Mystery flag commemorating the 80th anniversary of the tragic Dieppe air raid on Remembrance Day

OTTAWA—Legend has it that when Canadian forces landed under German fire in the French port of Dieppe in August 1942, one of the hundreds who ultimately died in the attack was carrying an old flag. was

How that red and white flag ended up in a Nazi-controlled French port, and even whether it was definitively there, remains a mystery.

But more than 80 years later, the flag will play a central role in commemorating the fate of the Dieppe raid at this year’s National Day of Remembrance ceremony. This is due to his three Americans.

What we now know about the 150-year-old flag began in 1965 at a garage sale in Columbus, Nebraska. There, Charles Rowley found an old red flag in the hands of an American veteran.

“It was an old flag and he nearly threw it away,” says Mike Lowry, Charles’ son. “And dad said: ‘What’s the story about the flag?'”

A veteran told Charles that he was a prisoner of war camp guard at the end of World War II in 1945. He becomes Red Lieutenant.

The red flag served as Canada’s de facto flag from 1892 to 1965, when it was replaced by the maple leaf. The design featured the Union Jack and various coats of arms depending on the states that belonged to the Commonwealth at the time.

Dated by the Royal Canadian Legion, this particular flag dates from 1870 to 1873, after Manitoba joined the Commonwealth and before it became the province of British Columbia.

American veterans knew nothing about this at the time. All he knew was what a German soldier had told him: the flag had been removed from one of the 916 Canadian soldiers who died three years earlier during an ill-fated raid in Dieppe.

In the early morning hours of August 19, 1942, about 5,000 Canadian soldiers and 1,100 British and American troops landed in Nazi-controlled French ports.

The purpose was to test the German defenses and the feasibility of an Allied amphibious assault on Europe, but the results were disastrous. In addition to the hundreds killed, 2,400 Canadians were wounded or taken prisoner.

“The Germans claimed they weren’t involved in the fighting and were only buried, found it on the dead Canadian and basically took it as a souvenir,” Mike says. . “Of course they took it away from him. The plan was to give it to the Canadian forces.”

Instead, the flag returned to Nebraska and ended up in the hands of Mike, who was in high school at the time, and Charles, who tried to identify it.

“There were two books on flags in the Columbus library,” recalls Mike. “We looked them up, we looked at all the provinces of Canada.

“We couldn’t find it, and it was an effort by[my father]. Even after I entered college, he was looking for someone who knew something.” ”

When Charles died in 2003 at the age of 93, the Red Ensign was taken over by the largely forgotten Mike. However, he remembered his father’s wish to restore it to its rightful home, and he began a new search.

He eventually confirmed its Canadian heritage and contacted the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C. at that time.

It’s unclear how the 70-year-old flag ended up in Dieppe, but the Corps says Canadian soldiers often carried the flag into battle during World War I. Some of them were given to soldiers during World War II, probably for good luck.

Ensign Red visited Dieppe with a delegation of veterans in 2019, and Legion spokeswoman Nujima Bond said a place of honor would be given in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to commemorate the battle. increase.

“It’s really a story of hope and memory and solidarity,” says Bond. “And I’m really happy to be able to share it with Canadians and visually have that flag as a symbol of remembrance and a symbol of sacrifice.”

Asked how he felt to learn that the flag his father had rescued from a trash can would be featured at Canada’s National Day of Remembrance Day ceremony, Mike said his heart goes back to his father.

“My father wanted to give it back to his family and department,” he says. “And now I feel like it’s been given back to the whole country. I think he’s very humble and he’s very proud of that. I know I am. increase.

Lee Bertioom

canadian press