Frontline Books- Images of War: The Dieppe Raid
Authors: John Grehan & Alexander Nicoll
Softcover with 194 pages and 180 photos
Regarding the change from Pen & Sword publishing books in this series, Frontline Books is a military history imprint of Pen & Sword. I am not exactly sure what this means as to why a separate division of military history is needed- but I am very glad to see this series continue, no matter who puts it out. Short on text (other than excellent informative captions), books from this series are full of excellent wartime photographs.
Whenever the thought of the Dieppe raid came up in my psyche, images of wrecked Churchill tanks and the WWII version of Gallipoli came to the forefront of my brain. I know I hadn't given too much attention to it-- being more apt to focus on the more well-known battles in Normandy, North Africa, Stalingrad and the Eastern Front. As always, this series of books gives one a great overall summation of the raid supported with a good number of photos. The photos often are one to two to a page- with some full two-page spreads and an occasional oddity where some full page photos actually are a full page and a half. The book is broken down into the following chapters:
- Europe First
- Operation Jubilee
- What Did the Germans Know?
- Yellow Beach
- Orange Beach
- Blue Beach
- Green Beach
- Red and White Beaches
- Tank Attack
- The Aerial Battle at Dieppe
- The Aftermath
Europe First focuses on the prelude to the raid-- how Great Britain and the US came to a common goal of defeating Germany before focusing on Japan in the Pacific. Churchill and Roosevelt were being pressured by Stalin to open a Western front to ease some of the strain the Soviet Union was feeling trying to fend off a German invasion towards Moscow. Churchill wanted to ease into it with action in North Africa and the "soft underbelly" of Europe from the south. Dieppe was an attempt to appease Stalin with the hopes of not too much loss of life. Operation Jubilee looks at the planning stages of the raid. What Did the Germans Know? plays around with the idea that Germany knew ahead of time of the raid and were prepared- leading to the disastrous result that occurred.
Chapters 4-8 break down the actions at each of the invasion beaches- including reasons why most of them failed so miserably. British, Canadian, French, and even some Americans made up the various assault groups on all of the beaches. Delays in forming up and miscommunication led to disorganization whereas the Germans were able to mobilize their counterattacks quickly and effectively. There are definitely some photos of the definitive wrecked Churchills here- but other wrecked and abandoned vehicles are present as well-
Tank Attack focuses on the armored forces in the raid. A total of 30 Churchill tanks of the 14th Canadian Army Tank Regiment were to be landed on Red and White beaches- the first Canadian Armoured Corps to go into battle. Four types of Churchills were present at Dieppe- Mk. Is, Mk. IIs and II Oke flamethrower variants, and Mk. IIIs. Most of these never made it off the beach-- having been disabled by enemy fire or by the chert- rocks on the beach getting wedged into the tracks and breaking them. Those that did get over the sea wall came across large concrete roadblocks that prevented further movement and there were no demolition crews able to blow them out of the way. In the end, only two members of the tank crew who landed managed to get back to British soil, with the rest either killed or taken prisoner.
The Aerial Battle at Dieppe looks at Luftwaffe and Allied (mainly RAF) forces in the battle. This is often overshadowed by the landing forces and supporting naval forces. Bombers and fighter bombers attacked German positions and laid smoke- but the approximately sixty tons of bombs had as little effect on the concrete emplacements as did the naval fire. Bomber attacks on nearby Luftwaffe airfields did, however, prevent the launching of enemy fighters for a couple hours which did help prevent further losses of the landing forces.
The Aftermath chapter takes a hard look at the failures of the raid as landing craft bearing the remaining unengaged tanks and troops were reclaimed and brought back to England. The chapter gives insight into individual heroic sacrifices that allowed additional soldiers pinned down to evacuate- decreasing the number of those having to surrender and be captured by the Germans. The final chapter- The Aftermath addresses the nearly 60% losses in death, wounding, and capture. Equipment lost was vast- 29 Churchill tanks, seven scout cars, one Jeep and a personnel truck, and hundreds to thousands of infantry weapons. 33 landing craft and one destroyer, along with 96 aircraft were additionally lost. This was all dramatically downplayed to the public to keep morale up and despair down.
Mistakes were made-- between losing the invasion plans to the enemy on the beach and persisting with the operation despite the rather obvious failures and subsequent loss of lives and materials. While these mistakes helped the Allied brass make better plans for the subsequent invasion in Normandy, one wonders why these mistakes had to be made at all. Attacking into the most concentrated defenses of the enemy was bound to end in calamity. This book was a good overview of a failed operation- and one that was full of great information and references for those interested in learning more.
Highly Recommended for those interested in this Western Front raid.
Thanks goes out to Casemate Publishing for this review sample.
Reviewed by Michael Reeves
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