|Lancing College and Operation "Jubilee", the Dieppe Raid 1942|
In June 1999, Colin Kitching, then aged 78, paid a return visit to Lancing College after a gap of fifty seven years.
In 1940, staff and pupils of Lancing College were evacuated to Shropshire. The War Office then requisitioned the school buildings and HMS King Alfred, the Royal Naval Voluntary Reserved moved in. The buildings were soon put to use, the chapel became their "stone frigate". The Admiralty had purchased about 18 Walls Ice Cream "stop me and buy one" pre-war tricycles which were converted into little ships (with the addition of a chart table and compass above the former ice-cream cool box). Pedaling around a mini English Channel laid out with buoys on the cricket field at Lancing College, the naval ratings learned the art of navigation and within a few weeks were at sea. Truly an example of necessity being the mother of invention!
Mr Kitching trained at Lancing College in 1941 but in August 1942 was back again. The 4th and 5th Flotillas were ordered to Shoreham Harbour and another one went to Newhaven. They sailed for Shoreham in the dead of night in conditions of great secrecy. It had been planned that they should creep into Shoreham Harbour before dawn and a huge canvas screen had been erected so that the boats would not be seen from the shore. Unfortunately, the state of the tide had been miscalculated and one by one the little boats ran aground. When dawn broke, there they were, stranded on the harbour mud, in full view of passengers on the top decks of the buses that drove past. So much for security!
They were informed of a night exercise a week later and after routine boat maintenance, set out for what they were told might be a two or three day expedition. To their surprise, Mr Kitching said, Lt Cdr J H Dathan, the Flotilla commander, drove them to South Lancing where he led them onto the beach just inside the invasion defences. They were then told that they would sail that evening for Dieppe.
Returning to Lancing College, they were briefed in the operation. This involved two flotillas, in transporting a French Canadian Regiment, the Fusiliers Mont Royal, across the Channel. After an early supper, they went to the parade ground where the Fusiliers Mont Royal were drawn up. Their CO, Lt Col D Menard announced dramatically "Ce soir, nous allons en France! (This evening, we are going to France!). To Mr Kitching's amazement, the French Canadians broke ranks, shouting and cheering.
The landings on a well defended harbour and adjoining beaches at Dieppe were a tragedy, with, despite great bravery, many deaths.
From the lessons we learned at Dieppe all subsequent landings in the Mediterranean and elsewhere benefited directly. But the effects on the Overlord casualties were fantastic. In the 1944 D-Day landings of 156,000 men who took part in the assault, there were only 2,500 casualties, or one man in 60. So twelve times as many men, including of course many Canadians survived the D-Day assaults and I am convinced that this was the direct result of lessons we learned at Dieppe....
Lord Louis Mountbatten
sources: Lancing College Archive vol 80, no. 602. Reproduced with permission
|page created 09/12/11|