Spr Henry Sawchuk, 3rd Fd Coy 23 May 1944

Sapper Harry Sawchuk
Sapper Henry Sawchuk's headstone in the Cassino Commonwealth War Cemetery

Henry Sawchuk was born in Sheno, Saskatchewan, the son of John and Mary Sawchuk.  He was working as a driller in Toronto when he enlisted in the army on 4 May 1942.  Henry had four sisters and five brothers – his brother Max served in the Canadian Army and his brother Paul served in the Royal Canadian Navy.  He declared his sister Jean as his next-of-kin. 

Harry completed his basic training at Simcoe, ON and in August was allocated to the Royal Canadian Engineers and was posted to A5 Canadian Engineer Training Centre in Petawawa in August. He completed his training there and was sent overseas, arriving in the UK on 30 December 1942. He was posted to the 3rd Field Squadron for the Canadian Engineer Reinforcement Unit in June 1943. He was qualified Pioneer Group ‘C’.

Harry arrived in Sicily and joined his company on 24 August 1943 near the end of hostilities in Sicily.  They crossed the Strait of Messino on 3 September and built a 100-foot triple-single Bailey bridge the next day. The first vehicles across were from  A' Squadron, 4th Reconnaissance Regiment (4th Princess Louise Dragoon Guards) (PLGD) who would lead the 1st Canadian Division from the toe of Italy, over the mountains, up the Adriatic coast and to the eastern end of the Gustav Line at Ortona.

Starting in March 1944, the Eighth Army including the 1st Division and its engineers, was secretly moved across Italy to the area of the Foggia Plain south of Naples. Harry and his company focused on preparing for the planned attack on the Gustav Line under the peak of Monte Cassino, scheduled for May 1944. 

On 23 May 1944, at 0600 hours, the 2nd Canadian Infantry Brigade, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry right and the Seaforth Highlanders left, assaulted the Adolf Hitler Line. With the 3rd Field Company in support clearing mines, they suffered the worst carnage of the Italian Campaign. It was on that morning that Sapper Henry Sawchuk was killed. He was 29 years old.

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