02 Jun 2016
By LCol RE Crane
Seizing on a recent opportunity during a visit to Europe in May 2016, Major-General Paul Wynnyk and Lieutenant-Colonel Erik Crane plus some adventurous friends had a chance to find and visit a site of significance to the Corps of Royal Canadian Engineers. The site in question is where Lieutenant-Colonel (then Captain) Coulson Norman Mitchell VC, MC won the only Victoria Cross awarded to a Royal Canadian Engineer.
In the early days of October 1918, crossing the Canal de l’Escaut was of particular importance to the 2nd Canadian Division in achieving their advance toward Mons. Under heavy enemy fire, Captain Mitchell and his Non-Commissioned Officer neutralized the bridge demolition charges and then assisted his wounded sentry in thwarting a German counter attack killing three of the enemy and capturing 12. He then continued to secure the bridge from demolition all the while under heavy fire and the possibility of enemy sniper fire until he was reinforced. This historic event took place at Pont d’Aire North East of Cambria, which crossed the canal with the village of Escaudoeuvres on the far bank.
While the original bridges have long since been replaced and the trees have grown around it, you can still appreciate the challenge, valour and courage displayed by Captain Mitchell and his party during that night on 8-9 October 1918.