By late October 1944, the 1st Canadian Corps had been in constant action since the Gothic Line Battle in the last week of August (Operation OLIVE). The Savio River had been crossed but little success had been found moving forward to Ravenna over the flooded Po Valley plain. This lull in the campaign, combined with the utter fatigue of the Corps led to a decision to move them into the 8th Army reserve; all that is except a handful of Canadian units assigned to a hastily organised battle group dubbed Porterforce based around the British Army’s 27th Lancers led by Lt-Col Porter. Among these units was 12th Field Company, RCE.
Colonel Porter’s force of over 2000 all ranks consisting of armour, infantry, artillery and engineers, was tasked with the capture of the city of Ravenna. Operations started on 28 October over a line of advance across flooded plains, canals and rivers, mines and demolitions.
Role of the RCE
The 12th Field Company's tour with Porterforce was a busy one. It swept miles of road south of the Ronco and built, besides numerous bridges under 80 feet, a 120-foot triple-single class 30 bridge over the Bevano River, on the long straight road running due north from Cesena to Ravenna. The maintenance of this road was its prime responsibility. The Company's casualties totalled six during the period, with one man killed while working on a Riegelmine. Lieutenant F. W. Philpot, leading a platoon in support of 'C Squadron of the 27th Lancers, earned the Military Cross for a rapid bridging job under heavy mortar fire. The bridge enabled the Lancers to catch and to inflict heavy casualties among a body of retiring enemy. Sergeant A. E. Critchley (shortly afterwards wounded) won the Military Medal under similar circumstances, except that the obstacle he overcame was a stretch of mines. On 7th November the 264th Field Company, R.E., relieved the 12th Field Company. Three days later one of its platoons, working well up, came under machine-gun fire. It lost three killed (including the platoon officer) and had seven wounded.
Source: History of the Royal Canadian Engineers, Volume II