HERITAGE - 25 THE 'PINCH' THAT WENT WRONG - 'Operation Jubilee', Dieppe August 1942
Operation 'Jubilee' - the aftermath bore no cheer in the statistics for commanders
The 'Cover' Story - something one didn't talk openly about. Everything was cloaked in secrecy because there was an ulterior motive for the raid
Known alternately as 'Operation Rutter' or the 'Battle of Dieppe', 'Operation Jubilee' was a hazardous gamble and apparently wasteful use of tight resources that could have been used elsewhere to better effect - such as in North Africa or the Far East, the latter campaign regarded as the 'Cinderella' of British action.
The raid opened at 5 am on the northern coast of occupied France on Friday, 19th August, 1942 at the strategic port of Dieppe. The point of attack was fifty miles (approximately 80 kms) north-east of Le Havre at the mouth of the Seine. Over 6,000 infantrymen - mostly Canadian - were backed up by the Calgary Regiment of the 1st Canadian Tank Brigade. They were transported to France by a strong Royal Navy task force and a smaller Royal Air Force contingent. Five thousand Canadians were involved, one thousand British servicemen also took part, with a small fifty-strong detachment of the US Ranger Battalion.
The aim was ostensibly to seize a major port for at least a short time if only to improve the possibility of such a seaborne undertaking, with intent to cause mayhem - and to gather intelligence. This part of the plan was cloaked in strict secrecy so as not to draw German Naval Intelligence attention to their codes being snatched (the Allies were rapidly losing shipping to the U-Boat campaign in the Atlantic due to their upgrade of Enigma).. .
The Royal Regiment of Canada was to land on their beach before dawn and progress inland towards the north side of the harbour, clearing the area of troops and German guns that were trained on the harbour entrance. The Essex Scottish were to and and put the German guns out of action across the river for 30 Commando to enter the harbour aboard HMS 'Locust' - a former Yangtse river gunboat with shallow draught that would enable her to close on the shore if necessary. They were to seize German Navy Enigma code books and papers. The tanks were to help 'mop up' German resistance.
On withdrawal the Allies would destroy coastal gun batteries, harbour facilities and strategic structures. In addition the raid was to raise public morale in the United Kingdom. It was also to show Stalin that the Western Allies were probing for weaknesses in Hitler's Atlantic Wall, with a view to opening a Second Front and sap German strength on their Eastern Front against Soviet forces.
Almost none of the objectives were met. The RRC was seventeen minutes late, arriving in daylight to be cut down before reaching the shelter of the beach wall. Allied naval support was inadequate - no capital ships or cruisers were deployed to prosecute the operation - and many of the raiding units were trapped on the beaches because no-one had bothered to ascertain whether the approaches were suitable for tanks and vehicles. Shingle was the chief cause of concern. Within ten hours of the initial landings it was decided to withdraw, the last troops either taken prisoner or cut down by withering fire. Defenders were alerted by double agents within the French Resistance.
Where a show of determination was called for, what emerged was a costly debacle. It showed the Allies were not yet ready to mount a concerted invasion on occupied France for some time yet. Some intelligence was secured, electronic devices amongst the 'haul'.
Altogether 3,367 of 6,086 men sent, around 60%, who were put ashore that morning were dead or prisoners of war. The RAF, unable to lure Luftwaffe fighters to engaged in combat, lost over a hundred aircraft - a third to anti-aircraft fire - and the Royal Navy lost thirty-three landing craft. These were losses that would have to be made up before the Allied invasion of Sicily within eight months. One destroyer was lost and although it did not seem much the Navy were henceforth wary of such undertakings.
Lessons learned at Dieppe would be applied for the US' North African landings - 'Operation Torch' on the Algerian shore, and ultimately the Normandy landings twenty-two months later.
The opposition was not investigated extensively enough
The 'Pinch' - all really rather hush-hush old boy
(see above, 'Objectives') was not known to the large majority who took part in the landings. It was 'window dressing' for the real purpose. Losses in the Atlantic to Admiral Doenitz's 'U'-Boat fleet were crippling Britain. What was more debilitating was that the German Naval Enigma code system was 'notched up' by the addition of another rotor drum, making it impossible to counter German successes against the convoys. More, the Germans sent submarines almost inshore to the British Isles and Ireland.
Something had to be done to recover the situation. The underlying mission of 'Operation Jubilee' - outlined in classified War Office documents - was to enable Naval Intelligence officer Lt. Commander Ian Fleming to bring back one of the newly introduced German 4 rotor Enigma machines along with any connected code books and rotor-setting instruction manuals.
The 'Pinch' was to be taken forthwith to the nearest English port and rush such intelligence as was obtainable to the decoders at Bletchley Park to further work on 'Ultra'. The troops landing on the beach and in the harbour were to provide support and a 'smoke-screen' to that purpose 30 Assault Unit led by Marine Lieutenant Peter Huntington-Whiteley was to enter the inner harbour unnoticed and find German Naval HQ opposite the Hotel Moderne. Here they were to take an updated Enigma Machine with associated manuals and code books for Ultra.
When they had the documents and code books the word 'Bullion' was to be radioed back to Fleming. A support vessel would close on the harbour for Lt Huntington-Whiteley and his men and take them off.with their 'booty' to HMS 'Fernie'..
Due to unforseen circumstances 30 Commando was unable to locate their objective and had a hard fight on their way back to their vessel, HMS 'Locust'. Only a few of the detail lived to be evacuated. .
The near mythical 30 Assault Unit, Royal Marine Commando, sent into hotspots around the western European theatre of war by Lt Cdr Fleming. Bound by the Official Secrets Act, survivors were unable to talk to anyone about the nature of their operations or where they were sent. Thirty years would pass before anyone knew of their achievements.
Ian Fleming's Commandos
The waste of it all, for lack of proper intelligence. This smacked of a rush-job, but would organisers learn better in time for Operation Overlord?
What the cover story was about - the 'Pinch'
Crossword Clues and pre-ops hiccups
On Wednesday, 17th August, a clue, 'French port' was included in 'The Daily Telegraph' crossword set for that day. Leonard Dawe's solution 'Dieppe' appeared on the 18th. The day after that was the date of 'Operation Jubilee'.
The War Office reasoned that the crossword might be a cover for German Intelligence They called on Lord Tweedsmuir, then senior intelligence officer with the Canadian land forces to.investigate. Tweedsmuir observed that the crossword solution 'Dieppe' merited a thorough inquiry. It turned out to be a complete coincidence.
Another crossword appeared in the 'Daily Telegraph' late May, 1944 prior to D-Day, with clues linked to terminology used in conjunction with 'Operation Overlord' - including the reference 'Overlord'. This was Dawe again. Following another probe by MI5 (British Military Intelligence, Home Sector) it was considered to be another coincidence. A former student of Dawe's revealed later that Dawe often asked for words from his students, a number of whom were the offspring of US Military officers based around London.
Flight Sergeant Jack Nissenthall's mission in detail, assessment and destruction of the German radar station at Pourville near Dieppe. A harrowing tale, and sharper for knowing Jack was Jewish. Had he been caught the Germans would have stopped at nothing to extract information on British radar and send him not to a POW camp but to Ravensbruck or Auschwitz.
The 'other target'
Pourville Radar - another 'real' target
A separate aim of the Dieppe raid was to find the importance and operational performance of a German radar station at the top of a cliff east of Pourville near Dieppe. To this end Flight Sergeant Jack Nissenthall of the RAF - a radar technician - was taken by an eleven man unit of the South Saskatchewan Regiment to the radar station.
Nissenthall was aware of the sensitivity of his part in the mission and had been given a cyanide pill to ingest as a last resort. The men who escorted him, led by Colonel Merritt, were also under orders to kill him if that became unavoidable. The RAF sergeant was Jewish, and had nevertheless volunteered for the task. He must have been aware of the fate that awaited him, should the Germans capture him. His mission will be covered in more detail in HERITAGE -26 DIEPPE, THE RADAR MISSION, Flt Sgt Nissenthall's role in 'Operation Jubilee'.
See also HERITAGE - 14: ENIGMA Initiative