The Unnoticed WWII Suicide Mission – Operation Jubilee | History | New

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For decades, the Allied invasion of the French coastal city of Dieppe has been considered by many historians to be one of the most catastrophic failures of World War II. More than 3,500 of the approximately 6,000 men who landed on August 19, 1942, were captured or killed before the survivors made a hasty retreat.

Part of the huge force assembled for Operation Jubilee, the daring 1942 raid (Picture: Mirrorpix)

But with tomorrow’s 80th anniversary of Operation Jubilee, better known as the Dieppe Raid, this historic narrative is being reevaluated. A new account reveals how a little-known British expert uncovered vital information about a top-secret German radar under cover of the raid, information that saved thousands of lives on D-Day.

Under heavy fire, RAF Flight Sergeant and electronics specialist Jack Nissenthall, then only 22 years old, managed to cut off the Nazi radar station at Dieppe by cutting the telegraph wires.

He examined enough of its sophisticated electronics to understand how it worked and forced enemy radar operators to communicate by radio, leaving their messages open to interception by British intelligence.

It was a mission that Nissenthall knew would most likely cost him his life. The 10 Canadian soldiers assigned to protect him had been ordered to shoot him down when his capture seemed likely. The risk of him leaking Britain’s radar secrets under Nazi torture was simply too high.

His daughter, Linda Nissen Samuels, 73, has now written a book about his extraordinary war called The Man Under The Radar. History comes to life with eyewitness accounts from his late father’s unpublished wartime memoir, The Wizard War.

Piecing together her father’s story, she discovered that the Chief of Combined Operations, Lord Mountbatten, was aware of her father’s mission, but not fully aware of its risks.

Linda Nissen Samuels

Jack’s daughter Linda wrote a book about her war stories (Photo: Adam Gerrard)

“Never at any time did I hear of people being sent out with instructions to kill one of their own,” he later wrote.

“Another failure of the machine below me was that no one told me afterwards that Nissenthall had returned safe and sound. If I had been told, he most certainly would have been decorated on the spot.”

Linda explains: “My father was very discreet about what he did during the war and it was only when I was 13 that I learned that he had gone to Dieppe and had nearly to be killed.

“When I read his story and the very touching letters he wrote to my mother Dally, I knew I had to tell his story correctly for the first time. Many people think my father deserved the Cross of Victoria for what he did. His bravery under fire was extraordinary.”

Prince Charles and his late father, Prince Philip, were aware of Jack Nissenthall’s role in Operation Jubilee and went out of their way to thank him for his service.

Jack was born in October 1919 into a loving Jewish family. Her father Aaron, a tailor, and her mother, Annie, lived in Bow, east London. As a child, he was skilled with a screwdriver, crafting crystal radio sets for his friends and neighbors from the age of nine. At 16, he joined EMI, working on sound production and the assembly and installation of television sets.

jack and dally

Jack Nissenthall and his wife Dally in 1947, they will live in Canada (Image: )

In February 1940 he joined the RAF as a radio mechanic and began training radar operators. These were dark times as the Battle of Britain raged in the South East of England.

Jack recalled in his memoirs: “It seemed like the Luftwaffe could do what they wanted, burning and bombing where they wanted. The stacked formations of bombers sometimes seem to swarm like grasshoppers and fill the sky. Although I would never have admitted it, I felt in my heart that we couldn’t win this war.”

To follow the bombardment from occupied Norway, Nissenthall worked out of a radar base at Rosehearty, north of Aberdeen, and later on the south coast of England.

In 1942, the Allies drew up a feasibility plan to liberate Europe by amphibious invasion, testing German defenses and their own capabilities by seizing a French Channel port. Dieppe was selected and Nissenthall volunteered for the raid, even though the German Freya radar system was heavily shielded and the mission was deemed difficult, if not impossible.

At an Air Ministry meeting in Whitehall, a senior intelligence officer gave him one last chance to change his mind, insisting on the “no capture” clause.

“I pointed out that 10 men from the South Saskatchewan Regiment had been detached to ensure that I complied with instructions,” Jack wrote.

“I picked up the small bag containing my tools, which included a compact electronic test meter, a collapsible hacksaw, wire cutters, pliers, and various other devices to aid in the rapid dismantling of enemy radar.”

Jack was driven to Southampton to meet Canadian troops who had sworn to protect him – or kill him. Twelve miles off Dieppe, he boarded a landing craft to join the invasion force for the two-hour journey to the landing point at Pourville.

“The sea was choppy, salt spray splashing up the ramp of the landing craft. Our thoughts were all eagerly anticipating the fight ahead,” he recalls.

As they waded ashore, they came under heavy machine gun fire, which mowed through the mainly Canadian forces. Jack continued his account: “The machine guns made us crawl and duck in strange places under cover, the mortar shells then chased us away.

“The whole hill up to the top of the cliff where the radar station was located had been cleared of foliage and shrubbery in preparation for an attack. With persistent precision the alert German gunners fired on us.”

Waves of Spitfires and Hurricanes joined the battle, with over 80 shot down. During the firefight, Jack scaled a telegraph pole to cut the communication wires to the radar station. Although only ashore for a few hours, he was able to recall the technical specifications of the radar stations and determine what wavelength the Germans were using.

It was a major intelligence breakthrough that helped British scientists create a radar jamming device called the Mandrel, which was used on D-Day.

Jack Nissen

Flt Sgt Jack Nissenthall in Egypt in 1943 (Image: )

Finally, after heavy casualties, the Allied survivors returned to the beach to find it littered with burnt-out landing craft; Jack fired at enemy positions.

“My personal position was now truly dire,” he recalls in his manuscript. “My promise still stood: capture seemed inevitable and rather than being captured, I was hired to be killed or destined to kill myself, and capture now seemed completely inevitable.

“I firmly strapped two primed grenades to my webbing belt, one on my left and one on my right. If I was hit and injured while fleeing, I intended to detonate one of them. these grenades or both. It would have been over very quickly.”

Under fire, Jack sprinted along the beach and somehow found an undamaged landing craft. Back in the UK, her fiancé Dally then removed shrapnel from her leg.

Besides nearly 5,500 Allied soldiers killed, wounded or captured, the RAF lost 106 aircraft and the Royal Navy lost one destroyer and 33 landing craft.

“Militarily, the Dieppe Raid was an invaluable, constructive but extremely costly reconnaissance,” wrote Jack.

“Nobody expected a picnic and despite the sneers of some critics today, I think I speak for the vast majority of Dieppe men in saying that we are fiercely proud to have been part of this bloody, heroic but intensely instructive debacle. It is said that each Canadian death at Dieppe saved at least 10 men on D-Day.”

After Dieppe, Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten, Chief of Combined Operations, decided that no attempt should be made to take a port by force on D-Day. Instead, the “Mulberry” ports were towed through the English Channel and an intense bombardment before the landing was agreed.

Later in the war, Jack traveled to Egypt to set up a radar station and remained there until June 1945.

He married Dally the following year at Stoke Newington Synagogue, London. After the end of hostilities, he left the RAF and the couple emigrated to South Africa where they opened a radio repair shop in Pretoria. He also shortened his name to Nissen.

“They had a very happy life in South Africa,” Linda says. “They were devoted to each other.

“I was very moved by the letters they wrote to each other during those difficult war years. They had gone through such terrible times during the war that they enjoyed the peace and good weather of South Africa . I was born there with my brother Paul, who still lives there.”

In 1977 the family moved to Canada, where Jack was honored for his role in the Dieppe Raid by the Canadian government.

The man under the radar

The Man Under the Radar is available to buy now (Image: )

When Prince Charles visited Toronto with Princess Diana in 1991, he specifically asked to meet him. The following year – the 50th anniversary of the raid – Prince Philip also met the lowly hero at a meeting in Sussex.

Jack died in Toronto in 1997, aged 77, without receiving any special honor from the British government. However, Linda is very grateful for an unofficial tribute from Prince Charles on the 250th anniversary of the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

The prince said: “I just want to remember and recognize the fact that during two world wars British Jews made an outstanding contribution to the defense of our values ​​and our freedom, on land, at sea and in the air.

“I know my great-uncle, Lord Mountbatten, was extremely proud of the Jewish airman, RAF Flight Sergeant Jack Nissenthall, a radar specialist.

“He knew he would have to be shot down by his own men if he was about to be captured, but he went ashore at Dieppe in 1942 to examine a crucial German radar station atop the cliff.”

For Linda, the royal recognition was very special. “A fitting tribute to an ordinary man with extraordinary gifts and great heroism, my father,” she adds.

The Man Under the Radar by Linda Nissen Samuels (Chiselbury, £19.99) is available now via Amazon or

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