Published Jan 2010
The Dieppe Raid is one of World War II’s most controversial episodes. In 1942, a full two years before D-Day, thousands of men, mostly Canadian troops eager for their first taste of battle, were sent across the Channel in a a raid of the French port town of Dieppe. Air supremacy was not secured; the topography – a town hemmed in by tall cliffs and reached by steep beaches – meant any invasion was improbably difficult. The result was carnage: the beaches were turned into killing grounds even as the men came ashore, and whole battalions were cut to pieces.
But why was the Raid ever mounted? What was its strategic objective? Afterwards no one appeared to have a clear answer, and neither did it appear that anyone could held clearly accountable, but posterity has been hard on individuals like Mountbatten, who were instrumental in its planning and the decision to go. Was the whole thing, as has been darkly alleged, expected and even intended to fail, a cynical conspiracy to prove to the Americans, at the expense of so many Canadian lives, the impracticality of staging the Normandy landings for another two years?
Robin Neillands traced numerous surviving veterans of the Raid in the UK and Canada, to tell the harrowing story of what took place, hour by hour as disaster unfolded. He also exhaustively explored all the archival evidence to establish as far as possible the paper trail of command, of who knew – or should have known – what was happening, and whether the whole debacle could have been prevented. The result is the definitive account of one of the Allies’ darkest hours