Dieppe - strategic/tactical surprise ???

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by Charm_City, Jan 20, 2010.

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  1. I've been asked a question by someone trying to add context to some personal papers he's studying. He's asked me because 'I know about military history' - maybe I do, but only very tiny bits.

    Grateful for any informed opinion and/or pointers to good sources that might help answer this

    - how much strategic/tactical surprise did the Allies achieve at Dieppe ?

  2. The Germans were expecting a ‘hit’ or ‘hits’ on their Atlantic Wall, but not really where, when or in inestimable strength – unless you subscribe to one unsubstantiated (and rubbish) book theory that it was all betrayed. In terms of strategy in a small way it appeased Uncle Joe, and tactically it provided lessons on the problems/perils of frontal assault on an enemy port – bloody expensive though.

    Some like to call it ‘a rehearsal for D-Day’? As said, in respect of a frontal attack on a fortified port maybe, but as for the considerably bigger picture, not really.

  3. The Dieppe raid is infamouse, as we know as being a complete failure and very costly in men and materials. Churchill tanks were used for the first time, but they unable to get off the shingle beach (you thought the tanks would have rehearsed on a similar beach). The Germans were so unimpressed with these tanks they assumed they were obsolete or experimental and deliberatley wasted.
    However army commando's landed on the cliffs to the east of the town and they were almost 100% successful,overrunnig their objectives and killing many of the enemy.
    Amongst these troops were a handful of US Rangers, one of their number is credited with shooting dead a German with his M-1 Garand thereby becoming the first GI in WW2 to slot a German.
    The fact that these troops were successful and were able to withdraw unhindered must mean the raid was a surprise to the enemy.
  4. It is also worth noting the total failure in Air-Land cooperation/integration.
  5. Very true, I think the planners wanted a Battleship to provide NGS, but this was vetoed because by this stage of the way the navy had already lost several eg Hood, Royal Oak, Repulse and Prince of Wales.
  6. Its not quite as simple as that. The Churchills did rehearse on similar beaches in UK and successfully traversed them. One of the "lessons learned" was that two apparently identical shingle beaches can give totally different support to track - depending upon the underlying substrate. The Dieppe experience led directly to the D-Day beaches being tested in advance by incredibly brave blokes going in and taking core samples. The Churchills went on to gain the reputation of having just about the best cross-country and climbing performance of any tank - as testified in Normandy by the Germans themselves.

    By a measure of battles by that stage in WW2, the Dieppe losses were relatively small in number. The operational know-how gained - intentionally or not - was immense.
  7. Yes it led to the Mulberry harbours project as well as the Combined Operations Pilotage Parties you mentioned above, amongst other things. It was a bit ambitious though...as for losses well the Canadians lost more than half of two infantry brigades in a few hours, there weren't too many times that happened.
  8. I actually knew one of the men who surveyed the beaches, when I was a lad I haunted a model shop in an arcade in Newcastle which he ran. Very nice dignified gentleman but told me a little of what he did, which was essentially land by canoe at night and check the beaches in all their aspects. There were quite a lot of beaches to check as well. Very brave men.

    Yes lessons were learned and casualties were relatively light for the op as a whole, except that they were concentrated amongst the Canucks. Air losses were heavy as well.
    Read Green Beach and the contribution that made to the radar war. Good read too.

    But the other side is what did the Germans learn? They were happy with their defensive concept seeing that what they did worked. How much effect this had on the keep the tanks back for a big counter-attack, or keep them forward for quick counters (V Runstedt – Rommel) can be conjectured. However it taught the Germans the lessons of what would have happened in the Pas de Calais with a first class defending unit, not Normandy. In other words they were expecting a different scenario.

    N.B. Mulberry while a good idea was not that effective, after the storms the Septics ran the supplies straight over the beaches and achieved a higher volume than under Mulberry. The Brits kept it on because it was one of Winston’s babies and lost out.
  9. seaweed

    seaweed LE Book Reviewer

    However, disdaining Mulberry for Omaha beach the Americans, who thought they knew everything, decided to run ships up the beach at high water, unload them using their own derricks at low water and then float them off again. A great-uncle of mine (CDR RN on the Retired List, who had been at Jutland) was going to be in charge of this. In the end he said he 'spent three days in a hole in the sand waiting for the Americans to sort themselves out', as the Germans at Omaha failed to cooperate.

    BTW there are still two unused 'Phoenix' caissons (the basic building blocks of a Mulberry) in plain view from the public road at Portland. There's another, which broke its back and had to be abandoned, in Langstone Harbour. On completion of build a Mulberry would be launched and taken to deep water and sunk until needed so as to defeat aerial reconnaissance. Up until the big storm the Mulberries were highly effective and the intial build-up could not have been achieved without them. The underwater and beach reconnaissance was undertaken by COPP (Combined Operations Pilotage Parties) who trained at Hayling Island - see ‘Stealthily by Night’ Ian Trenowden. For an insight into the thousands of ships involved on D-Day, see the wall map in Southwick Park. For the rest, D-Day Museum in Portsmouth and of course the museum at Arromanches si vous parlez francais.
  10. I have to disagree with some of your comments Dwarf. The yank mulberry harbour was canibalised to keep the Brit one going. The Yanks weren't that keen on them any way.

    However, a violent storm begun on June 19th. By June 22nd, the harbour serving the Americans at Omaha had been wrecked. Parts of it were salvaged to repair the British harbour at Gold which worked for 10 months. In that time this harbour landed 2.5 million men, 500,000 vehicles and 4 million tons of goods.

    As to the "surprise" of the Dieppe raid. Several sources comment on the constant changing of plans due to weather and even a change of command. Monty was sent to Africa before the raid was carried out.
    I don't think security was all that tight, something which definately changed for D-Day.

    The weather was consistently bad, however, and on 7 July the operation was postponed. Montgomery wanted it cancelled altogether, as the troops had been briefed and he was afraid that word of the operation might leak out.

    The parachute operation on the flanks, even more dependent on the weather than the seaborne assault, was cancelled. This task was instead given to Numbers 3 and 4 Army Commandos, to the relief of the Commanding Officer of 1st Parachute Battalion, who later commented that from the outset of the raid 'security was abysmal'.

    Also the raid itself was compramised in the early hours before the landings.

    By this time, however, the element of surprise that the planners had counted on was lost. Some of the landing craft escorts had already exchanged shots with a small German convoy off Puys and Berneval at 03.48.
  11. Dwarf - "Yes lessons were learned and casualties were relatively light for the op as a whole, except that they were concentrated amongst the Canucks."

    Can't believe you made a comment like that - it was appalling. Historian Richard Lamb notes; "....the rate of casualties in the first few minutes was much higher than at any moment on the first day of the battle of the Somme in 1916. Out of 5086 soldiers who landed, only 1443 returned to England, while the Germans lost no more than 597 killed or wounded."

    Ensuing spin and frankly false reports thereafter are largely from Mountbatten, whom Churchill, then and after, elected to shield when quite reasonably he should have been sacked.

  12. Which book is this?
  13. I think the only certainty about the Dieppe raid is that at this point in time the only ones who could have told the truth are now dead.

    Weather or not the operation was an unauthorized venture by Mountbatten (and I have read convincing arguments from both sides of that debate) the 'spin' started very quickly indeed. At almost any other time, an operation ending as badly as this one would have been investigated in detail. That this one was not is probably down to the situation the country was in with a trail of set backs and defeats across the globe as much as protecting Mountbatten.

    A 1943 book, Combined Operations, produced by HMSO and published in the USA (for mostly propaganda purposes judging by its contents) titles the raid "A Reconnaissance In Force". It then goes on to give a multitude of mission targets. Testing enemy reactions, disrupting German coastal traffic by blowing up the harbor, disrupting rail traffic by doing the same to the rail yards, even targeting the power station and a pharmaceutical factory.
    The relieving of pressure on the Russians and the hoped for drawing of the Luftwaffe up to be destroyed also get mentioned along with other things that "must remain secret" All in all they were putting an lot into justifying the operation.

    There is no mention of the canceled operation Rutter or why the Naval planning for Mountbatten's subsequent version was done by his chief of Staff and not the Admiralty, as had been the case for Rutter. I don't know if the Germans were surprised or not, but I would like to know if the Chief of the Imperial General Staff was surprised by the raid!