Spr Yalmore Joseph Huneault, 3rd Fd Coy 23 May 1944

Spr Yalmore Huneault's Headstone in Cassino Commonwealth War Cemetery

Yalmore Joseph Huneault was born in Ottawa, Ontario, the son of John and Valeda Huneault. He grew up in a big family, six sisters and one brother. He was working as a truck driver when he enlisted on 19 January 1940.

Yalmore was posted directly to the Royal Canadian Engineers and trained at Engineer Training Centre in Halifax, NS. Upon completing training in Halifax he was posted to the 3rd Field Company, a local Ottawa unit, and left almost immediately for the UK, landing in Liverpool on 22 May. He was soon granted trades pay as a Bricklayer's Helper Group ‘C’.

On 17 August 1940, Yalmore boarded a ship bound for Spitzbergen on Operation GAUNTLET landing 25 August. The goal of the operation, which had the approval of the Norwegian and Soviet governments, was to evacuate the civilian population and deny Germany the coal, mining and shipping infrastructure, equipment and stores, and suppress any wireless stations on the archipelago to prevent the Germans receiving weather reports.

Initially, Canada was to contribute a brigade, less one infantry battalion, and supporting divisional troops units including a machinegun company, an anti-aircraft battery, the 3rd Field Squadron, signals and medical support to Force 111.  After they trained in Scotland, the scope of the operation was reduced to a smaller battalion, a machine-gun company, 3rd Field Company, brigade HQ and a small party of Royal Engineers. The operation was successful and executed in such secrecy the Germans could not react or interfere. The Canadian engineers set fire to about 450,000 long tons of coal dumped at the mines, burned much of the fuel oil and poured into the sea, removed or sabotaged mining equipment and burned down the main town. Yalmore returned to the UK and continued training including time at the Signals school and a month with the 5th Construction Company, RCE.

In July 1943, Yalmore landed in Sicily with his company. In support of the 1st Division, he fought through the Sicilian Campaign, the boot of Italy, Ortona and then across the Gustav Line. By November 1943 he had advanced in trade to Bricklayer Group ‘B’ and was paid as such.

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. Yalmore and his company focused on preparing for the planned attack on the Gustav Line under the peak of Monte Cassino, scheduled for May 1944. 

The 1st Canadian Division crossed the Gari River on the night of 15 May 1944 led by the 1st Brigade. Their task was to continue through the Gustav Line and advance to the Hitler Line. They suffered badly on the first day against determined German rearguard actions.  On 17 May, the 3rd Brigade fared somewhat better and made good advances with the Van Doos in the lead. The 1st Brigade continued pushing on and by the time the Canadians were within three miles of the Hitler Line, the situation had stabilized. Up to this point in the war, the fighting on the Gustav Line was the most intense the Canadian Army had experienced. They acquitted themselves very well and by 18 May, the Gustav Line was broken in the west, the Polish 2nd Division stood atop Monte Cassino and the Germans had been forced back to the Hitler Line. 

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 Yalmore Huneault was killed by a shell blast. He is buried in the Cassino Commonwealth Cemetery. He was 26 years old.

Note: Yalmore’s brother Jean Louis, also served overseas.

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