There are several notable events deserving of remembrance during the month of August. This BLOG post will expand on a few of those events.
The Dieppe Raid – Not Our Finest Hour
On August 19, 1942, a pre-dawn raid on Dieppe, France (codenamed Operation Jubilee) was launched. It began shortly before 5am with approximately 5000 Canadians disembarking landing craft on the beaches of Dieppe. What was suppose to be an incursion on a “lightly defended” target area turned into Canada’s bloodiest battle of WWII.
By 5:30am, the troops had suffered heavy losses and were pinned down against the sea-wall by a fortress of heavily armed & well-manned enemy pillboxes. They had no place to go.
At 11:00am, evacuation measures were implemented but the enemy firepower was relentless and the order to withdraw was given at 12:20pm.
After 7 ½ hours, 2200 Canadians were evacuated. Over 900 were killed. 1900 were left to surrender and be captured as POW’s.
The lessons learned at Dieppe proved instrumental in the later successful invasion at Normandy, but the cost suffered by Canadians that day will be forever remembered.
August (1945) also saw the end of hostilities with Japan, although the official signing didn’t take place until September. Because Britain’s resources were so taxed with the war effort in Europe, Canada had supplied troops to help secure British holdings elsewhere in the world. Prior to December 1941, Canadians had only seen active combat in a Naval and Air Force capacity. The troops in Hong Kong were only ever expected to be engaged in “Garrison Duty”.
In December, 1941, the same day as Japan attacked Pearl Harbour, so did they invade Western assets in China. The Battle of Hong Kong was the first Canadian land combat of WWII. The troops were ill-equipped and ill-trained to defend against the Japanese military. Out-gunned and out-manned, nearly 2000 Canadian troops (made up from the Winnipeg Grenadiers and the Royal Rifles of Canada) fought bravely but 2 weeks later, surrendered on Christmas Day 1941.
290 Canadians were killed and another 493 wounded during the battle and immediate aftermath. Another 264 would die while suffering under the brutal conditions imposed in the Japanese POW camps.
Sgt.-Maj. John Osborn of Winnipeg was the first Canadian to be awarded the Victoria Cross in WWII for his heroic act of sacrifice when he saved many of his fellow soldiers by shouting a warning and then throwing himself onto a live grenade. He was killed instantly.
The first Gulf War
August 1990 saw the first of several deployments of Canadian military in the first Gulf War. The Canadian Naval Task Group–consisting of the destroyers HMCS Terra Nova and HMCS Athabaskan, and the supply ship HMCS Protecteur–helped support the Coalition fleet efforts in the region. Five Sea King helicopters with No. 443 Squadron were also part of this force.
The Gulf War marked the first time that female Canadian Armed Forces members performed combat duties.