On 6 December 1943, the 1st Canadian Infantry Division under Major-General Chris Vokes, a Sapper, began a series of assaults on major crossing points along the Moro River along the eastern coast of Italy. The attacks were led by three infantry battalions and fighting was hard for two days and established two small bridgeheads over the Moro River. On December 8th, Vokes adjusted his plan to consolidate a larger bridgehead by launching a two-pronged attack out of the two smaller bridgeheads. The attack began in the afternoon with a massive artillery barrage with infantry following. During the night of 8/9 December, units of the Royal Canadian Engineers (RCE) built a bridge over the Moro allowing armour and equipment to move into San Leonardo the following day.
On the night of 8 December 1943, 1 Canadian Infantry brigade attacked across the River Moro, Italy. 3 Canadian Field Company, Royal Canadian Engineers, were to build a diversion across the river after the infantry has established a bridgehead. Sapper McNaughton with bulldozers was placed under the command of 3 Field Company to assist in this task. At 1800 hours, since it was not known whether the infantry had been successful, it was decided to send in a small party to commence work. Sapper McNaughton drove his machine down an exposed road to the bed of the river. He then reconnoitred a route across the river in order that he could start work on the enemy side of the river. This route at its most distant point was 400 yards from the river on the enemy side. Without the slightest hesitation Sapper McNaughton began to walk to his machine along this route. At one point he was sky-lined and came under heavy machine gun fire but fully realizing the urgency of his task he carried on. He reached the site and commenced working. Under continual machine gun, mortar and shell fire Sapper McNaughton quickly and skilfully cut down the far bank. On the initiative, skill and bravery of this operator depended the success of the whole operation, for without the supporting tanks which crossed the river at 0700 hours 9 December the infantry would have been in great difficulty.