Gallantry Medals Donated To War Museum

January 1, 2001 by Legion Magazine

The medals of VC winner George Fraser Kerr of Deseronto are donated to the Canadian War Museum by Dr. Arthur Ross and daughters Cory and Czashka.

The Canadian War Museum has a new and valuable exhibit to add to its extensive collection of war memorabilia—the four major war medals for gallantry, including the Victoria Cross, awarded for actions during World War I to George Fraser Kerr of Deseronto, Ont.

The collection is courtesy of Dr. Arthur Ross, a retired doctor from Redwood City, Calif., and son-in-law of the Canadian war hero who earned his medals for gallantry during three years of fighting in the trenches on the Western Front.

“I wanted to make sure that everyone had access to the medals,” said Ross during a brief ceremony at the museum, “and that they were not locked in a box somewhere.”

Accompanied to the ceremony by daughters Cory of California and Czashka of New York City, Ross said his children and grandchildren are the only descendants left of the Victoria Cross winner. Ross has four children and nine grandchildren.

“When my son suggested the medals should go to the Canadian War Museum I was delighted,” he said. “I hope that the focus on the bravery of young Fraser Kerr, outstanding in an army of brave persons, will encourage his descendants to meet the challenges of their lives bravely too.

“Placing Fraser Kerr’s medals—awarded for four outstanding acts of bravery—in the care of the Canadian War Museum is not an individual act, but rather a gift from the family that will ensure awareness of the medals’ significance for years to come.”

The donation of the medal group was welcomed by museum director Joe Geurts as a rare treasure. “It includes not only the Victoria Cross—the British Commonwealth’s highest military honour—but also the Military Cross with bar and the Military Medal, all of which are given for conspicuous courage in combat.”

Born in 1894, Kerr was an infantryman in the Canadian Corps when he won the Military Medal in June, 1916, for taking command of his platoon and directing it with skill when both the commanding officer and sergeant were killed during intense action. He won the Military Cross in the battle of Amiens in August 1918 after destroying several enemy machine-gun positions and capturing two artillery pieces, all while wounded. He was awarded a bar to the Military Cross soon after for overcoming a key enemy machine-gun position.

He accomplished his most spectacular act of bravery and won the Victoria Cross about one month later.

While recovering from his wounds, Kerr left his sickbed and rejoined his battalion when he learned that it would be part of an attack on the Canal du Nord and Bourlon Wood. On Sept. 27, 1918, he outflanked a machine-gun and advanced alone, far ahead of his company. He rushed a German strongpoint, capturing four enemy machine-guns and taking 31 prisoners.

Kerr received his Victoria Cross on May 22, 1919, from King George V at Buckingham Palace. He was a captain with the 3rd Canadian Infantry Battalion (The Toronto Regiment) when he left the army. Kerr died in an accident in Toronto in 1929. He was 35.

The Victoria Cross was created during the 1854-1856 Crimea War and is still made from the metal of a Russian cannon captured during that conflict. Geurts says 96 Canadians have received the award, many of them posthumously. The war museum now has 23 Victoria Crosses in its collection.

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