Monday, August 20, 2012

Dieppe and the Lost Myth

It was good to see that some of the soldiers who took part in the Dieppe Raid were able to make it back to that bloody beach today.

And that so many people in the town turned out to greet them like heroes.

I'm also glad that we may finally know the main reason for the raid.

In a new documentary, Dieppe Uncovered, airing Sunday and Monday on History Television, and forthcoming book titled Dieppe Decoded, he argues that the mission was designed solely to provide cover for 15 to 20 ultra-secret commandos. That unit, pulled together specifically for Dieppe, had their eye on Hotel Moderne, where they hoped to snatch documents, books, even the infamous Enigma machine -- anything that would help crack the Germans’ revamped coding system.

Although it really doesn't change anything. It was a military catastrophe from beginning to end. 

And what makes it even sadder for me is that we have been unable to rescue anything from the rubble of that blood soaked day. Not even a myth that could help bind us together.

For in the history of English and French Canada it was a special moment. The first time they fought and died together in the Second World War, the one that really made us a nation.

For who could tell one from the other that day?

And then there's what happened afterwards, when the Vichy Regime tried to drive a wedge between the French and English Canadian prisoners. And failed.

They had gallows in there and it had this smell, this is where the Vichy French Government tried to split the French Canadians and the English Canadians, you know, they done it a way back then. And they were giving out cigarettes and biscuits and cakes to the French fellas, the French speaking guys. And so they asked an officer, the officers were still with us, that’s where they took the officers away. And the French Canadian officer said, “Yes, accept the offering but split it with the Anglophones.”

The German’s told the French Canadians that they shouldn’t be fighting because France wasn’t at war and an officer said, “Listen, we are all Canadians, we are all Canadians and Canada’s at war with Germany.” And that was what was said and I heard it said, see.

And when the Germans chained the prisoners, and offered to spare the ones from Quebec, they refused and marched in chains with their fellow Canadians all the way to Germany.

In any other country this story would have been made into a myth. The boys from Canada, who would not let the Vichy traitors divide them. Who were killed by the Nazis, and screwed by the British.

The Dieppe story made instant headlines worldwide. Unfortunately, the British Army's press services did not mention the part played by the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division. It was several weeks before Canadian public opinion realized what a failure Operation Jubilee had been, and how many of its own had died in action.

In America they would have made movies about it. But not here. 

Where these days you can't read a story about anything that happens in Quebec, without reading disgusting comments insulting Quebecers and demanding they leave Canada.

For what we would not allow others to do to us, we would do to ourselves.

You know, as someone who lives with a French Canadian, or a Québécois, I rather like what Hugh MacLennan once wrote:

Love consists in this, that two solitudes protect, and touch and greet each other.

But Dieppe was that and more written in blood. Remember that lost myth.

Don't let the Quebec haters destroy this country...

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  1. We live in BC we do not hate Quebecois anymore than we hate people from Newfoundland or Nunavut, we enjoy all Canadians and their cultural differences, this is what makes Canada unique and special among the worlds great countries.

    We do however hate our BC Liberal con clone government and Stephen and the rest of his jack-ass zombies are beyond hatred, they are so far out of touch with reality...

    I personally shudder, this is one thing English and French Canadians can certainly agree upon, am I right?

    1. hi Mogs...Yup.You got it. There is one thing that most French and English Canadians agree upon: Stephen Harper and his Con Regime have got to go. Get rid of that threat and the threat of separatism will evaporate...

    2. Hope so...

      In the mean time enjoy my friend Mary's song...


      All Canadians deserve the right to be free...

      Un-fucin fortunately we have to fight for it as the deck is loaded against us. Sigh we are eco terrorists for loving the Earth. Think about it Simon and the readership of this humble blog for wanting to preserve the most beautiful planet ever discovered in the entire universe by our own scientists... Oh I forgot in Stevie's world scientist's are still heretics, ya whatever...

      We are terrorists?

      How about the oil man that kicked my mom off of her inherited property for the sake of black gold? These men are evil and driven like the ilk's of Harper...

      F Harper:)

  2. Anonymous12:28 PM

    The French Canadian soldiers were excellent soldiers. We were proud of all our boys.

    How many nationalities of soldiers, were there in Canada? We didn't know and we didn't care. They all bled and died for Canada. Even the Japanese of Canada, fought for spite of the indignity that was set upon them. The F.N. people fought in that war too. They weren't even acknowledged by this country. Their pride in fighting for this country, was stomped on. No recognition what-so-ever. The F.N. were the best shots. They needed very little training.

    War is ugly, nasty and brutal. On Remembrance Day, we remember all of our boys, no matter what nationality they were and are. When they died, they died for us and this country.

    1. hi're absolutely right. Canadians of all races and creeds fought and died for this country, and they would not want to see us destroy it. We all need to remember that more so we don't just mourn the dead,we celebrate the country they left us...

  3. I didn't know anything about any of that.

    1. hi thwap...yeah a lot of Canadians don't either. As you know I'm not a militarist, but I do believe in trying to retrieve something from the carnage of war. I know a fair bit about Dieppe from my kinship with this Simon...,_15th_Lord_Lovat

      And it really bugs me that we haven't been able to turn that Dieppe story into something that can enrich our limited mythology, and make us celebrate each other more...

    2. Anonymous6:49 PM

      Thwap's ignorant..............shocker!

  4. Anonymous3:32 PM

    I had six members of my family, that were in that war. The F.N. people and many of our Canadian farm boys, were excellent shots. Back then, they had to hunt wild game, to feed family's. My 17 year old brother, a Canadian farm boy on the prairies, was the crack shot of his outfit. So were most of the F.N. people. They knew how to handle a rifle, long before they even got to boot camp. There were kids sent into battle, who barely knew how to fire a rifle. Canadian bush pilots, were used to flying by the seat of their pants. They were good pilots.

    I am hoping, there will be a web site set up, for the Canadian Veterans to damned well say, what they went through. Anyone who says, the F.N. and other ethnic soldiers were not good soldiers....Well, I would like them, to be thrown into a firefight. If these wise guys and if, their mouths were big enough, perhaps they could get both of their feet in it.

    1. hi anonymous...I find the story of Canada's F.N. soldiers fascinating, and I wish that more Canadians were aware of their record, so they would respect native people more.
      But I've seen more movies about F.N. soldiers in the American army than I have ever seen here. When will we ever learn?

  5. Awesome post Simon as this is a topic close to my heart. I have yet to read anything that would justify this debacle. Dieppe to me is a foil to the Vimy Ridge of WWI. Vastly different outcomes but poignant examples of Canadians of all colours and creeds working, living, fighting and often dying together.

  6. hi Way Way Up...thanks, I'm glad you liked the post. I feel pretty strongly about Dieppe, and although we went on to bigger things like Juno beach, or the liberation of Holland, it will always mean something special to me. You had soldiers from all over the country involved in such a monumental tragedy, it should bring us together even more than a military victory. We really need to start remembering that we're all in the same boat, and start celebrating ourselves more, or this country could fly apart...

    1. Anonymous9:57 PM

      "One of the outstanding intelligence break-through of the war came on 9th May 1941 with the capture of an intact Enigma machine, the German encoding device that they believed to be impossible to break. The British had assembled a team of brilliant academics at Bletchley Park who were making steady progress with the task of deciphering German messages encoded with ‘Enigma’ machines. They already possessed one Enigma machine, passed on by Polish Intelligence before the war. What were needed were the internal rotors in the machines that were currently being used. A number of schemes had been devised to capture these but the boarding of U-110 came as an unexpected bonus.

      The U-boat had been forced to surface after depth charging, the crew had abandoned ship believing that the U-boat was already sinking. The surviving crew were rescued and quickly taken below decks so that they would not be aware that the boat was to be boarded. The commander of the boat Lemp died possibly shot as he attempted to swim back to the boat to sink her.
      The Dieppe raid was on the 19th of August 1942 and history says the rest. There would have been no immediate need to raid for an Enigma machine though other intelligence items would have been of value for sure. Its failure was due to poor planning, untried Churchill tanks and scout cars and straight out of the cosmoline Sten guns. Sometimes shitty plans take on a life of there own and cannot be stopped. Just ask the Vets who enjoyed 3 plus years at the hands of the Kamloops Kid.

  7. Merci de ce billet! Très intéressant!