East York’s Dieppe Park a Symbol of Local Remembrance

By Joe Cooper

Nov 08, 2007        www.insidetoronto.com

Early this week I was cycling past Dieppe Park along Memorial Drive and noticed someone had vandalized the sign.

Over top of the word Dieppe a signature tag had been placed, partly obliterating the word and definitely making the sign look ragged and ugly.

The park was named “Dieppe” in 1943 by the Township of East York as an act of remembrance for the men who had fought in one of the greatest military blunders of all times.

On Aug. 16, 1942, more than 6,000 infantrymen, predominantly Canadian, were involved in an Allied attack on the German-occupied port of Dieppe in northern France.

On that day, 3,623 of the 6,086 men who were actually able to make it to shore of France were killed, wounded or captured.

More of a practice raid than an invasion and more the product of internecine fighting between generals in disagreement about tactics, the entire exercise took place without approval of the combined chiefs of staff.

Called Operation Jubilee, the Second Canadian Infantry Division, under Major General J. H. Roberts, was the major force that attacked the port towns of Dieppe, Puys and Pourville.

In great part due to the poor preparation that had gone into planning, the raid ran into problems from the moment the troops left the docks in England and quickly escalated into a disaster upon reaching their destination.

Of the 1,027 men killed that day, 907 were Canadians, who represented 4,963 troops out of the 6,090 sent.

Only 2,210 Canadians returned to England that day, with those who remained behind being captured by the Germans or killed.

Those Canadians who were captured suffered more so than many other prisoners of war on special orders from Hitler, who demanded they be placed in shackles as a personal point of humiliation and punishment.

While some have stated the raid helped the Allies to prepare for future invasions, it has always been clear its purpose was more for military politics than learning military strategy.

This then begs the question of why, at the height of war, was an East York park named after a French port-town where such a humiliating military defeat took place.

Within the answer to that question lays an important insight into Canada, its character and the role that remembrance takes within our society.

While Canadians have fought in many wars, we are not a militaristic country nor do we encourage a warrior culture as other societies do.

What makes our voluntary military unique is that each member is a citizen first, and as a result, all members of our armed forces do their duty as our neighbours as much as for duty to country.

By naming a park “Dieppe,” each member of the Canadian Armed Forces involved in that fateful raid, no matter its strategic military outcome, are now members of our community.

It is indeed a sad thing that there are people in our community who would deface the name “Dieppe” with their own, given the thousand of honourable names that port-town presents.

Lest we forget.

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