Spr Christopher Alfred Heard, 13th Fd Coy 23 May 1944

Sapper Christopher Heard's headstone in Cassino Commonwealth Cemetery

Christopher Alfred Heard was born in Sedgewick, AB to William Daniel and Viola Heard. His family left Alberta and moved to Riverside, California when he was an infant. Christopher had two brothers, one of whom served overseas with the Canadian Army, and two sisters.

Christopher returned to Canada when war broke out and enlisted in the Edmonton Regiment (re-named the Loyal Edmonton Regiment in 1943) on 22 September 1939 in Edmonton, AB. At that time, he stated that he was a bartender and living in Sedgewick, when in fact he had just returned to Canada having worked as a dishwasher at the Officers Mess at March Field California. He also noted that he had attended Junior ROTC training (US version of Army Cadets), while in high school. It appears his return to Canada was done specifically to enlist in the Canadian Army.

Private Heard arrived in the UK on 31 December 1939. He spent most of June 1940 in hospital. He was briefly attached to Force 111 in August but did not deploy to Spitzbergen. Christopher was attached to the 2nd Field Hygiene Section on a regimental water duties course in January 1942.  In June 1942, Christopher remustered to survey and was posted to the 1st Canadian Field Survey Company, Royal Canadian Engineers. He later qualified as a Group ‘C’ Topographical Surveyor.

Sapper Heard was posted to the 1st Field Company at his own request in April 1943. In June, he was transferred to the 13th Field Company and arrived in  Palermo, Sicily on 8 November 1943 where the 1st Canadian Corps Troops assembled before moving to the mainland. While in Sicily, the company was involved in road works to repair damage from the effective demolition job of the Deutschen Pioniere including the construction of Melville Way, named for the previous Chief Engineer., Brigadier J.L. Melville, CBE, MC, ED, ADC.  Corps Troops Engineers moved to the mainland on 2 January 1944. For the next few months, they continued essentially on route maintenance tasks.  As had been their role since arriving in Italy in November 1943, the sappers were tasked with constructing bridges, building roads and removing landmines to allow elements of 1st Canadian Corps to conduct and sustain operations as they moved up the Italian peninsula.

At the time of the Gustav and Hitler Line battles, the 13th Field Company was working southeast of Cassino in support of operations against the Gustav and Hitler defensive lines that blocked the Allies' approach to Rome. The 1st Canadian Armoured Brigade, under command of the British XIII Corps, was being supported by one of their platoons. Mounted in half-track vehicles, this platoon was the precursor to the Canadian Armoured Corps 1st Canadian Assault Troop designed to provide the brigade with its own engineers.  After training by the RCE, it was formed in July 1944 and had a strength of two officers and 84 men. 

During the 1st Canadian Division's attack on the Hitler Line, the 1st Canadian Armoured Brigade reverted to Canadian Command.  Sapper Christopher Heard was among those supporting the Calgary Regiment when he was killed in action on 23 May 1944 during the advance. He is buried in the Cassino Commonwealth War Cemetery.

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