The Dieppe Raid, 1942 (Single Lesson)

  • The Mission
  • Assessment Rubrics
  • Introduction
  • Clues
  • Resources
    • Books
    • Newspapers
    • Objects
    • Photographs
    • Maps
    • Chronologies
    • Audiovisuals
    • Extras
  • Activities
  • Teacher's Guide

The Mission

Photographs as Historical Sources

Just as the first portable cameras made an impact, digital cameras and websites such as Facebook and Flikr have changed how history can be recorded and accessed. For many people, photographs are a way to record how they live, capturing moments such as special events and vacations. Eventually, these 'moments in time' can become part of the historical record of a person, a place, or an event. Photographs can tell a story in ways like nothing else.

For historians, photographs are a key piece of the historical puzzle. Besides providing a visual, there are often many historical clues contained within original photographs. Historians develop skills that allow them to read and obtain a great deal of useful information from an original or primary-source photograph. Your task is to examine a few photographs about the Dieppe raid of 1942 and answer some questions to help develop your historical analysis skills.


Dieppe Raid summary


In early 1942, the situation of Allied Forces looked far from bright. The United States had just been attacked in Pearl Harbour, the German army was forcefully engaged on the eastern front in Russia, British troops in Africa were forced back to Egypt, while Allied forces in Western Europe operated essentially from Britain. Europe was practically a "Nazi-occupied Fortress."

As part of a plan to give high priority to Europe, it was decided by the British and Allied authorities to mount a major raid on the French port of Dieppe, across the English Channel. Canadian troops stationed in England were seen as best suited for this mission planned for July 1942 – called "Operation Rutter." The mission was cancelled only to be revived for August 1942.

On the morning of August 19, 1942, over 6000 troops, including nearly 5000 Canadians, 1000 British Commandos and 50 American Rangers, took part in the Raid of Dieppe. The forces, supported by the RAF/RCAF and Navy ships, attacked at different points on the French beaches. By noon, the raid was over. More than 3000 soldiers, including over 2700 Canadians were killed or taken prisoner. To this day, the merits of the raid are still debated.

What do visual texts (photographs) reveal about the raid?

Examine the following historical sources and answer the analysis questions provided to you.

To acheive your objective, you need to use primary source photographs as evidence. To know more about the concept of "primary source evidence" in history, consult The Historical Thinking Project

Accept Mission