Maj Frank Alexander McTavish, 5th Field Company, Distinguished Service Order

Distinguished Service Order

Major Frank Alexander McTavish, commanding 5 Canadian Field Company, was responsible for clearance of underwater obstacles. He landed with one of his platoons at H-Hour on NAN-RED (St.Aubin). His craft grounded on something, with about ten feet of water at the ramp and under small arms fire from the beach. Determined to get ashore and get started on his task, he arranged for tow ropes from the bulldozers for the personnel to hold on to and also one to tow the 5-cwt [jeep]. Lieutenant Stalker volunteered to steer the 5-cwt. He arranged for his driver-operator to ride on top of the bulldozer with his 4, 6 set, to ensure communications. Lieutenant Stalker was killed instantly, and the 5-cwt tow rope parted. Major McTavish and men reached shore and started clearance of obstacles but due to heavy small arms fire and height of water this was impossible. At that time four tanks, hull down at the water's edge, were hit and started to burn. Major McTavish's party suffered heavily while trapped between the exploding tanks and the fire from the enemy positions on shore. His 4, 6 Set was lost coming in, so his only means of establishing communications with the platoon next to him was by personal contact. After two unsuccessful attempts he himself managed to scale the low cliff and get round to his next platoon and to the P.B.M. [Platoon Beach Master?] After consultation with the P.B.M. it was decided where priority work of obstacle-clearing would start and Major McTavish organized this, remaining on the job until some 1,800 yards of beach was cleared.

From the time that underwater obstacles were first known to exist on our front, 5 Canadian Field Company was given the task of dealing with them. Major McTavish's keen interest in the work reflected all through the company and the result was that they were at all times quite sure of themselves and their ability to cope with what they might find. The working out of all drills and the calculation and design of the shaped charges used was all done under his supervision and guidance.

Biographical Information

Frank Alexander "Alec" McTavish was born in Ontario.  He attended the Royal Military College from 1927 until 1931. Lieutenant McTavish was appointed to the Royal Canadian Engineers in May of 1931. He also had an engineering degree from McGill University.  He was promoted major in May 1940 and soon appointed a company commander in the 2nd Canadian Pioneer Battalion, RCE, forming in Camp Bordon, ON.  He was sent overseas near the end of 1940 and posted to the 1st Battalion, RCE.  Returning to Canada in January 1943, he took command of the 5th Field Company during a time of rebuilding and training in Petawawa, ON.  His company landed on D-Day as part of 1st Canadian Army Troops.  Major McTavish, DSO later took command of the 7th Field Company from Malcolm Sutherland-Brown, DSO, for a short time on the latter's promotion to Lieutenant-Colonel, before being promoted himself into the position of Commander Royal Canadian Engineers, (CRE), 3rd Canadian Infantry Division in October 1944. He finished the war in that position.

On returning from Europe after the war, Lt-Col McTavish was appointed Officer Commanding Number 6 Works Company and District Engineering Officer, Military District Number 6, in Halifax, NS. The position was later re-named Command Engineer, Eastern Command.  He served as Commandant of the Royal Canadian School of Military Engineering in Chilliwack, BC from 1948 until 1953 and as Army HQ Chief Engineer for a short time in 1954.

Colonel Frank Aleaxander McTavish, DSO, CD died in North Vancouver 28 July 1967 at the age of 57 years.