Spr Albert Joseph Heinen, 10th Fd Sqn

Sapper Albert Joseph Heinen, 10th Field Squadron
News clipping recognising the Heinen Family contribution to the war.
Background 

Heinen was the son of immigrants, Fred (Dutch) and Melanie (French) Heinen, who came from Holland to homestead just northeast of Kelfield, SK in 1911. Albert was born at Leipzig, SK and the following year, the family moved to Wilkie, SK.  He was a good student throughout his public school years but only completed Grade VIII.

Albert’s parents moved to Regina during the war and Albert moved to Saskatoon.  He had briefly served in the Militia before enlisting in the Canadian Active Service Force in March 1941 and was working as an apprentice projectionist at the Roxy Theatre at that time. His records show he felt a sense of duty to serve largely because of his relatives still in Holland.  Despite stating a preference to be an air force mechanic, Albert was assigned to the Royal Canadian Engineers and sent to the A-6 RCE Training Centre at Camp Dundurn, Saskatchewan.  By November he qualified as a carpenter Group ‘B’.

Albert advanced in rank quickly.  In March 1942 he was appointed Acting Lance Corporal on posting the Camp Chilliwack, BC and later to Acting Corporal in May.  In October he was promoted to Acting Sergeant on posting the Camp Nanaimo for chemical warfare training.  He returned to Chilliwack in November and qualified as a driver in December 1942. He reverted in rank to Acting Corporal in January 1943 and was sent on a junior NCO course which he completed in March. He was immediately sent to the United Kingdom to the Engineer Reinforcement Unit as a Sapper.  In July, he qualified as a Driver Class III.

Albert arrived in Italy in November 1943 and joined the 10th Field Squadron in April 1944, just in time for the Liri Valley battle.  Following that, the squadron moved up through Tuscany and by August 1944 found itself on their way to the Gothic Line on Italy’s east coast.  Most tasks along the way involved route construction and maintenance with a heavy emphasis on mine clearing and crater repair.  The work was dangerous but Albert managed not to get hurt.

Tragedy struck while they were preparing for the assault on Coriano Ridge on the morning of 11 September. Albert with other members of the Squadron were having breakfast in shifts near a kitchen truck.  A stray shell hit the kitchen tent causing 28 casualties – six killed outright, three seriously wounded who later died of wounds, and 11 seriously injured. Albert was among those killed.  He is buried in the Gradara Commonwealth War Cemetery in Italy. He was 25 years old.

Note:

Albert’s brother and two sisters shared his sense of duty and all served during the war. His brother P/O Frank Wilkie Heinen was killed 27 January 1944 when his bomber was shot down over Berlin.  He and his crew are commemorated at the Runnymede Memorial in Surrey, England. Heinen Bay on Lake Athabaska is named in honour of the Heinen family.

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