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Landing craft carrying Canadian tanks and infantry approach the beach at Dieppe, France, August 19, 1942. (Courtesy of the Alexander family)

Landing craft carrying Canadian tanks and infantry approach the beach at Dieppe, France, August 19, 1942.

(Courtesy of the Alexander family)

Canadians share family connections to Dieppe raid Add to ...

Dr. Steven Liss - Toronto and Kingston, Ont.

My father (Arthur Liss, 1917 - 1997) served with the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry and participated in the Dieppe raid. Some of his experiences and references to his participation have been captured in accounts of the raid (e.g. Shame and the Glory and other publcations). He was one of only few Canadian soliders who managed to get into the town.

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Steve Turner - Aurora, Ont.

My uncle Tom was a 2nd Division engineer when the call went through camp for volunteers for a mission. He lined up with all the other engineers, and when it came to his turn, the sergeant stopped and said they had enough vounteers. His buddy -in line in front of him- went on the raid, and was fortunate to come back. Uncle Tom is 92 years old now, and one of the last WWII vets living among us.

Margaret McCrae - Mississauga, Ont.

My Great Uncle Charlie landed on the beaches of Dieppe, France with the 11th Field Ambulance. He was a captain in the Canadian Medical Corps and was reported to have been killed in the Dieppe landing in August, 1942. Charlie's obituary was written and a memorial service was held for him back in Toronto as everyone thought that he was dead. A colleague at Toronto East General Hospital wrote, "He shared our work and pleasure in an argumentative way that could not be denied and kept us on our mettle at all times. His frank criticism and sarcasm of one and all were only the outward manifestations of the high ideals he strove for in himself. Charlie never ever lost an argument or a fight. His untimely end is hard to bear." Fortunately for his friends and family it was not the end.

Two months after his reported "death" his mother, my great grandmother, received word that he was alive and was a prisoner of war in Sagan, Germany. He was held as a prisoner for three years, until the word swept through his internment camp that the Russians were coming. The German officers told them to get going on a forced march. Charlie and a New Zealander broke into the camp stores and stocked up on everything they could in the way of medical supplies. They distributed the stuff among the other boys in the camp. They were all U.S. Air Force lads around 19 and 20 years of age. They were on foot for six days and rode in boxcars for four days. It was the tail end of January and it was very, very cold.

The Sagan Camp had been divided into five separate camps and that is how he happened to be in with the U.S. chaps. He was named to their group as their medical officer. They finally reached Moosberg, Germany where they were overtaken by the Russians. They were released on April 28, 1945. His heroism while a prisoner of war won high honours from King George VI and U.S. president Harry Truman. "By his constant and unselfish attention to the American prisoners of war under his charge during an enforced march by foot under extremely adverse weather conditions, the approximatgely 2,000 American flying officers were able to comple the march without serious loss."

After the war Charlie spent several years specializing in gastro-intestinal surgery at St. Marks and the Gordon hospital in London, England. He returned to Toronto East General Hospital in the late forties rising over the next 30- years to the position of chief surgeon. He retired in 1979. Charlie never would talk about the war - it was something that he just wanted to tuck away.

Headline in Toronto Newspaper: Kept 2,000 Yankees Alive, U.S. Honors Toronto Doctor

From the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps:

Charlie was born in Whitby Ontario in 1911 - Died in 1998. He was the youngest of 16 children born to George and Elizabeth Robertson, staunch Presbyterians. Charlie moved to Toronto as a teenage and attended Jarvis Collegiate. He attended the U of T and graduated in medicine in 1939. He was an avid wrestling champion and boxer in the lightweight class. He weighed only 135 pounds. He joined the staff of the Toronto East General Hospital in 1939 and left in 1940 to joing the RCAMC.

Ronald Moffatt - Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

My uncle Wm. Moffatt was killed at Dieppe. I was only an infant when the raid happened. He was my father’s brother.

Lynne Skromeda - Winnipeg, Manitoba

My grandfather, Stephen Skromeda, fought in the Dieppe raid for the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders. He had immigrated to Canada in the 1930s and believed so much in what Canada stood for that despite having two small children at home and being 35 years old, he volunteered to fight for Canada. My grandmother, Olga, tried twice to "unsign" him up for the draft by going down to the recruitment office herself and demanding his name be taken off the list. But he persevered and she gave up.

He was killed on the shores of Dieppe and is buried in the cemetery in France. My grandmother spent the rest of the war scanning news reels, refusing to believe he was gone. She never remarried. My father was only 3 1/2 when he lost his father so he never really knew him. It affected him his whole life. He died in 1995 and in 1997, while backpacking in Europe, I took some of my father's ashes with me to the cemetery there to inter them with his dad so they could be together in death in a way they never could be in life.

This is an event that had a profound effect on my life and my family and regardless of whether my story is suitable, I greatly appreciate your taking the time to honour this story.

Carol Read - Edmonton, Alberta

My father, Henry Charles Read, and his brother, my uncle, William George Read, from Windsor, Ontario, were both at Dieppe. They were Sergeants with the 11th Field Company, Royal Canadian Engineers. As engineers their job in the Dieppe raid was to get into the town, set explosives and blow up their target, I believe it was a factory. They landed at Dieppe in the dark, before sunrise and before the majority of the troops came ashore. The Germans were waiting for them, and there was heavy gunfire and shelling. My uncle was injured shortly after landing. His arm was badly wounded and he was evacuated back to a hospital in England. My dad continued on with other engineers into the town of Dieppe where they set and detonated the explosives, as ordered. Eventually, the word came down the line from the Canadian command that they were to surrender to the Germans. My Dad and a few of his buddies would have nothing of that. As he said, he wasn't going to sit out the rest of the war in a German prisoner of war camp. Instead, they surveyed the land and the beach and found a spot where they 'went into the water'. They waded way out into the English Channel, where a Polish destroyer picked them up a few hours later, and they were returned safely to England.

Will Novosedlik - Toronto, Ont.

I grew up in the 50s and 60s in Windsor, Ontario. The cultural residue of WWII was very fresh in those days. We passed countless hours playing ‘war’ in our backyards and schoolyards. The good guys, of course, were always the Allies and the bad guys were always the Germans; no 'cowboys and indians' for us. All this was reinforced by movies like The Longest Day, and TV shows like Combat! and Hogan's Heroes.

While we kids played out our heroic WWII fantasies on the lawn, our parents were living out the effects of the real thing in the house. It was never talked about in family or neighbourly conversations, and as kids we never really knew what post-war demons our parents may have been struggling with.

Our next door neighbour was a WWII veteran. He was an infantryman in the Essex & Kent Scottish, our local regiment. Like thousands of other young Canadian soldiers still in their teens, he was excited by the prospect of adventure offered by enlistment. I recall seeing a photo of him and a buddy in uniform, just before they shipped out, with big smiles on their faces. They looked like they were going on a boy's weekend, or to a sporting event. Certainly not a war.

I never saw much of him, but when I did, he always seemed angry or depressed. I would mention it to my parents from time to time, but they offered no explanation. They must have considered his story too awful for kids to hear, so responded to my queries with "It's really none of our business." So for a long time I never really understood what was behind his moods.

He was a butcher by trade, and like a lot of other people in Windsor, he worked in Detroit. The shop where he worked was within walking distance of the Ambassador Bridge. His daily routine was to park his car on the Canadian side and then walk across, rather than park on the American side. We all attributed it to the fact that the neighbourhood where he worked was a rough one - it was ground zero for the race riots of 1967. We reasoned that getting your car jacked in a riot zone would make it difficult to claim the insurance, and left it at that.

Before too long, his daily traverse was noticed by the Windsor Star, and they ran a story about it. When the reporter asked him why he did it, he said he was accustomed to long walks in adverse conditions due to the many forced marches he was subjected to during his tenure as a WWII POW. It turns out that he was in the force that landed at Dieppe, and on the same day they landed, was taken prisoner, and spent the next 3 years in a series of German POW camps. This was the first time I learned of his war experience. I would have been about 18 or 19 at the time, the same age he was when taken prisoner.

Not long after that he died, while barely in his 50s. It was then that I found out that he had chosen to battle his demons with alcohol, falling prone to addiction at a fairly early age.

That explained his moods and made me think about the horrible paradox of his life - and likely the lives of many more veterans: the war had defined him and destroyed him at the same time. The events of one single day shaped the rest of this man’s life. In one day, an18-year-old was yanked from the sunny optimism of youth, thrown into the darkest possible horrors of manhood, and was kept in that black hole of humiliation and deprivation for 3 long years.

So even though we ‘won’ the war, even though he came home a hero and by all appearances settled into ‘normal’ family life, he never stopped being a prisoner, first of the camps, then of his memory, and ultimately of the bottle. He sacrificed his soul so that my generation would not have to. I never thanked him for that. I wish I had.

Jeff Calvert - North Vancouver, B.C.

This isn't your typical family war story...

In the mid-90s, I took a trip to Europe to visit Vimy (as well as friends in London and Amsterdam) and found myself with time on my hands and a car, so went to Dieppe as well. On my return, I bumped into my grandparents at my aunt's house. I mentioned to them that I'd just come back from Vimy and Dieppe. My grandfather said that there was some relation of my grandmothers who was buried in the Canadian cemetery at Dieppe, where I had been 2 days earlier.

I was surprised I'd never heard this before. I tried to query my grandfather about him but he mumbled something and walked away. I asked my grandmother and got nothing.

Later, I asked my mom about it. She said that she didn't know the whole story either, but she understood that the family member in question had been such a bastard that nobody had been too upset when he'd been killed in action and it hadn't been spoken of since. It's the dark side of the history of the war, I suppose. It's not all bravery and heroes and good men dying. I'm sure a lot of the men who went to war were wife beaters, child molesters, murderers or rapists and some probably got what was coming to them. Certainly, when wreaths are laid at Dieppe and warriors are remembered and thanked, nobody says "except for that guy, whose family quietly thanked the German soldier who ended their misery."

But I'm sure it happened more than we might think. But I'm also sure, that as in my family, the stories were buried and put away, not to be passed on through the generations.

Patrick Savoy - Toronto, Ont.

I am a Savoy - My Uncle was Major Paul Savoy who died heroically in the raid on Dieppe. His memory lives on through the Savoy foundation and we still honor both him and his cousin (Corporal Pierre Savoy who died in Italy WWII) every year at cenotaph ceremonies in Montreal. Both My grandmother and Great Aunt never missed a commemoration ceremony until their deaths.

Lloyd Williams - Camrose, Alta.

My father, WOII Larry Williams, was the RQMS of the Calgary Tank Regiment. On August 19, 1942 he was in the LST containing the tanks of the commanding officers of the regiment and a platoon of infantry (I think it was the Essex Scottish from the Windsor area of southwestern Ontario). Dad's job would have been to resupply the tanks with ammunition as needed during the raid. He had a jeep and several bogeys of ammunition under his control.

The first attempt to disembark the tanks was a catastrophe. The colonel's tank left the LST in deep water, drowning all occupants and many infantry also drowned as they jumped off into this deep water. After moving to shallower water the major's tank left the LST for the beach, damaging the LST's ramp in the process. The ramp of the LST was jammed, immobilizing the LST, and the final tank and my father's jeep were unable to disembark for the beach.

Six hours of unrelenting fire from artillery on the cliffs immediately above Dieppe beach rained down on the trapped LST and its remaining occupants. Dad received a severe shrapnel wound when a direct hit exploded the wheelhouse of the LST and he drifted in and out of consciousness during the remainder of the bombardment. One of the support ships finally towed the stranded LST off the beach. As Dad lay wounded in the LST he counted 37 shell holes, many of them man-sized, in the structure of the LST as he waited to be winched aboard the hospital ship.

Dad recovered from his wounds and fought on with the Calgarys in Italy and Holland until the end of the war. In fact, the battle-hardened Calgarys were kept on in Holland for six months after the end of the war to maintain order as civil government was re-established in Holland.

When the tankers finally returned to Calgary in December, 1945 a huge crowd welcomed the boys home. Some estimates put the size of the crowd as greater than Calgary's population. Of the 220 original enlistees in B squadron from my Dad's area of rural central Alberta just 11 remained as they marched down Eighth Avenue to Mewata Armouries.

Sam Rushton - North Vancouver, B.C.

My grandfather (Sgt. Mark Rushton) participated in the raid as part of the 3rd Canadian Light Anti-Aircraft, attached to the Royal Regiment of Canada. He passed away in 1996, when I was 7, so I didn't have much of a chance to ask him about his experiences. Even so, I understand he remained rather reticent about it for his entire life, to both his children and his wife.

In 2008, my father and I made the trip to Normandy to see if we could find out more about his experience in Dieppe. After some hunting around and researching, we came across some accounts of the unit he was in and managed to find out exactly where he landed and what his mission was. As part of the 3rd CLAA, his party's mission was to investigate a new type of anti-aircraft gun sight the Germans were using. When they landed, they were continuously swept by sniper and machine gun fire and the men who reached the wall had grenades dropped on them. Of the 26 men in his party, only 7 returned.

My father and I were quite moved by the whole experience. We collected rocks and took pictures of the very same beach and slope he had landed on, in an town called Puys. We made a diorama for my grandmother when we returned and she was delighted. It was a sobering and enriching experience I will never forget.

Chris Wellwood - Kingston, Ont.

My father, Reginald Carl Wellwood, was a corporal in 7 Field Company of the engineers. The mission of his section was to blow up the locks in the Dieppe harbour but they never reached the locks. He was on the river gunboat HMS Locust and on the return trip to England the boat crew thought that he had been killed as he was fast asleep at the base of the deck gun and not moving when the gun fired. He survived the raid but was wounded and captured in France in 1944.

Michael Hart - Miami, Florida

My Dad, Colonel David Hart, was in the Dieppe Raid. He was a sergeant in the Signal Corps on Red Beach. He was one of the 900+ lucky ones who got back to England where he was decorated with the Military Medal for bravery which was awarded to him in Buckingham Palace by King George VI. Even today at 95 years old, he is in great shape and is still active in the military as an Honorary Colonel. In fact, he and my mom are today part of the group attending the 70th anniversary in Dieppe with the Canadian Forces. We are all very proud of him.

These responses have been edited for clarity

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