Canadian soldiers who trained on Island and fought at Dieppe recalled by Peter

·3-min read
Isle of Wight County Press reader Peter Isaacs remembers the Canadian soldiers who fought in the Dieppe raids in 1942.
Isle of Wight County Press reader Peter Isaacs remembers the Canadian soldiers who fought in the Dieppe raids in 1942.

READER Peter Isaacs, who is now in his 80s, was reminded of a very special anniversary last month (July).

He was born in March 1941 and his earliest memory was of the Canadian Army at Norton and Savoy holiday camps in Yarmouth, which was later HMS Manatee.

He said: “July 1, 1942, was a Wednesday and it was also Canada Day.

“The Canadian troops based at the Norton and Savoy holiday camps, held a party for the children of the West Wight close to the sea wall at Norton on that day 80 years ago — or possibly a day or so earlier.

Isle of Wight County Press: HMS Princess Astrid, who was involved in Operation Rutter at Dieppe. Photo: Royal Navy/Imperial War Museum.
Isle of Wight County Press: HMS Princess Astrid, who was involved in Operation Rutter at Dieppe. Photo: Royal Navy/Imperial War Museum.

HMS Princess Astrid, who was involved in Operation Rutter at Dieppe. Photo: Royal Navy/Imperial War Museum.

“It was my earliest memory and I recall being pushed in a wooden crate along a steel roller conveyor line by a Canadian soldier.”

In the aftermath of the Dunkirk evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force in May 1940, the British started on the development of a substantial raiding force under the umbrella of Combined Operations Headquarters.

This was accompanied by the development of techniques and equipment for amphibious warfare.

The 4th and 6th Brigades of 2nd Canadian Infantry Division were selected to form the force that would carry out Operation Rutter — which was a forerunner to Operation Jubilee — a large scale raid on the French port of Dieppe in the summer of 1942.

A battalion of the Royal Regiment of Canada arrived at Norton on the afternoon of May, 19, 1942, from Billingshurst in Kent where they had been based since arrival in the UK in December 1940.

They were followed by the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry and the Essex Scottish Regiment — comprising the 4th Brigade.

The 6th Brigade was based elsewhere on the Isle of Wight, including Little Canada holiday camp at Wootton, which is a PGL site today.

Peter said he believes the reasons for basing the force on the Isle of Wight to carry out a period of intensive training were: A: security because of the isolation of the Island and restricted movement of civilians; B: beaches suitable for amphibious landing training and C: chalk cliffs similar to Dieppe.

Operation Rutter was set for July 4 and after their hard training completed, the troops boarded their amphibious assault ships — converted Belgian cross-channel ferries Princess Astrid and Princess Josephine Charlotte.

Between July 2 and 4, an invasion force of approximately 200 ships had assembled in The Solent, with many off Yarmouth including the two amphibious assault ships.

Bad weather ensued and on July 7, four German FW 190s attacked the two assault ships anchored in Yarmouth roads — both ships were damaged, but fortunately only four soldiers of the Royal Regiment of Canada were wounded.

All the troops were immediately transferred to other ships, but Operation Rutter cancelled on July 8 because the favourable tides and moon phase had passed.

Isle of Wight County Press: Canadian dead on Blue Beach at Dieppe. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-291-1230-13 / Meyer; Wiltberger.
Isle of Wight County Press: Canadian dead on Blue Beach at Dieppe. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-291-1230-13 / Meyer; Wiltberger.

Canadian dead on Blue Beach at Dieppe. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-291-1230-13 / Meyer; Wiltberger.

The Canadian troops did not return to the Isle of Wight and were re-located to bases in Southern England.

Operation Jubilee was launched on August 19, 1942.

The 2nd Canadian Division suffered grievous casualties, with 907 killed, 2,460 wounded and 1,946 captured

Peter said: “A disaster? Yes, but the operation was launched to test the feasibility of landing a large force on the French shore — a necessary prelude to Operation Overlord on June 6, 1944.

“As I look at a photograph of dead Canadian soldiers at Dieppe, I wonder if any of them had pushed me along those conveyor tracks at the childrens’ party?”

The Savoy and Norton camps became a Royal Navy Stone Frigate, the term for naval establishment on land, called HMS Manatee, which was the base for amphibious landing training until the end of the war.

Today Norton Grange at Yarmouth is owned by Warner Leisure Hotels, who purchased it in 1966.

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