Spr Donald Taylor Somerville (Ret’d)

    •  Sapper Donald Taylor Somerville (Ret’d)
    • RCE GVIR Badge
    •  Sapper Donald Taylor Somerville (Ret’d)

    We regret to advise of the death of Sapper Donald Taylor Somerville (Ret’d) on Saturday, 16 September 2017 in Mississauga, ON at age 95. Don was a WW II veteran of Operation BERLIN, the 25/26 September 1944 evacuation of the British 1st Airborne Division forces from Arnhem.

    Born and raised in Chatham ON, Donald attended school in Chatham. He enlisted in the Royal Canadian Engineers (RCE) in February 1941 with 9th Field Company. After completing his Sapper training in Camp Petawawa ON, he arrived in England in July 1941 with the unit under its new name “1 Canadian Base Units Construction Company, RCE.” Don spent the next three years in England under training and working on construction projects for the Canadian Army and on defence works for the Defence of Britain. Don was reassigned to 23rd Field Company in May 1944 by which time the unit had been in England for two years and was anticipating a major role in the Invasion of Europe.

    On 11 July 1944 Donald disembarked on the shores of Juno Beach, France. His company soon moved into the outskirts of Caen where they got to work clearing a roadway through the city of Caen for the Allied advance. Regularly under fire as the city was still hotly contested, they constructed the “Andy’s Alley” roadway by clearing mines, filling potholes, bulldozing, and demolishing obstacles. After clearing this route they built “Reynold’s Bridge” across the Orne River.

    The 23rd Field Company was next assigned to support a 4th Armoured Division assault crossing of the Seine River near Pont De L’Arche. Don and his company had trained extensively back in England on British “Storm Boats” and this assault crossing was successful under the occasional artillery and mortar fire. The 23rd continued to ferry the allied forces and next built a Bailey Bridge across the Seine River in less than 24 hours.

    The company continued to supported the Allied advance into Belgium and Holland. and played the major role in "Operation BERLIN"- the evacuation of the depleted and encircled British 1st Airborne Division across the Neder Rijn. Don finished the war with the 20th Field Company where he was transferred after returning to duty after an injury in Holland.

    After returning to Canada and being demobilized, Don took over a portion of the family farm that he had acquired from the 'Veteran's Land Act'. During the Korean War he worked at Canadair on the fabrication on the Lockheed T-33 Trainer aircraft. After that, he worked a variety of different jobs including a 17-year stint with General Electric.

    Don’s contribution to the Battle for France was recognized by France’s awarding him the National Order of the Legion of Honour in April 2015. He was active in the Royal Canadian Legion and played a significant part in the remembrance of the WW II contributions of 23rd Field Company. Don made a total of six trips to Holland since 1990 to remember his lost comarades.

    A "Celebration of Life" is planned for Donald at the Col. Tom Kennedy Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion in Mississauga (Cawthra and Dundas area), from 1:00 pm-4:00 pm on Saturday, 23 September. Online condolences can be sent to the Funeral Home. {khSep2017}