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Lorne Scots at Dieppe

When the Lorne Scots were mobilized in 1941, their role was to provide protective units for the brigades, divisions and corps of the Canadian Army, and for the army headquarters itself. The newly mobilized regiment trained at Standard Barracks in Hamilton, then went to England, where it was dispersed to the many components of the army. To fill its vacancies, soldiers from other regiments augmented the various defence platoons and companies of the Lorne Scots.

To give some cohesion to the separated Lorne Scots sub-units, and to give their new members a sense to the regiment to which they now belonged, a month-long Lorne Scots Training Battalion gathered them all together, to train at Sheffield Park in Sussex, in June of 1942.

Lorne Scots Training Battalion Sheffield Park, June 1942

When the training ended, the sub-units were reformed. No. 6 Defence Platoon, for example, was located with the 6th Canadian Infantry Brigade Headquarters in Lower Beeding, Sussex. On July 6th, the War Diary notes that it was now at full strength, with one officer (Lieutenant Edward Norris) and 36 other ranks. Some of the soldiers had come from the Fusiliers Mont-Royal, who were part of the 6th Brigade, and from many other regiments. On Tuesday morning, August 18th 1942, Lieutenant Norris and 13 other members of No. 6 Defence Platoon prepared to go on Exercise Ford I with the Brigade HQ Group. They arrived at Newhaven at 1900 hours, ate a hot meal provided by the navy, and at about 2000 hours embarked on their LCTs (Landing Craft Tanks). They learned that Exercise Ford was continuing as Operation Jubilee, a Combined Operations raid on Dieppe. The men were briefed on the operation and their defence tasks, and Mr Norris issued additional arms and equipment.

Lieutenant Ed Norris

The Canadian Army had remained in England, preparing for home defence, and for the invasion of Europe. It had not taken part in the North African campaign, partly because of Canadian insistence that its army would fight under Canadian command, and not be broken up. In 1942, the brunt of Germany’s war was on its eastern front, and when Russia asked its allies to apply pressure in the west, they agreed to attack the French seaport of Dieppe. Two brigades of the Canadian 2nd Division – the 4th and 6th Canadian Infantry Brigades – were chosen to supply most of the troops, augmented by British commandos. Parts of the two defence platoons went with their respective brigade headquarters.

It was a clear, starry night when the LCIs (Landing Craft Infantry) moved out of Newhaven harbour at 2015 hours, followed by LCTs at 2100 hrs. Travelling on LCT 7, Mr Norris’ Defence Section of six men were to protect Brigadier Southam. Their craft carried three Churchill tanks from the Calgary Regiment, who were to clear an area to set up the headquarters, and a signal cart. The group included

  1. Corporal J.W. Smith from Manitoba

  2. Lance Corporal D.W.R. Gunn from Manitoba

  3. Lance Corporal Ronald Hancox from Winnipeg

  4. Private Gord Lane from Georgetown

  5. Private A.W. Moore from Georgetown

  6. Private Keith ‘Koopie’ Spence from Georgetown,

CSM John Irvine from Acton had a section of five on LCT 9:

  1. Corporal Ovide Breault, from the Fusiliers Mont-Royal

  2. Private Antonio Dubois from Point aux Trembles

  3. Private J.A. Lebel, from the Fusiliers Mont-Royal

  4. Private William Rosenberger from Regina

  5. Private Charles Seed from St James, Manitoba.

At 0400 hours on Wednesday morning, they sighted the French coast, and heard heavy explosions. Shortly after 0430 hours the sky over Dieppe was lit up by intense flak and bombardment. Zero hour for the operation was 0450, with the LCT set to touch down at zero plus 75. LCT 7 closed in to shore but the harbour was hidden by curtain of smoke. The men were in high spirits and anticipation. About 100 yards from the beach, machine gun and other small arms fire laced the LCT. The men ducked for cover, swearing and cracking jokes to hide their nervousness. At 0605 they touched down on White Beach, between the Casino and the tobacco factory. An artillery shell penetrated the port side of the LCT, blew the top side outward, and detonated the gas cylinder on a second Churchill tank. The concussion floored most of the personnel on the port side of the Churchills; shrapnel struck Lieutenant Norris in the chest, and Sergeant Scott of the Signals in the arm. The 46 radio set was put out of operation. Two more shells come in the port side of the LCTs; the injured included Lance Corporal Hancox and Private Moore.

Two beached Calgary Highlanders tanks and LCT 5 in flames. Library and Archives Canada.

The Churchills drove on to the beach, attracting the artillery fire for a few minutes, and giving the Engineers and remaining personnel time to rally for the dash to the beach. When the ramp went down, the interior of the LCT was sprayed by machine gun and rifle fire, coming from the buildings directly in front of it. The Brigadier and some of the Engineers got on the beach, and they took cover beside the tanks. Private Lebel noticed the Brigadier pick up some papers from a soldier on the ground – perhaps the copy of the operational order that the Germans recovered. Artillery fire on the LCT and ramp prevented any more disembarking. A small shell exploded over the 19 set, which was in the process of being wheeled off, killing the signals sergeant and wounding two or three more. A machine gun bullet penetrated Private Lane’s helmet and hit him in the head. The LCT was forced to pull off shore and waited about a mile out for the withdrawal order, “Vanquish”.

The CSM’s section waded ashore with the Brigadier, and Private Lebel was hit in the leg and back by shrapnel, and was returned to the LCT. The rest of the section (CSM Irvine, Corporal Breault, and Privates Dubois, Rosenberger and Seed) was reported missing. When the missing soldiers’ kit was returned to stores on August 28th, there was still no word on their fate, though it was soon learned that CSM Irvine was captured and in a hospital in France.

Brigade HQ Group “A” transferred to LCT 10, and about 1030 hours LCT 7 was tied up alongside it. When withdrawal was ordered at 1100 hours, the platoon commander evacuated wounded and other personnel from LCT 7 to LCT 10, in order to enable LCT 7 to return for troops on the beaches. LCT 10 was crippled, with its ramp out of order and one engine disabled, and had to be towed. German aircraft attacked it, but were chased off by Spitfires. Private Spence was to engage enemy aircraft, but had no tracer to observe his fire, and had run out of ammunition, since the craft carrying the stores had been hit. He had helped Hancox, Moore and Lane on board. The Germans were concentrating their fire on the craft in the water, leaving those on the shore till later, and LCT 10 pulled many soldiers of the Fusiliers Mont-Royal from the water. As they pulled away, they saw LCT 7 sink. They arrived back in Newhaven at 2100 hours, were fed, and the wounded were evacuated to hospital. Keith Spence wrote home to his parents, ‘It was really terrible, and I hope I never see so many boys die that way again.’

No. 4 Defence Platoon was commanded by Lieutenant F.D. Gooderham, was also divided: “A” Group with Brigadier Sherwood Lett on LCT 8 and “B” Group with the Brigade Major on LCT 10. Corporal Larry Gater with Privates E. McDougall and Stephen Prus were to act as bodyguards for Brigadier Lett and would have been with him aboard LCT 8, as a series of shells and mortar bombs exploded in the craft, leaving forty men dead or wounded. Prus was beside the brigadier when the latter was wounded in the arm, and carried him on a stretcher to the evacuation craft. Private Joe Tymkow was also part of this platoon.

It’s likely that some of No. 2 Defence and Employment Platoon were with the divisional headquarters and Major General J.H. Roberts, who commanded the operation from aboard HMS Calpe. We don’t have the War Diary for the platoon, but it was commanded by Lieutenant Wilfred Leach from Orangeville. His record leaves out what he was doing in August 1942, but the Orangeville Banner reported that his parents had received a cablegram that their son was well and unharmed, and speculated that Leach was with his platoon on the destroyer.

Lieutenant Wilfred Leach

When the newspaper of Military District No. 2, The Bullet, featured an article about The Lorne Scots in 1944, it suggested that about fifty Lorne Scots were part of a protective platoon at Dieppe, and a number were killed or taken prisoner. The uncertainty of the article suggests that during the second world war (unlike the first) the unit back home was not in close contact with the unit or men overseas.

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