Sapper Robert Arthur Brewer was born in Saint John NB, son of Arthur and Irene Brewer. He was serving in the 2nd Battalion, The Carlton & York Regiment, a militia unit, when he enlisted in the artillery in Richibucto, NB on 30 May 1941. He had been working as a construction worker prior to enlisting, and so within a week he was transferred to the Royal Canadian Engineers and assigned to Number 1 Base Construction Unit. He was quickly put on a ship and arrived in England on 30 July 1941 and set to work on one of the many construction projects undertaken by the RCE.
Robert was qualified and paid as a Group ‘C’ carpenter. He was appointed Acting Lance Corporal in November 1942 but reverted to Sapper the following June when he spent a short time in hospital. Shortly after leaving hospital, he was appointed Acting Corporal, but again had to revert to Sapper when he was sent to Italy as a reinforcement in November 1943. He was taken on strength of the 3rd Field Company on 19 December 1943.
The 3rd Field Squadron was stationed on the Adriatic Front When Robert joined them. They had just played an instrumental part in the Moro River crossing having lead the assault from the front. They were now preparing for the Battle of Ortona in which they saw action into the New Year. 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. Robert 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 Gustav Line. With the 3rd Field Company in support clearing mines, the 2nd Brigade suffered the worst carnage of the Italian Campaign. It was on that morning that Sapper Robert Brewer was killed by a shell blast. He is buried in the Cassino Commonwealth Cemetery. He was 25 years old.
Note: Robert’s brother Edward served in the 10th Field Squadron and would have been involved in the same Gustav Line battle when the 5th Armoured Division crossed the Melfa River a few days later.