job was assigned to them after and Anglo-American attempt was pushed back.
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