National Defence and the Canadian Forces

4th Canadian Division

31 Canadian Brigade Group

RHLI Open Display at Hamilton Military Museum

60th Anniversary of Dieppe Raid

Story and photos by Captain Tim Fletcher

August 19th, 2002 marks the 60th anniversary of the deadly raid on Dieppe by the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry and many other famous regiments in World War II. On that day in 1942, The RHLI, storming ashore in a vicious hail of machine gun, artillery, mortar and grenade fire, suffered huge casualties. 582 Rileys got on the boats to Dieppe. 197 died during the raid - on the beach, at the Casino, on the streets of the town. Nine more died of their wounds as prisoners of war. Only 211 returned, including a young captain, Denis Whitaker, the only officer unwounded that day. 174 Rileys survived the rest of the war in POW camps, where most were shackled for several months after capture. By comparison, the Regiment lost 378 killed in all the rest of the war.

A special exhibit commemorating the ill-fated action has been opened at the Hamilton Military Museum, part of the Dundurn Castle Museum complex in Hamilton. Special ceremonies and a display of today's Regiment marked the opening on April 27th, 2002 the display opened and ran for three months, proving very popular with visitors.

Special guest of honour was Sergeant Billy Field, who was 19 at Dieppe. Interviewed by CHtv's Matt Hayes in a special broadcast on Friday April 26th, an indignant Sgt Field, responding to a question about his youth, responded, "I was a man!" And he was - as were all there that day.

Two Dieppe veterans - Sgt Billy Field, left, and Lt Frank Volterman, who was a medic with the RHLI for the duration. Lt Volterman has compiled the definitive record of the RHLI casualties on the raid and for the entire war.

The RHLI - Dieppe display is at the Hamilton Military Museum until October 2002, and is well worth the visit. Perhaps some day, our city will have a permanent monument to the soldiers who fought that fateful day. Of all the communities with regiments that fought at Dieppe, Hamilton remains the only one without a Dieppe monument.

This tag was issued to Sgt Field by the Germans when he entered his POW Camp where he spent the remainder of the war.

For further information on RHLI history and its war contribution, RHLI Museum Curator Stan welcomes you to visit The RHLI Museum in the lower level of the John Weir Foote, VC Armoury at 200 James St. North. Reverend Foote was the RHLI Padre at Dieppe, and chose to go into captivity voluntarily to tend to the POWs.

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