Spr Vern Henry Emery, 10th Fd Sqn 21 May 1944

Sapper Vern Emery in the Cassino Commonwealth War Cemetery

Sapper Vern Henry Emery was born in Wallaceburg, Ontario, the son of Henry and Mary Emery. He was working as a farm worker when he enrolled in the Royal Canadian Engineers on 6 August 1940 in London, Ontario. He arrived at A5 Canadian Engineer Training Centre in Petawawa for basic training a week later and trained there until embarking for the United Kingdom, arriving in Scotland on 28 February 1941. He was posted to the 2nd Battalion, RCE who between projects involving the construction of defence works, barracks and airfields, trained extensively on bridging and basic sapper tasks. While serving the 2nd Battalion, he was qualified and received trades pay as a Pioneer Group ‘C’. He later qualified as Carpenter’s Helper Group ‘C’ and Tradesman’s Helper Group ‘C’. On 6 August 1942, he received a Good Conduct Badge, an inverted chevron worn on the lower left sleeve.

On 19 June 1943, Vern was transferred to the 10th Field Squadron and left England for Italy October 1943 destined for Naples. The 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 newly arrived 2nd 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. 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 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 Vern Emery. He is buried in the Cassino Commonwealth War Cemetery.  He was 38 years old and left his mother, father, a brother and three sisters. Rumours that he had left a wife in Canada were never substantiated.

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