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Brian Loring Villa

Toronto, Oxford University Press, 1989. 314pp, cloth, $24.95
ISBN 0-19-540679-6. CIP

Post-secondary/ Adult
Reviewed by Thomas F. Chambers.

Volume 18 Number 1
1990 January

On August 19,1942, five thousand Canadians crossed the English Channel and tried to capture the French port of Dieppe. They failed and suffered casualties of almost 60 per cent. As a result of the losses, Dieppe became one of the most controversial battles of World War II.

Previous books on this subject have argued that Churchill wanted the raid to take place in order to show Soviet leader Joseph Stalin and the Americans that Hitler's Europe was still too strong to attack. Villa believes that the real reason was that the Chief of Combined Operations, Lord Louis Mountbatten, ordered the raid to help advance his career and that he acted on his own without the approval of Churchill or the chiefs of staff.

Villa's conclusions will not be popular, for Mountbatten (Dickie to his friends) is usually considered to be one of the great men of his age. He was a popular, charismatic leader who inspired his men to great feats and, until now, had a flawless reputation. Villa, on the other hand, claims that Mountbatten was an ambitious and uninspired individual who did not deserve the great rank thrust upon him.

Villa's account of his search for the truth is an interested story in itself. In Unauthorized Action, Villa functions as the historian as detective. Critics may dislike his conclusions, but they can't fault his efforts at trying to solve the puzzle of how such a disaster could be ordered without approval from those with supreme authority. No one in command came out of the Dieppe story without some cloud of suspicion. It is Villa's belief that ultimate responsibility must rest with Mountbatten.

Thomas F. Chambers, Canadore College of Applied Arts and Technology, North Bay, Ont.
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