Raid on Dieppe masked secret mission to steal Nazis’ Enigma machine | Second world war


Two years after ordering the mass internment of German refugees at the beginning of the second world war, the British authorities put a small, elite group of them in navy uniforms and despatched them on a secret cloak-and-dagger mission to occupied Dieppe to snatch an Enigma coding machine from underneath the Nazis’ noses.

A brand new e-book printed later this month presents extraordinary proof that the refugees, all Germans who had fled from Nazi-annexed Sudetenland, had been on the centre of navy planning for the daring and in the end disastrous August 1942 raid on Dieppe. The concept was that whereas British and Canadian troops staged a frontal assault on the port, a gaggle of 5 refugee troopers would break right into a resort utilized by Nazi navy commanders and steal each the Enigma machine and the code books that enabled the Germans to ship encrypted navy communications throughout Europe.

Below the course of Lord Mountbatten and Ian Fleming, on the time a senior naval intelligence officer and later the writer of the James Bond books, the Sudeten Germans spent a month coaching in Wales, utilizing Harlech Fort as a stand-in for the Resort Moderne in Dieppe to practise breaking right into a closely secured location and recovering delicate German-language paperwork at excessive velocity.

As Leah Garrett, an American college professor, recounts in her e-book X-Troop: The Secret Jewish Commandos of World War Two, the raiding occasion by no means bought shut. The troop convoys crossing the channel underneath cowl of darkness had been noticed by a German patrol boat, and by the point the troopers reached the Dieppe seashores, they had been greeted by a fearsome barrage of artillery and machine-gun fireplace. Of the 6,000 troops despatched to Dieppe, nearly 1,000 had been killed, greater than 2,400 had been wounded, and almost 2,000 had been taken prisoner.

Whereas the story of the Dieppe catastrophe has been instructed many instances, the position of the refugee commandos has by no means beforehand come to gentle – a lot much less the notion that your complete raid was designed as a distraction so they might seize an Enigma machine unnoticed.

Ian Fleming.
Ian Fleming. {Photograph}: M McKeown/Getty

Garrett unearthed a long-classified, after-action report written by one of many Sudeten Germans, recognized by his Anglicised title Maurice Latimer, who mentioned his orders had been “to proceed instantly to German Common HQ in Dieppe to choose up all paperwork, and so on of worth, together with, if attainable, a brand new German respirator”.

“Respirator” was nearly actually a code phrase referring to the Enigma machine. Code breakers at Bletchley Park close to Milton Keynes had partially decrypted a three-rotor Enigma machine in 1941, revealing key details about the whereabouts of German U-boats however, by the next spring, the Germans had switched to a brand new, four-rotor machine that was a lot more durable to crack.

Getting maintain of one of many new machines was seen as a excessive precedence, as a result of British ships had been as soon as once more coming underneath assault, endangering meals provides and different key provisions and gear for the house entrance.

George Lane, a Hungarian sergeant who helped educated the 5 Sudeten Germans, was married to one of many Bletchley Park code breakers – suggesting an extra connection between the raiding occasion and Mountbatten’s strategic pondering. A number of months earlier, Lane had been invited to be a part of the Particular Operations Govt (SOE), shaped throughout the Battle of Britain to conduct espionage, sabotage, and information-gathering in Nazi-occupied Europe.

It was a welcome turnaround in fortunes for Lane, who had tried to be a part of the Grenadier Guards after the outbreak of war solely to be tagged as an “enemy alien” together with tens of hundreds of different refugees from central Europe and relegated to the menial work of the Pioneer Corps. His luck was that SOE wanted folks fluent in European languages – a necessity that quickly spawned the creation of a complete commando unit made up of largely Jewish refugees that turned generally known as X-Troop.

A majority of these refugees had spent the summer time and autumn of 1940 in British internment camps – a panic transfer by Winston Churchill’s authorities because the Nazis overran the Netherlands and Belgium and Italy entered the war on the Axis aspect. They protested in useless that they had been passionate anti-Nazis, not German “fifth columnists”, and subsequently joined the Pioneer Corps as a approach to show their loyalty to their host nation.

The very best of them had been then chosen for X-Troop, and subsequently noticed motion in North Africa, Sicily and in France after D-Day.

A British tank landing vessel and two British tanks captured by the Germans during the raid on Dieppe.
A British tank touchdown vessel and two British tanks captured by the Germans throughout the raid on Dieppe. {Photograph}: Keystone/Getty

As Garrett reconstructs the timeline, Mountbatten had simply give you the X-Troop concept in the summertime of 1942 when he realised he was going to want German audio system for the Dieppe raid. Pinching an Enigma machine was one other of his areas of duty. The plan he and Fleming formulated would require individuals to determine the related code paperwork and, probably, to interrogate captured German troopers.

Of the 5 males on the mission, nevertheless, none bought shut to the Resort Moderne, and solely Latimer returned in a single piece. One in all his fellow troopers was killed, one was badly wounded, and the opposite two had been captured and spent the war in German arduous labour camps.

The X-Troop concept remained very a lot alive, nevertheless. The day after the Dieppe raid, the captain in control of the secret troop, Bryan Hilton-Jones, was arduous at work interviewing potential new recruits from the Pioneer Corps.

“Having gone via the horror of shedding most of his first group of males in a botched operation,” Garrett writes, “Hilton-Jones vowed that this could by no means occur once more … He would prepare them more durable than every other unit within the British Military.”

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