Remembrance Service at Dieppe Park

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RHLI soldiers will join vets to remember Dieppe Raid
By Paul Morse
The Hamilton Spectator
(Aug 18, 2005)
For decades, Royal Hamilton Light Infantry veterans have remembered the terrible toll their regiment paid on the bloodstained beaches of Dieppe with a march down Kenilworth Avenue.

Now, they've also paid the toll of time, and too few Rileys are left to form up, their medals ablaze and their backs straight.

The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry parade is no more.

Instead, serving RHLI soldiers will join the veterans at Dieppe Veterans' Memorial Park tomorrow on Beach Boulevard for a full Remembrance Service.

"It's always sad when a tradition stops, but it's simply for practical purposes," said Colonel James Forsyth, honorary colonel of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry.

"They are all in their 80s now ... and they're certainly not capable of marching too much anymore," he said yesterday.

Only 22 RHLI Dieppe vets are left, many too ill to travel. Last year, six veterans were able to attend the services, Forsyth said, so they decided to combine events at the two-year-old memorial park.

"It's a much nicer location, but there isn't a big enough area to form up and march there," he said. "I think it's more fitting there."

Along with the memorial wall with the names of all the fallen Rileys and its central Dieppe cairn, the park's design symbolizes the hardships the soldiers faced that day.

Facing inward from the lake, the memorial has rocks similar to the shingle beach pebbles the Rileys had to cross under intense fire, and a miniature seawall.

Landscape architect Arnis Budrevics incorporated an unexpectedly ingenious element into his memorial design, Forsyth said.

"The Skyway bridge, which we look at as we look at the memorial wall, becomes the cliffs of Dieppe.

"It's a very symbolic, emotional spot to be."

Close to 600 Rileys stormed ashore on Aug. 19, 1942, straight into the teeth of German defenders who waited, watched and then unleashed a firestorm of hot metal.

The RHLI soldiers were part of the main attack at Dieppe, storming ashore on the pebble beach in front of the town's promenade casino.

They managed to take the casino and clear out nearby pillboxes before moving into town where they ended up in heavy street fighting.

The raid was a disaster for the Allies. Some 197 RHLI soldiers were among the more than 900 Canadians who lost their lives at Dieppe.

Two thousand Canadians were captured in the ill-fated assault, but many historians say the defeat taught the Allies many lessons later used in the D-Day invasion at Normandy.

The Dieppe Remembrance Service begins at 10:45 a.m. tomorrow at Dieppe Veterans' Memorial Park. The park is about 500 metres from the Burlington Lift Bridge, on the Hamilton side.

For information, call Captain Tim Fletcher, 905-308-6696

pmorse@thespec.com 905-526-3434
 
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