STANDING ON GUARD

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Dieppe Uncovered

Release Year:          2012
Studio:         Entertainment One
Format:         Colour; NTSC; widescreen
Rated:         Not Rated
# of Discs/Episodes:         1
Running Time:        68 minutes
DVD Release Date:         August 6, 2013
Screenwriters:         Wayne Abbott, David O’Keefe
Directors:         Wayne Abbott
Narrated by:         Tyler Smith
DVD Features:         SDH subtitles
E:Top Picks Rating:         8/10

Entertainment One Write-up:  
On August 19, 1942, the Allies launched their first amphibious attack on mainland Europe at the small French port of Dieppe. Now, investigative reporting, interviews and reenactments bring the events of that day to life and reveal the role James Bond creator Ian Fleming played in one of the darkest hours of WWII.

Jon Ted Wynne Review:  
It is almost always a good thing when Canada decides to acknowledge the achievements of their military by contributing to the field of historical documentary. Despite the country’s tendency to be less vocal about their accomplishments, it is proven fact that Canada’s military is one of the world’s best.

The Dieppe Raid of August 19, 1942, is considered by most historians (and certainly by the survivors who were there) to have been a massive failure. It is no reflection on Canada’s military that they lost the day; what is extraordinary is that they were there at all.

One survivor of the raid who recently passed away in Winnipeg, Manitoba (he was a member of The Queen’s Own Highlanders of Canada, a Winnipeg regiment) told a friend of this reviewer that being at Dieppe was like standing in the middle of a football field and being shot at by the enemy in the stands.

The point of this new documentary is that historian/presenter David O’Keefe believes he has cracked the mystery as to why the raid took place to begin with.

At a time when the Allies were in no position to sustain an invasion of Europe and when the Russians were being pounded on the eastern front, something had to be done to test the waters, so to speak. Would a hit and run raid scare the Nazis? Would it deflect some attention away from attacking the Soviets? Would it provide an opportunity to learn some valuable lessons before the actual invasion of Europe—D-Day as it came to be known—some years later?

Perhaps all of these things are true. It was apparently not uncommon for operations to have more than one objective. What is intriguing to consider is the hypothesis put forward by David O’Keefe, that the raid was also designed—perhaps even primarily so—to “pinch” (steal) a German 4 wheel Enigma machine, which was used to transmit and receive a secret code the Allies had been unable to break.

While some may disagree with this theory, it is intriguing to consider. The fact it was spearheaded by Commander Ian Fleming, who went on to create the world’s most famous spy, James Bond, is even more seductive.

The presentation style of this film is a little off-putting in that the lightning fast editing and mixture of special effects and re-enactments layered over (the much more interesting) actual archival footage seems designed for the MTV-age viewer. For my money, there is nothing more powerful than seeing real footage of the Canadian dead, so meticulously documented by German cameramen after the battle. Be that as it may, the story of the Dieppe Raid is potent stuff.

But perhaps the final verdict on this well-meaning documentary must be given by the survivors who have lived with the haunting question “why undertake such a hopeless endeavour to begin with?” As Professor O’Keefe shows his evidence to one Dieppe veteran on camera the man is moved to tears as finally, after all these years, the life-altering experience he endured makes some kind of sense.

“Ours is not to reason why; ours is but to do or die.”

Perhaps, but knowledge is a powerful panacea.

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