Lt James Howard Alexander, MC (Ret’d)

    • Lt James Howard Alexander, MC (Ret’d)
    • RCE Badge circa 1937-1952

    We regret to advise of the death of Lieutenant James Howard Alexander, MC (Ret’d) on 26 December 2009 in Sewickley, Pennsylvania at the age of 86 years.

    James was born in Toronto, ON and attended the University of Toronto. He graduated in Chemical Engineering from the University of Toronto and joined the Royal Canadian Engineers. He was assigned to the 6th Field Company in March 1944, landing in Normandy on D-Day and served with the unit until February 1946.  James was awarded the Military Cross for actions as a bridge commander at Retranchement the Netherlands.  His citation reads:

    “At Retranchement in on the morning of 30 October 1944, Lieutenant Alexander was detailed as bridge commander to construct a Class 40 Bailey bridge over the canal. The orders given were that the early completion of the bridge was vital to the final collapse of the South Scheldt Estuary pocket. This officer arrived at the bridge site at 1045 hours with his reconnaissance party and discovered that although the infantry held the village of Retranchement, no bridgehead was at yet established on the far side of the canal. At 1200 hours, this officer decided to attempt to make a cross section of the gap and he accordingly crossed to the far side but was immediately subjected to intense small arms fire. In spite of this, he eventually succeeded in securing enough information to make preliminary plans for his bridge and thus accomplished one-third of his task many hours ahead of schedule. Throughout the construction of the bridge, this officer was a source of constant inspiration to his men. Without regard to his personal safety, he stood on the most exposed part of the bridge, constantly exhorting his men to greater efforts. By his courage and determination, the bridge was completed much sooner than otherwise would have been possible and his gallant action allowed the leading brigade to bring up quickly the required fighting vehicles, ammunition and supplies which caused the ultimate defeat of the enemy at Knocke and Heist on 2 November 1944.”

    The 6th Field Company lost two soldiers that day and named the after Sgt J.L.Hickman. The original Bailey Bridge has been replaced but still bears the name 'Hickman Brug'.  Beside it stands a section of Bailey Bridge on a brick plinth, together with a bronze plaque with an inscription in English, French and Dutch.

    Following the war, James joined Shawinigan Chemicals in Quebec and, then, in 1964 joined Bayer Corporation and worked with them as President of Verona-Pharma Chemical Corp. in New Jersey and later as Senior Executive Vice President of Mobay in Pittsburgh.  After retirement, he became President of Valley Care Association and the Pittsburgh Blind Association.

    Visitation will take place on 29 December from 1:00 until 2:00 PM in the R.D.Copeland Ltd-Irvine Chapel in Sewickley with a service at 2:00 PM. Memorial donations may be made to the Blind & Rehabilitation Services of Pittsburgh. {dcApr2017gd}[zsp]