Spr Arthur D. Switzer, 5th Fd Coy

Sapper Arthur D Switzer
A Token of Love and Remembrance to One We Will Never Forget
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)

Sapper Arthur Douglas Switzer was born on 16 September 1923 in Wentworth, ON. He was the first of four boys born to parents Barclay and Bessie Switzer.

Growing up, Arthur spent a lot of time on the farm where his grandfather worked and spent lots of time with his brothers and doing things around the farm to help. He went to the Secondary School in Binbrook Township and completed one year of high school. He then started working as a truck driver for a road construction company before enlisting in the Army.

Arthur enlisted on 22 January 1943 in Simcoe ON at the Basic Training Centre. On 22 February 1943, he was transferred to the Royal Canadian Engineers Training Centre in Port Arthur ON. He was posted to No. 2 Chemical Warfare Mortar Company, RCE. His training took him to Suffield, AB and Petawawa, ON.  On disbandment of the chemical warfare companies, he was sent to an Engineer Reinforcement Unit in May 1943 and to a transit camp in Debert, NS before embarking for England on 27 November 1943, arriving on 2 December 1943. He was assigned to the 8th Field Park Company In February attached to the 5th Field Company R.C.E. as an Operator Special Equipment, likely meaning a bulldozer operator, in their final preparation for the upcoming Normandy invasion. By this time he was qualified

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.  In all, heavy fire cost the 5th Field Company an officer, one a sergeant, a corporal, Spr Switzer and another sapper, as well as 17 wounded during their first two hours on the beach.

Arthur was 21 years old at the time of his death and is buried at Beny-sur-Mer, a Canadian Military Cemetery in France.

..... Written by a student at Smiths Falls District Collegiate Institute in Smiths Falls, ON.