Second World War - Lynsted Memorial Project
Bertram Charles HEATHFIELD (of Teynham)
Private, Service Number 5504230
Born in 1917, Bertram was the oldest of the five children of Charles and Elizabeth Mary (née Ralph) Heathfield of 9 Frognal Lane, Teynham.
Bertram's war was a hard fought one. The 2/4th Battalion invaded Sicily as part of Operation Husky in July 1943. On 12 July they moved inland, behind the advancing infantry. It was at this point on 14 July, Bertram was reported wounded. The extent of his injury is not known, nor is the length of time he was incapacitated.
In February 1944, the Battalion was back in the line in Italy, near Garigliano, as part of 28th Infantry Brigade, in 4th Infantry Division. In May 1944, the Battalion assisted in the crossing of the River Rapido as part of the assault on Monte Cassino. Under intense enemy fire, swimmers from 2/4th had to cross with lines because of the intensity of the flow. Once across they were pinned down by machine gun fire. Being unable to get back to their battalions, they came under command of 12th Infantry Brigade and crossed via a bridge on 13 May. With the 17th/21st Lancers's Sherman tanks, the 2/4th Battalion attacked along the river, taking 200 prisoners. They then attempted to cross the River Pioppeta. The tank bridge sank in the mud, and the battalion took 100 casualties in two minutes. The 2/4th waded the river and, in spite of heavy casualties and fierce resistance, the advance continued. During this advance, Captain Richard Wakeford was awarded the Victoria Cross. By 6.30pm, all objectives had been captured and on 16 May, the battalion was relieved. Two days later, Cassino was captured.
During June, Bertram's battalion was involved in more intense fighting as they advanced towards Rome. An attack on a ridge being held by the German 1st Parachute Division was launched. Although a foothold was established, that night a fierce German counter-attack was made and they overran the company headquarters. Fighting was close and confused, and ammunition was running low. They were forced to retreat only to attack again the following day (26 June), recapturing its previous positions.
The 2/4th Battalion came into action again on 21 July. Supported by the North Irish Horse, a steady advance was made. Following this advance, during which Bertram lost his life, the 2/4th Battalion was then taken out of the line. Some platoons were down to ten men each with no officer.
On 18 August 1984, Bertram was confirmed as killed in action on 21 July 1944.
Having originally been buried elsewhere, on 25 April 1945, Bertram was interred at Arezzo War Cemetery, Italy.