The Dieppe Raid: A Decision-Making Exercise – Operation Rutter (Part 1)

Professor Emeritus Terry Copp, director of the Laurier Centre for Military Strategic and Disarmament Studies presents “The Dieppe Raid: A Decision-Making Exercise – Part 1: Operation Rutter.” This lecture, which explores Operation Rutter – the precursor to Operation Jubilee (the Dieppe Raid)  – is the first in a series of two videos which will make up this decision-making exercise. The next video (Part Two) focuses entirely on Operation Jubilee and can be found here.

These videos, created by a team of LCMSDS staff and students, are brand-new and have been recorded, edited, and uploaded specifically for this exercise. The stylistic, black-and-white recordings feature Terry speaking in lecture-style with visual elements like archival photographs, maps, and text, integrated to enhance your learning.

This decision-making exercise is offered as part of the outreach activities of the Laurier Centre for Military Strategic and Disarmament Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. The exercise is based on the one we use to engage students in critical historical thinking at the strategic and operational level without the benefit of hindsight.

The main question we would like you to consider while watching these lectures is:

 After being presented with the same information that decision-makers had in 1942, would you still launch the Dieppe Raid?

Additional information will pop up throughout the video through the “Annotations” feature, so please do not disable this option while viewing.

As Terry mentions in the lecture, we will be examining decisions that were made by political and military leaders and we may decide to scrutinize their actions or mistakes. However, we should do so with a degree of humility, as few of us will ever face the kind of challenges they confronted on a daily basis.

We hope that the exercise will result in a lively and informed discussion and we encourage you to interact with us. But please, avoid personal attacks and keep your comments respectful and relevant. Please submit your comments, questions, and answers below using the Comments feature.

LCMSDS will offer a battlefield study tour open to the general public as well as university students in May 2014. Individuals interested in this tour may find our Dieppe exercise of great value. Although the 2014 tour will be focused on D-Day and the Battle of Normandy, we have found that an analysis of the actions at Dieppe provide a valuable introduction to the exploration of Operation Overlord and Normandy Campaign. Once on the ground in Normandy, the 2014 tour leaders will follow a similar approach to this lesson, carrying out decision-making exercises on the actual battlefields with historical documents, intelligence reports, maps, and  aerial photographs.


Terry Copp discusses the raid while overlooking the beaches at Dieppe, France. War & Memory Study Tour, May 2013. [Nick Lachance,]

For more information about the study tour, consult our website, but for now let us turn to Operation Rutter.

The next video (Part Two) focuses on Operation Jubilee and can be found here.

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  1. Floyd Low -  August 20, 2013 - 7:15 pm 8064

    I think the answer based on what we are presented with is that the RAF and RN had limited objectives which they achieved. The attack on the German artillery to the left of the town suceeded. And of course Monty said the Canadians could do it. Also we note the 2nd Cdn Div was untried – rushed into the operation and briefed on the ship. Very risky.

    The ground forces in the Centre had a link up – if – they got through the town – to attack the airfield – if they got on shore and if they could stay on shore inside the reduced timings they were operating with.

    We aren’t told the Germans had conducted a defensive exercise with live ammo prior to the Canadians arriving (Gen Whitakers’s book if I recall said they didn’t know of that)

    So – the answer – the weak link from the higher level is the ground forces assumed too much risk and the main supporters RAF and RN obviously didn’t plan to be on site very long.

    The next issue seems to call for the emergence of Monty to groom Gen Simonds.

    Improvise doesn’t work if you haven’t run the scenario over a few times.

  2. Dave Alexander -  August 21, 2013 - 1:40 pm 8081

    To characterize the operational plan for Operation Rutter as “deeply flawed” would be grossly unfair to the military planners who conceived of the plan in the first place. Was there an element of risk to this plan? Certainly, as it was weather dependent and there were many components that were sequenced to come together at zero hour and thereafter to achieve success. Did Operation Rutter have a chance for failure resulting in high casualties? Yes, as is the same with any other military operation and the planners would have factored these considerations into their calculus. If the weather co-operated, the RAF / RCAF struck their assigned targets and achieved air superiority including airborne drops, the naval strike force maintained cohesion and the element of surprise, Operation Rutter offered much promise. Otherwise, why would the contemporary planners and commanders of the day have sanctioned the plan? Even with the recent setback at Tobruk, Prime Minister Churchill supported going ahead with Operation Rutter. Evidently as Operation Rutter was aborted in July of 1942, many elements of Rutter were resurrected for Operation Jubilee.

    • Floyd Low -  August 21, 2013 - 7:50 pm 8087

      It was a success for the RAF and RN

      Just think – put tanks on a beach – even of it was good – then fight through a constricted hilly town to get on the high ground – FAIL.

      Plus – if this was required for experience – why is no link to the landings in North Africa in mid Nov ?

      The Prof gives us a clue – Gunners (Gen Robarts) and I suggest his higher commander had no concept of all arms cooperation yet – so they larked it out and sent the ground troops where they didn’t exert an effect on the Germans.

      Dieppe may have somewhat enhanced North Africa – but a long sequence of Allied landings before summer 44 enhanced Normandy.

      Courtroom conclusion – the 2 Div COmmander’s boss is the culprit

      • Dave Alexander -  August 23, 2013 - 12:05 pm 8144

        To specifically address the key question of the decision making exercise: “After being presented with the same information that decision-makers had in 1942, would you still launch the Dieppe Raid?,” we need to consider the historical context within which the historical actors operated.  There had been recent setbacks in the Battle of the Atlantic and North Africa while Stalin was demanding a second front be opened and the Americans were calling for immediate action in France.  Not to mention the clamouring back in Canada to open up a second front and get our boys into action!  Despite the inherent risks and perceived shortcomings of Operation Jubilee, the Allies had little choice but to opt for the raid on Dieppe in August of 1942.  I suppose if I were a Brooke, Crerar, Mountbatten, Leigh-Mallory, Hughes-Hallett, Roberts, King or Churchill and the circumstances that confronted them, I would opt to launch Operation Jubilee.  Thank you to Professor Copp and the folks at LCMSDS for providing this decision making exercise allowing us to think historically.

  3. Jonathan Bicknell -  August 27, 2013 - 10:37 pm 8324

    In my opinion considering the evidence provided, Operation Rutter was both a promising operation as well as a deeply flawed one. What matters most I suppose is which side outweighed the other.
    The operation could easily have been considered a promising one if you simply take into account what they were trying to achieve. With the German offensive ongoing on the eastern front, the western allies needed to provide some sort of relief to the Russians. Furthermore, all of them were fully aware that an invasion of the European continent taking shape on the coast of France would have to take place in the future. As stated in the video, military planners were in dire need of information regarding amphibious landings. Everything from the different services working in tandem, to the equipment (amphibious tanks) and the strength of German defenses needed to be understood clearly. Considering the obvious need for information, training and providing the Russians with relief, I can easily conclude that the operation had some merit.
    However, there are many reasons which cause me to entertain the thought that Operation was a deeply flawed one as well. Simply looking at the aerial photographs gives me an uneasy feeling. The obvious challenges of conducting a landing with high ground such as in and around Dieppe cannot be ignored. Coupling the naturally defendable ground with their decision to not provide heavy bombers gives me a headache. I understand the need for surprise but the assumption that a light strafing of German coastal defences would be sufficient was a dangerous one. Finally, the fact that the Canadians had received limited training and that there were significant mishaps during said training, only adds to my concerns.
    Obviously Operation Rutter was flawed. Unfortunately for those who were being charged with orchestrating the raid. I believe the amount of knowledge which was to be gained caused the military brass to overlook the dangers of Operation Rutter to some degree. That being said, if I were in their position with the amount of pressure they had to get the invasion ball rolling. I likely would have conducted the raid or something similar as well.

    Thank You Professor Copp for a wonderful exercise!

  4. Ken Joyce -  April 2, 2018 - 1:15 pm 33638

    One thing that always bothered me about all this is the lack of research into Soviet involvement in the decision making. Canadian historians tend to have tunnel vision and are too timid to seek answers outside of the established narrative. One only needs to look at how the British handled plans for Operation JUPITER (Invasion of Norway) to understand that the motive may not have been success. Let’s face it, if you were in a boat heading between the headlands at Dieppe you would immediately understand the sheer futility of the plan. As with JUPITER, RUTTER and JUBILEE were just fodder for Stalin. The scaling back of resources and planning just before operations were to take place is evident in JUPITER planning as well. Churchill did not seem to have any issues with sacrificing 5000 men ( or a large percentage of that number) to shut Stalin up regarding a full-on assault of France across the Channel when no one was ready for such a venture. The question that needs to be asked is what if Dieppe was a resounding success? Do you think Roosevelt and Stalin would just forget it? Churchill was already arguing for TORCH. How would a success at Dieppe affect that? Just like MARKET GARDEN historians obsess over success or failure. They rarely discuss diversions, political aspects or operations mounted simply to keep the enemy on its toes. While the favorite excuse to exonerate Dieppe planning is what was learned. In my opinion what was sacrificed at Dieppe saved even more lives by preventing the US and Soviets pushing for a futile cross Channel invasion in 1943.


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