Lt William Kenneth Heron, 1st Field Company, Military Cross

Lt William Kenneth Heron, MC
Lt Ken Heron receives the Military Cross from MC from General Bernard Montgomery at the end of the Sicilian Campaign.
Military Cross

William Kenneth Heron was born in Sherbrooke, Quebec. He grew up in the Eastern Townships and was an engineering student at McGill University when he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Engineers in 1939 as a Sapper. By the time he was posted to the 1st Battalion, RCE in England in June 1940, he was a sergeant. He was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in December.

Lt Heron landed in Sicily with the 1st Canadian Infantry Division on 10 July 1943.  On 20 July, the 1st and 2nd Canadian Infantry Brigades were moving through the Dittaino River Valley with the objectives of Assora and Leonforte respectively. Lt Heron, 1st Field Company and his platoon were moving forward with the Royal Canadian Regiment in the 1st Brigade providing mobility support by finding the way forward through the many obstacles, craters and minefields the Germans had left as they withdrew to higher ground. The river bed was dry and both brigades were across early on 20 July.

The 1st Brigade crossing was in the vicinity of Dittaino Station three miles south of Assoro. As the advance continued into a narrow valley, a supporting squadron of the Three Rivers Regiment ran foul of a minefield and nine tanks were put out of action. Continuous enemy artillery fire held the crews inside for five hours. German mortars began shelling the advance from the hills on either side. If the German field guns further back had been directed on the some target as the mortars, the result would have been catastrophic. Lieutenant Heron, with no hesitation decided that the field would have to be cleared, if the remaining tanks were to get through without further casualties. He led his platoon under fire and spent two hours clearing lanes though which the stranded tanks could move. It was said that this was one of the most courageous mine clearing operations of the entire Italian Campaign. Lieutenant William Kenneth Heron was awarded an immediate Military Cross which was presented by General Montgomery at the end of the Sicilian Campaign. 

Ken was promoted to Acting Captain in August 1944 during the Gothic Line Campaign. He was demobilized in December 1945, but remained serving in the Militia as he complete his studies at McGill. Ken and his wife Lillian Mitten (known as Mitty), had 2 children, Keith and Barbara. Ken worked for ALCAN in Montreal and Trois-Rivieres, Quebec. He retired around 1981 and he and Mitty settled in Moncton, New Brunswick. Ken died in 1995 at the age of 75 and is buried in Fair Haven Memorial Gardens with Mitty who died in 2001.

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On the 20 July 1943 a squadron of tanks ran onto a minefield north of Valguarnera and were subjected to heavy fire. This officer began clearing mines in order to get the tanks out of the minefield without further casualties. His coolness under fire was an example to his men meriting highest praise which led to the successful accomplishment of his task.