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Eyewitness at Dieppe (Hardback)

The Only First-Hand Account of WWII's Most Disastrous Raid

Military > Memoirs P&S History WWII

By Ross Reyburn
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 192
Illustrations: 40 mono illustrations
ISBN: 9781399059978
Published: 21st September 2022

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In August 1942, Allied forces mounted an attack on the German-held port of Dieppe; titled Operation Jubilee, it represented a rehearsal for invasion. The amphibious attack saw over 6,000 infantrymen, predominantly Canadian, put ashore, tasked with destroying German structures and gathering intelligence.

The doomed raid was an abject failure, and became Canada’s worst military disaster.

Eyewitness at Dieppe is a long-overdue reissue of New Zealand-born writer Wallace Reyburn’s dramatic account of the raid. He was with the first soldiers clambering ashore, and aboard the last ship returning to England after six hours of carnage.

Awarded an OBE as the only war correspondent to witness the street fighting first-hand, Reyburn was fortunate not be numbered among Dieppe’s dead, suffering just a minor wound inflicted by mortar shell fragments. His book, Rehearsal for Invasion was a wartime bestseller.

Accompanied by freelance journalist Ross Reyburn’s new foreword on his father’s account, this new edition tells us more about Wallace’s intriguing life and details the shortcomings of his father’s book, dictated by wartime censorship corrected in the post-war years through a withering condemnation of raid’s mastermind Lord Mountbatten.

An eyewitness account of the attack on Dieppe in August 1942. Such "witting testimony" accounts are worth so much more than official histories

Books Monthly

Review as featured in

The Armourer

So engaged was I in Walter's account, I actually read it all in one sitting!

Before this book, I had no knowledge of Walter's story, but I'm delighted to have been able to read it now.

Read the Full Review Here

Books2cover

The adventure is ‘Boys Own’ stuff, beautifully written, absorbing yet gritty in parts. The whole rings true and we highly recommend it as a very good read.

Read the Full Review Here

Clash of Steel

A very good book and I enjoyed this more personal account of an event.

Read the Full Review Here

The History Fella

It’s an easy book to read, well written and honestly written, a man’s account of coming under fire for the first time, and a moment in History captured in black and White.

4 out of 5

Read the Full Review Here

Army Rumour Service (ARRSE)

People living along the East Kent coast in August 1942 heard the sounds of battle across the English Channel. They thought it yet another fight between Allied naval forces and enemy shipping hugging the French coast.

But they were wrong. It was the heroic Raid on Dieppe which remains a highly controversial issue eighty years later. Was it a success or a failure. There are arguments on both sides.

Four-fifth of the land forces leading the raid were Canadians who suffered heavy losses. Of the 5,000 Canadian soldiers involved 3,367 were killed or taken prisoners of war. It was the biggest disaster ever faced by the Canadians.

Updated details of the Dieppe Raid are provided by a new book, by Ross Reyburn who father Wallace (OBE) covered the attack as a war correspondent. He spent six and a half hours on French soil during the raid before returning to England.

The 180-page book Eyewitness at Dieppe is very much based on the reports and book authored by Wallace Reyburn but updated. There are some excellent photographs including German sources.

The book claims the "only" unqualified success of the Dieppe Raid was provided by the British Number Four Commando under the leadership of Lord Lovat. They destroyed then entire enemy artillery battery of six 150-millimetre guns at Varengeville.
(This Commando, before the raid, was based with Lovat at Dover's western heights. After the raid, and safely back home, Lovat bought drinks for his men in Dover pubs).

It was not only land forces who suffered heavy losses in the raid. The RAF lost 67 airmen while 106 Allied aircraft were lost, said to be the highest single day total of the war. The Luftwaffe listed only 48 of its aircraft lost.

Terry Sutton MBE

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is not only a valuable historical record but also a real life adventure story!
I would recommend this book to all WW2 readers and those interested in getting a graphic impression of wartime combat.

NetGalley, Michael Neill

The authorship and history of the book itself offer an interesting angle to the Dieppe account. With the son revisiting the work of the father, freed from the constraints of wartime censorship, new life is breathed into the account making for a terrific read. This is a tragic event and the loss of life was incredibly impactful for Canada, in part. It is pleasing to see this recorded and reissued so sensitively.

NetGalley, Louise Gray

An interesting review of a wartime eye witness account that with the passing of 80 years can now be evaluated without the constraints of wartime secrecy or propaganda. It remains astonishing that the raid was written up as a rehearsal for the eventual invasion two years later. That a landing was ever contemplated on a port city, with the inevitable problems of urban fighting and defensive concentration is beyond belief. It was not necessary to mount a costly raid on Dieppe to prove that, and one must wonder at the high command for instigating and insisting on it. Anybody who has walked the whole battlefield at Dieppe will know that almost every aspect of the geography, the wholly inappropriate beach and the funnelling effect on the advance into the town, knows what the high command seemed to ignore. This book may not give all the answers, but it certainly asks many of the right questions.

Michael McCarthy, Battlefield Guide

Michael McCarthy

About Ross Reyburn

Freelance journalist Ross Reyburn, who has revived his late father Wallace Reyburn’s dramatic eyewitness account of the ill-fated Dieppe Raid, is a former newspaper feature writer and non-fiction book reviewer. 
From 1967-1973, he worked as a journalist with the Hampstead & Highgate Express, the North London weekly hailed as “the only local newspaper in Britain with a foreign policy!” Later came a long career with The Birmingham Post, as a feature writer latterly also serving as the regional daily newspaper’s literary editor before going freelance in 2003. 
His books include Saving Rugby Union (Y Lolfa, 2020) and The Great Rivals - Oxford and Cambridge (2010), a Pitkin Guide comparing the achievements of the world’s two most famous universities.

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