Of all the battles in the Second World War, Canadians most closely associate the 1942 raid at Dieppe with the term sacrifice. With stunning suddenness, Hitler's army had swept across Western Europe. Britain itself was threatened but survived Germany's massive bombing offensive during the dark hours of the Battle of Britain.

Casualty on the Beach at Dieppe, by A. Hierl.
Copyright Canadian War Museum (CN 14423).

Casualty on the Beach at Dieppe, by A. Hierl.

The Dieppe raid on 19 August 1942 was a difficult test for Canadian troops. The raid was ill-conceived, accounting neither for the topographical features that favoured the defenders nor for the formidable German fortifications. Despite their valorous efforts, the Canadians made little headway and had to retreat. More than half of the 5,000-strong Canadian contingent did not return home to England that day.

The raid on Dieppe would be the first large scale attempt to challenge German forces in occupied Europe. It was a Canadian mission. In fact, it was the first major Canadian land battle of the war. It ended in disaster -- and in controversy -- as veterans, politicians, and then scholars argued over the merits of the raid. Nonetheless, the bravery of Canadian soldiers, despite nearly impossible odds and the tragic waste of life, guaranteed that Dieppe, above all, would be remembered as a testament to the courage and fortitude of Canada's soldiers.

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