- Name: Charles Cecil Ingersoll MERRITT
- D.O.B: 10th Nov, 1908
- D.O.A: 19th Aug, 1942
- D.O.D: 12th Jul, 2000
- Award: Victoria Cross
- Occupation at time of action: Lieutenant Colonel, commanding The South Saskatchewan Regiment, 2nd Canadian Infantry Division
- Book: The Complete History - Volume 3
The Dieppe Raid, France 19 August 1942
19 August 1942
The Second World War 1942
With growing pressure from the Russians for the Allies to launch a second front in the west, a plan was hatched, vigorously promoted by Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten, Chief of Combined Operations, for a trial raid on Dieppe, to see if it were possible to hold a port on the French Coast even for a short period. Canadian troops had arrived to assist with the defence of Britain in 1940. Mackenzie King, the Canadian Prime Minister, had forbidden their use in North Africa. They now provided 5,000 troops for the Dieppe Raid. Before dawn on 19 August 1942, two British Commando units, comprising 1,000 men, attacked the German batteries at Varengeville five miles to the west and Berneval a similar distance to the east of Dieppe. Temporary Captain P A Porteous distinguished himself serving with Lord Lovat’s No 4 Commando at Varengeville. Meanwhile Canadian forces landed east and west of Dieppe to support the Commandos and to protect the flanks of the main force attacking Dieppe itself. The South Saskatchewan Regiment under Lieutenant Colonel C C I Merritt went ashore at Pourville to the west of the town. They found themselves cut off from their objective by the River Scie and Merritt had to lead his men over the bridge under very heavy machine-gun and artillery fire. The main attacking force faced equally fierce resistance. Captain J W Foote, chaplain to the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry, had been refused permission to join the Raid but had stowed away on one of the boats to be with the troops. When at 9am it was decided the Raid could not be sustained, he refused the chance of being evacuated. Of the 6,000 men who took part in the attack over half were killed, wounded or captured and naval and air losses were equally heavy.
For matchless gallantry and inspiring leadership whilst commanding his battalion during the Dieppe raid on the 19th August, 1942. From the point of landing, his unit’s advance had to be made across a bridge in Pourville which was swept by very heavy machine-gun, mortar and artillery fire: the first parties were mostly destroyed and the bridge thickly covered by their bodies. A daring lead was required; waving his helmet, Lieutenant-Colonel Merritt rushed forward shouting “Come on over! There’s nothing to worry about here.” He thus personally led the survivors of at least four parties in turn across the bridge. Quickly organizing these, he led them forward and when held up by enemy pill-boxes he again headed rushes which succeeded in clearing them. In one case he himself destroyed the occupants of the post by throwing grenades into it. After several of his runners became casualties, he himself kept contact with his different positions. Although twice wounded Lieutenant-Colonel Merritt continued to direct the unit’s operations with great vigour and determination and while organizing the withdrawal he stalked a sniper with a Bren gun and silenced him. He then coolly gave orders for the departure and announced his intention to hold off and “get even with” the enemy. When last seen he was collecting Bren and Tommy guns and preparing a defensive position which successfully covered the withdrawal from the beach. Lieutenant-Colonel Merritt is now reported to be a Prisoner of War. To this Commanding Officer’s personal daring, the success of his unit’s operations and the safe re-embarkation of a large portion of it were chiefly due.