Canadian Forgotten Heroes – Victoria Crosses Awarded – 1940-1945


The original Victoria Cross was created via a Royal Warrant issued on January 29 1856 with the royal sign-manual of Queen Victoria, and was intended to recognize demonstrations of gallantry during the Crimean War, regardless of either a man’s social status or his record of service. Initially, the Victoria Cross could not be conferred on colonial troops, until Major Charles Heaphy received the medal for his actions while serving with a New Zealand militia unit in 1864, after which the Victoria Cross was made available to all local forces under imperial command. The cross could also not be awarded posthumously until the policy was reversed in 1902. Until 1972, 81 members of the Canadian military (including those from Newfoundland) and 13 Canadians serving in British units had been awarded the Victoria Cross. After that date, however, the Canadian honors system was overhauled, and the Victoria Cross was eliminated from the official list of honors, instigating a decades-long debate on whether or not to reinstate the decoration. The prime minister at the time, Pierre Trudeau, regularly dodged questions about the Victoria Cross, stating that only Canadians should receive Canadian decorations. It was his successor, Brian Mulroney, who set up in 1987 a committee to look into the creation of a Canadian Victoria Cross as part of a new series of military honors. Although the committee did not recommend the Victoria Cross—names such as the Canada Cross and the Cross of Military Valor were put forward – the creation of an Australian Victoria Cross in 1991 and pressure from the Globe and Mail and advocacy groups, such as the Monarchist League of Canada and the Royal Canadian Legion, forced the plans to be amended; in 1991, a private member’s bill received all-party support in the House of Commons, following which the Victoria Cross, along with other Canadian military valor decorations, were on December 31 1992 formally requested by Mulroney. The request was approved with the issue of letters patent by Queen Elizabeth II on February 2 of the following year, thereby ceasing Canadian dependence on the British honors system.

Sgt V. R. Francis, 19th Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery (R.C.A.), displaying a German 88-MM Panzerschreck (anti-tank rocket launcher) discovered at a captured German radar station, France, June 16 1944.

Gunners J. R. Robinson and L. T. Groves, both of 34 Battery, 14th Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery (R.C.A.), stacking US 105-MM rounds in Normandy, France, June 20 1944

Aubrey Cosens was born in Latchford, Ontario on May 21 1921. During the Second World War he enlisted in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, but in mid-1944 transferred to the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada. Sgt Cosens was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross for his bravery and determined leadership in action at Mooshof in Germany on February 25 and 26 1945. With two tanks in support, Cosens’s platoon twice attacked German strong points located in three farm buildings, and was beaten back on both occasions. The platoon was then subjected to a fierce counter attack, during which the platoon commander was killed. Sgt Cosens assumed command of the platoon, now reduced to himself and four men. As the four other men provided covering fire, he ran across open ground to the remaining serviceable tank and directed its fire on the farm buildings. Having ordered the tank to ram the first building, Cosens entered it alone, killing several of the occupants and making prisoners of the rest. He then continued alone into the second and third buildings, killing or capturing what remained of the enemy. Just after the successful reduction of the strong points, Sgt Cosens was shot through the head by an enemy sniper and killed.

In Holland, during the night of February 25 to 26 1945, the 1st Battalion, The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, launched an attack on the hamlet of Mooshof, to capture ground which was considered essential for the successful development of future operations. Sgt Cosens platoon, with two tanks in support, attacked enemy strong points in three farm buildings, but were twice beaten back by fanatical enemy resistance and then fiercely counter attacked, during which time the platoon suffered heavy casualties and the platoon commander was killed. Sgt Cosens at once assumed command of the only other four survivors of his platoon, whom he placed in a position to give him covering fire, while he himself ran across open ground under heavy mortar and shell fire to the one remaining tank, where, regardless of danger, he took up an exposed place in front of the turret and directed its fire. After a further enemy counter attack had been repulsed, Sgt Cosens ordered the tank to attack the farm buildings, while the four survivors of his platoon followed in close support. After the tank had rammed the first building he entered it alone, killing several of the defenders and taking the rest prisoner. Single-handed he then entered the second and third buildings and personally killed or captured all the occupants, although under intense machine gun and small arms fire. Just after the successful reduction of these important enemy strong points, Sgt Cosens was shot through the head by an enemy sniper and died almost instantly. The outstanding gallantry, initiative and determined leadership of this brave N.C.O., who himself killed at least twenty of the enemy and took an equal number of prisoners, resulted in the capture of a position which was vital to the success of the future operations of the Brigade.

Capt Wilfrid Huard administering Holy Communion to infantrymen of Able Co, Le Régiment de la Chaudière, on Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, Bretteville-le-Rabet, France, June 24 1944.

David Vivian Currie was born in Sutherland, Saskatchewan on July 8 1912. Before the Second World War, he was a member of a Militia unit based in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. During the campaign in France following the D-Day landings in Normandy on June 6 1944, Currie was serving with the 29th Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment (The South Alberta Regiment). Maj Currie earned the Victoria Cross for his efforts on August 18 1944 to capture and hold the village of Saint-Lambert-sur-Dives during the fighting to block the escape route of large German forces cut off in the Falaise Gap. Leading a small force of tanks, infantry and anti-tank guns, but with no supporting field artillery fire, he organized an attack on the village and succeeded in seizing and consolidating a position half-way inside it. For 36 hours Currie’s force repeatedly thwarted attempts by German tanks and infantry to force a way through the village by counter attacking the Canadians. Finally, Maj Currie and his men renewed their attack and drove the enemy out of Saint-Lambert-sur-Dives, completing the capture of the village. His force had inflicted 800 casualties on the Germans and taken 2100 prisoners. (Currie died in Ottawa, Ontario, on June 24 1986.

In Normandy, on August 18 1944, Maj Currie was in command of a small mixed force of Canadian tanks, self-propelled anti-tank guns and infantry which was ordered to cut one of the main escape routes from the Falaise pocket. This force was held up by strong enemy resistance in the village of Saint-Lambert-sur-Dives and two tanks were knocked out by 88-MM guns. Maj Currie immediately entered the village alone on foot at last light through the enemy outposts to reconnoiter the German defenses and to extricate the crews of the disabled tanks, which he succeeded in doing in spite of heavy mortar fire. Early the following morning, without any previous artillery bombardment, Maj Currie personally led an attack on the village in the face of fierce opposition from enemy tanks, guns and infantry and by noon had succeeded in seizing and consolidating a position half-way inside the village. During the next 36 hours the Germans hurled one counter attack after another against the Canadian force but so skilfully had Maj Currie organised his defensive position that these attacks were repulsed with severe casualties to the enemy after heavy fighting.

At dusk, on August 20, the Germans attempted to mount a final assault on the Canadian positions, but the attacking force was routed before it could even be deployed. Seven enemy tanks, twelve 88-MM guns and forty vehicles were destroyed, 300 Germans were killed, 500 wounded and 2100 captured. Maj Currie then promptly ordered an attack and completed the capture of the village, thus denying the Chambois-Trun escape route to the remnants of two German armies cut off in the Falaise pocket. Throughout three days and nights of fierce fighting, Maj Currie’s gallant conduct and contempt for danger set a magnificent example to all ranks of the force under his command. On one occasion he personally directed the fire of his command tank on to a Mark VI Tiger tank which had been harassing his position and succeeded in knocking it out. During another attack, while the guns of his command tank were taking on other targets of longer ranges, he used a rifle from the turret to deal with individual snipers who had infiltrated to within fifty yards of his headquarters. The only time reinforcements were able to get through to his force, he himself led the forty men forward into their positions and explained the importance of their task as a part of the defense. When, during the next attack, these new reinforcements withdrew under the intense fire brought down by the enemy, he personally collected them and led them forward into position again, where, inspired by his leadership they held for the remainder of the battle. His employment of the artillery support, which became available after his original attack went in, was typical of his cool calculation of the risks involved in every situation. At one time, despite the fact that short rounds were falling within fifteen yards of his own tank, he ordered fire from medium artillery to continue because of its devastating effect upon the attacking enemy in his immediate area.

Throughout the operation the casualties to Maj Currie’s force were heavy. However, he never considered the possibility of failure or allowed it to enter the minds of his men. In the words of one of his non-commissioned officers : We knew at one stage that it was going to be a fight to a finish but he was so cool about it, it was impossible for us to get excited. Since all the officers under his command were either killed or wounded during the action, Maj Currie had virtually no respite from his duties and in fact obtained only one hour’s sleep during the entire period. Nevertheless he did not permit his fatigue to become apparent to his troops and throughout the action took every opportunity to visit weapon pits and other defensive posts to talk to his men, to advise them as to the best use of their weapons and to cheer them with words of encouragement. When his force was finally relieved and he was satisfied that the turnover was complete he fell asleep on his feet and collapsed. There can be no doubt that the success of the attack on and stand against the enemy at Saint-Lambert-sur-Dives can largely be attributed to this officer’s coolness, inspired leadership and skillful use of the limited weapons at his disposal. The courage and devotion to duty shown by Maj Currie during a prolonged period of heavy fighting were outstanding and had a far-reaching effect on the successful outcome of the battle.

Company Sergeant-Major W. H. Galloway and Captain H. J. Bummer Stirling of the 19th Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery (R.C.A.), Normandy, France, June 22 1944.

John Weir Foote was born in Madoc, Ontario on May 5 1904. A Presbyterian minister, he joined the Canadian Chaplain Service at the beginning of the Second World War. On August 19 1942 Honorary Captain Foote was attached to the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry (RHLI), one of the battalions from the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division that participated in the raid on the French port of Dieppe (Operation Jubilee) on that day. After landing, Padre Foote assisted the RHLI’s medical officer in caring for the wounded at the regimental aid post. However, he frequently left the relative safety of that location for the open beach where he rendered first aid, and gave injections of morphine to alleviate the suffering of the many wounded who were there. Later, he carried wounded men from the regimental aid post to landing craft waiting to evacuate the survivors of the raiding force. Padre Foote declined the opportunity to embark, preferring to continue to minister to those left behind, and to share their fate as prisoners of war. At the end of the war, Padre Foote received the Victoria Cross for his conduct at Dieppe, the first ever awarded to a Canadian chaplain. He died in Hamilton, Ontario on May 2 1988.

Operation Jubilee, at Dieppe, on August 19 1942, Honorary Captain Foot, Canadian Chaplain Services, was Regimental Chaplain with the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry. Upon landing on the beach under heavy fire he attached himself to the Regimental Aid Post which had been set up in a slight depression on the beach, but which was only sufficient to give cover to me lying down. During the subsequent period of approximately eight hours, while the action continued, this officer not only assisted the Regimental Medical Officer in ministering to the wounded in the Regimental Aid Post, but time and again left this shelter to inject morphine, give first-aid and carry wounded personnel from the open beach to the Regimental Aid Post. On these occasions, with utter disregard for his personal safety, Honorary Captain Foote exposed himself to an inferno of fire and saved many lives by his gallant efforts. During the action, as the tide went out, the Regimental Aid Post was moved to the shelter of a stranded landing craft. Honorary Captain Foote continued tirelessly and courageously to carry wounded men from the exposed beach to the cover of the landing craft. He also removed wounded from inside the landing craft when ammunition had been set on fire by enemy shells. When landing craft appeared he carried wounded from the Regimental Aid Post to the landing craft through very heavy fire. On several occasions this officer had the opportunity to embark but returned to the beach as his chief concern was the care and evacuation of the wounded. He refused a final opportunity to leave the shore, choosing to suffer the fate of the men he had ministered to for over three years. Honorary Captain Foote personally saved many lives by his efforts and his example inspired all around him. Those who observed him state that the calmness of this heroic officer as he walked about, collecting the wounded on the fire-swept beach will never be forgotten.

Sergeant W. A. Seibel of the Saskatoon Light Infantry (M.G.) loading his Webley revolver, Italy, March 8 1944.

Robert Hampton Gray was born in Trail, British Columbia on November 2 1917. Joining the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve in July 1940, he was assigned to the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm in which he trained as a fighter pilot and remained for the rest of the Second World War. Gray served in Britain, East Africa and finally with the British Pacific Fleet which, in the final weeks of the war, was operating against the Japanese home islands with the United States Navy’s Third Fleet. He received the Distinguished Service Cross for sinking a Japanese destroyer on July 28 1945. Lieutenant Gray was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously for his actions on August 9 1945. On that day, he led eight Corsair fighters from HMS Formidable on a mission to bomb enemy shipping in Onagawa Wan; each aircraft carried two 500-pound bombs. As Gray commenced his attack, he met very heavy anti-aircraft fire and his fighter was hit almost immediately, which dislodged one of his bombs and caused the aircraft to catch fire. Despite the damage, Lieutenant Gray pressed home his attack with great determination, and scored a direct hit with his remaining bomb on the Japanese escort vessel Amakusa, which subsequently sank. Instead of taking evasive action to avoid enemy fire, his aircraft then turned slowly to starboard, rolled onto its back and dived into the bay, leading to speculation that Gray may have been wounded during his run in to the target. He did not survive.

For great valor in leading an attack on a Japanese destroyer in Onagawa Wan on August 9 1945. In the face of fire from shore batteries and a heavy concentration of fire from some five warships Lieutenant Gray pressed home his attack, flying very low in order to ensure success, and, although he was hit and his aircraft was in flames, he obtained at least one direct hit, sinking the destroyer. Lieutenant Gray has consistently shown a brilliant fighting spirit and most inspiring leadership.

Lance-Corporal J. A. Thrasher of The Westminster Regiment (Motor), who holds the PIAT anti-tank weapon with which he disabled the German self-propelled 88-MM gun on which he is sitting, near Pontecorvo, Italy, May 26 1944. Thrasher was killed in action on December 11 1944, and is buried in the Ravenna War Cemetery.

David Ernest Hornell was born in Toronto, Ontario on January 26 1910. In 1941 he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), qualified as a pilot and was commissioned in 1942. At the time of the action for which he received the Victoria Cross posthumously, Flight Lieutenant Hornell was flying as aircraft captain on Consolidated Canso amphibians with the 162d Bomber Reconnaissance Squadron, RCAF from Royal Air Force (RAF) Station Wick in Northern Scotland. Late in the day on June 24 1944, Hornell’s Canso was at the end of a 12-hour patrol over the North Atlantic when the German submarine U-1225 was sighted on the surface approximately 120 miles north of the Shetland Islands. As the aircraft made its attack run, heavy and accurate anti-aircraft fire from the U-boat crippled the starboard engine and started a fire on the starboard wing. With great determination and skill, Hornell held the vibrating Canso on course and delivered his four depth charges on target, sinking the submarine. Shortly thereafter the starboard engine fell out of the wing, forcing Flight Lieutenant Hornell to ditch the aircraft, by now a flaming wreck, in the heavy seas. With only one dinghy serviceable, for several hours the eight members of the crew had to take turns holding on to the life-raft’s side while immersed in the icy water. Although the dinghy was spotted by a Consolidated Catalina flying boat from 333d Norwegian Squadron, RAF five hours after Hornell had ditched, for the next 16 hours rescue attempts were frustrated by high seas and malfunctioning equipment. Two of the crew eventually died of exposure. At one point, Flight Lieutenant Hornell had to be restrained by his comrades when, though at the end of his own strength and about to go blind, he proposed to swim to an airborne lifeboat that had been dropped. Finally, after 21 hours, a rescue launch arrived to pick up the survivors, but all attempts to revive Hornell failed, and he died of exposure. Flight Lieutenant Hornell was the first member of the RCAF to be awarded the Victoria Cross.

Flight Lieutenant Hornell was captain and first pilot of a twin-engined amphibian aircraft engaged on an anti-submarine patrol in northern waters. The patrol had lasted for some hours when a fully-surfaced U-boat was sighted, travelling at high speed on the port beam. Flight Lieutenant Hornell at once turned to the attack. The U-boat altered course. The aircraft had been seen and there could be no surprise. The U-boat opened up with anti-aircraft fire which became increasingly fierce and accurate. At a range of 1200 yards, the front guns of the aircraft replied; then its starboard guns jammed, leaving only one gun effective. Hits were obtained on and around the conning-tower of the U-boat, but the aircraft was itself hit, two large holes appearing in the starboard wing. Ignoring the enemy’s fire, Flight Lieutenant Hornell carefully maneuvered for the attack. Oil was pouring from his starboard engine, which was, by this time, on fire, as was the starboard wing; and the petrol tanks were endangered. Meanwhile, the aircraft was hit again and again by the U-boat’s guns. Holed in many places, it was vibrating violently and very difficult to control.

Nevertheless, the captain decided to press home his attack, knowing that with every moment the chances of escape for him and his gallant crew would grow more slender. He brought his aircraft down very low and released his depth charges in a perfect straddle. The bows of the U-boat were lifted out of the water; it sank and the crew were seen in the sea. Flight Lieutenant Hornell contrived, by superhuman efforts at the controls, to gain a little height. The fire in the starboard wing had grown more intense and the vibration had increased. Then the burning engine fell off. The plight of aircraft and crew was now desperate. With the utmost coolness, the captain took his aircraft into wind and, despite the manifold dangers, brought it safely down on the heavy swell. Badly damaged and blazing furiously, the aircraft rapidly settled. After ordeal by fire came ordeal by water. There was only one serviceable dinghy and this could not hold all the crew. So they took turns in the water, holding on to the sides. Once, the dinghy capsized in the rough seas and was righted only with great difficulty. Two of the crew succumbed from exposure. An airborne lifeboat was dropped to them but fell some 500 yards down wind. The men struggled vainly to reach it and Flight Lieutenant Hornell, who throughout had encouraged them by his cheerfulness and inspiring leadership, proposed to swim to it, through he was nearly exhausted. He was with difficulty restrained. The survivors were finally rescued after they had been in the water for 21 hours. By this time Flight Lieutenant Hornell was blinded and completely exhausted. He died shortly after being picked up. Flight Lieutenant Hornell had completed 60 operational missions, involving 600 hours’ flying. He well knew the danger and difficulties attending attacks on submarines. By pressing home a skillful and successful attack against fierce opposition, with his aircraft in a precarious condition, and by fortifying and encouraging his comrades in the subsequent ordeal, this officer displayed valor and devotion to duty of the highest order.

Wounded infantrymen of Le Régiment de la Chaudière near Carpiquet, France, July 4 1944. (L-R): Privates P. A. Fortier and Jean Loof

John Keefer Mahony was born in New Westminster, British Columbia on June 30 1911. Before the Second World War he was a Militia officer in The Westminster Regiment, and would remain with the Regiment as it was mobilized overseas. On May 24 1944, Maj Mahony led his company across the Melfa River in Italy under heavy artillery fire. His task was to secure a firm bridgehead on the western side of the river, and was part of the operations by 1st Canadian Corps to break through the Adolf Hitler Line. Although threatened by vastly superior forces, Mahony’s company managed to hold the bridgehead for five hours under continuous fire until reinforcements arrived. In two German counter attacks, his men destroyed three enemy self-propelled guns and one tank – a significant feat considering they had no anti-tank guns. Though he suffered three wounds, throughout Mahony was a constant source of inspiration and determination as he tirelessly organized the defense, visited his men in their positions, and personally directed the fire of the light anti-tank weapons on hand. For his exemplary leadership and courage in this action, Maj Mahony was awarded the Victoria Cross. (Mahony died in London, Ontario on December 15 1990)

On May 24 1944, Able Co of the Westminster Regiment (Motor), under the command of Major John K. Mahony, was ordered to establish the initial bridgehead across the Melfa River. The enemy still had strong forces of tanks, self-propelled guns and infantry holding defensive positions on the east side of the river. Despite this, Major Mahony personally led his Company down to and across the river, being with the leading section. Although the crossing was made in full view of and under heavy fire from enemy machine-gun posts on the right rear and left front, he personally directed each section into its proper position on the west bank with the greatest coolness and confidence. The crossing was made and a small bridgehead was established on ground where it was only possible to dig shallow weapon pits. From 1530 the Company maintained itself in the face of enemy fire and attack until 2030, when the remaining Companies and supporting weapons were able to cross the river and reinforce them. The bridgehead was enclosed on three sides by an 88-MM self-propelled gun 450 yards to the right, a battery of four 20-MM AA guns 100 yards to the left, a Spandau 100 yards to the left of it, to the left of the Spandau a second 88-MM self-propelled gun, and approximately a Company of infantry with mortars and machine-guns on the left of the 88-MM gun. From all these weapons, Major Mahony’s Company was constantly under fire until it eventually succeeded in knocking out the self-propelled equipment and the infantry on the left flank.

Shortly after the bridgehead had been established, the enemy counter-attacked with infantry supported by tanks and self-propelled guns. The counter-attack was beaten off by the Company with its PIAT’s, 2” Mortars and Hand Grenades, due to the skill with which Major Mahony had organised his defenses. With absolute fearlessness and disregard for his own safety, Major Mahony personally directed the fire of his PIAT’s throughout this action, encouraging and exhorting his men. By this time, the Company strength had been reduced to 60 men, and all but one of the Platoon Officers had been wounded. Scarcely an hour later, enemy tanks formed up about 500 yards in front of the bridgehead and in company with about a Company of infantry, launched a second counter-attack. Major Mahony, determined to hold the position at all costs, went from section to section with words of encouragement, personally directing fire of Mortars and other weapons. At one stage, a section was pinned down in the open by accurate and intense machine-gun fire. Major Mahony crawled forward to their position, and by throwing Smoke Grenades, succeeded in extricating the section from its position with the loss of only one man. This counter-attack was finally beaten off with the destruction of three enemy self-propelled guns and one Mark V Panther tank. Early in the action, Major Mahony was wounded in the head and twice in the leg, but he refused medical aid and continued to direct the defense of the bridgehead, despite the fact that movement of any kind caused him extreme pain. It was only when the remaining Companies of the Regiment had crossed the river to support him that he allowed his wounds to be dressed and even then refused to be evacuated, staying instead with his Company.

The forming and holding of a bridgehead across the river was vital to the whole Canadian Corps action, and failure would have meant delay, a repetition of the attack, probably involving heavy losses in men, material and time, and would have given the enemy a breathing space which might have broken the impetus of the Corps advance. Major Mahony, knowing this, never allowed the thought of failure or withdrawal to enter his mind, and infused his spirit and determination into all his men. At the first sign of hesitation or faltering, Major Mahony was there to encourage, by his own example, those who were feeling the strain of battle. The enemy perceived that this officer was the soul of the defense and consequently fired at him constantly with all weapons, from rifles to 88-MM guns. Major Mahony completely ignored the enemy fire and with great courage and absolute disregard for personal danger, commander his Company with such great confidence, energy and skill that the enemy’s efforts to destroy the bridgehead were all defeated. The great courage shown by Major Mahony in this action will forever be an inspiration to his Regiment and to the Canadian Army.

Major Harry L. Thorne of the 13th Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery (R.C.A.), standing in front of a Priest M-7 105-MM self-propelled gun, Normandy, France, June 25 1944

Charles Cecil Ingersoll Merritt was born in Vancouver, British Columbia on November 10 1908. In 1929 he graduated from the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario, and eventually enrolled in the Militia. When the Second World War began, Merritt was serving as an officer in The Seaforth Highlanders of Canada. In 1942 he became the commanding officer of The South Saskatchewan Regiment (SSR). On August 19 1942, the SSR was one of the infantry battalions from the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division that participated in the raid on the French port of Dieppe (Operation Jubilee). The battalion landed on Green Beach immediately in front of Pourville, a village just to the west of Dieppe. In order to reach its objectives east of the village, the Canadians were obliged to cross a bridge over the Scie River, which flowed through Pourville to the sea. The bridge and its approaches were swept by German artillery, machine gun and mortar fire coming from the heights dominating the eastern bank of the Scie, which brought the progress of the SSR to a halt. At this point, Lt Col Merritt came forward and took charge, walking calmly across the bridge at least four times under a storm of fire to conduct parties of his men to the eastern side. He then organized and led uphill assaults on several of the concrete pillboxes and other enemy positions that looked down on the bridge and the village, and succeeded in clearing them. Throughout the morning, Merritt energetically led his men, exposing himself recklessly to German fire. Although twice wounded, he organized the withdrawal of his battalion from the Pourville beaches, and mounted a rear guard that ensured that the greater part of the SSR and Queen’s Own The Cameron Highlanders of Canada were re-embarked for England. Merritt and the men of the rear guard could not be brought off, and were compelled to surrender. For his exemplary leadership and valor, Lt Col Merritt was awarded the Victoria Cross. (Merritt died in Vancouver, British Columbia on July 12 2000)

For matchless gallantry and inspiring leadership whilst commanding his battalion during Operation Jubilee, the Dieppe raid on August 19 1942. From the point of landing, his unit’s advance had to be made across a bridge in Pourville which was swept by very heavy machine-gun, mortar and artillery fire : the first parties were mostly destroyed and the bridge thickly covered by their bodies. A daring lead was required; waving his helmet, Lt Col Charles C. Merritt rushed forward shouting Come on over! There’s nothing to worry about here. He thus personally led the survivors of at least four parties in turn across the bridge. Quickly organizing these, he led them forward and when held by enemy pill-boxes he again headed rushes which succeeded in clearing them. In one case he himself destroyed the occupants of the post by throwing grenades into it. After several of his runners became casualties, he himself kept contact with his different positions. Although twice wounded Lt Col Merritt continued to direct the unit’s operations with great vigor and determination and while organizing the withdrawal he stalked a sniper with a Bren gun and silenced him. He then coolly gave orders for the departure and announced his intention to hold off and get even with the enemy. When last seen he was collecting Bren and Tommy guns and preparing a defensive position which successfully covered the withdrawal from the beach. Lt Col Merritt is now reported to be a Prisoner of War. To this Commanding Officer’s personal daring, the success of his unit’s operations and the safe re-embarkation of a large portion of it were chiefly due.

Company Sergeant-Major W. I. Blair of Charlie Company, 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, Bulford, England, January 5 1944

Andrew Charles Mynarski was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba on October 14 1916. He joined the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) in 1941. On the night of June 12/13 1944, Pilot Officer Mynarski was the mid-upper gunner in an Avro Lancaster bomber of 419 Squadron, RCAF during an attack on the railway yards at Cambrai, in France. When the aircraft was attacked by a German night fighter, both port engines failed, and fire broke out between the mid-upper and rear gun turrets, as well as in the port wing fuel tanks. Soon the flames grew to such an extent that the pilot ordered the aircraft abandoned. As Mynarski left his turret and proceeded toward the escape hatch, he saw that the rear gunner, Flying Officer G. P. Brophy, was unable to get out of his turret, which could not be moved due to the failure of both the hydraulic and manual systems. At once Mynarski made his way aft through the fire in an attempt to free Brophy. With his parachute and the clothing below his waist now on fire, Mynarski strained to move the turret and release Brophy, but to no avail. At this point, Brophy indicated clearly that there was no more to be done, and that Mynarski should save himself. Reluctantly, Mynarski went back through the flames to the escape hatch and jumped, his parachute and clothing all on fire. After landing, he was eventually found by the French, but died due to the severity of his burns. For his courageous and selfless attempt to save his crew mate, Pilot Officer Mynarski was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously. Miraculously, Flying Officer Brophy survived the crash of the stricken and abandoned Lancaster, and, courtesy of the French Resistance, was back in England in September.

Pilot Officer Andrew C. Mynarski was the mid-upper gunner of a Lancaster aircraft, detailed to attack a target at Cambrai in France, on the night of June 12 1944. The aircraft was attacked from below and astern by an enemy fighter and ultimately came down in flames. As an immediate result of the attack, both port engines failed. Fire broke out between the mid-upper turret and the rear turret, as well as in the port wing. The flames soon became fierce and the captain ordered the crew to abandon the aircraft. Pilot Officer Mynarski left his turret and went towards the escape hatch. He then saw that the rear gunner was still in his turret and apparently unable to leave it. The turret was, in fact, immovable, since the hydraulic gear had been put out of action when the port engines failed, and the manual gear had been broken by the gunner in his attempts to escape. Without hesitation, Pilot Officer Mynarski made his way through the flames in an endeavor to reach the rear turret and release the gunner. Whilst so doing, his parachute and his clothing, up to the waist, were set on fire. All his efforts to move the turret and free the gunner were in vain. Eventually the rear gunner clearly indicated to him that there was nothing more he could do and that he should try to save his own life. Pilot Officer Mynarski reluctantly went back through the flames to the escape hatch. There, as a last gesture to the trapper gunner, he turned towards him, stood to attention in his flaming clothing and saluted, before he jumped out of the aircraft. Pilot Officer Mynarski’s descent was seen by French people on the ground. Both his parachute and clothing were on fire. He was found eventually by the French, but was so severely burnt that he died from his injuries.

The rear gunner had a miraculous escape when the aircraft crashed. He subsequently testified that, had Pilot Officer Mynarski not attempted to save his comrade’s life, he could have left the aircraft in safety and would, doubtless, have escaped death. Pilot Officer Mynarski must have been fully aware that in trying to free the rear gunner he was almost certain to lose his own life. Despite this, with outstanding courage and complete disregard for his own safety, he went to the rescue. Willingly accepting the danger, Pilot Officer Mynarski lost his life by a most conspicuous act of heroism which called for valour of the highest order.

Infantrymen of The 48th Highlanders of Canada advancing towards the Gothic Line near the Foglio River, Italy, 1944

John Robert Osborn was born in Foulden, England on January 2 1899. During the First World War, he served in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. Osborn came to Canada in 1920. In 1933, he joined The Winnipeg Grenadiers, a unit of the Non-Permanent Active Militia. When the Second World War began in September 1939, the Grenadiers went on active service and were stationed for a time in Jamaica. In October 1941, at the request of the British Government, the battalion was sent to reinforce the garrison in Hong Kong. On December 8 1941, units of the Japanese Army moved against British defenses in Hong Kong. By December 18, three Japanese regiments had landed on the Island. Very early on the morning of December 19, Able Company of the Winnipeg Grenadiers was ordered to clear the enemy out of a feature named Jardine’s Lookout, and then to advance on Mount Butler and recapture it. Soon after dawn, part of Able Company led by Company Sergeant-Major Osborne mounted a bayonet charge and took the summit of Mount Butler. Three hours later, when three companies of Japanese troops counter attacked and forced his men down the western slope of the hill, Osborne calmly directed covering fire to keep the enemy at bay. At length, after Osborne’s party had rejoined the rest of Able Company, the Japanese managed to surround the whole group. By mid-afternoon, having driven off two Japanese attacks and with ammunition running low and casualties mounting, the company commander, Major A. B. Gresham, decided to surrender and stepped out into the open with a white flag. He was immediately shot dead by the Japanese, who now began to throw grenades into Able Company’s position. CSM Osborne picked up several of the grenades and returned them to the enemy. Finally, a grenade fell in a place where Osborne could not retrieve it in time. Shouting a warning as he shoved one man aside, he threw himself on the grenade, which exploded and killed him instantly. When the story of CSM Osborn’s leadership and sacrifice became known after the defeat of Japan, he was awarded the Victoria Cross.

At Hong Kong on the morning of December 19 1941, a Company of the Winnipeg Grenadiers to which Company-Sergeant-Major Osborn belonged, became divided during an attack on Mount Butler, a hill rising steeply above sea level. A part of the Company led by Company-Sergeant-Major Osborn captured the hill at the point of the bayonet and held it for three hours when, owing to the superior numbers of the enemy and to fire from an unprotected flank, the position became untenable. Company-Sergeant-Major Osborn and a small group covered the withdrawal and when their turn came to fall back Osborn, single-handed, engaged the enemy while the remainder successfully joined the Company. Company-Sergeant-Major Osborn had to run the gauntlet of heavy rifle and machine gun fire. With no consideration for his own safety he assisted and directed stragglers to the new Company position, exposing himself to heavy enemy fire to cover their retirement. Wherever danger threatened he was there to encourage his men. During the afternoon the Company was cut off from the Battalion and completely surrounded by the enemy who were able to approach to within grenade throwing distance of the slight depression which the Company were holding. Several enemy grenades were thrown which Company-Sergeant-Major Osborn picked up and threw back. The enemy threw a grenade which landed in a position where it was impossible to pick it up and return it in time. Shouting a warning to his comrades this gallant Warrant Officer threw himself on the grenade which exploded killing him instantly. His self-sacrifice undoubtedly saved the lives of many others. Company-Sergeant-Major Osborn was an inspiring example to all throughout the defense which he assisted so magnificently in maintaining against an overwhelming enemy force for over eight and a half hours, and in his death he displayed the highest qualities of heroism and self-sacrifice.

Canadian personnel with the German half-track vehicle which transported them around Norderney during surrender negotiations, Norderney, Germany, May 8 1945. (L-R) : Private F. C. Barker, Corporal F. McKeown, Privates R. B. Yerxa and D. E. Wellington

Ernest Alvia Smokey Smith was born in New Westminster, British Columbia, on May 3 1914. He was the only private soldier to earn the Victoria Cross in the Second World War. The action occurred in Savio, Italy, on October 21 and 22 1944 as a forward company of the Seaforths Highlanders on the German side of the Savio River attempted to consolidate the bridgehead. It was suddenly counter attacked by three German tanks, two self-propelled guns and about thirty infantry. Despite heavy fire, Smith led his PIAT (Projectil Infantry Anti Tank) group across an open field to a suitable defensive position. His men then found themselves face to face with one of the German tanks coming down the road, its machine guns blazing. Smith held his ground, and at ten meters range fired the PIAT and disabled the tank. The group then moved out onto the roadway, firing tommy guns and forced the enemy to withdraw in disorder. (Smith died in Vancouver, British-Columbia on 3 August 2005)

In Italy on the night of October 21/22 1944, a Canadian Infantry Brigade was ordered to establish a bridgehead across the Savio River. The Seaforth Highlanders of Canada were selected as the spearhead of the attack and in weather most unfavorable to the operation they crossed the river and captured their objectives in spite of strong opposition from the enemy. Torrential rain had caused the Savio River to rise six feet in five hours and as the soft vertical banks made it impossible to bridge the river no tanks or anti-tank guns could be taken across the raging stream to the support of the rifle companies. As the right forward company was consolidating its objective it was suddenly counter-attacked by a troop of three Mark V Panther tanks supported by two self-propelled guns and about thirty infantry and the situation appeared almost hopeless. Under heavy fire from the approaching enemy tanks, Private Smith, showing great initiative and inspiring leadership, led his PIAT Group of two men across an open field to a position from which the PIAT could best be employed. Leaving one man on the weapon, Private Smith crossed the road with a companion, and obtained another PIAT. Almost immediately an enemy tank came down the road firing its machine guns along the line of the ditches. Private Smith’s comrade was wounded. At a range of thirty feet and having to expose himself to the full view of the enemy, Private Smith fired the PIAT and hit the tank, putting it out of action. Ten German infantry immediately jumped off the back of the tank and charged him with MP-38/40 Schmeissers and Hand Grenades. Without hesitation Private Smith moved out onto the road and with his Tommy gun at point blank range, killed four Germans and drove the remainder back. Almost immediately another tank opened fire and more enemy infantry closed in on Smith’s position. Obtaining some abandoned Tommy gun magazines from a ditch, he steadfastly held his position, protecting his comrade and fighting the enemy with his Tommy gun until they finally gave up and withdrew in disorder.

One tank and both self-propelled guns had been destroyed by this time, but yet another tank swept the area with fire from a longer range. Private Smith, still showing utter contempt for enemy fire, helped his wounded friend to cover and obtained medical aid for him behind a nearby building. He then returned to his position beside the road to await the possibility of a further enemy attack. No further immediate attack developed, and as a result the battalion was able to consolidate the bridgehead position so vital to the success of the whole operation, which led to the eventual capture of San Giorgio Di Cesena and a further advance to the Ronco River. Thus, by the dogged determination, outstanding devotion to duty and superb gallantry of this private soldier, his comrades were so inspired that the bridgehead was held firm against all enemy attacks, pending the arrival of tanks and anti-tank guns some hours later.

Sappers of the Royal Canadian Engineers (RCE), 3rd Canadian Infantry Division, sweeping for mines along the border between Belgium and the Netherlands, October 16 1944. Mr Roy Schiiler would have done work much like what is pictured here as a sapper with 33rd Field Company, RCE. Credit : Lt H. Gordon Aikman, Canada. Dept of National Defense, Library and Archives Canada, PA-116738

Frederick Albert Tilston was born in Toronto, Ontario on June 11 1906. He served with The Essex Scottish Regiment in the Second World War. Before he was awarded the Victoria Cross, Tilston had been wounded twice : the first time while in training, and the second time by a land mine during the fighting around Falaise in France in the summer of 1944. In late-February and early-March 1945, the First Canadian Army was striving to eliminate enemy resistance in the Hochwald forest, Germany’s last defensive position on the west bank of the Rhine River. In fact, the defenses in the Hochwald protected a vital escape route for German ground forces seeking to withdraw across the river. Early in the morning on March 1 1945, supported by artillery fire and a troop of tanks from the Sherbrooke Fusiliers, The Essex Scottish Regiment attacked the northern part of the forest. On the left flank of the attack, Major Tilston led his Charlie Company across 500 meters of open ground and through three meters of barbed wire to the first line of enemy trenches at the edge of the woods. The advance was made in the face of intense gunfire and without the supporting tanks due to the soft ground. Although wounded in the head, Tilston was first into the German trenches, using a hand grenade to silence a machine gun delaying the progress of one of his platoons. He continued with his company to assault and clear the second line of the enemy’s defenses, suffering a second wound in the thigh. In the course of occupying this second objective, Major Tilston’s men overran the headquarters positions of two companies of the German parachute troops defending the forest. However, before the remnants of Charlie Company could consolidate their gains, the Germans counter attacked, heavily supported by machine guns and mortars. Tilston calmly moved in the open through the heavy enemy fire from platoon to platoon organizing the defense. Six more times he braved the intense fire to carry badly needed ammunition and grenades to his men from a neighboring Essex company. By now having suffered more serious wounds to his legs, Tilston refused medical aid until he was able to brief his one remaining officer on the plan of defense, and to impress upon him the absolute necessity of holding the position. Only when that was done did he relinquish command. The position was held, and for his valour and exemplary leadership in this action, Major Tilston earned the Victoria Cross. (Tilston died in Toronto, Ontario on September 23 1992)

The 2nd Canadian Division had been given the task of breaking through the strongly fortified Hochwald Forest defense line which covered Xanten the last German bastion West of the Rhine protecting the vital Wesel Bridge escape route. The Essex Scottish Regiment was ordered to breach the defense line North-east of Udem and to clear the Northern half of the forest, through which the balance of the Brigade would pass. At 0715 on March 1 1945, the attack was launched but due to the softness of the ground it was found impossible to support the attack by tanks as had been planned. Across approximately 500 yards of flat open country, in face of intense enemy fire, Major Tilston personally led his Company in the attack, keeping dangerously close to our own bursting shells in order to get the maximum cover from the barrage. Though wounded in the head he continued to lead his men forward, through a belt of wire ten feet in depth to the enemy trenches shouting orders and encouragement and using his Sten gun with great effect. When the platoon on the left came under heavy fire from an enemy machine gun post he dashed forward personally and silenced it with a grenade; he was first to reach the enemy position and took the first prisoner. Determined to maintain the momentum of the attack he ordered the reserve platoon to mop up these positions and with outstanding gallantry, pressed on with his main force to the second line of enemy defenses which were on the edge of the woods.

As he approached the woods he was severely wounded in the hip and fell to the ground. Shouting to his men to carry on without him and urging them to get into the wood, he struggled to his feet and rejoined them as they reached the trenches on their objective. Here an elaborate system of underground dugouts and trenches was manned in considerable strength and vicious hand-to-hand fighting followed. Despite his wounds, Major Tilston’s unyielding will to close with the enemy was a magnificent inspiration to his men as he led them in, systematically clearing the trenches of the fiercely resisting enemy. In this fighting two German Company Headquarters were overrun and many casualties were inflicted on the fanatical defenders. Such had been the grimness of the fighting and so savage the enemy resistance that the Company was now reduced to only 26 men, one quarter of its original strength. Before consolidation could be completed the enemy counter-attacked repeatedly, supported by a hail or [sic] mortar and machine gun fire from the open flank. Major Tilston moved in the open from platoon to platoon quickly organizing their defense and directing fire against the advancing enemy. The enemy attacks penetrated so close to the positions that grenades were thrown into the trenches held by his troops, but this officer by personal contact, unspeakable confidence and unquenchable enthusiasm so inspired his men that they held firm against great odds.

When the supply of ammunition became a serious problem he repeatedly crossed the bullet swept ground to the Company on his right flank to carry grenades, rifle and Bren ammunition to his troops and replace a damaged wireless set to re-establish communications with Battalion Headquarters. He made at least six of these hazardous trips, each time crossing a road which was dominated by intense fire from numerous, well-sited enemy machine gun posts. On his last trip he was wounded for the third time, this time in the leg. He was found in a shell crater beside the road. Although very seriously wounded and barely conscious, he would not submit to medical attention until he had given complete instructions as to the defense plan, had emphasized the absolute necessity of holding the position, and had ordered his one remaining officer to take over. By his calm courage, gallant conduct and total disregard for his own safety, he fired his men with grim determination and their firm stand enabled the Regiment to accomplish its object of furnishing the Brigade with a solid base through which to launch further successful attacks to clear the forest, thus enabling the Division to accomplish its task.

A Canadian Army medic bandages the burned leg of a little French boy as his brother looks on. Taken in Boissons, France during the Battle of Normandy, June 1944.

Frederick George Topham was born in Toronto, Ontario, on August 10 1917. In March 1945, Corporal Topham was serving as a medical orderly in the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion. At that time, the battalion was part of the 3rd Parachute Brigade of the British Army’s 6th Airborne Division. On the morning of March 24 1945, parachute and glider-borne troops of the 6th Airborne Division landed on the east bank of the Rhine River, not far from the city of Wesel in Germany. These landings were carried out in support of assault operations begun the night before by the 1st Canadian and 2nd British Armies to cross to the East bank of the river. After the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion landed just north of Diersfordt Wood, Corporal Topham heard a cry for help from a wounded man who was in the open. Two medical orderlies who went out in succession to treat the wounded man were killed. Immediately afterward and on his own initiative, Topham went forward through intense German fire to assist the casualty. As he treated the wounded man, Topham was himself shot through the nose, but continued to give first aid despite the severe bleeding and pain of his own injury. He was then able to carry the wounded man to shelter through continuous fire. Refusing treatment for his wound, Corporal Topham continued to assist the wounded for two more hours, by which time all casualties had been evacuated to safety. Although he finally consented to have his nose dressed, he refused to be evacuated with the other wounded. Later, alone and again under enemy fire, Topham rescued three soldiers from a burning machine gun carrier that threatened to explode, brought them to safety, and arranged for the evacuation of the two men who survived. For his courageous and selfless devotion to his comrades, Corporal Topham was awarded the Victoria Cross. (He died in Toronto on 31 May 1974)

On March 24 1945, Corporal Topham, a medical orderly, parachuted with his Battalion on to a strongly defended area east of the Rhine. At about 1100, whilst treating casualties sustained in the drop, a cry for help came from a wounded man in the open. Two medical orderlies from a field ambulance went out to this man in succession but both were killed as they knelt beside the casualty. Without hesitation and on his own initiative, Corporal Topham went forward through intense fire to replace the orderlies who had been killed before his eyes. As he worked on the wounded man, he was himself shot through the nose. In spite of severe bleeding and intense pain, he never faltered in his task. Having completed immediate first aid, he carried the wounded man steadily and slowly back through continuous fire to the shelter of a wood. During the next two hours Corporal Topham refused all offers of medical help for his own wound. He worked most devotedly throughout this period to bring in wounded, showing complete disregard for the heavy and accurate enemy fire. It was only when all casualties had been cleared that he consented to his own wound being treated. His immediate evacuation was ordered, but he interceded so earnestly on his own behalf that he was eventually allowed to return to duty. On his way back to his company he came across a carrier, which had received a direct hit. Enemy mortar bombs were still dropping around, the carrier itself was burning fiercely and its own mortar ammunition was exploding. An experienced officer on the spot had warned all not to approach the carrier. Corporal Topham, however, immediately went out alone in spite of the blasting ammunition and enemy fire, and rescued the three occupants of the carrier. He brought these men back across the open and, although one died almost immediately afterwards, he arranged for the evacuation of the other two, who undoubtedly owe their lives to him. This N.C.O. showed sustained gallantry of the highest order. For six hours, most of the time in great pain, he performed a series of acts of outstanding bravery and his magnificent and selfless courage inspired all those who witnessed it.

Personnel at a 1st Canadian Army Headquarter’s captured vehicle park, examining a Goliath remote control vehicle developed by Borgward for the German Army. Apeldoorn, Netherlands, June 12 1945. (L-R): Major A. G. Sangster, Lance-Corporal D. Boyle, Sergeant W. Farwell

Paul Triquet was born in Cabano, Quebec on April 2 1910. At the age of 17, he joined the Royal 22e Régiment. In December 1943, Captain Triquet was a company commander with the regiment’s battalion serving in Italy with the Canadian Army’s 1st Infantry Division. On December 13 1943, plans were made by the 1st Infantry Division to get around the western end of the German defenses running inland from the Adriatic Sea just south of the small coastal city of Ortona. By turning the enemy line, the 1st Division hoped to open the way to Ortona, its objective, and to capture the city. The key to the success of the plan was an advance by the Royal 22e Régiment north-eastward along the road to Ortona to seize an important road junction. At 1030 on the morning of December 14 Charlie and Dog Companies of the Van Doos, supported by tanks from C Squadron of The Ontario Regiment, began moving up both sides of the road. The force had already met and destroyed two German tanks. On the left, about half-way to the hamlet of Casa Berardi, Captain Triquet’s Charlie Company began to encounter fierce resistance from enemy machine guns and infantry sheltered in wrecked buildings and in terrain favorable to the defenders, all backed up by tanks and self-propelled guns. On the right, Dog Company became lost and took no further part in the action that day. Charlie Company and the Ontario tanks proceeded to fight their way through the opposition, knocking out three more tanks and eliminating the Germans’ defensive positions. At this stage, the company had been reduced to fifty men and one officer – Triquet. Although ammunition was running low, Triquet, his men and their supporting tanks persevered in the attack, capturing Casa Berardi late in the afternoon and driving on nearly to the crossroads. Here the survivors, now only fifteen strong with four tanks, were stopped by mortar fire, and retired to Casa Berardi to prepare for counterattacks. As darkness fell, Baker Company of the Royal 22nd arrived to reinforce Triquet, and by the early hours of December 15 the battalion’s remaining two companies had reached Casa Berardi. The western flank of the German line had been turned. For his courageous and determined leadership resulting in the capture and retention of Casa Berardi, Captain Triquet received the Victoria Cross. (Triquet died in Quebec City, Quebec on 4 August 1980)

For determined leadership and example. The capture of the key road junction on the main Ortona-Orsogna lateral was entirely dependent on securing the hamlet of Casa Berardi. Both this and a gully in front of it had been turned by the Germans into formidable strong points defended by infantry and tanks. On December 14 1943, Captain Triquet’s company of the Royal 22nd Regiment with the support of a squadron of a Canadian Armored Regiment was given the task of crossing the gully and securing Casa Berardi. Difficulties were encountered from the outset. The gully was held in strength and on approaching it the force came under extremely heavy fire from machine guns and mortars. All the company officers and 50 per cent of the men were killed or wounded. Showing superb contempt for the enemy Captain Triquet went round reorganizing the remainder and encouraging them with the words ‘Never mind them, they can’t shoot’. Finally when enemy infiltration was observed on all sides shouting ‘There are enemy in front of us, behind us and on our flanks, there is only one safe place – that is on the objective’ he dashed forward and with his men following him, broke through the enemy resistance. In this action four tanks were destroyed and several enemy machine gun posts silenced. Against the most bitter and determined defense and under heavy fire Captain Triquet and his company, in close co-operation with the tanks forced their way on until a position was reached on the outskirts of Casa Berardi. By this time the strength of the company was reduced to 2 sergeants and 15 men. In expectation of a counter-attack Captain Triquet at once set about organizing his handful of men into a defensive perimeter around the remaining tanks and passed the ‘mot d’ordre. Ils ne passeront pas’.

A fierce German counter-attack supported by tanks developed almost immediately. Captain Triquet, ignoring the heavy fire, was everywhere encouraging his men and directing the defense and by using whatever weapons were to hand personally accounted for several of the enemy. This and subsequent attacks were beaten off with heavy losses and Captain Triquet and his small force held out against overwhelming odds until the remainder of the battalion took Casa Berardi and relieved them the next day. Throughout the whole of this engagement Captain Triquet showed the most magnificent courage and cheerfulness under heavy fire. Wherever the action was hottest he was to be seen shouting encouragement to his men and organizing the defense. His utter disregard of danger, his cheerfulness and tireless devotion to duty were a constant source of inspiration to them. His tactical skill and superb leadership enabled them, although reduced by casualties to a mere handful, to continue their advance against bitter resistance and to hold their gains against determined counter-attacks. It was due to him that Casa Berardi was captured and the way opened for the attack on the vital road junction.

(Above) A jeep photographed somewhere in England in 1942. This vehicle sports a “Mickey Mouse” camouflage pattern and large bridging disc. (Below) Gunners S.S. Lott and J.G. Spear, 17th Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery, overhauling a jeep motor, 11th Infantry Brigade, Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, Groningen, Netherlands, 28 April 1945

(Above)Personnel of the Loyal Edmonton Regiment filling a jeep with gasoline, San Lorenzo in Monte, Italy, ca. 22 September 1944. The vehicle is marked with the formation sign of I Canadian Corps and bears a Class 2 bridging disc. “Essantee” was a name applied to the Army’s service stations – red and green were the Arm of Service colors of the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps. (Bellow) Vehicles performed a great variety of tasks; the Sherman tanks in the background here, belonging to “A” Squadron of The Fort Garry Horse, were by doctrine considered an infantry support vehicle, but in combat in Italy and North-West Europe were used for such things as fighting other tanks or as indirect fire vehicles, using their 75mm cannon as artillery on unseen targets. The vehicle at right which is mostly out of frame appears to be an armored half-track, which were used as ambulances, command posts, and inter-communication vehicles in armored regiments. The jeep here is performing one of the happier tasks of life on campaign – delivering the mail near Putte, Belgium, on 11 October 1944.

For all purposes :
European Center of Military History
Gunter ‘Doc Snafu’ Gillot
rue des Thiers 8
Francorchamps 4970
Email : gunter [at]

Thank You for your support !

(NB : Published for Good – March 2019)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.