A Crawley man who survived one of the most brutal operations of the Second World War has attended the 71st anniversary commemorations.
The Dieppe Raid happened on August 19 1942 and in the words of Royal Marine Commando veteran Alan Saunders, 91, ‘it should never have been’.
It was the commando’s first operation and for many marines it was to be their last.
Mr Saunders, of Langley Green said: “I was on the frontline in St Margaret’s Bay between Dover and Deal, known as Hell Fire Corner.
“Then an Admiral Fleet Order went round the whole Royal Navy asking for volunteers for ‘special duties of a hazardous nature’.”
He and a friend decided to sign up and their first mission was at Dieppe. The aim was for a gunboat to break the boom across the entrance to Dieppe harbour in the early hours and then the troops would get ashore and take control of the harbour from the Germans.
He said: “The possibility of taking an enemy port by frontal assault was low. We left Cowes and assembled in the Solent. At 3am Number 3 Commando ran into a (German) convoy and so the element of surprise was lost. HMS Lotus couldn’t break the boom the whole coast line was up in flames.
“That part of the operation had to be aborted. The beach was just littered with bits of blown up tankers and bodies.
“Some of the guys went back to the beach but we knew there were two hunt class destroyers on survivor patrol until the last light.
“Six of us swam about half an hour then trod water then swam again. After about three and a half hours the HMS Brocklesby picked us up.”
But more than half of the 6,500 British and Canadian troops were killed, wounded or taken prisoner.
Alan was one of a handful of survivors at the 71st anniversary ceremony held in Newhaven on August 11. He laid a wreath in his colleagues’ memory.
He said: “Sunday was very emotional. There were two Dieppe survivors there on the day. There cannot be more than 15 to 20 that we have contact with.”