Maj Bert Fawcett Engler, MiD, CD (Ret'd)
We regret to advise of the death of Major Bert Fawcett Engler, MiD, CD (Ret’d) on 7 October 2011 in Ottawa, ON. Bert joined Army Survey early in WW II and later served a full career of nearly 40 years of service in Army Survey and Mapping.
Bert was born in Ottawa, ON in 1912. Surveying was in his blood as his father, Carl, was a Dominion Land Surveyor. As a boy, Bert showed a lot of interest in his father’s work and spent many hours visiting his office in the Department of the Interior where his uncle Sid was also Dominion Land Surveyor.
After completing high school Bert managed to gain positions on several survey jobs. He found work in 1934 as a clerk with O’Neill, Thompson Gold Mining Syndicate at a prospect mine near Rouen, QC. While most of his duties were administrative, he was surprised when he was handed an engineer’s transit and chain and told to make a rough plan of the underground workings. Aware of the possibility of disaster, Bert accepted the challenge and, after reading the available engineering textbooks and getting some instructions from the visiting engineer, he went underground and surveyed the tunnels, drifts and cross-cuts. Mine supervisors were pleased with his results.
Bert’s first exposure to photogrammetric mapping was when he worked as a draughtsman for his uncle Sid in the late 1930s. Here he was introduced to the technology of the early era of photogrammetry and the new methods of map production. He became thoroughly versed in map compilation and reproduction techniques that was to contribute to his significant contributions to the Army’s WW II mapping capabilities.
Bert enlisted in the Royal Canadian Engineers on 6 September 1939 and joined the 1st Corps Field Survey Squadron. He was appointed Acting Lance Corporal the next month because of his knowledge and experience. Bert embarked for England in short time and was soon sent to Britain’s Ordnance Survey, at Southampton, Hants on the first formal course of his new career. Less than a year later he was promoted Corporal and was an Acting Sergeant by December 1941. His leadership and technical skills being recognized, Bert was promoted to Officer Cadet in July 1943 and in September that same year he was promoted to Lieutenant. We was first the Topographic Drawing Section Officer and was then posted to the Photo-Mechanical Section as its Officer Commanding.
Arriving on the Continent after D-Day in 1944, Bert worked throughout North West Europe where his team developed some ingenious photogrammetric techniques to produce the maps that were invaluable the advance of the Allies. Lieutenant Engler was Mentioned in Dispatches in recognition of his distinguished service and his contributions in developing air photo mapping techniques.
At wars end Bert was repatriated to Canada and transferred to the Reserve of Officers as a Lieutenant. In July 1945 he began work with Mines and Technical Surveys as a technical assistant but, within a year, the Army needed his services and Bert arrived at Army Survey Establishment (ASE) in May 1946 as a Captain. He spent some of his early time here as a field party chief in the Rockies.
In May 1947 Bert was lent to Mines and Technical Surveys for several months and he then returned to ASE to become Chief of Field Survey, followed by becoming Assistant to the Chief of Compilation Division. Captain Engler was then sent as Exchange Officer to the United Kingdom where he served as photogrammetry instructor at the Royal School of Military Survey (Aug 1951- Nov 1953). When he returned to Canada he was placed in charge of the Army Survey Establishment’s (ASE) Compilation Division at the time of Canada’s first real attempt to produce topographic maps of the entirety of Canada.
Promoted to Major in April 1956, Bert continued to lead the task of mapping Canada that continued through most of the 1950s and 1960s. During this time he turned the thousands of aerial photographs and a vast jigsaw-puzzle of geometric measurements that were the product of the annual major field surveys into a framework on which maps could be built. Processing the puzzle in rooms full of photogrammetric plotting machines produced an accurate pencilled manuscript for each map sheet that formed the basis for draughting and printing the eventual full-colour maps.
As mapping from air photos expanded, Bert became immersed in ASE’s photogrammetric production. He ran the labyrinthine process under strict deadlines and, long before computers and satellites, his compilation teams worked in a smooth and seamless fashion. For more than 20 years, he and his division produced the data necessary to complete the basic mapping framework of Canada. As part of the preparations for ASE to move into its new home in Ottawa, ON on Booth Street in 1961, Bert helped design many of its future workrooms. He was appointed Chief Map Editor in 1964 and, the next year, he was appointed Officer Commanding Technical Administration Squadron.
Bert took his discharge from the Army in August 1965 and was immediately hired back at ASE as a civilian Technical Officer. His varied career subsequently had him in the chairs of Production Control Officer (PCO), Quality Control Officer and Program Planning Officer. As PCO he scheduled and programmed all the unit’s output and much of the unit’s ability to meet deadlines was due to his experience and organizational abilities.
Bert retired for from the Canadian Forces in December 1978 after nearly 40 years of service, to raise gargantuan tomatoes, immense cucumbers and luminescent flowers in his garden.