From the Archives: Sicilian Field Awards to Canadian Soldiers Made Public by Ottawa

Publication Date 
09 Jul 2018

On the night of 09/10 July 1943, Allied Troops, including the 1st Canadian Infantry Division, launched Operation HUSKY and assaulted the beaches of Sicily.  The campaign lasted six-weeks and set the tone for the next year and a half of fighting in Italy.

The following article appeared in many Canadian newspapers. It talks of the bravery of Canadian troops of all arms during the invasion and subsequent capture of Sicily. You should note the subtitle halfway down the page. 

Ottawa, Sept. 23 (CP). - Bravery and good service in the face of the enemy as the 1st Division fought its way across Sicily in July and August earned decorations for 52 Canadian soldiers whose names were announced today by Defense Headquarters.

It was the first large-scale bestowal of awards since units of the 2nd Division staged their bold and bloody raid on the strongly held French port of Dieppe just over a year ago. Maj.-Gen. Guy Simonds of Kingston and Winnipeg, 1st Division commander, received the Distinguished Service Order along with nine other officers, while 16 officers received the Military Cross, three men the Distinguished Conduct Medal, and 23 the Military Medal. The list is understood to cover only immediate awards made in the field by commanding officers, and for this reason is not complete. Other awards based on recommendations from unit commanders will be announced later.

Most of the men have already been notified of their awards, and a few have become known to the public through letters to their friends. Ross Munro, Canadian Press war correspondent, has mentioned many of the men named and their exploits in his despatches, but the complete list could not be made public until the field awards were approved by the King.

Engineers Prominent

Sappers of the Royal Canadian Engineers, moving out ahead of the advancing combat troops to clear out mines, build and repair bridges, and do other jobs necessary to make possible the rapid advance across the island, earned a larger number of decorations than any other unit. The speed of the Canadian advance was repeatedly commented upon and commended by high military authorities and by war correspondents, who found it difficult to keep up with the 1st Division. One of those who tried to catch them and failed on a brief visit to the Sicilian front was Lt.-Gen. Kenneth Stuart, Chief of the Canadian General Staff.

The engineers, whose job in an advance is to overcome physical obstacles, collected nine of the 52 decorations against five each for the artillery, the Royal 22nd Regiment of Quebec, the Seaforth Highlanders of Vancouver and the armored corps, represented by the 1st Army Tank Brigade: four each for the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry of Winnipeg and Esquimalt, B.C., the Loyal Edmonton Regiment, and the Hastings & Prince Edward Regiment; two each for the Royal Canadian Regiment of Toronto and St. Johns, Que, ; the 48th Highlanders of Toronto and the Carleton and York Regiment; one for the Medical Corps and three for headquarters officers.

Also see: Sapper Bravery in Sicily