Outline of Operation JUBILEE

I have been doing more work on my thesis recently as as part of the introduction I felt it prudent to outline to basics of the operation and below is what I have done so far. Any comments are welcome as it is in its draft form and I may well re-write it at some point. I have missed some reference off as it has been written on the go and I need to insert them at some pint. 

At 0445 on 19 August 1942, the first forces landed on the French coast at Berneval approximately six miles from Dieppe.[1] This was the first wave of a raid in force on the French town of Dieppe. The operational orders for JUBILEE stated that the purpose of the operation was:

Operation JUBILEE is a raid on Jubilee with limited military and air objectives, embracing the destruction of local defences, power stations, harbour installations, rolling stock, etc., in Jubilee, the capture of prisoners, the destruction of an eardrum near the town and the capture and removal of German invasion barges and other craft in the harbour.[2] 

Operation JUBILEE was the culmination of two years of raiding by the Combined Operation Headquarters (COHQ) and was largest attempted to date. The major part of the raiding force was comprised of troops from the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division. The British provided additional troops in the form of No. 3 and 4 Commando from the Army and ‘A’ Commando from the Royal Marines (RM). There was also a small detachment of French and US personnel, the most prominent of which were the fifty US Rangers attached to No. 3 and 4 Commando. The military forces involved in the operation came under the ground force commander Major General J H Roberts, the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 2nd Canadian Infantry Division. Roberts was a curious choice for such a prestigious and difficult mission, as he had not actually seen battlefield command in the war and, therefore, like most of his soldiers were untrained and untested in combat.[3] 

The Royal Air Force (RAF) supplied substantial forces in the support of JUBILEE. In total fifty-six day fighter squadrons were involved, fifty of these were in the cover role and six were designated for close support roles. There was also two squadrons of day bombers and two squadrons Hawker Hurricane Squadrons that were tasked for the bomber role. Three squadrons of Douglas Boston light bomber were in place to supply smoke cover for the raid. Finally, there were four army co-operation squadrons in place to provide tactical reconnaissance throughout the raid.[4] The air commander on the day was Air Vice Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory, a man who would go on and command the Allied air forces during Operation Overlord. In later years, a great deal of controversy would surround his role in the ‘Big Wing’ controversy of 1940 and his choice as commander of the tactical air forces for OVERLORD that has clouded any reasonable analysis of his effectiveness as a leader.[5] RAF operation during JUBILEE can be divided into five distinct phases with operation starting at 0445 and the last air operation finishing at approximately 2245.[6] The first phase, from 0445 to 0550, saw the RAF preparing the beaches for the landing by the dropping of smoke to mask the bomber aircraft of Bomber and Army Co-operation Command, these aircraft were escorted in by fighters.[7] At the same time intruder, operations were carried out against the gun batteries on the flanks on Dieppe. Hurricane Fighter-bombers and Spitfire fighters performed this.[8]

During the period of the second phase of operations, 0550 to 0730, fighter covered was maintained of the raid area and continued attempts were made to support the landing. For example, at 0645, the Rommel battery at Puys behind Blue Beach was casing problem for the Royal Regiment of Canada, Therefore, orders were sent to the Boston’s on No. 88 Squadron to attack the battery.[9] Within an hour, the squadron was en route when a recall order was received.[10] As the unit was too far to come back, the attack went in suffering heavy casualties from attacking German fighters.[11] 

The third phase, 0730 to 1030, was were the RAF was tasked primarily with providing air cover for the withdrawal of the forces to the beaches and this in the main consisted of counter air patrols against Luftwaffe aircraft that were encroaching over the battlespace. Leigh-Mallory’s states that this was the period of greatest activity by the enemy with ‘20 to 30 fighters being seen continuously in the area…’[12] There were also calls made for ground support as the units were withdrawn to the beaches.

The penultimate phase, 1050 to 1410, saw the RAF providing cover for the withdrawal of forces from the beaches similar calls were made on the RAF to provide air cover and close support as forces were taken of the beaches.[13] It was also during this phase that Luftwaffe tactics changed and larger formation were seen coming to Dieppe. These formations not only contained fighters but also fighter-bombers and bombers tasked with attempting to attack the raiding force and the naval forces offshore.[14] The final phase, 1410 to 2245, saw the RAF providing fighter cover for the forces that were returning to Britain. By the latter part of the evening deteriorating weather put a halt o any further operation by both the RAF and Luftwaffe.[15]  

The Royal Navy (RN), whose military head, Admiral of the Fleet Sir Dudley Pound, was deeply suspicious of such operations, only provided paltry forces for the support of the operations. The heaviest ships involved in the operation were destroyers of which eight were used. In total, there were two hundred thirty seven vessels in various roles for the operation.[16] All of these ships came under the command of Captain J Hughes Hallett.  

The operation began, as it was to go on. No. 3 Commando, the first unit to land, at Berneval came under intense fire and of their twenty-three landing craft, only six made it to shore. Most of these men themselves became casualties, but despite this, the commando managed to keep the battery quite though they did not actually take it out as the plan called for.[17] The next units to land were the Royal Regiment of Canada and the Black Watch of Canada at Blue beach at Puys. Of the approximately five hundred men who landed, only six returned unscathed. The reason for this was that they landed fifteen minutes behind schedule and eight after the Germans had sounded the alarm. 

Next to come was the frontal assault on Dieppe itself, White and Red beaches. This was led Royal Hamilton Light Infantry, White beach, and the Essex Scottish, Red beach. Initially things looked good for the unit as Hurricane fighter-bombers had attacked German position and the defenders appeared dazed. This eventually passed and the defenders started pouring machine gun and mortar fire into the area. As Lieutenant Fred Woodcock of the Royal Hamilton’s, who was caught in a landing craft that was filled with Bangalore torpedoes and hit by a mortar bomb, comments he could ‘…only remember the sound, because I was blinded. The boat filled with water and I was soon up to my neck.’[18] 

The assault on Dieppe was to be supported by twenty-nine[19] Churchill MkIII tanks from Calgary Tank Regiment.[20] However, from the start of the operation things deteriorated. The LCT’s were fifteen minutes late arriving at the beaches and as has been commented this had ‘…unfortunate results for the general fortunes of the operation on the main beaches.’[21] Eventually all of the tanks were destroyed and only three made it onto the esplanade.[22]  

At 0630, approximately an hour and half after the main landing, Major-General Roberts decided that the situation was ready to land his floating reserve. This consisted on the Fusiliers Mont Royal. Roberts gives his reasons as follows, ‘About one hour after touch down, information received indicated that “Red” Beach was sufficiently cleared to permit the landing of the floating reserve.’[23] In this decision Roberts was wrong as Red Beach had not been cleared and was not ready, the RHLI were pinned against the beach wall. In addition, the FMR were landed at the wrong place. 

It had been initially planned to land RM ‘A’ Commando in the harbour and cut out enemy craft to take back to England. However, it was soon found that this was not possible. Therefore, they became part of the floating reserve. At 0800, Roberts, having been deceived by intelligence again, decided to commit them to White beach to force a breakthrough. This necessitated a quick rethink on the way into the beach and as Lieutenant M. Buist, RN comments it soon became clear that this was to be a ‘…sea parallel of the Charge of the Light Brigade.’[24] The commando came under a hail of artillery fire and its intended effect became negligible. 

The next attack was at Green beach by the South Saskatchewan Regiment and the Queens Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada on the inner western flank. Initially there was success but eventually things started to go wrong. It was intended for the SSR to land at zero hour, 0450, and the QOCHC to land an hour and a half later and pass through them capture the high ground and proceed to Dieppe. The SSR quickly entered Pourville and became involved in fire fights with groups of Germans. The SSR attempted to subdue them with fire from the supporting destroyers and 3-inch mortars, but to no avail and they became bogged down. The QOCHC then landed at 0520 and were to link up with the tanks of the Calgary and capture a nearby airfield. This proved fruitless as the tanks were destroyed mostly on the beaches. By this time, everything was going wrong and both regiments attempted form a cordon until ordered to withdrawal.  

At the western end of the raid, No. 4 Commando landed at 0454 and their objectives were to take out the German battery at Vasterival. This was Operation CAULDRON and this has often been considered the most successful aspect of the JUBILEE operation.[25] However, it must be noted that there was a degree of luck involved as the Hess battery was blown up by one mortar round that landed in pit of open artillery shells that had been laid out for the battery. This does not, however, take anything away from the action that was the model of efficiency and became the basis of a Military Training Pamphlet that outlined attacks on fortified gun batteries.[26] As an official report comments this operation was ‘…a model of bold action and successful synchronization.’[27]  

By 0930, it became clear to everyone that the operation was a failure and landing craft started taking the wounded off the beach. At the same time both the Military Commander, Roberts, and the Naval Force Commander, Hughes-Hallet, contended that withdrawal was necessary and that it should begin at 1100.[28] By 1250, all troops that could be evacuated had been removed from the beaches. Thus ended one of the bloodiest days in Commonwealth military history. The casualty rate for the ground force reached almost sixty percent. As one historian has commented, it was a cruel fate for a country, Canada, who had waited:‘…over two and a half years for combat and be  killed, maimed, or captured within a single morning one of the undeniable tragedies of the Second World War’[29]


[1] All times given are in British Summer Time. In the German War Diaries, all times were given in Continental time, which is one hour ahead.
[2] Quoted in Canadian Military Headquarters Historical Officer Report No. 83 ‘Preliminary Report on Operation “Jubilee” (The Raid on Dieppe), 19 Aug 42’ 19 Sept 1942, p. A-1. From here on this report will be referred to as CMHQ No. 83. The reoccurrence of the word Jubilee is in reference to Dieppe and was used in an attempt to keep the target from German agents. However, in an accident of war on the final page of the operational orders the map reference for the target, Dieppe, was given.
[3] The process of choosing both the Canadians as the main assaulting force and decision to choose Roberts as the ground force commander is dealt with in Brain Loring Villa Unauthorized Action, Specifically his chapter…
[4] TNA, AIR 20/586 ‘Report by the Air Force Commander on the Combined Operation against Dieppe – August 19th 1942’ 5 September 1942, p. 2. The numbers of squadrons involved in the operation has produced some confusion with John Terraine citing sixty-one and the RAF’s official history quotes fifty-six, the right figures for the fighter forces. John Terraine The Right of the Line: The Royal Air Force in the European War 1939-1945 (London: Wordsworth, 1997) p. 560, Denis Richards and Hillary St George Saunders Royal Air Force 1939-1945 Volume 2: The Fight Avails (London: HMSO, 1953) p. 143
[5] The only biography of Leigh-Mallory is one produced by his great nephew, Bill Newton Dunn, Liberal Democrat MEP for the East Midlands. Unfortunately the book has many factual inaccuracies and is often defensive about the criticism made of Leigh-Mallory; Bill Newton Dunn Big Wing: A Biography of ACM Trafford Leigh-Mallory (Airlife, 1992)
[6] TNA, AIR 20/586 ‘Report by the Air Force Commander’ pp. 6 – 10
[7] TNA, AIR 20/586 ‘Report by the Air Force Commander’ p. 6
[8] TNA, AIR 20/586 ‘Report by the Air Force Commander’ p. 6
[9] TNA, AIR 20/586 ‘Report by the Air Force Commander’ p. 7, Norman Franks The Greatest Air Battle: Dieppe, 9th August 1942 (London: Grub Street, 1992), p. 70
[10] TNA, AIR 20/586 ‘Report by the Air Force Commander’ p. 8
[11] Norman Franks The Greatest Air Battle pp. 70 – 71
[12] TNA, AIR 20/586 ‘Report by the Air Force Commander’ p. 8
[13] TNA, AIR 20/586 ‘Report by the Air Force Commander’ p. 9
[14] TNA, AIR 20/586 ‘Report by the Air Force Commander’ p. 9
[15] TNA, AIR 20/586 ‘Report by the Air Force Commander’ p. 10
[16] Roskill D.S.C Captain S W (1956) History of the Second World War: The War at Sea Volume II, p. 243
[17] No. 3 Commando’s action and the problems they suffered are dealt with in Brereton Greenhous…
[18] Quoted in Atkin R (1980) Dieppe 1942: The Jubilee Disaster, p. 153
[19] Canadian Military Headquarters Historical Section Report No. 108 ‘Operation “Jubilee”: The Raid on Dieppe, 19 Aug 42. Part II: The Execution of the Operation. Section 2: The Attack on the Main Beaches.’ 17 Dec 43 Amended on 12 Jul 1950. Paragraph 137 From here on CMHQ 108 
[20] This unit was official known in the Canadian organisation as the 14th Canadian Army Tank Regiment (The Calgary Regiment)
[21] CMHQ 108 Op Cit, Paragraph 80.
[22] CMHQ 108 Op Cit Paragraph 84-88. Hugh Henry has dealt with the failure of the Calgary Tanks in…
[23]  CMHQ 108 Op Cit Para 142
[24] Quoted in CMHQ 108 Op Cit Para 174
[25] See for example Will Fowler…
[26] MTP…IWM
[27] Canadian Military Headquarters Historical Officer Report No. 101 ‘Operation “Jubilee”: The Raid on Dieppe, 19 Aug 42. Part II: The Execution of the Operation. Section 1: General Outline and Flank Attacks.’ 11 Aug 1943 p. 21. From here on CMHQ 101
[28] CMHQ 108 Op Cit, Paragraphs 225-230
[29] Loring Villa B (1994) Unauthorized Action: Mountbatten and the Dieppe Raid. p. 2

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One response to “Outline of Operation JUBILEE

  1. If you did not read “OPERATION JB” by CHRISTOPHER CREIGHTON please do so ASAP.
    Iread in several survivors’ accounts that the rais was “ill prepared”; this is an euphemism because it was the “xth” betrayal of the Great Statesman Churchill.
    Typically (as for the three other allied Leaders) was that most of the victims were non-British but Canadians…
    I’ve seen memorials in my own country Belgium, in France and in Holland, lots of remembrance events (on tv or live) and many, many graves (most of WW I) and ALWAYS aznd everywhere “HEROES” were mentioned. I guess they weren’t heroes at all but mostly military ordered to be executed; some, as in Dieppe, “murdered” for political reasons. Sorry, “for Queen and Country”. And don’t ask why Mountbatten or Blunt were not in Dieppe; it’s “state secret”.

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