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National ceremony in Windsor, Ont., marks 80th anniversary of raid in Dieppe, France

A national memorial Friday at Dieppe Gardens in Windsor, Ont., remembered Canadians who died 80 years ago in a bloody raid in Dieppe, France.

Some veterans joined Ontario’s lieutenant-governor, and numerous military and political officials at the ceremony hosted by Veterans Affairs Canada. The Essex and Kent Regimental Association, which lost 121 members in the raid, also participated.

Among those attending the ceremony were veteran John L. Date, one of the last surviving members of the Dieppe raid.

Date was born on Feb. 1, 1922, in Sarnia, Ont. Soon after he landed on the beaches of Dieppe, he was knocked unconscious from an explosion. When he came to, the battle was over and he was taken prisoner by the German army. He would remain a prisoner of war until near the end of the war, when Allied planes dropped leaflets instructing the German army to surrender to Date and his fellow prisoners.

Three members of the regiment were at ceremonies in Dieppe, France, on Friday. 

  • LISTEN|Reservists from the Essex and Kent Regimental Association join Windsor Morning:

Windsor Morning7:1080th Dieppe anniversary in France

3 reservists from the Essex and Kent Scottish Regiment speak with CBC Windsor Morning host Nav Nanwa about the 80th anniversary ceremonies of the Dieppe raid in France.

Fellow Second World War veteran Arthur Boon was also at the ceremony in Windsor. He was born on Nov. 12, 1924, in Peterborough, England, and now lives in Stratford, Ont.

Boon landed on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. He stressed that while Dieppe was a disaster, it was an important learning experience for Allied troops.

“That’s why the raid was on — to learn that stuff, find out the mistakes, and correct them when we go back to Normandy.”

National ceremony remembers the raid

Theresa Sims, the Indigenous storyteller for the City of Windsor, drummed and sang a song of welcome to all those present.

Master of ceremonies Robert Löken delivered opening remarks, describing the situation in Europe at the time of the raid.

Honorary Col. Joseph Ouellette, of the Essex and Kent Regimental Association, also spoke, including remembering the soldiers who paid the ultimate price.

Canadian soldiers standing in formation at a memorial ceremony
Some of the members of the Essex and Kent Scottish Regiment at the national ceremony in Windsor, Ont., at Dieppe Gardens, named in memory of regiment members who lost their lives during the Second World War landing at Dieppe, France, in 1942. (Elvis Nouemsi Njike/Radio-Canada)

Windsor-Tecumseh MP Irek Kusmierczyk and Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens also addressed the ceremony.

Dilkens spoke of his experience seeing veterans he had met the previous night, and touched on conflicts currently happening around the world, including the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“We have come so far from those days on the beach in France,” said Dilkens. “And yet, you can call tell, we have so far to go.”

A soldiers delivers remembrance remarks at a podium.
Honourary Col. Joseph Ouellette delivers remarks at Friday’s national ceremony. (Darrin Di Carlo/CBC)

Stones that were collected by soldiers on the Dieppe beach were part of the remembrance.

They are the stones that bear the scuff marks of war boots; young men, scrambling frantically to find some safe place on a beach where there was none.– Honorary Col. Joseph Ouellette

Löken, for instance, was handed a stone by a soldier, making him reflect on its significance.

“I find it difficult to hold this and not think about what everyone went through,” he said.

The Act of Remembrance was delivered in English, French and Potawatomi. Morgan Lawrence and Alessandra Pietrangelo then delivered the Commitment to Remember in the three languages on behalf of Canadian young people.

A soldier sitting in a Jeep
Dieppe veteran John L. Date was an honoured guest at the ceremony. He laid a wreath at the Dieppe Red Beach Memorial on behalf of all Dieppe, France, veterans. (Elvis Nouemsi Njike/Radio-Canada)

The song The Last Post was played at 12:52 p.m. ET, and two minutes of silence followed at 12:54 p.m. The Rouse and The Reveille as well as The Lament were played.

At 12:58 p.m., wreaths were laid by Date, Kusmierczyk, Col. Bruno Heluin of the Defence Attaché of the French Embassy, Ontario MPP Andrew Dowie, Dilkens, Cmdr. Richard Hillier of the HMCS Hunter, as well as members of the Essex and Kent Regiment and Regimental Association. Lily Zitko, Faiha Alhussainawi, Emma Hennessy and Lila Ezwawi also laid a wreath on behalf of the youth of Canada.

Memorial wreaths laid at a war memorial
Some of the wreaths that were laid at the Dieppe Red Beach Memorial on Friday. (Darrin Di Carlo/CBC)

Silver Cross Mother Theresa Charbonneau laid a wreath at the Silver Cross Monument on behalf of all Silver Cross Mothers. Her son, Andrew Grenon, was killed while serving in Afghanistan.

God Save the Queen was played and the ceremony ended with Löken thanking everyone who made it possible.

‘One of the most difficult and tragic days’

During the Dieppe raid on Aug. 19, 1942, the Allies initially planned to land on the shore under cover of darkness, said Veterans Affairs Canada. But the landing was delayed. As the assault forces were en route, they came across a small German convoy. 

national ceremony in windsor ont marks 80th anniversary of raid in dieppe france 4
Members of the Royal Canadian Medical Corps get Allied soldiers out from the beach after the failed Dieppe, France, raid during the Second World War. (The Canadian Press)

The sound of the battle between the two alerted a German coastal defence force, Veterans Affairs said. As the Allies landed, the enemy was waiting. 

Canadians made up the majority of the troops in the assault, and 916 of 4,963 died. There were 3,367 casualties altogether, including 1,946 prisoners of war.

A boat full of men in military uniforms is being pushed off the beach by two others who are up to their ankles in the water. In the distance, there are ships and plumes of smoke.
Allies conduct a final exercise before landing at Dieppe, France. (Library and Archives Canada)

In a statement on Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the Dieppe raid was “one of the most difficult and tragic days” for Canada during the Second World War.

He called it a “devastating setback,” but there were lessons that ultimately led to victory over Nazi Germany.

“On this day, we pay tribute to the thousands of Canadians who made the ultimate sacrifice at Dieppe,” he said. “I invite everyone to take part in a commemorative event to mark this solemn anniversary, and to honour the memory of those who have defended our values of peace, freedom, and justice.”

national ceremony in windsor ont marks 80th anniversary of raid in dieppe france 6
An Allied plane is shown in the skies above Dieppe, France, on Aug. 19, 1942, the day of the failed raid. (Minister of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada/PA-183771)

A memorial at Square du Canada in the town of Dieppe remembers the Canadian contribution. The plaque reads:”On the 19th of August 1942 on the beaches of Dieppe our Canadian cousins marked with their blood the road to our final liberation foretelling thus their victorious return on September 1, 1944.”

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