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Canadian veterans, from left, David Hart, Ray Gilbert, Roman Wozniak, Charles Burrows, Arthur Rossell, Frederick Engelbrecht  and Donatien Vaillancourt, seated, at the beach in Dieppe, France, Aug. 17, 2012. (SAM DUBLIN For The Globe and Mail)

Canadian veterans, from left, David Hart, Ray Gilbert, Roman Wozniak, Charles Burrows, Arthur Rossell, Frederick Engelbrecht  and Donatien Vaillancourt, seated, at the beach in Dieppe, France, Aug. 17, 2012.

(SAM DUBLIN For The Globe and Mail)

Dieppe remembered, 70 years later: ‘We reached the beach, all hell broke loose’ Add to ...

Mr. Rossell decided to go to Dieppe for the 70th anniversary because many of his friends are buried there. And one more reason: “To make up for what I didn’t do the first time.”

Roman (Wozzie) Roy Wozniak

Age: 93

Unit: Royal Canadian Air Force – founding member of Royal Canadian Air Force 416 Squadron; served with 403 Squadron in Dieppe

Roman Wozniak was a spitfire pilot, charged with covering the troops below. There were four Canadian spitfire squadrons that day, with each squadron spending an hour over the boats before rotating out.“We protected them and we did a very good job,” he said. But the boats sent up smoke to 3,000 feet – the sweet spot for flying. The smoke made them vulnerable to attack, so they dropped to 2,000 feet. “We broke up into twos. That worked very well because if the Germans popped through the smoke and jumped one group of two, another two would jump them. So as a squadron we had a successful day. We got six German fighters and only lost three.

“One of those that we lost was my roommate. We’d been together for about a year flying in combat. We were almost like brothers.” The friend was Ed Gardiner, son of Jimmy Gardiner, the minister of agriculture in William Lyon Mackenzie King’s government.

Mr. Wozniak visited his friend’s grave 15 years after Dieppe, and will be there again this weekend. “I’m not only happy but I’m honoured I was selected to return to Dieppe. This is a real honour.”

Raymond Andrew Gilbert

Age: 90

Unit:14th Canadian Army Tank Regiment

Raymond Gilbert’s tank that day was dubbed Beefy, and while rehearsals on the Isle of Wight went well, the tank tracks could not handle Dieppe’s stony shores.

“When we reached the beach, all hell broke loose. There was fire and brimstone, the whole bit. It was really quite a shock. But, hey, we got over it. We had jobs to do. You had to keep your mind on that,” said Mr. Gilbert, nicknamed Casanova. Eventually, with the tank tracks busted, surrender was inevitable.

The Germans tied his wrists with rope, then put him in chains for 13 months. Mr. Gilbert was later assigned a work party, which meant another year and a half of labour.

The Germans fed them, albeit poorly. “The only thing that saved our bacon was the Red Cross parcels, which we did get. Some Canadian and some English,” he said.

He was allowed to leave the camp, but for an unwelcome reason. “I had a nervous breakdown while I was on a work party. From there I went to a prison camp … and from there, after about five or six months in a hospital, I was sent to Berne, Switzerland, where a prisoner exchange was made.”

He was free, but remained hospitalized in England and Canada until the end of the war.

Charles Russell (Russ) Burrows

Age: 91

Unit: Royal Canadian Engineers

Charles Burrows was born an American but fought as a Canadian.

His family moved to Ontario from Illinois when he was 1, and he joined the Royal Canadian Engineers in 1940. German forces captured Mr. Burrows during the Dieppe raid, and he remained a POW until May, 1945. He has returned to France three times since the war’s end, and is pleased to make another trip.

“I am very honoured to be chosen, but very sad, too,” he said in a statement released by Veterans Affairs. (Mr. Burrows declined to be interviewed). “When I check back to my company and the POWs taken from my company, near as I can figure, there can’t be more than five of us left,” he said.

“And that’s sad.”

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