Spr Raymond William Giesen, 10th Fd Sqn 21 May 1944

Sapper Raymond William Giesen Cassino Commonwealth Cemetery

Sapper Raymond William Giesen was born in Radville Saskatchewan, the son of Herman and Emma Giesen.  He enlisted in the Royal Canadian Engineers on 14 October 1941 in Calgary and completed his basic training in Camrose, AB. From January until June 1943, he was employed at the internment camp in Seebe, AB that housed 650 prisoners of war, mostly from the German Afrika Korps captured by the British 8th Army in North Africa. He started his sapper training in July 1943 at A6 Canadian Engineer Training Centre in Camp Chilliwack, BC and qualified as a Carpenter Group ‘B’ for pay purposes. He was also a qualified Driver/Mechanic Class III.

Raymond left Chilliwack and arrived in England on 1 April 1943 and was sent to the Engineer Reinforcement Unit. There he continued his sapper training and took part in construction projects.  In July he was posted to the 1st Field Park Company and later joined the 10th Field Squadron in October 1943 in time to embark for Italy. On the way, his convoy was attacked from the air on 6 November, sinking one of the ships carrying Canadians. No lives were lost, but Vern's ship was delayed for a day as it split from the convoy to help pick up the survivors.  The ship was unsuccessfully torpedoed the following day.

Once ashore in Italy, the Squadron took over well-used equipment and vehicles from the British 7th Armoured Division who were returning to England. The Squadron was moved over 200 miles southeast to the Taranto area and attached the 1st New Zealand Division. Despite having to complete a great deal of vehicle and equipment maintenance, they immediately got to work on bridging and route repair and construction tasks. As the 5th Armoured Division gained strength in Italy, the Squadron moved closer and closer to the front relieving other Eighth Army formations. He qualified Carpenter Group ‘C’ in January 1944, which meant a pay increase of ten cents a day. Their first action came on 17 January 1944 supporting the Perth Regiment in an attack in which four NCOs and two sappers were wounded. The Squadron then moved back towards Naples to the city of Caserta. Again, bridging and mine training, rest and maintenance, as well as planning for the Liri Valley operation occupied their time. In mid-May, the 5th Armoured Division started moving forward to the Hitler Line.

On 21 May 1944, the 10th Field Squadron was waiting with the rest of the 5th Armoured Division to advance and support the Melfa River Crossing.  The time was punctuated by movement, waiting, movement, and more waiting. Crossings were built and mines were lifted. Sapper patrols went well behind enemy lines. 1 Troop was working on road repair tasks near Aquino when a shell burst behind one of their section vehicles.  Three men were killed and ten others wounded. Among those killed was Sapper Raymond Giesen. He is buried in the Cassino Commonwealth War Cemetery.  He was 21 years old.

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