John Hamilton Roberts, born in Pipestone,
Manitoba, on December 21st, 1891; died in
1963. Canadian Army Officer.
J.H. Roberts, ca. 1942.
of National Defence / National
Archives of Canada, PA-153531.
When the state of war was proclaimed in
September 1939, "Ham" Roberts
already had a long military career behind
him. He graduated in 1914 from the Royal
Military College in Kingston, Ontario. He
served with the Canadian Expeditionary Force
during WWI and was awarded the Military
Cross. Between the wars, he remained with
the Canadian Permanent Force, with the Royal
In December 1939, Roberts sailed for England
with the 1st Canadian Infantry Division.
In June 1940, as Canadian and British troops
were forced to evacuate France in a hurry,
Roberts succeeded in retrieving his regiment's
guns; he was promoted to Brigadier the following
month. Starting November 7th, 1941, he was
Acting Commander of the 2nd Canadian Infantry
Division, his position as General Officer
Commanding being confirmed on April 6th,
Roberts was put in charge of the ground
troops for the ill-fated raid against Dieppe,
on August 19th, 1942. From his post of command
aboard HMS Calpe, Roberts had only a vague
idea of how the operation was unfolding.
It is only when troops were recalled towards
their transport fleet that Roberts clearly
realized how desperate the situation was:
almost no objective had been achieved and
two brigades out of three had been decimated.
Roberts, who had no part in the planning,
was not blamed for the failure of the raid;
to the contrary, he was even awarded the
Distinguished Service Order.
In March 1943, Major-General Roberts was
severely criticized for his tactical weaknesses
during Spartan, a large-scale exercise in
preparation for D-Day. In April 1943, he
was transferred to the Canadian Reinforcement
Units, and would receive no further operational
command. Two years later he joined the Commonwealth
War Grave Commission.
J.L. Granatstein, The Generals,
The Canadian Army's Senior Commanders
in the Second World War, 1993.