Document Source: Royal Canadian Army, Puits, Memorandum, Cpl Ellis (Royal Regiment of Canada). Memorandum of Interview: LCpl L.G. Ellis, DCM, (B-66984). Royal Regiment of Canada, at Canadian Military Headquarters, London, October 20, 1942.

Dieppe, France, August 19 1942, Operation Jubilee, Beaches Assignations & Markings

Operation Jubilee, Dieppe, France, August 19, 1942.

[1] Corporal Ellis (then Lance Corporal) is the only member of the Royal Regiment of Canada known to have crossed the sea wall during the attack at Blue Beach and who subsequently succeeded in returning to England.

[2] Cpl Ellis landed on Blue Beach with A Company, Royal Regiment of Canada, which landed on the right flank (i.e. the west end of the beach), as part of the first wave.

[3] Cpl Ellis describes the situation at Blue Beach as follows: At the head of the beach was a sea wall perhaps 8 to 11 feet high (2.5 to 3.5 meters), on top of which there was a triple concertina wire obstacle (barbed wire). As far as his observation went, his impression was that the wall ran the whole length of the beach, i.e. from one cliff to the other across the mouth of the valley in which lies the village of Puits. Where the wall ran in front of the slope of the hill it was cut into a slope, that is, on climbing the wall a man found that there was no drop on the other side. There was a clear space perhaps 4 to 5 feet (1.2 to 1.5 meters) wide on the landward side of the wire obstacle on the wall; and beyond this was a deep and very thick obstacle of bundled wire, virtually impassable.

[4] On the western section of the wall, in front of which A Company landed, there was a double flight of steps; that is, there was a recess in the wall containing flights of steps leading up to the top of the wall both to right and left. At the top of the western flight of steps was a pillbox, probably the one at (252696) shown with 3 arrows attached (Intel. map, 1:12,500). This pillbox was found not to be manned.

[5] Cpl Ellis’ company was transported in the HMS Princess Astrid, and LSI (Landing Ship Infantry). From this vessel, the troops were transferred into LCAs (Landing Craft Assault) which carried them to shore. Cpl Ellis noted that there seemed to be a slight delay in forming up after leaving the HMS Princess Astrid, and he got the impression that the reason was that a couple of boats appeared to be missing. The first part of the trip in the LCAs was quite uneventful, but in the latter half, flares were seen. Cpl Ellis is not certain whether these came from the shore. He did not himself see searchlights illuminating the LCAs.

British LCA during the final exercise prior to Operation Jubilee in Dieppe

[6] The crafts were still perhaps half a mile (800 meters) when the daylight came. Objects formerly only vaguely distinguishable were now clearly visible. The LCAs proceeded to the beach and landed the troops. Cpl Ellis saw no fire directed against his LCA before it beached.

[7] Cpl Ellis was about the fourth man off the LCA. The ramp had not gone fully down; he jumped on it to bring it down, but without effect. He then leaped out onto the beach, getting no more than his feet wet. He ran up the beach to the sea wall and crouched against it waiting for the other men to join him. Looking back, he saw these men being cut down, chiefly by machine gun fire which was not sweeping the beach.

[8] The men who were not struck came up the beach and took shelter against the wall in the vicinity of the steps already described. The wall, however, gave no protection from the fire of a machine gun, evidently sited on the eastern cliff somewhere in the area about (254697), which was able to enfilade the wall effectively and caused very heavy casualties. Cpl Ellis got through a barbed wire obstacle obstructing the steps and went up the steps on the right to the pillbox, from which no fire had come. He looked inside and found it empty. He then went back down the steps and ascended those to the left; at the top he found himself confronted by a very thick wire obstacle, so thick that he could not shoot through it.

LACB2. Canadian infantrymen disembark from a landing craft in England during a training exercise before Operation Jubilee, the Raid on Dieppe, France, in August 1942. Photo, Library Archive Canada, Ottawa MIKAN 3194482

[9] About this time he was joined by Capt G. G. Sinclair, commanding A Company, who had with him a private armed with a Sten Gun, probably his batman. Capt Sinclair shouted for a Bren Gun and Cpl Ellis also shouted, but no gun was brought. Capt Sinclair then called for a Bangalore Torpedo, and this was passed up. The Bangalore was set in the wire above the eastern steps and blown. It made a good hole in the wire. Capt Sinclair looked over the wall and said come on over. Cpl Ellis pushed past him and went over the wall.

[10] By this time the second wave of the Royal Regiment had beached, coming in probably just before the explosion of the Bangalore. The men came up and lay against the wall and Cpl Ellis had shouted to them to warn them against the fire the machine guns already mentioned.

[11] After crossing the wall, Cpl Ellis crawled a short distance to the right and then asked for wire cutters. He was about to start cutting when he noticed that at intervals there was a roll of concertina wire running through the inner wire obstacle and providing the possibility of passing through it comparatively easily. He crawled through one of these rolls, doing some cutting where necessary, and in the course of this passage severed two wires which he believed at the time to be signal cables. The wire which he passed through was on a steep upward slope and after passing this obstacle, Cpl Ellis found himself near a house at the top of the hill, probably the house shown on the Intel. Map at (252695), immediately south of the pillbox.

[12] After going to the rear of the house and noting the position of a back window, Cpl Ellis entered through the door. Finding a door opening from the entrance hall into a room on the right, he threw a grenade through it and entered after the explosion. The room was empty but on the floor were cartridge cases that were still warm. Cpl Ellis left this room and started upstairs, carrying ready for action a grenade from which he had pulled the pin. When he was halfway up the stairs the Navy opened fire on the house, he believes with pom-poms. Cpl Ellis, therefore, returned to the ground floor and to avoid exposing himself to this fire left the house by the back window.

[13] He went up a pathway that ran into a path skirting a wood that lay close behind the house. Here he turned to the right and after following the path along the side of the wood for some distance turned back and meet the Private with the Sten Gun already referred to. They then returned together along the path in the direction of the sea as far as a point where it forked.

[14] Cpl Ellis told the Private to wait at this point while he would follow the path towards the sea. The Private however followed him for a short distance and Ellis then told him to go back and bring up the Company Commander and the troops.

[15] Cpl Ellis himself followed the path until he came to a pillbox, presumably the one on the edge of the cliff shown on the Intel. Located on the map at (251695). He examined the pillbox and it also was empty. After going a little further along the path he returned to the intersection and went some distance along the other fork. He saw nothing and wondered what had happened to the troops. He then cut back through the woods, coming across 3 weapon pits, all empty, and came out not far from the house which he had visited. He then went back to the edge of the hill. He believes that during this circuit he must have been close to the fortified house on the hilltop at which (as he heard later) our men on the beach were firing, but he never saw this house. He now crawled east to the point overlooking the valley where he found an empty sniper pit and got into it.

[16] On the opposite side of the valley, he saw a massive white pillbox. Dust flying about this pillbox indicated that our troops were firing at it. Cpl Ellis saw no fire from the pillbox, but tracer bullets were coming from a bush close to it on the side towards the beach and were falling on the beach. In the bush, Cpl Ellis thought he could discern a gleam of white which might be the machine gunner’s face. The Corporal who is a sniper set his sights at 650 yards (600 meters) and fired at this gleam. He saw the stream of tracer bullets change direction from the beach up into the air, as though the gunner had been struck and had fallen back with his finger still on the trigger. No more fire came from the bush while Ellis watched.

[17] From the position he was in he was able to survey the village of Puits, in which nothing was stirring. He fired a few shots into the village at a place that might harbor snipers. While in this sniper pit, a bullet creased his steel helmet.

[18] Cpl Ellis now crawled back towards the house. An officer whom he did not know, armed with a Sten Gun came up and asked whether the house was clear. Ellis replied that it was but that the Navy was firing at it. Either not hearing this explanation or ignoring it, the officer entered the house. Immediately afterward there was a heavy burst of naval fire against the lower floor, and it is possible that this officer may have been killed or injured. After the naval fire had ceased, Ellis crawled back to the point at which he had climbed the slope and looked down on the beach. He saw an LCA on the beach embarking troops, with men shoving in an attempt to get the boat afloat.

[19] Ellis now went downhill towards the beach and in doing so came across a soldier lying paralyzed. He half dragged half carried this man downhill as far as the wire obstacle and finding another roll of concertina wire affording a passage, began to work him through it. He came across what appeared to be another signal wire, and having lost his wire cutters, and believing it to be a continuation of the wires he had previously cut, pulled it. It was, however, connected with a buried booby trap that exploded, killing instantly the paralyzed man and wounding Ellis slightly in the face, the right hand, and left foot. Either by this explosion or that of the Bangalore Torpedo, he also suffered a punctured eardrum.

Members of the Royal Canadian Medical Corps evacuating Allied soldiers from the beach after the Dieppe Raid

[20] Ellis now passed on through the wire and reached the open space between this wire obstacle and the concertina wire on the sea wall. Having no way of getting through the latter obstacle, he jumped right over it and landed on the beach (on a further pile of wire). He ran to the LCA and found the naval officer shouting at the men to shove. Many of the men present were wounded and Ellis saw Capt Catto, who appeared to be in bad shape. Ellis got some men to shove the boat and helped others to enter it. The naval officer was struck and fell. Ellis saw a naval rating hitting the hands of the men who were trying to climb aboard this craft, which was greatly overcrowded. Ellis himself did not enter the craft. He saw it pull offshore and turn out to sea; when he looked at it again it was upside down.

[21] It seems possible that this craft was the one referred to in the stories of Sub-Lt Boak, other Canadian naval officers, those written by B-67002 Private E. J. Simpson, and other men of the Royal Canadian Regiment. A number of men of the unit were subsequently rescued from the bottom of this craft under heavy fire by R boats commanded by Sub-Lt Boak and Sub-Lt Franklin.

[22] Cpl Ellis looked about him and saw no movement on the beach on which many dead men were lying. He decided to swim for it and taking off his boots and equipment plunged into the water. While he was doing the crawl stroke a sniper fired at him and the bullet came within a few inches of his nose. He pretended to be hit and no further fire was directed at him. Ellis took off his life belt and all his clothes and swam until he was almost exhausted, for perhaps 1 and a half to 2 hours. He then came across a dead soldier and took his life belt. Subsequently, he found another dead man and took his life-belt also as well as his jacket. Both these men had head wounds (possibly inflicted by snipers). He floated for a time but found it necessary to keep swimming to avoid losing consciousness. Just before he actually lost consciousness he saw a dinghy, and this may have been the craft that picked him up. He was rescued by Sgt Legate of his own unit, who had been in the capsized landing craft and had got into a small boat.

[23] When Ellis recovered consciousness he found himself on board a Flak Ship. The naval crew of this vessel treated the rescued wounded like princesses, alternating between feeding them and giving them first aid, and fighting off the German aircraft which were still attacking.

[24] It is a rather remarkable fact that although Cpl Ellis was probably over an hour on shore (he landed about 0515 or 0520 and his watch stopped when he entered the water at 0630) he did not see a single German, except for the face, if it was a face, in the bush at which he fired, and one man whom he saw on the skyline some 2000 yards (1800 meters) away who may have been an enemy soldier. None of the enemy positions which he inspected were occupied at the time. Near the house, he looked into a weapon pit that might possibly have covered the mouth of a tunnel, but he did not investigate further. All this time the enemy was maintaining a most destructive fire on the beach.

[25] Cpl Ellis saw nothing of the Black Watch, a company that is believed to have landed on Blue Beach after the Royal Regiment had been repulsed at this point.

[26] At the time of his return to the beach, Ellis saw one LCA, the one which subsequently overturned.

[27] This memorandum was dictated on October 21, 1942, on the basis of the notes made during an interview with Corporal Ellis on the previous afternoon. On October 22, 1942, Corporal Ellis read it, made one or two suggestions that were incorporated, and accepted the draft as accurate and as being as complete as he could make it without adding material that he did not know firsthand.

C.P. Stacey, Major
Historical Officer
Canadian Military Headquarters

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