Canada & the Victoria Cross

The mystery of the Thames Victoria Cross
Canada & the Victoria Cross, Front Lines

The mystery of the Thames Victoria Cross

In December 2015, a “mudlark” treasure-hunting along the bank of the Thames River in southern England found a corroded metal cross buried in the ooze exposed at low tide. His name was Tobias Neto, and the hunk of rusty metal was none other than a Victoria Cross. Or was it? “It was covered in mud,” Neto recalled. “I kept it and carried on detecting. Only when I got home did I realize I had a VC medal in my hands—I could read the writing ‘For Valour’ below the crown. “Eventually I noticed the date on the reverse: 5 NOV 1854.” The Thames foreshore—that 150-kilometre strand of slimy shoreline exposed when the tide goes out—is a treasure-trove of history, a veritable archive of London’s long and colourful past where clay pipes, pottery shards, ships’ timbers, medieval stoneworks, ru...
Valour To The End: Part 18 of 18
Canada & the Victoria Cross

Valour To The End: Part 18 of 18

ILLUSTRATIONS: SHARIF TARABAY Clockwise from top left: Victoria Cross recipients David Vivian Currie, Aubrey Cosens, Frederick Albert Tilston and Frederick George Topham. During the World War II campaign in Northwest Europe, which lasted from D-Day, June 6, 1944, until the German surrender in May 1945, four Canadian soldiers--David Vivian Currie, Aubrey Cosens, Frederick Albert Tilston and Frederick George Topham--earned Victoria Crosses. There is a photograph taken in August 1944 at St-Lambert-sur-Dives, France, that shows Currie with pistol in hand, accepting the surrender of a German officer. Tanks and buildings are smouldering in the background. The noted Canadian military historian, C.P. Stacey, described the scene "as close as we are likely to come to a photograph of a man win...
The Airmen of '44: Part 17 of 18
Canada & the Victoria Cross

The Airmen of '44: Part 17 of 18

ILLUSTRATIONs: Sharif Tarabay From top: Victoria Cross recipients Andrew Charles Mynarski, David Ernest Hornell, and Ian Willoughby Bazalgette. All three Canadian airmen awarded the Victoria Cross in World War II were cited for their valour within two months of each other during the summer of 1944--all of them posthumously. They were Andrew Charles Mynarski, on the night of June 12-13, David Ernest Hornell, June 24, and Ian Willoughby Bazalgette, Aug. 4. Mynarski earned the decoration while serving as a mid-upper air gunner in a Lancaster bomber with 419 Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force, at Middleton St. George in Yorkshire. Hornell was a...
Three In Italy:  Part 16 of 18
Canada & the Victoria Cross

Three In Italy: Part 16 of 18

ILLUSTRATIONS: Sharif Tarabay From top: Victoria Cross recipients Paul Triquet, John Keefer Mahony and Ernest Alvia Smokey Smith. As a result of the Allied conquest of Sicily in July and August 1943, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini was overthrown. Although the new Italian government surrendered on Sept. 3, the Germans immediately seized control of the mainland. That same day--during the wee hours of the morning--1st Canadian Division and 1st Canadian Army Tank Brigade crossed the Strait of Messina and met little or no resistance when they landed on the toe of Italy. The Germans had decided to bide their time and prepare for the advance t...
Hong Kong, Dieppe And Burma: Part 15 of 18
Canada & the Victoria Cross

Hong Kong, Dieppe And Burma: Part 15 of 18

ILLUSTRATIONs: Sharif Tarabay Clockwise from top left: Victoria Cross recipients John Robert Osborn, Charles Ferguson Hoey, Charles Cecil Merritt and John Weir Foote. In addition to the Victoria Cross earned by Hammy Gray just days before World War II ended (Valour In The Navy, March/April), there were two other Canadian VCs awarded for valour in the hostilities against the Japanese. Both recipients were soldiers. The first of these was earned in Hong Kong in 1941 by John Robert Osborn of the Winnipeg Grenadiers. It was in fact the first Canadian VC earned in WW II, but the feat went unrecognized until after the Japanese surrender in 1945. The official citation ...
Valour In The Navy: Part 14 of 18
Canada & the Victoria Cross

Valour In The Navy: Part 14 of 18

ILLUSTRATIONS: Sharif Tarabay From top: Victoria Cross recipients Rowland Richard Louis Bourke, Robert Hampton Gray and Frederick Thornton Peters. All three Canadian naval recipients of the Victoria Cross earned the decoration while serving with the Royal Navy. One was for bravery in World War I, the other two were made for actions in WW II. Born in London, England, on Nov. 28, 1885, Rowland Richard Louis Bourke moved to Canada in 1902. He left his fruit farm at Crescent Bay, B.C., to serve in WW I, but was rejected by all branches of the Canadian military because of defective eyesight. Undaunted, Bourke sailed for England and was accepted ...
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