Screening proves Canadians not the Expendables

Wayne Abbott and Sly: where was Rambo in Dieppe?

DIEPPE, France–The Karma gods have a sense of humour. How else to explain that Wayne Abbott’s documentary, Dieppe Uncovered, is having its premiere today in Dieppe at a local theatre that’s soon to be playing The Expendables 2?
There are many who still think the Allied commanders must have thought the Canadians were expendable after they way they were thrown into the buzz saw of German resistance on the pebble shores of this coastal town. A few of the surviving veterans–brought to Dieppe this weekend to mark the 70th anniversary of the doomed raid–feel that way themselves.
Abbott’s film, which premieres Sunday night at 9 p.m. on History Television as well as on uktv, goes some way towards clearing up old notions about Dieppe, revealing long hidden secret strategies behind the operation.
Two screenings of the film are being held here today, at 2 and 4 p.m., before an audience of veterans and current servicemen. The young soldiers represent regiments that fought at Dieppe. The Duke of York is also supposed to be in attendance, as is Canada’s Minister of Veteran Affairs Steven Blaney.
It was another, much older film that first made me aware of Dieppe: All Star Bond Rally. My dad, a WWII veteran who served in France and Germany in the Canadian Provost Corps, was given a 16mm print of the 20th Century Fox short. He would haul out the ol’ Kodak Pageant projector and show the durable two reeler at home every year.

“Til the lads come back again, back the old attack again…”

The film features Bob Hope, Bing Crosby (left), Frank Sinatra, Harry James, Betty Grable, Harpo Marx and even the popular radio duo Fibber McGee and Molly. Hope acted as Master of Ceremonies, and in the “Canadian” part of the print, he comes from behind a curtain to deliver a wartime propaganda message to try and sell a few war bonds (available at local theatres at the time).
“It was no hit or miss, but a generalship, that you Canadians were chosen for that battle at Dieppe,” said Hope. “What was that?” I asked my dad. “More like slaughter at Dieppe,” he would answer every time.
Most Canadian forces personnel felt the invaders were sorely under supported.
The failed invasion wasn’t exactly a moral booster back home at the time. Still–as Abbott’s film helps explain–lessons were learned which paved the way for the successful D-Day invasion two years later. Certainly, judging by all the Canadian flag waving going on this weekend in this French coastal town, the heroic Canadian effort did not go unnoticed or unappreciated.

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