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Series / Dieppe

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A Canadian mini-series airing on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation network in 1993. Focus of the series shifts back and forth between those planning the raid on Dieppe on August 19, 1942, and one of the platoons of Canadian infantrymen that was charged with carrying out the landings.

The four hour, two-part series is largely based on the book "Unauthorized Action" by Brian Loring-Villa. His contention was that the Dieppe Raid was never actually authorized, and that Mountbatten proceeded to mount the raid in the face of objections by his superiors, amidst a complicated political climate that gave rise to the conditions where he could do so. More recent scholarship has come to light in the years since, notably One Day in August by David O'Keefe, who contends the raid was a cover for a special forces mission to capture German code machine parts.

The thrust of the show is to demonstrate how the senior commanders came to the decision to launch what turned out to be a disaster, and the effects on the common soldiers at the bottom of the chain of command, who paid the price.


Dieppe contains examples of:

  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Leith's attraction to Casey is never overtly explained, though he fits a number of tropes that sync with this idea, such as Anti-Hero, Lovable Rogue, etc. Casey is presented as such in his introductory scene, when he advises a comrade "if we did everything we were told - we'd be Nazis." In the end he's revealed as a Jerk with a Heart of Gold
  • America Saves the Day: played with and averted. While General Eisenhower threatens to "take our war to the Pacific" if they can't convince the British to invade France in 1942, the British remind them that the bulk of forces in such an invasion would be British and Canadian. The Americans grudgingly relent, and while they send 50 Army Rangers to Dieppe, bide time while the British make the main effort in Europe through its commando raiding program and the aerial bombing of Germany. General Crerar is anxious to get Canadian soldiers into action before the Americans, presumably so this trope will be averted and the British and Canadians will get some of the credit for the victory.
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  • Anti-Hero: Casey is an adulterous rule-breaker who threatens to break things off with his English girlfriend as soon as he finds out her husband, fighting overseas, has been killed. Boasts about not actually carrying anything in his pack on route marches, and leads a raid on General McNaughton's dinner party in order to steal their roast beef and wine.
  • Bandaged Face: Plenty of these as the force withdraws from Dieppe and returns to England. Lord Mountbatten gives a shocked 'Good God' on seeing one particularly badly wounded soldier.
  • Big Badass Battle Sequence: Inasmuch as a limited Canadian television budget can portray. The climax of the miniseries is the assault on Blue Beach. The planning for the raid takes up the first three-quarters of the series, with the landings and the aftermath both given reasonable coverage. Budget considerations prevented the portrayal of the other landing beaches (Yellow, Orange, Green, Red and White) but the script focused its attention on a single platoon landing at Blue Beach, so the viewer gets a taste of the overall action.
  • The Big Board: interspersed with combat scenes during the landings, the planners in England review the board and dicker about air support. Also used to illustrate the complexity of the landings - and why the inflexible plan can't be changed in the face of new intelligence.
  • Canucks with Chinooks: While the senior commanders in the film are British and American, the soldiers who are committed to carrying out the Dieppe Raid are Canadians. They are portrayed as independent, tough-minded and eager to fight after sitting in the UK for long years of training.
  • Crush Blush: Anne, when she sees General Roberts for the first time. May be a little exhilaration from listening to the Prime Minister (he's addressing the nation on the radio during the scene). Perhaps no visible blush to her skin, but Gabrielle Rose sells it with her body language.
  • Deadpan Snarker: a few examples, especially Lord Mountbatten.

    Construction Worker: (after Mountbatten complains his office renovations are behind schedule) 'Ere, Rome wasn't built in a day!
    Mountbatten: That's because it was built by foreigners.
    • And another, blasphemous, example:
    Hughes-Hallett: Do you think he (General Roberts) is any good?
    Mountbatten: What's goodness got to do with it? Jesus was very good, but no one ever won a war by lounging about on a cross all day.
  • Economy Cast: Major Magnus is variously depicted both commanding an infantry company, and planning the raid at divisional headquarters as a staff officer.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Jean (see below under Hitchhiker Heroes) is introduced drinking alone until his older comrades point one of the local girls toward him. He confesses to her that he is underage, and she takes him to a local park to relieve him of his virginity. Afterwards, he boasts (Comically Missing the Point) that she told him he was "the fastest" she's ever had.
  • Frontline General: averted, despite some generals Outranking Your Job, with General Roberts where he was historically during the raid, on the bridge of HMS Calpe. Other senior officers listen intently from headquarters in the UK.
  • General Failure: Some of the British officers are treated roughly. Montgomery points out that Mountbatten had two battleships shot out from under him, and when Mountbatten boasts of being the youngest Vice Admiral since Nelson, the naval chief of staff reminds him his rank is acting, not substantive. Mountbatten is portrayed as more interested in publicity than winning the war.
    • Captain Hughes-Hallett is shown giving Roberts bad advice to call off desperately needed air support.
    • Canadian General McNaughton also kvetches about how two Canadian battalions where wiped out by being under British command at Hong Kong.
    • American commanders are portrayed as bullies, heedless of British and Canadian contributions to the war, and eager to sacrifice the latter simply so they can get into the war faster.
    • Crerar and McNaughton are both shown as putting ambition and politics ahead of military necessity.
  • Get A Hold Of Yourself Man: A couple of these.
    • Stefan suffers from claustrophobia to the point he needs to be tied up and gagged while in the hold of the transport taking them to Dieppe. When released, he goes berserk trying to get out, until Major Morton grabs him and shakes him. Stefan explains he was trapped in a septic tank as a child, and Morton jokes that the smelly hold they're in means they're all in a septic tank.
    • General Roberts, A Father to His Men, becomes emotional at the heavy casualties on the beach. Hughes-Hallett responds sharply.
  • The Hedonist: Casey is portrayed as this, carrying on an affair with a married British girl and then threatening to break it off once her husband is killed. He explains that he had to join the Army to escape a similar predicament in Canada. Despite his obvious Commitment Issues, in the end he agrees to marry Leith.
  • Hitchhiker Heroes: Jean, an underage recruit, confesses that his attempt to enlist with his home town regiment, Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal, was refused. He was able to sign up at fifteen with The Royal Regiment of Canada because "they don't ask so many questions in Toronto."
  • Ignored Expert: General Montgomery advises the planners that heavy fire support will be necessary for the plan to succeed. By the time Operation Jubilee is launched, the battleship support has been deleted and the Royal Air Force refused to commit its heavy bombers to the operation, leaving only the element of surprise in the Allies' favour.
  • Improbable Use of a Weapon: Casey tries to blow up a barbed wire entanglement with a hand grenade. This was generally done with a much bigger explosive charge designed for the task, either a satchel charge or a Bangalore torpedo (as depicted in The Big Red One or Saving Private Ryan).
  • Improperly Placed Firearms: A couple of these.
    • The standard battle rifle at the time of Dieppe was the Number III Mark I. While some of these can be seen floating in the water with casualties during the climactic landing scenes, the principal actors carry Number 4 Mark I rifles, which weren't made available until 1943. The most visible difference between the two are the bayonets; the First World War era No. 3 had a long sword-blade bayonet, the No. 4 had a much shorter spike resembling a screwdriver.
    • Canadian firearms laws at the time of filming prohibited "high-capacity magazines", including that for the Bren, all of which had to be pinned by firearms owners to restrict capacity to 5 rounds. During the scene in which Jawarski is shooting the Bren Gun over the heads of his men, it is obvious he can only fire 5 rounds at a time despite the actual magazine capacity of 28 rounds.
    • The standard submachine gun of the time was the Thompson. Sten guns were issued out specially to the 2nd Division for Dieppe. They trained with the guns, which required much finishing work to make the actions run smoothly. When Operation Rutter was cancelled, the guns were returned. When Operation Jubilee was remounted, brand new Sten guns were issued out at the last minute, with all the imperfections of the first batch. While the film does show Sten guns, the cast are depicted as being extremely familiar with them (to the point of having contests to see how fast they can assemble them).
    • In a scene at the Dieppe seawall, Casey tries to blow up barbed wire with an American grenade. Unusual in that the correct Mills Bomb type grenades are shown being fuzed in an earlier scene set on the transport. A continuity error also occurs when Casey initially places the grenade - there is no fuze on the bottom of the American grenade, just a hole where it should be. When the camera cuts away and back, a propmaster must have caught the error, as the hole in the grenade is now magically packed with grey putty.
  • Insane Admiral: a number of these. Mountbatten is more interested in publicity than winning the war. Sir Dudley Pound, the naval chief of staff, fears losing battleships more than he cares about supporting the other services.note  Sir Arthur Harris thinks he can win the war single-handedly with Bomber Command and is loathe to divert his airplanes away from their strategic mission.
  • Lovable Rogue: Casey. He steals a roast beef dinner from the brass, and sleeps with a married English girl, yet suffers no consequences and seems to be popular with the other principal characters.
  • Majorly Awesome: the two officers ranked as Major also have similar names (Magnus and Morton). Magnus is portrayed as attractive, with several English girlfriends, fearless and calm both under fire and once they are forced to surrender. In line with the trope, he begins the film as a planner, but volunteers to land on the beach to participate in the fighting.
    • Morton's level of awesome never rises to that of Magnus. He is initially seen as blustery and lazy. On the beach itself, he does little more than give impossible orders until he is shot in the stomach and presumably killed.
  • Military Salute: the correct service salutes are rendered for the most part, though at least one of the extras is obviously from the post-Unification era Canadian Forces, as they are wearing an Army uniform but render a naval salute (which was the style adopted by the entire Canadian Forces after the three services were merged in 1968).
  • Noodle Incident: when Roberts orders Morton to get out of his jeep and walk with his men during a 250 mile route march, adding the threat of cashiering unless he smartens up, Magnus asks "is it true he saved your life?" Roberts says "that's right" but it's never explained how, when or why it happened.
  • One-Word Title: As an example of The Place. For where the story happens.
  • Outranking Your Job: the commander of the 2nd Canadian Division seems to have much time on his hands. The first (referred to in dialogue as 'Brian' but in real life Victor Odlum) is depicted as playing Drill Sergeant Nasty to a single platoon of soldiers. He is replaced by Hamilton Roberts, who in one scene drops by the barracks of the heroes to chat about fishing and remark on a Sten Gun assembly contest.
  • Pinned Down: played straight, and Truth in Television, the landings at Blue Beach were at a shallow stretch of pebbles backed by tall cliffs. The Canadians landed directly underneath German machine guns in concrete bunkers. In real life, 500 Canadians landed and were opposed by just 60 German Air Force troops, who did not require reinforcement during the battle. In the show, as in life, the Canadians could do little more than press themselves against the stone sea-wall.
  • Stiff Upper Lip: to be expected in a movie inhabited by British officers, but subtly used here to cast the British in a more villainous role. As reports of the disaster on the beaches come in, Mountbatten calmly remarks that the air force and navy are doing a fine job, it's only too bad the Canadians' military plan was so bad.
    Crerar: My plan?
    Mountbatten: Hardly mine.
    • Captain Hughes-Hallett also shows little reaction to the disaster as it unfolds, and calmly talks Roberts out of several courses of action that may have helped the landings be successful, or at least saved lives.
  • Storming the Beaches: the climax of the series is the assault on Blue Beach. Truth in Television, the landings on Blue Beach are a disaster and all who set foot there are killed, wounded or taken prisoner.
  • Suspiciously Small Army: When Lord Mountbatten and General Eisenhower come to inspect the Canadian assault force, a hundred or so infantrymen, and a single extra wearing the insignia of the tank regiment that landed at Dieppe, make up the audience. Another scene shows the general commanding the 2nd Canadian Division - a force in reality of 10 infantry battalions and supporting services numbering over 10,000 men - acting as Drill Sergeant Nasty to a single platoon. The tight perspectives of the Blue Beach scenes also make the small budget and tiny shooting location obvious.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: Denied battleship support, General Roberts desperately appeals to the head of Bomber Command, Air Marshal Arthur Harris. Harris agrees to provide 150 heavy bombers but asks what would happen if it was too foggy for his planes to take off on the day. Roberts replies he'd have no choice but to press on. Harris thanks him and Roberts leaves the meeting convinced he has his bombers. Later, Mountbatten and Hughes-Hallett inform Roberts that Harris refused to let his bombers participate since, in Harris' words, Roberts had indicated they weren't actually required. Mountbatten and Hughes-Hallett furiously demand to know what Roberts said at the meeting:

    Mountbatten: Did you tell him how important bombers were?
    Roberts: I begged.
    Mountbatten: Harris isn't the sort to make things up.
    Hughes-Hallett: He keeps detailed minutes of meetings.
    Roberts: He did ask me if I would proceed if the bombers couldn't take off.
    Hughes-Hallett (horrified): You didn't say yes!
    Roberts (indignant): Of course I bloody well said yes. I'm a soldier!
    Mountbatten (incredulous): Roberts! That's the oldest trick in the book! The second you concede a circumstance in which you would proceed without bombers, it follows that the bombers aren't really required.
    Roberts: Forgive me for thinking we were on the same side.


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