Lt James Edward Whittaker - Military Cross - 5th Field Company

Military Cross

At approximately 0820 hours on 6 June 1944, off the village of Berniers-sur-Mer, the landing craft on which this officer of 5 Canadian Field Company was coming in on the assault struck the outer row of obstacles and came to a halt in over eight feet of water at the ramp. Small arms fire was being brought to bear on the craft. The craft attempted to get closer to shore with no appreciable results and Lieutenant Whittaker finally decided that he must get ashore in order to contact the other sections and to see what work could be done on the beach.

He, with a Sapper, attempted to swim to shore, he knowing that fire would be directed on him and knowing that he was not a good swimmer. He failed to make shore and was brought back to the craft in a state of near drowning. In the meantime, the craft had worked its way inshore and the bulldozers and men commenced to disembark. At this time splinters from mortar fire struck this officer on the face and neck, preventing him from disembarking. Before he had sufficiently recovered from the shock of his wounds and near drowning, he insisted that he be brought inshore again and be allowed to disembark. He rejoined his platoon at approximately 1300 hours and worked on obstacle removal and mine clearance until 2230 hours that night when he was in a state of complete exhaustion.

By his devotion to duty and refusal to quit under most adverse conditions this officer succeeded in carrying out many hours of useful work before he allowed himself to relax.

In the weeks prior to D Day, Lieutenant Whittaker was outstanding in his efforts to train his men to the highest peak of efficiency and was instrumental in bringing out many new ideas and methods in underwater obstacle removal.