Sergeant Morris Greenberg, a hero of Dieppe

The 76th anniversary of the Dieppe Raid will be commemorated in August 2018, but the event is never far from the mind of a Newmarket, Ontario woman, Paula Greenberg.  Her uncle, Sgt. Morris Greenberg, was killed in action in the waters off the beach at Dieppe, code named Blue Beach, on August 19, 1942 as he tried to help his retreating men climb onto a floundering landing craft and get the traumatized and wounded survivors of the raid back to safety in England. I wrote about Greenberg in my book “Double Threat”, having gathered almost all of my information from wartime sources.

When Paula Greenberg’s email popped in to my inbox recently, it was one of those goosebumps moments that I continue to experience, now that the book has been published. Paula had been in the Newmarket Public Library and saw a news story about me in the Era Banner newspaper,  and she offered to meet me to show me photos and artifacts that she lovingly curates in her home, as she keeps the memory of her family’s war hero alive. Paula’s father also served in WWII.

Ellin with Paula Greenberg, niece of Sgt. Morris Greenberg, KIA in Dieppe, 1942.

On Sunday, Paula brought me a copy of my book to sign, plus these amazing photos of Morris, which helped me piece together even more of who he was and how he served. Morris Greenberg was born in 1917 to a family of Romanian Jewish immigrants. He worked as a tie cutter in Toronto, lived on Oxford Street, and had an older, married sister Rose, who lived in Winnipeg. His younger brother Irving, Paula’s father, also served in the war, also overseas.

Morris enlisted right at the start of the hostilities, on September 13, 1939, with the Royal Regiment of Canada, in Toronto. His regiment was sent to Iceland in June, 1940, to help the British occupy that country all summer. The Royals were stationed in Iceland until October 1940, and by August, Greenberg had been promoted to Lance Corporal. He was one of the Jewish Canadian soldiers who participated in this landmark Yom Kippur service held in Reykjavik that month. In a famous photo taken at the service, Morris is likely the soldier with the moustache, on the left side, middle row, third from the left.  Morris and the other Royals left Iceland with the Canadians in Z Force, as it was called, in late October, 1940 and sailed for England.

Armistice Day, Nov. 11, 1940 Bordon Camp, England. Photo courtesy Paula Greenberg

The men had barely been sent to their training base at Bordon, in England, when it was Armistice Day, Nov. 11, 1940. This photo shows Morris with a drum kit strapped to his chest for the Armistice Day memorial. His personal effects later contained a set of drum sticks. He also possessed this special prayer book, which had been distributed to all Jewish personnel, by the Jewish chaplains in England.

Jewish serviceman's prayer book
Prayerbook for Jewish Members of His Majesty’s Army, Paula Greenberg collection.

By June of 1942, Morris and his mates had been undergoing serious commando training to prepare for amphibious raids on the continent. Morris was, by then,  a skilled instructor and had been promoted to the rank of Sergeant. The photo says, “Gonna dig a little hole,” Morris.

“Gonna dig a little hole”, Morris. Photo courtesy Paula Greenberg.
Close up of Sgt. Morris Greenberg, June 1942. Photo courtesy Paula Greenberg

The night of August 18, 1942, Greenberg and his men climbed on board the vessels that would take them across the English Channel, stealthily they hoped, to the pebbled beach of Dieppe, France; the town had been under German control for the last two years.

You’ll have to read the chapter in “Double Threat” to find out what happened to Morris, when dawn broke on the 19th of August. He is buried in the Dieppe Canadian War Cemetery in Hautot-sur-Mer. along with the other 764 casualties from the Dieppe Raid.  The epitaph reads:  This was his honour, For what he believed, he fought. Even unto death. 

Grave of Sgt. Morris Greenberg, in Dieppe. Photo courtesy Paula Greenberg.

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