Spr Elmer Vernon Stewart, 10th Fd Sqn 26 May 1944

Spr Elmer Vernon Stewart's Headstone in the Cassino Commonwealth Cemetery

Elmer Vernon Stewart was born and grew up in Kelwood, Manitoba in a family of ten brothers and sisters. He was married and had served in the reserves for a month when he enlisted on 20 October 1941 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He had completed public school (Grade 8) in Kelwood and had been working as a farmer.

Elmer completed his basic training in Fort William, Ontario from November until the end of January 1942.  He came home for Christmas but returned to Fort William a day late and forfeited two day's pay. He was then sent to A6 Canadian Engineer Training Centre in Dundurn, Saskatchewan as a Sapper. By the middle of April, he had landed in the UK and continued his sapper training while posted to the Engineer Reinforcement Unit in Aldershot, England. He spent a month in hospital and another month convalescing in the spring of 1942.  By March 1943, he had qualified as Driver Class III.

He remained in the Reinforcement Unit until March 1944 when he was sent to Italy to join the 10th Field Squadron.  At that time, the Squadron was located near 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 in anticipation of pushing forward to establish a crossing over the Melfa River.

By 26 May, the 1st Canadian Division had broken the Hitler Line and and the 5th Armoured Division had crossed the Melfa River, just 40 miles south of Rome. During the day of 26 May, the division’s infantry brigade caught up to the armour and had reached the upper parts of the Liri River. They were consolidating on high ground opposite Ceprano with parties of the 10th Field Squadron in support. After two days of intense fighting supporting the armoured brigades, the Squadron was showing its fatigue.  Nonetheless, the work continued. They opened a two-lane road to allow wheeled traffic to move forward - two diversions and four culverts and their reconnaissance teams found a crossing site just south of Ceprano.   Casualties for the day were two killed, three wounded and one man missing. Sapper Elmer Vernon Stewart was among the dead. He was 31 years old and is buried in the Cassino Commonwealth Cemetery. He left a young wife and a two-year boy at home in Kelwood.  Stewart Rapids in northern Manitoba is named after him.

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