By Richard Sanders

Just mention the word “Dieppe” around older Canadians and you’ll be stirring up a hornet’s nest.  The Dieppe raid was the worst disaster in Canadian military history; and everybody involved tries to pass the buck; but the real truth is that it was not an accident, but deliberate – and that buck stops with Churchill, Lord Mountbatten and, specifically, General Andrew McNaughton, the same McNaughton who designed and ran the hated ‘relief camps’ during the Depression.

Dieppe, August 19, 1942, 0500h. Landing craft filled with about 50 U.S. Army Rangers, 1000 British troops, and 5000 Canadian soldiers are behind schedule. At 0507h the sun comes up, the first craft still 30 meters off shore and the Germans begin firing, shooting them like fish in a barrel.

In a retrospective article of Nov. 8, 2012, the grandson of Captain L.G. Alexander, a Calgary doctor and medical officer for the 14th Canadian Army Tank Regiment (Calgary Regiment) who survived,  writes in the Rocky Mountain Outlook of Banff, Alberta:

“Our boat was now [about 9 am] hopeless,” Alexander wrote of LCT 8. “All the Naval crew were either killed or blown overboard and we floated sideways into the Beach, receiving broadsides from all of the shore guns. Machine gun bullets were beating a constant tattoo on the boat. Explosions were occurring inside and out, and at one time the inside of the boat was a sheet of flame.

“Men were blown overboard, many of whom I had just finished bandaging when I turned back I found had been killed, and nearly all were blown completely off the ship … By now, of the 130 men who set out on LCT 8 the day before, 97 had been killed, wounded or captured. The smokestack and bridge of LCT 8 had been blown away. The hull was riddled with holes, both numerous small ones and 32 larger ones caused by shelling.

The British provided very little air support for the infantrymen trying to land, ostensibly for fear of causing too many civilian casualties! The naval bombardment from British ships amounted to mere pin pricks; the Germans were fighting from fortified strong points so that hundreds of the assault troops never made it off the beaches, and within a few hours, nearly 2000 were forced to surrender. The Churchill tanks that were supposed to support the infantry immediately got mired down in the pebbles on the steep beaches, and every single one of them was destroyed.

Who was responsible for this disaster? Even General Montgomery had wanted to scrub the plan after the original date of July 4 had to be postponed because of bad weather:

“[Once the original plan was postponed] …it was reasonable to expect that it was now a common subject of conversation in billets and pubs in the south of England, since nearly 5000 Canadian soldiers were involved as well as considerable numbers of sailors and airmen. … But Combined Operations Headquarters thought otherwise; they decided to revive it and got the scheme approved by the British Chiefs of Staff towards the end of July. When I heard of this I was very upset; I considered that it would no longer be possible to maintain secrecy. Accordingly I wrote to General Paget, C.-in-C. Home Forces, telling him of my anxiety, and recommending that the raid on Dieppe should be considered cancelled “for all time.” If it was considered desirable to raid the Continent, then the objective should not be Dieppe. This advice was disregarded. On the 10th August I left England to take command of the Eighth Army in the desert.” (1)

Clearly, Churchill’s hand-picked ‘Adviser on Combined Operations’ Commodore Lord Louis Mountbatten had no such qualms.  As for General McNaughton, he had been working hand-in-glove with the British Commander in Chief Home Forces, General Paget, in planning an “expeditionary force” which was to be under Paget’s direction…

“Paget said that it was now intended to set up an Expeditionary Force Planning Staff Committee, and that this would be composed of himself as chairman, Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay (C.-in-C. Dover) as Naval representative, Air Chief Marshal Sir Sholto Douglas (C.-in-C. Fighter Command) as Air representative, Major-General Chaney (Commanding General, United States Forces in the United Kingdom) to represent the United States, and General McNaughton to represent Canada.” (2)

McNaughton apparently continued to promote the Dieppe raid, even after General Montgomery had so strenuously objected. What kind of incompetence or malevolence would send these boys on this suicide mission? The Germans clearly had time to catch wind of the intended “surprise” and prepare themselves; they had even spotted concentrations of landing craft in British harbors and had attacked some of them!

But the many warning signs were unheeded. The net result: out of the 4,963 Canadians who had sailed from England early that morning, 907 were killed, and 2460 were wounded or taken prisoner – a  68 percent casualty rate (3). All within six hours. There is no record that McNaughton, who was supposed to represent the Canadians, ever tried to stop it. Why were the Canadians chosen as cannon fodder? The British have the reputation of letting the colonials do the fighting for them. Churchill feared that the world was catching on to this: “I am grieved at [the] Australian attitude, but I have long feared the dangerous reactions on Australian and world opinion of our seeming to fight all our battles in the Middle East only with Dominion troops.” (4)

The Dieppe disaster certainly served the British Empire! By late 1941 and early 1942, the Russians and the US were insisting on the need to open a second front to defeat Nazi Germany. But Churchill, more interested in preserving the Empire than winning the war, wanted to convince Stalin and Roosevelt that a landing in Europe was infeasible “this early,” – so Churchill needed a clamorous failure, – and got one.

Flashback to the Depression: McNaughton’s Royal Twenty Center camps (3)

Given McNaughton’s pre-war record, could the English King George have expected any lesser service to the Empire? The response of the Roosevelt administration to the Depression was to organize huge infrastructural development programs to immediately begin a recovery of the productive civilian economy. The Works Progress Administration (WPA), Peoples Work Administration (PWA) and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) provided on-the-job training, education, and productive work at reasonable wages — the CCC (1933-1943) being especially popular, with men riding the rails or walking thousands of miles to become part of this. Octogenarians would point out to their great grandchildren: “I built this.” Major General Andrew McNaughton, the army chief of staff, did the diametric opposite. His biography describes his response to the Depression, honeyed o’er with McNaughton’s own words: “to proceed by persuasion and not by compulsion, and to do everything possible to facilitate the flow of men back to industry…” (4) – but it amounted to a failure to deal with the underlying problem of an unproductive economy, and rather to contain potential trouble by military means. The relief camps were proposed by McNaughton, and Prime Minister R.B. Bennett chose him to run them. Young people in the American CCC camps lived in decent conditions, were paid a dollar a day and performed work such as planting trees and building state park recreational facilities which are part of the general welfare; the young Canadians in the relief camps were paid a miserable $.20 a day and lived in tarpaper shacks. Soon they smelled more like Hitler’s camps, and McNaughton used this almost “free” labor for a large number of military projects. (5)

Resistance to the camps was enormous and almost universal. Strike after strike was called, and a peaceful march on Ottawa was stopped in June of 1935 in Regina, Saskatchewan when on Ottawa orders, the (federal) Royal Canadian Mounted Police began clubbing unarmed marchers  and ordinary citizens indiscriminately, injuring hundreds of residents and marchers; one marcher was killed and it might have ended in a massacre had the provincial government not pressured Ottawa to call off their police. (6)

The camps and other policies of the sitting government were so unpopular that in the 1935 election, the ruling Conservative Party dropped from 134 to 39 seats; in 1936, the new government of MacKenzie King shut down the camps.

McNaughton’s Sabotage of NAWAPA

The British hated President Kennedy, his brother Robert, W.A.C. Bennett, for their promotion of continental planning of water management which had culminated in the Great North American Water and Power Alliance (NAWAPA, See Patriot IV).

The British hated NAWAPA because continental water management would mean that the whole continent would slip out of their grasp, along with their hope of bringing the USA back into the imperial fold.  NAWAPA had enormous support all over Canada (7); for example, in 1965, Prime Minister Lester Pearson purged two anti-NAWAPA ministers from his cabinet – and the future looked very promising. So the British deployed McNaughton, who had expertise on water issues through his work as the Canadian head of the International Joint Commission (IJC). The General spent the last years of his life fighting NAWAPA tooth and nail.

McNaughton gave three speeches to the ruling elites of Canada, one of them in the form of a debate against Senator Frank Moss of Utah, the international champion of NAWAPA. McNaughton called the Columbia River treaty “pillage” by the US, called NAWAPA a “monstrous concept,” based upon “a diabolic thesis that all waters of North America become a shared resource” all to make “existing desert areas … bloom at the expense of development in Canada.” (8)  A cynical manipulation. Managing the continental watershed, and harnessing the enormous hydroelectric power, and the benefits of irrigation and highly-improved infrastructure and transportation would have been, and will be, of incalculable benefit for Canada, the US and Mexico alike; but not to the benefit of the British Empire. You might say in a nutshell, that McNaughton fought to deny Americans and Mexicans access to fresh water currently being dumped into the salt ocean, just in case the Empire might some day in the unforeseeable future, need that water to wash the Queen’s dirty laundry.


Two of McNaughton’s key allies in the fight to thwart the design of B.C. Premier W.A.C. Bennett’s design for the Columbia River Treaty and Peace River projects were two lawyers steered directly by the upper echelons of British intelligence: Davie Fulton and Maj. Louis Mortimer Bloomfield. Fulton was a young Oxford Rhodes scholar working as Justice Minister in Ottawa under Diefenbaker, who openly tried to sabotage Bennett’s proposals for a two basin policy in tandem with the Columbia River Treaty. This Bennett design provided a direct outline of what was to become the NAWAPA design later. Fulton fought to support the McNaughton alternative design which involved bringing the Canadian water flows into the Prairies and letting the Americans hang out to dry.

Major Bloomfield, then head of the Permindex assassination cabal [outlined in the accompanying study on p. 38] was close friends with both Fulton and McNaughton. Working directly under McNaughton at the IJC in 1958, Bloomfield authored “Boundary Water Problems of Canada and the United States” which produced a legal case against W.A.C. Bennett and Frank Moss’s approach to continental water management. Fulton would happily describe Bloomfield as his “dear friend” after a Conservative Party convention in 1967.(9)

 End notes

(1) General Bernard Montgomery writing about the Dieppe Raid in his autobiography, The Memoirs of Field Marshal Montgomery (1958), cited in

(2) Six Years of War, The Official History of the Canadian Army in the Second World War Chapter X, p. 321 [

(3) McNaughton. John Swettenham, The Ryerson Press, 1968. Vol. 1, p. 278 n: “Royal” gave the title a derogatory military flavor; “Twenty” referred to the twenty-cent allowance.

(4) loc. cit., p. 271

(5) Swettenham, loc. cit., p. 285


(7) A report put out by the Western Canadian-American assembly in 1964 said: “Canada and the United States are moving in the direction of a new and significant policy for the development of energy resources particularly water power on a continental scale. Recent technological advances which have made the border increasingly irrelevant have brought about in both countries the willingness to consider an encouraging degree of integration.” Swettenham, p. 332, n.

(8) Water Resources of Canada, University of Toronto Press, 1967, p. 22.

(9) Montreal Gazette, April 12, 1967. section A5