by Capt A.J. Peddle, CFSME
A recent graduating Construction Technician 3A course had an unexpected honour with what can be described as a truly remarkable collection of Canadian Military Engineering history. Recently, Fred Gallant, Maj (Ret.) arranged with the Canadian Forces School of Military Engineering Museum (CFSME) to have some of his father’s military items from his service during the Second World War displayed and showcased. These items crossed paths with the construction technicians as part of the CFSME Military Indoctrination Program (MILIP), which helps to build teamwork and improve candidate’s military values and understanding of military and engineer history. As such, the construction technicians had the privilege to build a display case to showcase the accomplishments and help tell the story of Sapper Aubin Joseph Gallant.
While Sapper Gallant’s history and experiences during the initial days of Canada’s involvement into the Second World War were common for young Canadian men growing up during those troubling time, his personal story remains unique.
Aubin J. Gallant was born in Union Corner Prince Edward Island where he lived and grew up on his parent’s farm. At the age of thirteen he was forced to quit school and run the farm upon the death of his father in 1927. He met his wife in 1939 and soon moved to St. John New Brunswick to start his new family. In April of 1942, Mr. Gallant decided to join to army and was soon off to CFB Petawawa to receive his basic training.
Upon completion of his training he was sent to England as part of the 18th Field Engineer Regiment. For the next twenty months his unit trained and prepared for war until June 2, 1944 when the unit boarded the ships enroute to Juno Beach, France. From his pay book (submitted and shown below in the showcase) you can see he had an initial pay assignment home for twenty dollars a month and thirty dollars a month with victory bonds after training.
Seasick, tired, hungry and sleep deprived, Sapper Gallant landed on Juno Beach June 6th 1944, D-Day. Like many of the other thousands of Canadian soldiers involved that day, he was exposed to a bombardment of artillery, mines, obstacles and machine gun fire. His mission was to clear the obstacles under intense fire to help establish a beachhead for allied forces. This mission continued for two days as his unit fought their way forward and into the German controlled territory.
One of few stories Aubin Gallant shared with his family involved finding a safe place to lay rest for the night underneath Artillery guns which literally fired overhead throughout the night.
The 18th Fd Coy and Sapper Gallant participated in the Battles of Carpiquet, Caen, Falaise Gap and East until Calais when the unit took the Calais guns.
Sapper Gallant’s story takes a unique twist when shortly after, Sapper Gallant was repatriated to Canada on compassionate grounds. His Mother was physically ill and mentally fatigued due to stress and worry of having a large portion of her family lost or still serving in the war effort. A real Canadian “Saving Private Ryan” story.
Sapper Gallant served the remaining time of the war in Fredericton N.B. until his release on May 21, 1945. He retired on a farm in Mont Carmel PEI. He was the proud Father of twelve children, of whom six have worn the Canadian Armed Forces uniform.
In the words of MCpl MacGregor, 22 Wing CE North Bay, one of several students working directly on the project “ It was an honour to actually work on this and realize that one of our own made it through that horrid, triumphant day.”
The CFSME museum is proud to hold and display Sapper Gallant’s military memorabilia on behalf of his family and the CME branch. The museum is attempting to have the collection transferred to the Juno Beach Centre to display as part of the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of D-Day. The display case built by the Construction Technician 3A course reflects pride and homage to a fellow sapper and carpenter, reminding everyone of the challenges faced by those who have served and continue to serve in the Canadian Military Engineer Branch.