In mid-May 1944, after a period of bridge and mine training, rest and maintenance, as well as planning for the Liri Valley operation, the 5th Canadian Armoured Division started moving forward to the Hitler Line for their first divisional level battle of the war.
The attack began on the morning of 23 May with the 1st Canadian Infantry Division opening the Hitler Line at a cost of 890 Canadians were killed or wounded - the most for the Canadian Army in the entire Italian Campaign. The 5th Canadian Armoured Division then struck forward with two battle groups to cross the Melfa River and secured a bridgehead by 26 May. Once out of the Melfa bridgehead, the 11th Infantry Brigade with tank support broke out and exploited north towards Frisinone via Ceprano.
Throughout the battle, Engineer time was punctuated by movement, waiting, more movement, and more waiting. Crossings were built and mines were lifted. Sapper patrols went well behind enemy lines. Men were killed and many wounded. Two members of the 10th Field Squadron were decorated for bravery – Corporal J.D. Laloge, MM and Sapper H.E. Anstie, MM.
From History of the RCE Vol II p. 209
"During the 26th, infantry of the 5th Canadian Armoured Division had reached the upper Liri, consolidating on high ground opposite Ceprano. This advance brought the 10th Field Squadron another two Military Medals; one was awarded to Corporal J. D. Laloge and the other to Sapper H. E. Anstie, both with a "Honey' tank party. When the reconnoitring armour was stalled by a steep-banked gully around which there was no apparent route, the banks of the gully had to be ramped by explosive and the sappers dismounted to get on with the task. The site was under machine-gun and other fire. During the placing of the charges one enemy post, some 300 yards away, caused particular annoyance. Anstie returned to the light tank and manned its machine gun. He had to expose himself to bring the gun to bear but he silenced the bothersome post, killing its three occupants. His efforts had much to do with Laloge's successful completion of the work and with the way being made clear. That night patrols crossed the Liri River below Ceprano and found that the enemy had vacated the town."
Corporal Jean Donat "Johnny" Laloge, MM, MID was born to immigrant parents in Edmonton and raised in the Pouce Coupé of BC. He died on 11 May 2007 in Vancouver BC at the age of 92 years.
On the morning of the 26th May 1944, Corporal Laloge was in command of a party of Engineers from his unit advancing west towards Ceprano when a crater was encountered in the road which the tanks of "A" Squadron, 5th Canadian Armoured Regiment (8th New Brunswick Hussars), who were immediately behind, were unable to negotiate. There was no way around due to the extensive mines and the difficult nature of the ground. Without thought of the risk involved from the heavy and well-aimed enemy mortar and shell fire which was landing within 50 yards of the crater, Corporal Laloge immediately went ahead and, with his two sappers, climbed out of the "Honey" tank which they were in and which had suffered several hits from shell splinters, and coolly laid charges against the steep banks of the obstacle and blew a diversion.
This Non-Commissioned Officer demonstrated a very high standard of courage and devotion to duty during the above act. He realized that no obstacle could be allowed to remain in the path of either the tanks or the Irish Regiment of Canada who the latter were supporting and, despite the danger from the shelling all around him, he deliberately exposed himself to lay his charges and clear the way for the leading troops. His initiative and prompt action was of material assistance to the forward drive of the Irish Regiment of Canada at this stage of the battle.
Cpl Jean 'Johnny' Donat Laloge, MM, MiD, (Ret'd) of Pouce Coupé, BC died in Vancouver on 11 May 2007.