Cpl Alwyn Kenneth Ross, 5th Fd Coy

Saint-Aubin-Sur-Mer on the morning of 6 June 1944
Corporal Ross's head stone at Beny-Sur-Mer Cemetery.
Beny-Sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery – The Beny-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery, located at Reviers, about 4 kilometres from Juno Beach in Normandy, France. (J. Stephens)

Alwyn Kenneth Ross was born in Martintown, ON and grew up there. He had four brothers and two half-brothers. He was single, had completed three years of high school and worked as a trucker in the steel construction business before the war.

Alwyn enlisted on 13 January 1942 in Kingston ON and joined the 5th Field Company, Royal Canadian Engineers early in its formation. He started field engineer training in Canada and also qualified as a Concreter Group B at the Engineer Training Centre in Camp Petawawa ON in November 1943. He was appointed Lance-Corporal in January 1943.  In July 1943, the unit embarked for the United Kingdom after being stationed at Kingston, Camp Borden and Terrace BC. After arriving in England, their training continued with the aim of preparing for the invasion of the Continent. He was promoted to Corporal in September of that year.

On 2 June 1944, the company loaded onto the Landing Craft Tanks at Southampton for the crossing to Normandy but were informed on 4 June that D-Day was to be postponed for 24 hours. They pulled out of Southampton docks at 0730 hours on 5 June and proceeded to cross the English Channel to the Normandy beaches. They were in support of the 8th Canadian Infantry Brigades landing on Nan Green (between Courselles-sur-Mer and Bernieres-sur-Mer), Nan White (Bernieres-sur-Mer) and Nan Red (the western edge of Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer). 

Two sections of the 5th Field Company went ashore on Nan Green. Three mines had exploded under one of their craft. There were no casualties but the ramp of the vessel jammed and had to be burst open by a tank. The D-7 dozers, with ropes trailing behind them, quickly towed men to the beach through the rough water but it was too late to do much. Two more sections came in on Nan White. The tanks and the dozers of one section got clear of their craft with seven men. Six of these men became casualties from machine-gun and shellfire as they removed mines from the obstacles. The other section’s craft had eight feet of water at the ramp when it stopped. Both these crafts shortly worked in closer to land and discharged the remaining dozers and men. Two other craft due to land on this beach did not arrive (from these, the sappers landed only after 48 long hours on the Channel).

At Nan Red, three craft carrying 5th Field Company men and dozers, touched down at about 0800 hours, coming under immediate small-arms fire as the ramps dropped and the dozers and Marine tanks went off. But with some of the AVREs and all the DD tanks still at sea, no work in the water was possible. They had to take cover behind the sea-wall where, for the next two hours, they were held by intense fire. 

The fighting was fierce.  The preliminary bombardment seemed to have not been as effective as at other landing sites.  Corporal Ross was a member of Sergeant Downing’s Number 4 Section that touched down at approximately 0815 hours. They landed in the village of Bernieres-sur-Mer with elements of the Fort Gary Horse (tanks) and the North Shore Regiment (infantry).  Sergeant Downing was killed almost as ramp went down. Lieutenant D. Stalker was killed while steering a towed jeep to the beach. However, except for those wounded aboard, the men soon scrambled ashore. Cpl Ross and his party of sappers immediately started removing shells and mines from the obstacles. Machine gun fire and shrapnel killed or wounded six members almost immediately leaving only one man unwounded in the section. In all, heavy fire cost the 5th Field Company an officer, one a sergeant, Corporal Ross and two sappers, as well as 17 wounded during their first two hours on the beach.

Corporal Alwyn Kenneth Ross was 28 years old and is buried at the Beny-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery in France.

..... Based on research conducted by the Canadian Military Engineers Association and the 5th Field Company Veterans' Association

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