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Dieppe (part one)
27 February 1942, British parachutists raided St. Bruneval France. They
captured parts of a German Würzburg radar set.
The target at Dieppe was Germany's basic radar equipment--the Freya
The Würzburg, operated an ultra short wavelength, it's range 30 Kilometre.
The larger Freya radar on a longer wavelength had a range of 200 Kilometre.
Freya saw Allied aircraft almost as soon as they became airborne under an
In 1941, British listening posts had become aware of signals emitted by the
new, high-powered Freya installed atop a cliff between the seaport of Dieppe
and Pourville, three kilometre farther west.
Operation Jubilee, the Raid on Dieppe, was to examine Freya and remove vital
parts. American and Soviet pressure to open a second front against the
Germans to help relieve the hard-pressed Soviets to the east. Official
British history, states (it was to) "test the enemy's coast defences and
discover what resistance would be met in seizing a port; it also hoped to
inflict wastage on the German Air Force, thereby giving some relief to
Russia." Allied capabilities were not prepared for full-scale invasion in
1942 no matter what Winston Churchill lobbied for.
Dieppe is only 100 Kilometre from England. Dieppe had hosted William's
Norman fleet in 1066. Dieppe been occupied by the Germans during the
Franco-Prussian War of 1870
The higher echelons made a decision, based on imperfect intelligence, for
frontal assault on a well-defended gravel and pebble beach without initial
air bombardment and with nominal naval fire support.
Jubilee included a main contingent of Canadian assisted by British, French
and fifty U.S. Army Rangers, the first American troops to land in Europe
since World War I. Objectives were to destroy enemy installations (including
the inland airfield at St. Aubin), capture Germans for interrogation, steal
documents, bring back moored enemy invasion barges, release French
prisoners, and tackle the Freya site atop its 100 metre high cliff.
The unit assaulting the Freya site would have to include a radar expert. The
twenty-four-year-old Flight Sgt. Jack Maurice Nissenthall Royal Air Force.
Nissenthall had volunteered for "special missions in which my expertise
would be of value," was chosen for the work.. An electronics specialist,
Nissenthall was a cockney from London's East End. He was the son of a Polish
Jewish tailor who had arrived in Britain 1912.
Jack Nissenthall knew British radar secrets that had to be kept from the
Germans, the printed orders received by officers in charge of the Freya
assault team stated that the "RDF (radio direction finder) expert must under
no circumstances fall into enemy hands." 10 riflemen of Company A of the
Canadian 2nd Division's South Saskatchewan Regiment were to provide security
for Nissenthall. If RAF sergeant Nissenthall was in danger of being captured
by the enemy he was to be killed.
Over 6,000 men sailed southward from five southeastern British ports on
board 237 vessels, objective "Fortress Europe." Awaiting them the German
Fifteenth Army's 571st Infantry Battalion, backed by the 302nd Infantry
Division, and panzer forces.. The German defences had been strengthened in
the wake of a 9 July dictate from the Führer "it is highly probable that an
enemy landing will take place shortly in the area." The period from 10 to 19
August was selected by the German high command as "invasion possible"
because of favourable moon and tides.
A five-ship enemy fleet intercepted the Allied flotilla. The German convoy's
three small escort vessels battered one British Commando group's landing
craft before being counterattacked by the Allied Polish destroyer Slazak.
Antenna damage prevented the German escort vessels from warning the mainland
of the approaching invasion force, but, as it turned out, no warning was
During the 10-minute naval engagement, the Freya radar operator on cliff top
detected five columns of vessels 30 kilometres offshore. Jubilee was
stripped of it's last secret.
Two Commando groups made a dash from their mother ships to beaches east and
west of Dieppe. The Commandos were to silence the heavy artillery batteries
flanking the city so that the tank-supported main assault against Dieppe's
narrow streets and protected harbour could be made.
The South Saskatchewan Regiment's ploughed shoreward on the left flank of
the westernmost Commando group. Objective? Green Beach, at Pourville! RAF
sergeant Jack Nissenthall--nicknamed "Spook" was with the Canadians
Nissenthall was armed only with a revolver. He carried a blue RAF haversack
crammed with hand tools.
Intense hostile fire began shortly after the Canadians were spit onto Green
Company A was to dash up the cliff slope to attack the radar site while
Company C held the village. Companies B and D were to move inland and block
enemy reinforcements. One more Canadian unit, the Queen's Own Cameron
Highlanders, was to go inland attacking the St. Aubin airfield 5 kilometres
Nissenthall and his bodyguards crossed the rocky beach in early light to the
protection of a sea wall topped with barbed wire, when they reached that
position they become conscious the navy had deposited them nearly 500 metres
too far to the west. They were not at the base of the Freya cliff on the
other side of Pourville, Company A was in front of the German-occupied
village. Using scaling ladders, they climbed over the 8-foot-high sea wall,
and crossed an open esplanade advancing into Pourville.
British fighter aircraft overhead to provided cover for the Allied troops.
Small-arms fire and grenade rent the air with cordite stench and smoke as
the brave invaders fitfully battled into the town.. An obnoxious path dead
and writhing soldier's bodies marked their course. Following the seashore
through Pourville, Company A found the passageway to its objective blocked
by angry squat pillboxes at both ends of a bridge crossing the diminutive
River Scie. An unpaved lane meandered up to the cliff face. On top of the
cliff, the Freya antenna systematically and casually scanned the air
continuing to report Allied fighter aeroplane whereabouts. They moved
through the shadows, they slip away through the trees. Crossing German lines
in the mists of the shore on their hands and their knees it was all that
they ever was able to see. The fire in the air glowing red silhouetting the
smoke on the breeze.
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