By Deb Robert
August 19, 1942 was a gut punch felt across the nation. Nearly 5,000 Canadian soldiers came ashore in the Normandy region of Northern France, supported by 1,000 British commandos and 50 American Army Rangers.
The launch of the Dieppe Raid by Allied Forces, code-named Operation Jubilee, quickly descended into our nation’s bloodiest day of WWII.
The battle on the beaches of Dieppe resulted in catastrophic Canadian casualties with 907 killed, 2,460 wounded, and 1,946 captured.
Inaccurate intelligence and inadequate air cover made the landing operation disastrous as soldiers faced fierce enemy fire and barb-wired seawalls while struggling to get to shore.
Retreat was the only option, with the Allies leaving behind overturned tanks and thousands of dead and wounded soldiers strewn across the beach.
Private Allan Douglas Anderson, aged 21, from a farm near Egypt, and Sutton resident Lance Corporal Donald Smith, aged 24, both of the Royal Canadian Regiment, were killed on that day.
“He giveth his beloved sleep” reads the gravestone of Private Anderson where he lays at the Dieppe Canadian War Cemetery as does LCpl Smith, who was newly married before sent overseas. Their stories are depicted in photos (including Smith’s wedding picture), letters, and diaries at the Georgina Military Museum.
“They interviewed prisoners of war when they were released and debriefed a corporal who reported that he last saw Anderson on a landing craft tipped over from an explosion,” said Sid Giddings, past president of the museum.
“Unfortunately, the corporal witnessed Anderson receiving a shot to the head and falling in the water.”
Museum photos depict German soldiers in their best kit at a full military burial for Canadian soldiers.
“They honoured our brave men who didn’t flinch and created total havoc,” said Giddings.
On August 19th, 2022, York-Simcoe MP Scot Davidson was in France as part of a Canadian contingent to mark the 80th anniversary of Dieppe. The delegation included WWII veterans and Indigenous organizations, along with youth and parliamentarians.
Accompanied by a chaplain, Davidson paid respects to Anderson and Smith, placing a Canadian flag, poppy, and rose at their gravesites. Informed by Davidson of the gesture, Sutton resident Doug Anderson appreciated the commemoration of his uncle who is his namesake.
Davidson also visited the Dieppe beach alongside Gordon Fennell, a veteran of the raid, now 100 years old.
“I stood with Gordon who is in a wheelchair. He pointed to the cliffs, and said, ‘This is where my friends were getting killed.’ He was going back in time and taking me with him.”
Davidson gifted a commemorative banner signed by WWII veterans – with Fennell as the first signatory – to the French government. In turn, he received a French medallion celebrating the valour of our heroes which is now housed at Georgina Military Museum along with a replica banner.
Davidson also brought to France the Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation flag to recognize the outstanding contributions of Indigenous soldiers.
“We were so well received. It was a moving experience. I was obviously honoured to be chosen to go, to stand on the same beach where Canadians fought and died.”
Reflecting on the sacrifices made by our Canadian soldiers, Davidson said, “Their stories ended too soon.”
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