Spr Arthur William “Bill” Lee, 4th Fd Pk Sqn 26 May 1944

Spr Arthur William Lee
Spr Arthur William Lee with Pioneer Trade Badge
Spr Arthur William Lee's Headstone in the Cassino Commonwealth War Cemetery

Arthur William “Bill” Lee was born in  Fulford Harbour, Saltspring Island, BC, the son of  William Hudson Lee and Margaret Christina Lee. He enlisted in the Canadian Active Service Force in July 1940 in Victoria, BC.  He had completed three years of high school in Ganges, BC and declared he was a labourer and had a motorcycle licence at that time. He was directly assigned to the 4th Field Park Troop in North Vancouver, BC. The Troop was posted to Camp Petawawa in January 1941 where Bill continued his training. By May 1941 he had qualified as a Cook Group ‘C’ and as a Class III Driver. Like all sappers with specialized training, Bill also trained and qualified as a Group ‘C’ Pioneer. This entitled him the trade badge prominently displayed on his sleeve.

The 4th Field Park Troop was re-designated 4th Field Park Squadron in September 1941 as part of the 5th Canadian Armoured Division. In November, the Squadron set sail for the UK and settled near Aldershot in England. Over the next two years, they trained and took part in defence construction tasks across southern England. They landed in Naples, Italy in early November 1943 with nothing but personal kit. They spent the next two months repairing used British equipment left behind by another Eight Army division that had returned to the UK.  Much of the winter was spent supporting the 2nd New Zealand tasked with road and bridge repairs during the winter rains.  This was the routine until March 1944 when the Squadron moved towards Naples to the area 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 in anticipation of pushing forward to establish a crossing over the Melfa River.

On 24 May 1944, the 5th Armoured Division rolled through the gap in the Hitler Line in its first engagement as a complete division in ‪the war. Their objective was to establish a bridgehead and cross the Melfa River, opening the Road to Rome. The fighting was furious, but a tiny bridgehead was established and the Melfa was crossed. By 26 May, the infantry of the 5th Canadian Armoured Division had reached the upper reaches of the Liri River and had consolidated on high ground opposite Ceprano. Elements of the 10th Field and 4th Field Park Squadrons were supporting the Westminster Regiment when Sapper Bill Lee was killed on 26 May 1944.  He is buried in the Cassino Commonwealth War Cemetery. He was 21 years old.


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