Report on the Operation Jubilee
August 19 1942
Capt G. A. Brown RCA
Landing at Blue Beach
As far as I know, Royal Regiment C. suffered no casualties while approaching the beach, although we were fired on, for about 10 minutes before touchdown, by light weapons whose calibers I was not able to ascertain from my seat in the stern of the LCA (Landing Craft Assault). Royals touched down at 0535, as I remember my first message to HMS Garth ‘Doug Touched Down 0535’. We were met by intense, accurate LMG fire (MG-34 & MG-42), sustaining heavy casualties. A and B Cos, who were landed immediately in the front of Blue Beach sea-wall, met intense and unexpectedly heavy MG fire from a number of posts on the wall, sustaining very heavy casualties as they left the LCAs. The survivors, who attained the comparative cover of the wall itself, were pinned to its face by enfilade fire from well concealed positions on the flanks. Some of the wall MG posts were put out of action however, at further heavy cost, and, in this regard, it may be permitted to mention the conduct of Lt Wedd of the Royal Regt C. Leaving the LCA at touchdown whit his platoon, he reached the sea-wall with little more than a section, and there found he was still being fired upon by one of the wall post, a pillbox. There being apparently no other way of attacking the weapon, he left his left corner oh relative shelter and sprinted the short distance directly toward the pillbox with a M-36 grenade. With complete disregard for his own safety, and displaying great skill, he flunk the grenade through the fire slit of the pillbox, killing all its occupants and putting the gun out of action. His body, riddled with bullets, was later picked up in the front of the pillbox. I could not myself witness this act from my position farther West on the beach, but it was verified later at Verneuil bu officers of the Regiment who had seen it and spoke of it.
C and D Cos were landed at the extreme right of the beach, D Co (Edward) and the Prize Troop Royal Canadian Army West of the sea-wall, under the cliffs. C Co, which impinged upon the right end of the sea-wall where it meats the cliff-face forming a kind of spur jutting out into the beach, was caught in enfilade fire from both flanks. D Co and the CO’s party were in a sort of re-entrant on the western side of the wall’s end spur. Edward force and the Prize Tp RCA were hundred yards or more farther West down the beach. The remnants of C and D Cos, led by the colonel, then attempted to cut a path through the wire at the western end of the sea-wall and scale the cliff up to the western prominent house. There was considerable delay here because D Co’s Bangalores had been lost over side from the LCA shortly after leaving the mother-ship, through being improperly secured, and the Bangalore-men of C Co were shot down in the water as they sprang out of the LCAs. The only way through the wire was by wire-cutters. A path was finally cut by the colonel, Sgt Coles and two other men. Lt Stewart, who attempted to cover this operation by standing in the wire, upright with a Bren gun, the only position from which he might see from where the fire was coming, was shot down instantly, though not, I believe,killed. Cutting through the wire took some time, and it was not accomplished until after 0610, at which time I reported to HMS Garth ‘Doug Still on the Beach Casualties Heavy MG Mortar Fire 0610’. The path was made through the wire, the colonel led his party up the cliff to the top, between burts of Machine Gun fire.
(Gunter) This is the ‘Marvelous’ British Made combat tool used to cut wire. I really have to say that trying to cut something with this ‘Stone Age’ tool, sitting at home in your sofa while watching a movie is a real performance. Now using the same stupid thing while being pinned down by both flanks enfilade Machine Gun fire, on a beach, … well !
The party cleared the two houses at the top, immediately above the West end of the sea-wall, resistance being met in the first only. Arrived at the top were, the CO, Capt Hauser, Lt Ryerson and Lt Taylor, Sgt Coles and 11 men from C Co, Royal Regiment. Besides these, there were Lt McVetteridge (RCA) and 3 me, of his LAA Prize Detachment, and myself as FOO att’d to the Battalion. The above were the only men with the Royals who got beyond the beach.
In the meantime, the fire from A and B Cos was dwindling away to nothing, their casualties being so heavy. The remainder of C and D Cos, pinned into the re-entrant at the junction of the sea-wall and the cliff by accurate steady bursts of Machine Gin fire could see nothing to shoot at. The Battalion’s 3′ mortars were never fired, and scarcely set up, 2 crews in quick succession being shot down at them, until I think, there were no more mortar personnel left. Water, and chalk from the cliff jammed some of the Thompson SMGs and Stens, and 2′ mortars, in some cases, being wet, could only with difficulty, and a reduced range, fire smoke bombs. There were not enough of these. The Battalion 18 Radio Set would not function, as, I believe, the microphones and the key assembly had fallen into water when leaving the LCA.
All this time, the remainder of the effectives having got out of the LMG fire by sheltering in niches in the cliff-face on the beach, were now heavily engaged by German 81-MM mortars and stick grenades lobbed down from the cliff top above. Se sustained further heavy casualties from this mortar fire which the German was able to place well within 20-30 meters of the bottom of the cliff. The stick grenades, although not so effective as our M-36, were still very effectively employed, and there seemed to be lots of them. The defenses fire of the German artillery (75-MM) was apparently extremely well surveyed, for the shells burst precisely at the water-line at impeccable correct interval and timing. I saw 2 LCAs sunk by hits or splinters from this fire. From a Gunner’s point of view, it was admirable shooting.
I saw the colonel going up through the wire, and my telegraphist being in that moment in the middle of a message, I told him to follow up as soon as he had finished, and I sprinted up the cliff after the colonel. As it later appeared, MG fire from a new position on the hill behind the fortified house on the left and of, and above, the sea-wall, closed the gap in the wire, and prevented any more men reaching the top. The colonel and his small party were now cut off from remainder of C and D Cos on the beach. It was now 0700, British time. Sounds of firing on the left flank had now died completely away. From the center and the right flank we could hear intermittent bursts of German automatic fire and the steady detonations of their mortar bombs. From this we inferred that A and B Cos had been knocked out, and that the survivors of C and D Cos were still pinned down in the angle of the cliff, being cut up by mortars. We discovered that we could not get back to the beach, nor could we get back to the cliff edge because LMG fire from the left flank, up on the hill-side. Just at this moment, Lt Ryerson saw a strong patrol coming along the road through the trees toward us from the direction of the fortified house on the left flank. The decision was made to move toward the Salvation Beach westward along the cliff top by the walled road under cover of the trees as far as they went. We would try to contact to contact the HMS Essex. Accordingly we struck through the small wood immediately to the West and above the beach, toward Notre-Dame de Bon Secours. We pressed through the wood, following the line of the walled road under the trees, turning gradually South until we came to the road running between Puits and Notre-Dame de Bon Secours. Ahead of us to the West across the walled road, and beyond and open field of about 100 meters were the billets and gun positions on the German 88-MM Battery of the air photos. On our right, along the cliff edge 200 or 300 meters to the North were the LMGs at that moment firing on aircrafts. Behind us was the patrol, which Lt Ryeson had estimated at 2 Platoons. Also behind us, at the junction of the Berneval – Puits – Neuville lès Dieppe roads were the six and eight-wheeled armored cars of which we later told by Lt T.D. Archibald (RCA), who was led past the AFVs after his capture. On our left, across the Puits – Notre Dame de Bon Secours road were 4 positions of 75-MM gun battery and a detachment of 88-MM AAA gun, whether two or four I could not discover. These may have been the guns which I later saw (four) at Bellengreville the following morning with their half-tracked tractors. It was then getting on toward 1000, and the Infantry guns were firing on the beach. They had previously been engaging the destroyer, with, I was told, considerable accuracy, for, when the HMS Garth came close in to engage shore targets at direct fire, she was forced to withdraw by bursts of gun-fire from this battery which fell to hazardously to close to her. One shell, it was rumored, appeared to have struck her on the bow.
(bellow) Notre Dame de Bon Secours
A scout of our party who went out the road to recce, was shot. The Germans had LMGs sited at each road and track intersection in this vicinity, with fields of fire in all directions. Shortly after 1000 (or it may have been near 1100) while in the wood, we heard the survivors of the beach being marched past under guard. Before noon it was apparent that from,all the sounds firing that we could hear both from Red and White beaches, as well as Blue beach where there was none, there was a little or no land fighting, and that the operation had resolved into an air battle. As far as we could see and hear from the wood, the German gunners had unlimited supply of 88-MM, 20-MM and LMG ammunition for AA use, because they fired persistently and determinedly at every Royal Air Force machine they could see, without cease right up until 1600. The 88-MM battery of 6 guns on the cliff top between Notre Dame de Bon Secours and Puits served its guns magnificently. It was low-level-bombed at least four times and machine gunned oftener by our fighters after 1000, that is, between 1000 and 1600, with us as witnesses, and each time the guns were back in action within a matter of few seconds, firing upon the departing aircraft. Once after a low-level attack, only two guns were instantly back in action, the other times always at least four. Twice we made a recce to the cliff edge to see what might be taking place on the main beach at Dieppe, but we could see neither the beach which was just barely out of sight around the bend of the cliff, nor any sign of ships. The situation suggested that we were trapped. After long consideration the decision was taken to surrender and we surrendered at 1620.
It may be permitted to mention the conduct of the troops in general on the beach. I can speak with authority of C and D Companies which I saw myself. From reports later heard from Officers of the Battalion at Verneuil, the other companies conducted themselves with no less credit.
In spite of the steady approach to the beach under fire, the Royals in my LCA appeared cool and steady. It was their first experience under fire, and although I watched them closely, they gave no sign of alarm, although first light was broadening into dawn, and the interior of the LCA was illuminated by the many flares from the beach and the flash of the Boston’s bombs. The quiet steady voice of Capt Thompson, seated just behind me, hold the troops up to a confident and offensive spirit, although shells were whizzing over the craft, and could hear the steady whisper and crackle of S.A. fire over the top of the LCA. At the instant of touchdown, small arms fire was striking the LCA, and here there was a not unnatural split-second hesitation in the bow in leaping out onto the beach. But only a split second. The troops got onto the beach as fast as any of the summer exercises, and got across the beach to the wall and under the cliff.
By the time we touched down, the smoke laid by the Royal Air Force had almost completely disappeared, traces only remaining in the tree-tops above the beach. The beach was thus plainly visible to the Germans, whose own fire positions were extraordinary well concealed from our view. The Royals were shot down in heaps on the beach without knowing where the fire was coming from. Their not unnatural bewilderment in this respect may have been contributory to the fact that in five minutes time they were changed from an assaulting Battalion on the offensive to something less that companies on the defensive being hammered by fire which they could not locate. The narrow confines of the beach did not permit moving away from the fire to engage it from another position. Notwithstanding this, the troops followed their leaders smartly were they could, and when there was not place to move to, as in most cases, they lay still among the mortar bombs and watched their platoon and section commanders fr what might be next. The only instance suggestive of panic that I saw or heard of on Blue Beach was when the Ambulance LCA put back into shore about 0600. A few men from the little spur where C Company had been landed, were taking LMG fire from both flanks right into the thick of them. They could not go forward, the could not go sideways. The arrival of the LCA bearing a large red A on its standard, suggested a means of getting out of this murderous cross-fire. Probably 20 men ran for the LCA. They were all killed in the craft’s bow-gate, by LMG fire. The LCA, washed out by the waves from the shore, it’s engines out of commission, and its crew killed, drifted away from the beach in a sinking condition, until a shell sank it.
Supporting the Battalion was the HMS Garth. As FOO, I could not indicate targets to Garth because I could not get to a position where I could see any targets. When the destroyer can in close to carry out direct bombardment – she she had to come in quite close to observe her own targets through the intermittent small smoke screen put up by the 2′ mortar – she was forced out by enemy shell-fire, and further discontinued her fire because her shells struck so close to own troops that they called her off. The Germans indubitably had casualties here on Blue Beach. Lt Archibald (RCA) saw their Aid Post above the beach at Puits full of German wounded. They were however by no means as numerous as our.
The following are a few opinions of the employment of Infantry and other Arms in an assault landing. They are the result of a week’s discussion with surviving Officers of the Royals and other Officers of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division at Verneuil, and are necessarily influenced by the particular conditions of Blue Beach. It is realized that the same conditions of ground and the peculiar advantage of the defense in this instance will not always obtain.
If, as it appears, we were 45 minutes late in touching down (0535 instead of 0450) this certainly accounts for the extremely alert state of the Germans. By the same token, when a number of attacks are to be put in along a, say 25 kilometers stretch of coast, should they not be put simultaneously ? This would give each individual attack a better chance of surprise. Further, is surprise easier to obtain, than the preparatory heavy air bombardment which in our case would quite probably have succeeded where surprise, or rather the hope of surprise, failed ? The landing was made in growling daylight. They did not make for an easy or swift penetration of the beach, having regard to the enemy defenses.
Royal Air Force : It is felt that, given that that the landing had not been delayed,preliminary low-level, or better, dive-bombing on the sea-wall and the fortified house would have put us through Puits faster and with fewer losses than any attempt to do so with the hope of complete surprise. In the case of dive-bombing, it cannot of course be used at night or at first light, for simple reason that the pilot cannot see his target, but experience of that 88-MM. Battery with low-level attacks should point up the ineffectiveness of such attacks. In the situation at Blue Beach, where at the time of the land, the RAF had complete fighter superiority, dive-bombers could have been used for the first hour of daylight with every chance of success, and a minimum of interference by enemy fighters. Only a dive-bomber, it is suggested, could have done immediate heavy damage to the sea-wall, and the fortified house.
The use of smoke by sub-units needs more study particularly as to when and where it should be used. Frequently, our own smoke obscured the situation for us as much as than it did for the enemy. When we wanted a screen badly, to screen the Ambulance LCA or the path up through the wire, there was not enough smoke to do the job. Theoretically, according to establishment, there should have been enough, there must have been enough smoke generators, 3′ and 2′ mortar smoke bombs and smoke grenades. However, it seems that many of the men who carried the principal amount of this smoke equipment were lost at the water’s edge, or later, were not at the positions where smoke was desperately needed. This may suggest a change in the distribution and nature of smoke producers.
As has already been said, the 3′ mortars never got into action, all the crews been shot down before they could get a round away. The 3′ mortars crews did their best with gallantry, but the German snipers and Machine gunners were to quick. The 2′ mortars, some of which were clotted with water and wet chalk, were able only with difficulty to fire smoke grenades at reduced ranges. I do not know the reason for this 2′ mortar trouble.
Whether a wider distribution of Bangalore torpedoes, made up in standard interchangeable sections of smaller length which one man could easily handle would have served the situation better, is worthy of consideration. As I remember, the Bangalores with the Royals were well over 6 feet long, so long in fact that they were carried on the gunwale of the LCA. In the LCA I was in, these Bangalores, improperly secured to the gunwale, were lost over side shortly after leaving the mother-ship. Shorter Bangalores could have been carried inside the LCA in safety. Shorter lengths would have been easier to handle for a man leaping out of an LCA. Interlocking, Interchangeable sections,if this is feasible, would permit of a wider distribution of these aids against wire, which means putting more eggs in many more baskets. They might have saved us 20 to 30 minutes getting through the wire.
(f) Wire Cutters
At least 10 minutes were spent waiting for wire-cutters to be passed up. Only one pair finally arrived. This was not because there was only one pair of wire-cutter, but because the dispersion of men on the beach, forced by the volume of fire, also dispersed the available wire-cutters. I saw one man shot trying to get his wire-cutters up to the colonel. There may have been others. For an operation of this nature, where wire is to be expected, probably the scale of issue should be increased.
It was felt that the haversack, carried on the back at shoulder height, was an impediment, and interfered with the men’s fighting efficiently. The fact that so many men, where they were not carrying ammunition, grenades and mortar bombs in them, threw them off, lends color to this view. These who were carrying grenades or mortar bombs in the haversacks found it unhandy to get at when lying or crouching. It is of course the best position for marching, but not for fighting. Many of the Officers and NCOs thought that some form of shingler’s apron, modified, which would permit a man to crawl on his belly without loosing the apron’s contents, would be much better than the haversack. If the Bren mags are left in the pouches were they belong, the only place left for the M-36 grenades is the breast pockets of the battledress. Something after the fashion of the cotton bandoleer for .303 ball ammunition,might be adapted to be worn on the upper outside of the thigh or on either hip, to carry M-36s, M-69s and/or smoke grenades or generators. Such an adaptation would permit more than two grenades being carried, with greater comfort and handiness. Scaling ropes or toggle-ropes of some sort would have been a great help in getting up through the wire. We had nothing like this with us.
The Set N°18 : The set is heavy. If the man carrying it is in the stern of the LCA, it frequently happens that because of the kick-back of the man preceding him out of the craft, an the wave action, the LCA may have drifted out of a foot or two, forcing him to leap into the water to get to the shore. If as he may easily do, should loose is balance or rocks or slippery shale on the bottom, the weight of the set will topple him into the water. If the set, or the microphone or key assembly gets wet, the set will be out of action until the parts can be replaced or the set completely dried and cleaned. This was what happened to the Battalion’s HQ set, although it was as well wrapped up in gas-capes as a set on listening watch can be. Obviously a more thorough method of waterproofing the set and its components must be found. My own set, a N°66 (in fact a N° 18 modified for Naval use) was not on listening watch while in the LCA, although pre-netted, an was, no aerial mast being fitted, very thoroughly wrapped in two gas-capes. Wilkinson, moreover, a big husky lad, had the good luck not to stumble as he went into two feet of water. The set, consequently, functioned. In this situation, where there was no battalion wireless, some alternative means of inter-company communication was essential. Runners, lamp and flag could be used. Indeed, the Battalion Signal Officer, attempting to get his set operating, while reaching for a key assembly, exposed the side of his face for only a few seconds. Enough time for a German sniper to shoot him down. The alternative means then left were rockets, colored smoke, whistle signals, and signaling by small arms fire. This was not resorted to, either because the rockets and colored smoke were not present, or because suitable whistle and/or small arms fire signals were not known or had not been practiced. I was with the C.G.from the moment we reached the beach, and, as far as I know, he had no information from Brigade about the situation on the other beaches. Rockets, and/or colored smoke would have been of the greatest assistance here, as well as in inter-company communication. These points, it may be repeated, are the gist discussion held among remaining Officers of the Royals at Verneuil where we were held prisoners for a week after the attacks.
Col Catto and I surrendered to an Officer at Notre Dame de Bon Secours. The German Officer wore a Steel Helmet of the ordinary type with the Luftwaffe eagle painted on the side of the helmet instead of the usual stylized helmet eagle. He wore a cover-all of cotton or very light wool, quite shapeless, navy blue on color, with three white rings around the cuff of each loose sleeve. About his waist he wore the six-magazine carrier for the MP-38/40 Schmeisser machine pistol magazines and carried the gun slung on one shoulder. He had no weffen-farbe that I could distinguish, and I was unable to discover what his arm of service was. He took us to meet a senior German Officer present, who was standing surrounded by his staff on the cliff top by the telegraphic tower at Notre Dame de Bon Secours. This Herman was an Oberst, a small dark man not over 35 years, who wore a number of ribbons and an Iron Cross around his neck. He questioned ColCatto in hesitant English, assuring him that there was no more than one Regiment between Treport and Varengeville, and demanding to know how many Canadians had been in the attack. He got no information from us, and with a short laugh, finished his questions. From Notre Dame de Bon Secours, the walking wounded and stragglers who had been rounded up at the school there, were marched down ti the Hotel Dieu in Dieppe which had been prepared as an Aid Post. The Hotel Dieu seemed to have been a deserted convent; at one time it may have been a hospital, for I remembered seeing large red crosses painted on the roof, and the front lawn had red crosses set in the flowers beds, but if it had been an hospital it was apparently short of hospital equipment. There were simply a large number of furniture less wards with a number of beads in each. Running water or other plumbing and sanitary facilities there appeared to be none. The Sisters, French nuns, and a few French civilian worked very hard trying to look after our wounded. The doctors who were German, were busy looking after the last German wounded still remaining, and dispatching them to Rouen. At length the doctors got round to our fellows, and did as much as they could for them, with the dressings at hand. The doctor in charge was an Oberstartz, an ex-Serviceman, good-humored in a brusque manner who worked hard to patch up our wounded. He was assisted by a German captain and a lieutenant both M.O.’s and a Red Cross doctor who was, I think, a German, and from his costume appeared to be doing all the operating. A great part of the work was actually done, I later learned, by three or four of our own M.O.’s, Capt C.T. Robertson, II Fd Amb., the M.O. of the Essex whose name I don’t remember and another M.O., a young Capt from, I think, II Fd Amb.
It may be of interest to remark upon the behavior of Canadian and British wounded and that of the few remaining German stretcher cases which I saw. Most of our stretcher cases were mortar-bomb wounds, very unpleasant and painful. From all the British and the French one civilian (a railroad employee) who were were conscious on their stretchers, there was no murmur; these who had cigarettes and were able to smoke sucked stoically at a cigarette, the others play silent and uncomplaining. Not so the Germans, who were vocal and querulous in their pain. This was remarked by many of us, as well as by the French civilian in the hospital. Between 1800 and 1900 all the non-wounded were fallen in at the Hotel Dieu and marched up to an abandoned factory at Bellengreville, arriving there about 2300, where they went to sleep. About a dozen of us remained at the hospital in the hope that we might be able to clear as many of the stretcher cases as could be moved to the station whence, according to the Germans, they would be routed direct to a base hospital at Rouen. The Germans had not more than four hospital orderlies who were used on the ambulances and away to the station. We were then taken out to the factory at Bellengreville. I later learned at Lyon from Commander, Prior R.M. that our stretcher cases were put into box cars at the Dieppe Station and left there overnight.
The following morning, August 20 1942, at Bellengreville, we were issued with 300 grammes of French army bread, a little stale, very hard, very dark and very sour. It was most welcome. We also were given a mug of camomile tea. There I learned that all Officer had been sent the bight before to the church at Envermeu. Our guards at Bellengreville were Jaeger troops, and except for the NCO who appeared to be a CSM or its equivalent, were very young. They were also very well armed with MG 34/42 and MP-38/40 machine pistols. They wore the Jaeger cap, heavily studded boots ankle and on the tunic sleeve above the elbow a badge which seemed to represent an Edelweiss or some such flower. I spent the morning talking with the Prize Tp RCA who had had only three casualties, and the remainder of the Royals. A few Canadians who could speak German appeared among the prisoners, and the Germans used them as interpreters and general Orderly Sergeants. A few German Officers appeared and took a keen interest in the Brigade and Battalion patches. Nearly all of the men still had their pay books and still wore the Regimental markings. About 1100, I was driven, as the sole Officer remaining at Bellengreville, to Envermeu by a German Major. This type speaks quite good English, and appeared to be faitly senior. I thought, from his service ribbons, that he was a World War One veteran. His opening remarks tome en route were ‘Well, whee are your friends ?’ I didn’t understand this, and he continued flourishing an arm vaguely to the North ‘There they are, the English, and there they will stay. You have spilled your blood for the English, and to no purpose.’ As I had personally spilled no blood whatever, no reply seemed indicated. ‘The will not come’ he continued, ‘never !’ I murmured that he need only to be patient, and he would see how mistaken he was. He started at me for an instant, grunted and turned back in the front seat, and we finished the journey in silence.
At Envermeu, at the church, were the remaining uninjured Officers of the 4th Brigade, at about 1400, a mobile kitchen gave us a mug of very thick potato soup, very hot, very good. About 1800, the troops from Bellengreville were marched down to the Envermeu Station were we joined them. The NCOs and men were packed into box-cars with signs ‘8 Chevaux 40 Hommes’; the Officers were loaded into 3rd or 4th class compartment coaches. It was a long train. The first coach behind the engine was open-sided and in it sat a few guards with machine pistols. Half-way down the length of the train was another of these coaches with more guards similarly armed, and immediately in front of and behind the 1st two coaches which carried the Officers were two more open-sided coaches with the remainder of the guards with electricity torches and the machine guns supplementing their K-98 Mauser Rifles and MP-38/40 Schmeissers. In spite of these precautions, one man at least got away. The engine driver, whether because of French sympathies, or because the train was to heavy for the locomotive could make much speed on the grades, and after dark I saw one man getting away through trees beside the track. The train was instantly stopped and a quantity of ammunition was poured into the trees after him, but he got away. Escape in the tunnel was to risky, the guards using their torches with skill. The following morning, we arrived at Verneuil, and marched from the Train Station to a Dulag 3 or 4 kilometers West of the Town.
The camp at Verneuil (French Department of the Eure) appeared to have een an original French Army camp, for the bunkhouses still carried on the numbers of forgotten pelotons (Platoons) and the twin triple-decker bunks still carried tags of French soldiers, 1st, 2nd, 3rd class, with their matricule numbers (Army Serial Numbers).
For all purposes :
European Center of Military History
Gunter ‘Doc Snafu’ Gillot
rue des Thiers 8
Email : gunter [at] eucmh.be
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(NB : Published for Good – March 2019)