The Jubilee Disaster by Ronald Atkin describes the build up and conduct of the Dieppe raid in 1942. The following extract describes the beach landing in which Lt Col Parks-Smith was wounded and subsequently died.

“As LCT 8 withdrew half a mile offshore in preparation for a second landing, LCTs 9 and 10 successfully unloaded their tanks. On LCT IO Sgt S. L. Hart of the signals section  aboard reported, ‘The first tank was stopped by a direct hit. The second one followed off, then an officer came out of the first tank with his face streaming blood and one eye shot out, jumped into the second tank, swung the gun turret round and let go two quick shots at the gun on the pier.’

Another signaler, Cpl Tom Gorman witnessed the incident, terming it ‘the most conspicuous case of bravery I saw’, and then watched in horror as the third tank jammed in the landing craft’s watertight doors then freed itself, taking the door with it. ‘Everything seemed to be getting very sticky by that time,’ said Gorman. ‘We received a very bad hit directly on the front of our boat that carried away the &ont end. At about the same time we got it in the stem, making our rudder useless and rendering our craft unmanageable. I resigned myself to my fate and awaited my turn, which I was quite convinced would come, along with everyone else on board.’

Sgt Hart, intending to follow the third tank ashore, turned back to collect a wireless set. ‘When I looked again the ramp had been blown off. Shells had also exploded the smokescreen tank on the upper deck and the whole boat was filled with smoke. When at last it lifted I found we had drifted some distance off shore.’ In this fashion those still on board LCT to survived.

Soon, at the urging of Brig. Lett and Col. Andrews, anxious to get ashore to take over their commands, LCT 8 prepared to go in again, despite the fact that Lett, who had briefly been in touch with Col. Labatt on White Beach and announced his intention of landing, had been told ‘For Christ’s sake don’t’ before the line went dead. As LCT 8 approached Dieppe for the second time the final act in the tragedy of the tank landing craft unfolded.  

On LCT 8’s first landing there had been no casualties, according to- a Royal Marines sergeant, Thomas Badlan. On the second occasion they went in alone and much closer to the guns of the West headland. ‘We were really catching it this time,’ said Sgt Badlan. ‘During the final approach we were repeatedly hit.’ Badlan was a member of a Marine beach provost detachment under Lt-Col Bobby Parks-Smith, the oldest serving officer at Combined Operations Headquarters. Parks-Smith, who had helped Sir Roger Keyes build up the organisation and was described by Lord Mountbatten as ‘the one really live wire at the time I joined Combined Ops’ should never have left his duties in London but he insisted on going along on the raid, a decision which cost him his life.

Parks-Smith was wounded twice and was looked after by Badlan. ‘I gave him a cigarette and assisted him to the starboard side which afforded greater protection from the shellfire. As I did so I saw four or five people in the water. Apparently the order to abandon ship had been given.’

No such instruction was given. The men had been blown there by shells hitting the landing craft. One of those in the water was Capt. Laurence Alexander, a medical officer attached to the Calgary Tanks. While treating the injured on the exposed deck he was knocked overboard by a shell blast, but he climbed back on board and carried on with his work of mercy.

Lett was also hit about this time. Lt H. McMillan was offering the brigadier a cigarette when it happened. ‘I was near enough to hand him the pack of cigarettes, yet when the shell exploded in the air he was hit and I wasn’t, much to my amazement since he was so much shorter than I was.’

As Sub-Lt john Whitehead gave the order to lower the ramp door in preparation, the chains were blown off, an explosion which wounded Whitehead in the left arm and right eye, and the door fell open, touching down in eight feet of water. Believing that a normal landing had been made, Col. Andrews drove off in his tank Regiment, which was entirely submerged except for the turret and, like Capt. Purdy’s tank earlier, was ‘drowned’ since the rough waterproofing which had been applied to the Churchills only extended to a height of six feet. ‘I am baling out’ Andrews reported. Though he evacuated his tank successfully, Andrews was killed on the beach. For the rest of the action his commanding officer’s pennant on the wireless mast fluttered over his otherwise submerged tank. The third Churchill aboard LCT 8, Maj. John Begg’s, never got ashore.

So heavily battered was LCT 8 that Lt-Col. Robert King, assistant quartermaster of the Canadian 2nd Division, who had taken over command of army personnel aboard after Lett’s wounding, insisted that the ship was literally blown off the shore by the volume of shell fire directed at it.

All the naval personnel both on the bridge and in the engine room were put out of action and the shattered craft was eventually taken away from the beach by a Canadian major, Paul Garneau, and the Marine sergeant, Tom Badlan, neither of whom possessed the slightest navigational experience. Garneau threw the engines into reverse and managed to get them started by pulling all the switches in sight. Badlan, who had been about to abandon the LCT with his mortally-wounded colonel, Parks-Smith, noticed that the starboard screw was turning and the vessel was slowly going astern. ‘So I went to the bridge, where I found everybody dead. Then I went to the wheelhouse, after finding out where it was from Col. Parks-Smith. There I found the helmsman minus a leg. The wheelhouse was shattered, there was a small fire which I put out with a helmet full of water and the compass was broken but the wheel itself was un-damaged. I was able to steer clear of the beach with the assistance of another marine sergeant on the port side and a Canadian officer on the starboard side giving me verbal orders trying to keep me in the centre and out of the way of the guns. We went out of the bay zig-zagging.’

Eventually a naval mechanic, who had been blown overboard but climbed back aboard, took over the engines from Garneau, while Sub Lt Whitehead, wounded when the ramp was lowered, made his way to the bridge and - despite a broken arm and severe eye injury - helped Badlan navigate the ship away from the danger zone.

The painful retreat of LCT 8 marked the end of the part played by the tank landing craft at Dieppe. The ten LCT s which managed to touch down landed 29 of their 30 Churchills aboard. "