In their articles on the Dieppe Raid, both Peter Henshaw and Brian Villa go to extreme lengths to recount the events that led up to the raid and the facts of how the raid played out. In his article “Unauthorized Action: Mountbatten and the Dieppe Raid”, Villa provides a very accurate recount of the events of the raid. However Henshaw’s article “The Dieppe Raid: A Product of Misplaced Canadian Nationalism? ” goes a step further to reveal the pre-raid planning process and the chain of events that unfolded prior to the raid even being initiated.
It is my opinion that Henshaw’s article is a more persuasive commentary on the failures of the Dieppe Raid because it addresses the root of the problem and provides specific examples of where the planning process failed. Brian Villa’s article, “Unauthorized Action: Mountbatten and the Dieppe Raid” is, a factual recount of the events of the raid as they occurred. Throughout the article the author points out very few successes and many failures in the plan and as the raid progressed.
Villa writes that the seed was planted for a plan to raid Dieppe when they realized that a number of small raids would not “scarcely satisfy the Soviet Union and the War Cabinet”. To compound the mistake, the 2nd Canadian Division was employed to form the majority of the attacking force. The Commander of the 2nd Canadian Division, J. H. Roberts, had served as a regimental commander in France. Neither he nor the men under him had seen combat and lacked the experience necessary to conduct the raid.
Villa goes on to discuss the role of the Combined Operation Headquarters (COHQ) and the fact that it did not have the forces or the commanders for large operations. The COHQ was only one of many planners organizing the raid thus the plan became a “prescription for disaster. ” The Canadian Commander relied on the “British advisors at COHQ and Home Force, whereas they thoroughly imbued with the principle of a commander’s veto, assumed that if Roberts was not complaining then he must approve of the plan. To no one’s surprise “the advisors had to think of what was good for Roberts and his men, but also what was good for their own institutional interests. Not surprisingly, they tended to compromised on differences, and as long as Roberts did not protest, they cheerfully assumed that everything was proceeding well. ” One positive judgement call that was made was the decision to substituted commandos for the airborne troops originally designated to take out major flanking batteries. During the attack there were few minor successes including only 6 of the 23 landing craft actually reached the shore.
For the Royal Regiment and Black Watch, only 6 of the 500 men dispatched returned unwounded due to the fact they had landed 15 minutes late. The frontal attack carried out by the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry and the Essex Scottish was a disaster. The timing mistakes even impacted the deployment of the tanks; they were 15 minutes late providing fire support and by then had lost the momentum. Mistiming affected vital elements of the plan, there had never been chance at the center because the flanking attacks should have commenced 30 minutes prior.
The collision between the German convoy and the landing crafts should have been factored in as it was not unusual for German convoys to patrol the area. When the first mishap occurred the only feasible course of action would have been to cancel the operation due to the large scale and multiple units involved, a delay in initiation would have been impossible to communicate and re-synchronize the raid. While Villa makes a few valid points, instead of answering any questions or providing discussion he ends the article with a series of more questions.
While some questions are thought provoking, they leave the reader hanging on a thread which one would have thought should have been somewhat satisfied by the end of article. In contrast to Villa, Henshaw’s article takes the situation further than the facts and analyzes the potential issues that lead to the failure at Dieppe. The recurring theme that was evident throughout Henshaw’s article was the power struggle for the autonomy of the Canadian Forces between the British and the Canadians.
Very early in the article Henshaw questions if the Commander of the Canadian Army’s preoccupation with maintaining national control over the army’s military autonomy from Britain was to the detriment of the extreme hazards of the operation? Contrary to Villa, Henshaw states that McNaughton and Crerar were not powerless in the military and the political matters that lead to the raid. Early in the planning stages, the “British Army commanders were arguing that the raid should not proceed, while the two most senior Canadian commanders were advocating precisely the opposite course. Important to note is the fact the “Commanders of the Canadian Army in Britain were the only authority anywhere with the power to cancel the Dieppe Raid on military grounds.
” Continuing along the theme of power struggles between the British and the Canadian is McNaughton insisting on maintaining complete control over whether or not Canadian troops proceeded on operations with the British. This eventually ended with the Canadian war cabinet giving McNaughton the power to commit forces to operations as long as the British government agreed. McNaughton’s and Crerar’s belief that Home Forces would, given half a chance, disregard Canadian views and treat Canadian formations as if they were units in the British Army. ” All of these examples emphasize the power struggle for control of Canadian troops heading into battle. Henshaw makes several statements including McNaughton’s demand that any plans involving Canadian troops should be approved by him prior to submission to the Chiefs of Staff committee.
In conclusion, it is my opinion that Henshaw’s interpretation of the Dieppe Raid is far more persuasive in describing the faults that lead to the failure at Dieppe. Villa’s article is a recount of the historical events of the Dieppe Raid with some implications of where the blame lies. However, Henshaw clearly states that Dieppe Raid would not have taken place in the absence of Canadian participation. It is clear that the power struggle between the Canadian commanders and the British Home Forces regarding Canadian autonomy from British control resulted in exerting their independence in an ill-conceived raid on Dieppe.
In the end, it was the troops on the ground that paid the greatest price for Canadian Army independence in battle, and they paid that price with the thousands of lives that were lost. Henshaw’s concluding statement ties things up quite neat and tidy when stating “It was unfortunate for the troops of the 2nd Canadian Division that the commanders of the Canadian Army in Britain used their greatest independence to ensure the launched the Dieppe Raid. ” ——————————————- [ 1 ]. Brian Loring Villa, Unauthorized Action: Mountbatten and the Dieppe Raid (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1989), Pg. 9. [ 2 ]. Brian Louring Villa, Pg. 11. [ 3 ]. Brian Louring Villa, Pg. 11. [ 4 ]. Brian louring Villa, Pg. 11. [ 5 ]. Peter Henshaw, The Canadian Historical Review Vol 77 No. 2 (June 1996): 250-66, Pg. 252. [ 6 ]. Henshaw, Pg. 252 [ 7 ]. Hershaw, Pg. 257. [ 8 ]. Hershaw, Pg. 266.