In 1941 following some successful commando raids on Bruneval and St Nazaire it was decided to mount a significant amphibious raid on the coast of France. The destination of Dieppe was chosen.
The assault troops for the raid were to come from 2nd Calgary Tank Regiment under the command of Major General Roberts. The Royal Navy and Royal Air force would supply fire power and personnel to cover the infantry landings.
The layout of Dieppe with beaches and cliffs flanking each side of the harbour was very similar to West Bay and so it was chosen as the location to carry out a rehearsal.
As dawn was breaking on June 12th 1942 Lyme Bay was filled with over 80 Royal Navy vessels carrying the 2nd Canadian Division to the landing beaches at West Bay. Looking at the same landscape 75 years on it is hard to imagine the scale of the operation.
|From top- Eype beach, Harbour & beach at West Bay and Burton Freshwater in the distance.|
4,000 troops were landed on 3 beaches (Eype, West Bay and Burton Freshwater) These beaches represented the beaches of Puy, Dieppe and Portville.
West Bay was a secure area during WW2 and passes were required to access the area. Those living in West Bay had to have a suitcase ready, as they could be moved out at any moment, one of these occasions was for Exercise Yukon. Not everyone was notified and the family living in the railway station were frightened when they looked out of their window and saw Canadian French speaking soldiers outside on the platform! Harmony was restored when the soldiers were invited in dry their socks beside the fire and have a cup of tea!
Poor intelligence and communications between naval vessels meant that troops were landed late and on the wrong beaches and Exercise Yukon 1 was summed up as being 'Not altogether successful. This put the Raid on Dieppe in jeopardy and it was therefore decided to repeat the Exercise ten days later. This time the rehearsal was overseen by Mountbatten, Montgomery and other Chiefs of staff and the operation was more successful. This was despite two buildings in West Bay being set on fire by smoke flares (Methodist Chapel and Bridport Arms Hotel) and a Canadian soldier firing a smoke rocket that narrowly missed Montgomery!
Following Exercise Yukon the raid on Dieppe was approved and it took place on 19th August 1942. Of the 6,000 who took part in the landing 4,384 were killed wounded or missing - a loss of 73%. It was the worse single day for the Canadian Army in WW2. All the equipment landed on shore was lost, including all the Churchill tanks.
The Royal Navy lost 550 men and 34 ships.
The Royal Air Force in the largest single day battle of the war, flew 2,617 sorties and loss 106 planes.
48 civilians were killed and 102 injured.
The Dieppe raid was a disaster but valuable lessons were learnt and Lord Mountbatten later declared
'For every solider that died at Dieppe, 10 were saved on D-Day.'
These days news of this scale would make headline news. It has been a surprise to discover that this story is not well known and locals here were unaware of the role West Bay played in the Dieppe Raid. On the 75th Anniversary, a group of individuals got together to raise the profile of this story and get a permanent memorial placed in West Bay so the story of these young men who never returned home would not be forgotten. To raise money for this, a talk and exhibition have been held in the West Bay Discovery Centre, which was very well attended.
|Methoodist Chapel - West Bay|