By Sean Delaney
In August, the City of Toronto is marking the 80th anniversary of the Dieppe Raid with commemorative ceremonies and the launch of outdoor and online exhibits to honour and tell the stories of Torontonians who were killed, taken prisoner or injured during the Raid, as well as the stories of survivors.
In a ceremony at the Old City Hall Cenotaph, Toronto’s Mayor was joined by representatives from the Royal Canadian Legion, the Royal Regiment of Canada and Consuls General representing those nations involved in Dieppe, in laying wreaths in memory of those Torontonians who paid the ultimate sacrifice.
The Royal Canadian Legion also hosted a ceremony at the East York Civic Centre, followed by a march to Dieppe Park.
The ceremony at Dieppe Park included stories from Dieppe told from the perspectives of family members of a survivor, a prisoner of war and a soldier killed in action.
At the ceremony, the City unveiled an informational display at Dieppe Park that shares the history of the Dieppe Raid and the stories of Torontonians who fought – those who were captured, survived, injured or lost their lives.
During the fall, this display will be featured at:
Scarborough Civic Centre, 150 Borough Dr., (Tuesday, September 13 to Thursday, September 22).
North York Civic Centre, 5100 Yonge St., (Tuesday, September 27 to Thursday, October 6).
Etobicoke Civic Centre, 399 The West Mall, (Wednesday, October 12 to Monday, October 24).
Toronto City Hall, 100 Queen St. W., during Remembrance Week (Friday, November 4 to Friday, November 11).
In ceremonies in Commonwealth War cemeteries near Dieppe, a wreath was placed on behalf of the City. The Toronto Sign also featured the poppy and was dimmed for the day.
On August 19, 1942, Allied forces undertook a raid on enemy forces at the French coastal town of Dieppe. Almost 5,000 of the 6,000 troops at Dieppe were Canadians, with almost 10 percent drawn from Toronto residents. Dieppe had the highest number of Canadian casualties in a single day during World War II.
Many historians believe that the Dieppe Raid offered invaluable lessons to war leaders and significantly informed D-Day preparations in 1944, which led to success on D-Day.
More information about the historic Dieppe Raid, including the stories of the brave Torontonians who witnessed the event and lost their lives, is available on the City’s website.
Here are some statistics relevant to the participation of Toronto-based soldiers in the Dieppe Raid:
187 were killed in action on August 19, 1942 – one quarter of the 807 Canadians who died that day.
An additional 17 soldiers died as a result of their injuries in the following days.
208 who came onshore at Dieppe were captured and survived as Prisoners of War. Of the 10 per cent of the 1,946 total Canadian soldiers taken prisoner, 20 did not survive prison camp.
144 survived and were evacuated to England.
The average age of Toronto soldiers who died at Dieppe was 27 years, with some only 18 – a significant loss of young life, and the deadliest day in Toronto’s wartime history.