A/Cpl George Roy Wilson, 16th Fd Coy, Military Medal

Military Medal GVIR
Kapok bridge used during a training exercise in England.
Cpl George Roy Wilson's gravestone in the WIlliams Lake Cemetery
Background 

On 12 September 1944, First Canadian Army received orders to clear the areas north and south of the Scheldt so that the port of Antwerp could be open to Allied shipping.  The 2nd and 3rd Canadian Infantry Divisions were at that moment clearing the Channel ports of Boulogne and Calais. The 4th  Armour Division had the task of containing German forces on the south bank of the Scheldt,  roughly delineated by the Leopold Canal running from the North Sea west of the town of Knocke to the Braakman estuary west of Antwerp. The area was known as the Breskens Pocket.

On 2 October, the 7th Canadian Infantry Brigade led by the Canadian Scottish Regiment and the Regina Rifle Regiment assaulted over the Leopold Canal. The attack started at 0630 hours and by 0640 hours, sappers of the 16th Field Company had laid a kapok bridge in front of the Canadian Scottish lines.  In a strange twist of fate, the first men to cross the bridge were four German soldiers wanting to surrender.  This act did in no way foretell the intensity of the battle that would follow over the next three days. While most of the infantry were able to use assault boats during the first night of the battle and a Class 12 raft had also been built, the one kapok bridge was the only reliable crossing during that time.  The infantry on the far bank withstood counter-attacks and artillery fire for days with no armoured support.  Resupply and casualty evacuation relied heavily on maintaining the bridge.


Corporal George Wilson, MM was born in Edmonton, AB.  After the war, he served at the Royal Canadian School of Military Engineering.  He died in Williams Lake on 20 Mar 1981 at the age of 59 years.  He is buried in the Williams Lake Cemetery.

Citation 

At the Leopold Canal on 9 October 1944, Corporal George Roy Wilson was in charge of the crew detailed to maintain the Kapok bridge which was to be used for the crossing of troops and material required to reinforce and supply the 1st Canadian Scottish Battalion in their very shallow bridgehead. Very heavy concentrations of German mortar and shell fire severed the decking panels of the bridge which commenced to drift apart. Without hesitation, Corporal George Roy Wilson and Corporal Carl Oscar Overby ran to the middle of the bridge, stopped it from drifting, and under the most intense shelling, effected the necessary repairs.

The unflinching devotion to duty of both these Non-Commissioned Officers at this crucial period not only heartened the troops to cross the canal but ensured the continuous crossing of personnel and stores, and thus the complete success of the battalion operations.

See also:  L/Cpl Carl Oscar Overby