The Dieppe Raid Remembered.

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Pacific Historian
Jun 4, 2005
Orange County, CA
Today being the 64th anniversary of that ill fated raid, my local newspaper printed this story.

News - A raid remembered

A raid remembered
The failed Dieppe Raid, 64 years ago today, helped prepare the Allies for D-Day.

The Orange County RegisterANAHEIM HILLS – Gunpowder and bodies – that's what he'll smell today.

The bloody sea wall – that's what he'll see.

And an old classmate he went into battle with – that's who he'll talk with again. Though none will be there. They've all been gone 64 years.

That's how long it's been since Harold Scharfe, now 84, of Anaheim Hills, stormed the beach at Dieppe, France. Today the last few survivors of the Dieppe Raid will dedicate a memorial on the rocky beach.

That's not such an unusual thing. But the Dieppe Raid was.

"You say to yourself, why was I allowed to survive?" says Scharfe. "You just feel the next one is going to be you. How can you possibly not die when you see them dying all around you, falling down, arms going up in the air, heads blown off and the stench?"

The plan called for a surprise attack, under cover of darkness, to show Hitler that the Allied forces could land anytime, anywhere. But there in the darkness, 64 years ago today, something went horribly wrong – sending 6,100 men into a trap.

Harold Scharfe was a high school sophomore when he tucked his unopened bottle of Coke on a drugstore shelf.

He'd just enlisted in the Essex Scottish Regiment of the Canadian Army. Each boy who signed up in Windsor, Ontario, drank one Coke, then placed a full bottle with his name on the shelf behind a sign reading: "Let's hope they drink them!"

"We wanted to see how many would return to drink the other Coke," says Scharfe. "We did have a celebration later, and only eight of us showed up – of roughly 50."

The rest are buried at Dieppe.

The raid is now viewed as one of the worst military disasters of World War II. But as the summer of 1942 heated up, the invasion code-named Jubilee seemed like the key to success.

The Nazis had already stormed west across Europe. They'd driven south into Athens. And east to Stalingrad in quest of Russia's oil fields. Paris was taken, and Hitler stood perched a mere 25 miles from the coast of England.

Before the Allies could launch a full frontal attack, they needed to test Germany's defenses along the coast of France. That test fell upon 5,000 Canadian troops supported by 1,000 British Commandos and 50 American Rangers.

It was designed as a lightning strike – a one-day raid. But it would take Harold Scharfe 33 months to walk away.

Canadian troops were issued rope en route to Dieppe to tie the hands of German prisoners.

Scharfe, a corporal in charge of 10 men, also carried a Thompson submachine gun and enough rations for three meals.

"We were supposed to go in for a day, do our jobs and get picked up by the ships, then go back to England," he says.

The raid was not the start of an Allied ground invasion – still two years away. But if Hitler thought it was, he'd divert troops from the Eastern front, helping Russia. It also would serve as a dry run for D-Day.

So it was that before dawn, an armada of 237 ships began sending 6,100 men over the sides, into landing craft. Overhead, 74 squadrons of planes rumbled.

"We were real confident," Scharfe says. "We'd been in England training for two years and we wanted action."

The plan called for commandos to sneak in before dawn to take out gun emplacements on the cliffs overlooking the beach. The Canadians would then mount a full frontal assault.

Everything depended on stealth and surprise. Which evaporated when commandos ran into some German patrol boats. A firefight ensued. With tracer bullets and flares.

"It lit up the English Channel," Scharfe says, "like a Christmas tree."

It took about an hour for the landing boats to reach shore. Plenty of time for the Germans to prepare.

"I saw guys getting it as we jumped out," Scharfe says. "We jumped over dead bodies, arms flying and stomachs."

Their only chance was a rock sea wall the Germans had built along the beach to stop Allied tanks in such an attack. That's where the troops huddled against machine-gun fire and mortar attacks. For nine hours. Until they had no more bullets. And no hope of getting out.

"The Navy boats were getting blown out of the water," says Scharfe. "There were all kinds of wounded. Guys were crying. Guys were saying, 'Shoot me.' I had a very close buddy – we held hands and said, 'This is it.'

Finally, about 3 p.m., a Canadian officer held up a white flag, and the men threw down their guns. Germans swarmed the beach: "Raus! Raus!" they yelled – Out! Out!

Some 5,000 Canadians had landed on Dieppe Beach that morning. By sundown, 3,367 of them had been killed, wounded or captured. Among the captured was a young man pushed onto a train bound for Stalag VIIIB outside Breslau, Germany – a young man who would wait nearly three years to drink his Coke back in Windsor, Ontario.

Harold Scharfe is tethered to an oxygen machine round-the-clock these days. So his son Raymond bought him a 12-pound portable "concentrator" for the trip.

Scharfe wouldn't miss this. They'll dedicate a monument on the beach, hold a candlelight vigil and visit the regiment's cemetery.

"To look at the gravestones is tough," he says. "These were guys I was in class with. Leo Trombley – he's one of the guys I said goodbye to in the boat – I actually kissed the headstone, I got so wrapped up in it one year. It's very emotional."

Not all Dieppe survivors could attend. Ross Pennington, 86, of Penticton, British Columbia, will slip the videotape "Die Like Brave Men" into his VCR today and think about the raid, as he does every Aug. 19.

"Oh yeah, it's always with you," he says. "You never forget it."

Scharfe came back from the war – after stays in four German prisoner-of-war camps – with nightmares, flashbacks and post-traumatic stress disorder.

"My wife and I still sleep in separate bedrooms because of that," he says. "And I'm on medication."

So why return to Dieppe?

"That was the biggest thing in my life," he says. "I was lucky enough to have missed the bullets and mortar shells."

Lucky enough to return to Windsor to drink a Coke under the sign that read: "Let's hope they drink them!"

Knowing that most did not.


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Without that disaster, D-Day would have been a much bigger tragedy. COSSAC used Dieppe to change everything involved in amphibious assaults, what could have gone wrong, did go wrong at Dieppe.
plan_D said:
Without that disaster, D-Day would have been a much bigger tragedy. COSSAC used Dieppe to change everything involved in amphibious assaults, what could have gone wrong, did go wrong at Dieppe.

Unfortunatley in war, you learn far more in defeat than in victory.
Actually the raid was a complete success. It was to steal German radar information which was later used to develop "Window" that effectively blinded the German radar system. That's how the allies determined the exact wavelength of the German radar.

Source is "A Man Called Intrepid" by William Stevenson
Bullockracing said:
Actually the raid was a complete success.
Please tell me you're not actually serious. If you want to count hard lessons learned for the later D-Day landings a "success", then I can accept that in the appropriate context, but to call that fiasco of an operation a success? The Canadians alone lost nearly 1000 killed and more than 1800 were taken prisoner. Another 2400 or so were wounded, and at the end of it the rest headed back to England with not a damn thing to show. Success my a*s.

Not to mention the equipment that was left behind.
You have to read the book to fully appreciate the context of the raid. The raid was nothing more than a coverup disguised as an amphibious assault so the three-man team of scientists could steal vital equipment out of the local radar site. The attached demolition team then blew the radar so the Germans wouldn't suspect anything was taken.

If this had not happened, the Germans would have blown the British night bombers slap out of the sky.
I'm no spy certainly, and I know what you're trying to say with respect to your definition of the "success" of the raid and all, but keep in mind that William Stephenson was known to stretch things a little in his writtings. He was no doubt a hell of a better spook than I am, but his reputation was just a tad overblown I think.
Now lets see if I get this correct this is from memory years ago i read the book by the radar guy sent on the mission and I believe his name was Jack Nissen and he was with a squad from South Saskatchewan Regt and they were instructed to kill him if he was anyways under threat
Interesting read.

While gathering information on the radar proved most usefull, that in itself was not going to change the conduct or course of the war.

It was a VERY costly mission to gather intelligence of moderate value.
Especially since some operatives captured other pieces of a RADAR in a much less costly raid at Bruneval.

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