‘We were sitting ducks’:100-year-old war veteran shares memories of Dieppe

‘We were sitting ducks’:100-year-old war veteran shares memories of Dieppe

Honorary Col. David Lloyd Hart still remembers every detail of the bloody and chaotic scene in 1942

At age 100, Honorary Col. David Lloyd Hart still remembers every detail of the bloody and chaotic scene on the beach during the ill-fated Allied raid on Dieppe in 1942.

Hart, a communications operator, remembers being stuck on a crippled boat about five metres from shore, unable to swim for the beach because he couldn’t leave the vessel’s radio unit.

“The fire was terrible,” he said at an interview at his home in Montreal.

“There was mortar fire, and there were machine-gun nests in the cliffs which weren’t seen by our intelligence people because they had them covered, and they had heavy six-pounder or more cannons shooting at us.”

The Canadian Forces calls Hart, who was born in July 1917, the country’s oldest and longest serving officer. (He has the honorary rank of colonel).

He enlisted in the reserves in 1937 with the Fourth Signal Regiment and was called to active duty in 1939.

He went on to receive a military medal for bravery for his actions in Dieppe after he insisted on briefly going off air to locate two brigades and pass on an order to withdraw.

The raid on occupied France would prove to be the bloodiest single day for Canada’s military in the entire Second World War.

What was supposed to be a stealth operation quickly went wrong when the Allied forces were spotted by German troops, who barraged the boats with heavy fire.

“We were sitting ducks,” said Hart, who escaped without a scratch.

Of the almost 5,000 Canadian soldiers who took part in the raid on occupied France, nearly 3,400 were captured, injured or died. The number of deaths totalled 916.

Hart remembers seeing soldiers crouched behind the seawall, trying to dig with stones for a place to hide.

“They couldn’t, they were actually helpless,” he recalled.

The ship he was on, hopelessly damaged, had to be towed all the way back to England.

Hart stayed in the military after the war, eventually going on to command the 11th Signal Regiment.

Since leaving active duty he has served in various honorary positions.

Hart, who is still active and who looks much younger than his 100 years, says he’s impressed by today’s young soldiers, who he believes are “just as good as we were.”

He’s also glad the military is doing a better job than they used to of supporting the many veterans who return from wars with post-traumatic stress disorder.

At times, however, he’s disappointed to see some people losing interest in Remembrance Day, or wearing white poppies to promote pacifism.

“People don’t understand,” he said. ”They seem to think that wars should be abolished. But war has been around ever since people were fighting one another 5,000 years ago.”

He returned to Dieppe for the 75th anniversary of the conflict this summer, which he described as an emotional experience.

While he says all veterans ”have to live with our memories,” he says that given the chance, he’d sign up again — if he were young enough, that is.

Hart, who remembers the days of scratchy crystal radio sets and gramophones, believes the drive to win military conflicts spurred many of the “marvellous” advancements in medicine, science and technology he’s seen in his lifetime.

“We have people going to the moon, and we have a spaceship that’s up in the sky doing experimentation,” he said. “And we’re talking about finally sending someone to Mars.

“These are all marvellous things.”

Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press

Remembrance Day

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Island Health has confirmed the first long term care facility outbreak in Greater Victoria at Veterans Memorial Lodge in Saanich. (Google Maps)
Island Health records first long-term care COVID outbreak in Greater Victoria

Veterans Memorial Lodge in Saanich confirms one positive staff member

Itty, a Siamese cat, has been missing since a house fire in Victoria’s Fernwood neighbourhood on Friday, Nov. 27. Her owner says she has white fur with blonde and grey markings. (Facebook/ROAM)
Cat goes missing after house fire in Fernwood neighbourhood

‘Itty’ has white fur, blonde and grey markings and blue eyes

An aerial view over Oak Bay. (Black Press Media File Photo)
An aerial view over Oak Bay and the Marina. Oak Bay residents pay the highest taxes on Vancouver Island. Don Denton/Black Press
Oak Bay secondary suites study considers units old and new

Secondary suites draft report due in new year

Westcoast Impressions plans to organize a COVID-19 friendly version of the event in 2021 at the Mary Winspear Centre after having cancelled the 2020 version against the backdrop of pandemic. The opening night of the 2019 Sidney Street Market featured more than 150 vendors lined along Beacon Avenue. (Black Press Media file photo)
Sidney Street Market plans for 2021 return at Mary Winspear Centre

Tentative plan calls for the event’s return to Beacon Avenue after COVID-19 pandemic

(Dave Landine/Facebook)
VIDEO: Dashcam captures head-on crash between snowplow and truck on northern B.C. highway

Driver posted to social media that he walked away largely unscathed

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Top doctor urges Canadians to limit gatherings as ‘deeply concerning’ outbreaks continue

Canada’s active cases currently stand at 63,835, compared to 53,907 a week prior

A Canadian Pacific freight train travels around Morant’s Curve near Lake Louise, Alta., on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014. A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths along the railway tracks in Banff and Yoho national parks in Alberta and British Columbia has found that train speed is one of the biggest factors. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

Research concludes effective mitigation could address train speed and ability of wildlife to see trains

A airport worker is pictured at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. Wednesday, March 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canada extends COVID restrictions for non-U.S. travellers until Jan. 21 amid second wave

This ban is separate from the one restricting non-essential U.S. travel

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
B.C. care home looks to hire residents’ family members amid COVID-19-related staff shortage

Family would get paid as temporary workers, while having chance to see loved ones while wearing PPE

A man walks by a COVID-19 test pod at the Vancouver airport in this undated handout photo. A study has launched to investigate the safest and most efficient way to rapidly test for COVID-19 in people taking off from the Vancouver airport. The airport authority says the study that got underway Friday at WestJet’s domestic check-in area is the first of its kind in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Vancouver Airport Authority *MANDATORY CREDIT*
COVID-19 rapid test study launches at Vancouver airport for departing passengers

Airport authority says that a positive rapid test result does not constitute a medical diagnosis for COVID-19

A small crash in the water south of Courtenay Saturday afternoon. Two men had to be rescued, but reports indicate there were no serious injuries. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Small plane crash in Comox Valley waters Saturday afternoon

Two rescued from plane that had flipped in water; no serious injuries reported

A photo from 2017, of Nuchatlaht First Nation members outside court after filing a land title case in B.C. ( Submitted photo/Nuchatlaht First Nation).
Vancouver Island First Nation calls on B.C. to honour UNDRIP in historic title case

Nuchatlaht First Nation says Crown counsel continues to stall the case using the ‘distasteful’ argument that the Nation ‘abandoned’ their land

Most Read