Lt Donald Stalker, 5th Fd Coy

"God's Greatest Gift - Remembrance" - Lt Stalker's headstone at Beny-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery
Lt Stalker on leave in London
Montreal Gazette reporting Lt Stalker had been killed.
Background 

Donald Stalker was born in April 1912 in Montreal QC to Robert and Agnes Stalker. He attended public school and high school in Westmount where he became fluent in English. He graduated from high school in 1929 at age 16 and then followed courses at Loyola College and McGill University. He worked at Anglin Norcross Limited in Montreal for 12 years as a geologist inspector.

Don Stalker enlisted in the Canadian Army on 9 May 1942. Assigned the rank of Lieutenant, he undertook officer training before joining the 5th Field Company, RCE who were training at Camp Borden, ON. On 16 July 1943, 5th Field Company embarked for the UK. They had been training in Canada for about two years by this time and, after arrival in England, they settled into a routine of more training with a focus on bridging and mine clearance and the assault activities that would be vital once the battle was engaged on the Continent.

Early in June 1944, Don and the Company were in final preparations for the attack at Normandy. Their initial tasks were to clear the beaches of mines and other obstacles for the infantry and the tanks. 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.  The first landing craft of Lt Stalker's platoon 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. However, except for those wounded aboard, the men soon scrambled ashore. Cpl Ross took the section and they immediately started removing shells and mines from the obstacles. Machine gun fire and shrapnel killed or wounded six members of the section almost immediately leaving only one man unwounded in the section and Cpl Ross dead.  Lieutenant D. Stalker was killed while steering a towed jeep to the beach. In all, heavy fire cost the 5th Field Company an officer, one a sergeant, a corporal and two sappers, as well as 17 wounded during their first two hours on the beach.

Lt Donald Stalker was 32 when he died and is buried in Beny-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery in Calvados, France.

After the break-out from Normandy, 5th Field Company supported the advance to the Seine River and worked on the Troan-Pont l’Eveque road. Their main bridging task was at Troan and on 22 August they completed a 130-ft Bailey Bridge they named after Lt Stalker.

..... Based on research by a student at Smith Falls Collegiate Institute in Smiths Falls, Ontario, Canada and by the Canadian Military Engineers Association.