6:30 a.m., Aug. 19)
Local vet recalls ill-fated Dieppe raid
resident Syd Davie was 19-years-old when he
participated in the raid on Dieppe on August
19, 1942. Of the 6,100 men who particpated
in the battle, he was one of the 2,400 who
managed to return to England without getting
captured or killed. Fred Sherwin/Photo
been 70 years since Syd Davie climbed on board a troop
ship as part of a joint allied strike force of more than
6,000 men assigned to carry out a raid on the French port
the lion's share of the force was Canadian, they were
supported on either flank by British Commandos.
member of a top secret special forces unit, Davie's mission
was to find a communications installation near the town
of Varangeville which is situated to the west of Dieppe
and blow it up with the aid of German POWs turned scouts
who supposedly knew the area.
first memory of the Dieppe raid was getting sick on the
first part of the voyage across the channel. The troops
departed from England shortly after midnight on August
19, 1942 and arrived eight miles off the French coast
at 3 a.m. where they transferred to amphibious landing
majority of the soldiers on the landing craft with Davie
were members of the Royal Marines No. 4 Commando unit
assigned to take out a naval battery to the west of Dieppe.
After chugging along for about an hour and half in choppy
water, the landing craft started drawing fire from the
German shore batteries.
could hear the first heavy shell passing over our heads
and exploding just beyond us. Then the second one landed
a little closer. Finally, the third one was a direct hit
on the stern and blew the bridge away," says Davie. "One
minute the bosun was there and the next he was gone."
all the shelling the ramp operator remained standing in
an upright position on the corner of the landing craft
with his hand held high in the air waiting to give the
signal to lower the ramp and disembark.
the stern of the landing craft already blown away, a mortar
shell landed near the back and further disabled the vessel.
At that point the ramp operater dropped the ramp to allow
as many men to get off as possible before they were hit
by another shell. The day was just dawning when Davie
hit the water.
were still a long way off from the beach so I knew I was
going to have to swim," says Davie. "Once I was in the
water nothing seemed to be going on. I mean they were
still shooting at us, but it didn't seem to be as bad
as it was on the boat."
he finally made it to the beach it was obvious from everything
going on around him that they were never going to achieve
they're objective. It was only afterwards that he found
out that instead of landing on the right flank with the
rest of No. 3 Commando, they had landed on the left flank
near the heavily fortified town of Puys with elements
of the Royal Regiment of Canada.
following is a historical account of what took place during
the landing at Puys.
beach (at Puys) was extremely narrow and was commanded
by lofty cliffs where German soldiers were strategically
placed. Success depended on surprise and darkness, neither
of which prevailed.
naval landing was delayed, and as the Royals leapt ashore
in the growing light they met violent machine-gun fire
from the fully-alerted German soldiers. Only a few men
were able to get over the heavily wired seawall at the
head of the beach; those who did were unable to get back.
The rest of the troops, together with three platoons of
reinforcements were pinned down on the beach by mortar
and machine-gun fire, and were later forced to surrender.
was impossible in the face of German fire. Of those who
landed, 200 were killed and 20 died later of their wounds;
the rest were taken prisoner. It was the heaviest toll
suffered by a Canadian battalion in a single day throughout
the entire war.
realizing his mission was no longer possible, Davie spent
the next four hours grabbing wounded Canadian soldiers
off the beach and either carrying them or dragging them
to safety behind a disbled tank.
isn't sure how many men he managed to retrieve. He didn't
bother to count.
what seemed like an eternity, several landing craft arrived
to extract as many of the injured as possible. With his
original objective no longer achievable, Davie returned
to one of the ships with the wounded. They were the lucky
ones. Over 4,000 men never made it back. They were either
killed or taken prisoner.
eventually returned to his base and continued to live
a double life between serving with the Irish Guards and
going out on special assignments. He would later take
part in the Normandy invasion and see combat duty until
the end of the war.
for the debate over whether or not Dieppe played a key
role in the Allied success on D-Day, Davie still questions
the conventional belief that it did.
not sure what was learned, really," says Davie. "We spent
months clearing the way for D-Day. The navy used to send
frogmen on the beach all the time to cut barb wire or
clear the tank traps. And wherever they got their intelligence
from about Dieppe it wasn't very good."
the eight former German POWs who were supposed to act
as scouts, one was captured by the Germans, two made it
back to England and the rest were killed.
credits his survival to being at the front of the landing
craft when it got hit and good fortune. He bristles at
any suggestion that he be given special consideration
for his role in the raid, or for saving the lives of the
men he dragged to safety on the beach.
was just an ordinary guy who was doing his job. If you
want to look for heroes they're all buried," says Davie.
story was made possible thanks to their generous support
of our local business
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