Spr William Wood, 10th Fd Sqn 24 May 1944

Spr William Wood's Headstone in the Cassino Commonwealth War Cemetery.

William “Bill” Wood was born in  Dumfermine, Fifeshire, Scotland, the son and only child of William and Annie Candlish Wood.  The family emigrated to Canada and settled in Calgary, Alberta where Bill attended school until Grade 10.

Bill was working in a cement factory and living with his parents when he enlisted in the army on 27 August 1941.  He was immediately posted the A5 Canadian Engineer Training Centre in Camp Petawawa, Ontario and transferred to the 10th Field Squadron on 11 September.  

Bill arrived in the UK in November 1941. By February 1943, he was qualified as a Group ‘C’ Pioneer. In late October, the 10th Field Squadron set sail for Italy. On the way, the convoy was attacked from the air sinking one of the ships carrying Canadians. No lives were lost, but Bill's ship split from the convoy to help pick up the survivors.  The ship was unsuccessfully torpedoed the following day and arrived a day late in Naples.

Once ashore in Italy, the Squadron took over well-used equipment and vehicles from the British 7th Armoured Division, the ‘Desert Rats’ who had arrived in Italy from North Africa via Syria two months earlier and were now on their way home to England. Despite having to complete a great deal of vehicle and equipment maintenance, they immediately got to work on bridging and route repair and construction tasks.  They moved over 200 miles southeast to the Taranto area and were attached to the 2nd New Zealand Division. As the 5th Armoured Division gained strength in Italy, the Squadron moved closer and closer to the front relieving other Eighth Army formations. Their first action came on 17 January 1944 supporting the Perth Regiment in an attack in which four NCOs and two sappers were wounded. The Squadron then moved back towards Naples to the city of Caserta. Again, bridging and mine training, rest and maintenance, as well as planning for the Liri Valley operation occupied their time. Bill spent ten days in hospital. 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 and opening the road to Rome.

At 0800 hours on 24 May, the leading troops of the 5th Canadian Armoured Division drove forward. With each of the three armoured regiments, were parties of sappers from the 10th Field Squadron in reconnaissance tanks (M2 Grant tanks called Honeys) - 18 parties in all. Sapper Wood was employed as a dispatch rider when he was killed in action that day.  Three other sappers were wounded and at the end of the day, four were still missing.  He was buried at a cross-road junction 2 miles north of Pontecorvo. In February 1947, he was re-interred in the Cassino Commonwealth War Cemetery.

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