Canada & the Victoria Cross

Canada & the Victoria Cross

Hand-to-hand On Hill 70: Part 8 of 18

ILLUSTRATIONS: SHARIF TARABAY Clockwise from top left: Victoria Cross recipients Michael James O'Rourke, Harry Brown, Frederick Hobson, Filip Konowal, Robert Hanna and Okill Massey Learmonth. During a bitter 10-day struggle—from Aug. 15-25, 1917—the Canadian Corps overran Hill 70, a treeless hillock on the north side of the French mining centre of Lens. The corps suffered nearly 9,200 casualties, among them four of the six Victoria Crosses awarded in that gory battle. The ages of the six recipients ranged from 19 to 41. Michael James O’Rourke, 39, had already earned the Military Medal for bravery at Monquet Farm on the Somme in 1916. From Aug. 15-17—during the first phase of the fighting around Hill 70—the former British ...
Canada & the Victoria Cross

High Heroes Of The Great War: Part 7 of 18

ILLUSTRATIONS: Sharif Tarabay From top: Victoria Cross recipients Billy Bishop, Alan McLeod and William Barker. This was appropriately fitting for the deeds of these men and their comrades who provided the inspiration for thousands of youths who flocked to the RCAF to serve. Two of these heroes, Bishop and Barker, started out as cavalrymen before transferring to the Royal Flying Corps. McLeod joined the RFC directly. William Avery Bishop, the son of an Owen Sound, Ont., lawyer, was born Feb. 8, 1894. He took his early education at Owen Sound Collegiate, then attended the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont. At the outbreak of war, he was commissioned in Toronto’s Mississauga Horse, a cavalry unit of the 2nd Cdn. Division...
Canada & the Victoria Cross

Vimy And More: Part 6 of 18

ILLUSTRATIONS: Sharif Tarabay Clockwise from top left: Victoria Cross recipients Frederick Maurice Watson Harvey, Robert Grierson Combe, Ellis Wellwood Sifton, John George Pattison, William Johnstone Milne and Thain Wendell MacDowell. The Battle of Vimy Ridge, which historian George Nasmith called “probably the most brilliant success of the war” on the British front, was sandwiched between the actions of two other feats in the spring of 1917 for which Canadians earned the Victoria Cross. Frederick Maurice Watson Harvey was decorated with the VC for “most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty” for leading a cavalry charge on the village of Guyencourt, France, on March 27, 1917. On May 3, about three weeks after the Vimy victory, Robert Grie...
Canada & the Victoria Cross

Valour On The Somme: Part 5 of 18

ILLUSTRATIONS: SHARIF TARABAY Clockwise from top left: Victoria Cross recipients Thomas Wilkinson, Lionel Clarke, James Richardson and John Kerr. Das Blutbad the blood bath. The consummate German designation for those murderous battles of the Somme. During the last six months of 1916, over that part of the French countryside aptly named Santerre, a contraction of the French words sang (blood) and terre (land), the Allies suffered more than 620,000 casualties, including 24,029 Canadians. And all for a paltry gain of 10 kilometres. But the heroism of the Dominion troops moved British Prime Minister Lloyd George to write: “The Canadians played a part of such distinction that thenceforward they were marked as st...
Canada & the Victoria Cross

The Class Of 1915: Part 4 of 18

Illustration: Sharif Tarabay Victoria Cross recipient Francis Alexander Scrimger. More than 70 Canadian Victoria Crosses were awarded during World War I, an incredible achievement for a country with less than nine million people. The first of those awards went to Michael O’Leary. Born in 1888 at Inchigeela in County Cork, Ireland, “Mick”—as he was known—joined the Royal Navy at an early age, but was invalided out with rheumatism. After making a full recovery, he joined the Irish Guards before moving to Canada in 1913 where he joined the North West Mounted Police.After war broke out in 1914, O’Leary returned to Great Britain and rejoined the 1st Battalion of the Irish Guards. The unit was immediately sent to France, where the lance-corporal quickly showed his ...
Canada & the Victoria Cross

Saving The Guns In South Africa: Part 3 of 18

Clockwise from top left: Victoria Cross recipients William Nickerson, Arthur Richardson, Edward Holland, Hampden Cockburn and Richard Turner. ILLUSTRATIONS: Sharif Tarabay Canada’s participation in the Boer War or South African War, fought from Oct. 11, 1899 to May 31, 1902, was essentially based on economic and political grounds. Nevertheless, our involvement yielded five Victoria Cross recipients. Four were soldiers in the Canadian Army while the fifth was a member of the British Army. The bad feelings between the British and Dutch-speaking farmers or Boers in the Cape Colony had its roots extending back over ...

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