Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Canadian Battlefields 2015 tour summary: Dieppe

The Canadian cemetery at Dieppe is south of the city, so it makes sense to stop there on the way to the beach if one approaches from the Amiens area as we did. This year we got a surprise. The headstones were in the process of being replaced, so things looked somewhat dishevelled. The headstones here are interesting for another reason: the dead were buried by the Germans, in German fashion, head-to-head, producing these double-rows of headstones.
After our stop at the cemetery, we headed for the lookout over the main beach, which is just beside the chateau on top of the west headland. Looking eastwards, this is the beach that was assaulted on 19 August 1942 by the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry (nearest the headland) and the Essex Scottish (nearest the harbour jetty which can be seen at centre-left). Furthest penetration was about to the right-hand edge of the grassy boulevard that parallels the beach. The metal dome in the right foreground is part of a German observation post.
This is the Canadian memorial park at the foot of the west headland, with the chateau clearly visible.

Here are a couple more views of the west headland, looking west from the beach. This photo gives some impression of the steep rise of the beach -- from this point, one cannot see over the rise to observe the town itself. The chert (fist-sized stones covering the beach) constituted a significant obstacle to Allied tanks during the Dieppe raid.

Again, looking west along the beach.

Part of our group assembled for a closer look at the beach before setting out for a rather long walk to Blue Beach at Puys.
Along the beach are located memorials to the RHLI...
...and the Essex Scottish.
We walked along the beach to the harbour, which we had to cross to find the way to Puys. From the harbour we got a good look at the eastern headland. The Germans had guns in the caves at the foot of the headland and concrete casemates on top, from which they were able to pour devastating fire onto the beach.
Between Dieppe and Puys you can still see the remains of a German anti-aircraft battery on top of the east headland. There were a number of casemated positions along the headland between Dieppe and Puys; three remain visible -- two on the clifftop from the AA battery, and another which has fallen onto the beach. On my first visit in 1996 I was able to inspect the position, but it is now fenced off for safety reasons.
Because you're not supposed to climb up to the casemates, of course I did just that.
When you get a look from the edge, you can plainly see why you're not supposed to go up here. This casemate is right on the edge of the cliff, and erosion is gradually reducing its support.

This is the third casemate, seen from the beach between Dieppe and Puys. It is even more obvious from here why the other two are now fenced off!

This is the beach at Puys where the Royal Regiment of Canada landed on 19 August 1942. Their objective was to climb the cliff west of the sea wall (to the right of the photograph) and take out the German battery on Dieppe's east headland. Most of the men were pinned down on this stretch of beach, seeking shelter from German fire directed from the cliff shown in the distance, on the eastern end of the sea wall. A few men made it to the top before surrendering.

The Canadian memorial was constructed on the remains of a German bunker which had been built after the raid. The pathway ascending the cliff leads to a house with an adjoining bunker (not visible in this photo) that was in action during Operation Jubilee.

The post-Jubilee bunker is visible at top-left.
The memorial reads: "On this beach officers and men of the Royal Regiment of Canada died at dawn, 19 August 1942, striving to reach the heights beyond. You who are alive, on this beach, remember that these men died far from home, that others, here and everywhere, might freely enjoy life in God's Mercy."

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