Some had slept. Probably the veterans – those fighter pilots and bomber crews who knew what it was like the night before a “big show”.
Others, new to the idea of going into combat, likely tossed and turned, thinking of the thousand and one details that had been briefed the day before – or trying not to think at all, lest their thoughts stray to the unthinkable.
It did not matter now. Fresh or tired, the crews donned their goggles, gloves, boots and life preservers as they made their way to their squadron areas. Some may have spoken boastfully to their comrades of deeds to come, while others enjoyed the moments before dawn in thoughtful silence awed in part by what they had been told the day before. It was Wednesday, the 19th of August 1942 and Operation Jubilee was about to begin.
The aircrew had been told that Jubilee was to be “raid in force” involving more than 6,000 soldiers and commandos, supported by naval and air forces. The target was the French port of Dieppe in Occupied France. It was to be a hit and run operation; a chance to “poke Jerry in the eye”.
There were broader strategic and operational considerations but, if the airmen had been told that Jubilee would divert German attention from the beleaguered Russians on the Eastern Front, or acquire intelligence information and equipment, these considerations were well above their pay grade. These lofty considerations were for the likes of Air Marshal Leigh Mallory, the Royal Air Force (RAF)…