What Are Our V.C’s Doing To-day?
T. W. MACDOWELL, V.C., D.S.O.
The writer of this article is one of Canada's most noted V.C.’s. After a venture manufacturing motor trucks, Major MacDowell is now “carrying on” as private secretary to the Minister of Militia. The author’s own citation is, of course, not included in his article, but will be found on page 2.
THE would average be the Canadian first, I think, V.C. to disclaim in himself any special quality which led to having this great honor conferred upon him. A V.C. is a man upon whose nature a certain combination of circumstances has focussed and produced action, much as chemicals will react upon each other, and that action has given
certain desirable results. By this, 1 claim that he should be, by all people, accorded the full status of a normal man. The reason for this remark is that a comment was passed not long ago by one who should know better, that if Y'.C.’s were not dumb they would not be Y'.C.’s. That is not fair, as a perusal of the records of a few Canadian Y'.C.’s readily will demonstrate. For example, Pte. John Francis Y’oung. formerly stretcherbearer in “D” Company, the H?tb Battalion.
Young was stretcher-bearing with his unit during an attack tn the Dury-Arras sector in September. 1918. In the advance his company suffered severe casualties from shell and machine gun fire. Young went out, in total absence of cover, and dressed the wounded where they were hit. Repeatedly. he returned for field dressings, and thus saved the lives of many of his comrades.
I^ter, when the fire had darkened, he organized and led stretcher parties to bring rn the wounded whom he had dressed, and during the subsequent days of terrific fighting he continued to show valor and devotion to duty of the highest order. Before the war.
Young was a packer in the shipping room of the Imperial Tobacco Company in Montreal. Since the war he has -etumed to this firm and is now serving them as advertising representative in the window-dressing department. In 1921 he represented the Army and Navy Veterans of Canada in the ceremonies attendant upon the burial of the United States Unknown Warrior at Washington. So there he is, the war over, a Canadian citizen resuming citizen’s duties.
\ Gallant Deed
\NOTHER case in point is that of Lieut.-Col. Wm. * * H. Clarke-Kennedy, a man who had seen service m the South African war. Before the late war Col. Kennedy was assistant manager of the Standard Life
Assurance Company, Montreal. I can do no better than quote verbatim the official report of the winning of his V.C. :
"For the most conspicuous bravery, initiative and skilful leading on the 27th and 28th August, 1918, when in command of his battalion. On the 27th he led his battalion with great bravery and skill from Crow and
Aigrette trenches in front of Wancourt to the attack on the Fresnes-Rouvroy line. From the outset the brigade, of which the 24th Battalion was a central unit, came under very heavy shell and machine-gun fire, suffering many casualties, especially amongst the leaders. Units became partially disorganized and the advance was checked. Appreciating the vital importance to the brigade front of a lead by the centre, and undismayed by annihilating fire, Lieut.-Col. ClarkeKennedy, by sheer personality and initiative, inspired his men and led them forward. On several occasions he set an outstanding example by leading parties straight through at the machine-gun nests which were holding
up the advance, and overcame these obstacles. By controlling the direction of neighboring units and collecting men who had lost their leaders, he rendered valuable services in straightening the line, and enabled the whole brigade front to move forward.
“By the afternoon, very largely due to the determined leadership of this officer and disregard for his own life, his battalion, despite the heavy losses, had made good the maze of trenches west of Cherisy and Cherisy village, had crossed the Sensee River bed, and had occupied Occident trench in front of the heavy wire of the Fresnes-Rouvroy line; under continuous fire he then went up and down his line until far into the night, improving the position, giving wonderful encouragement to his men, and sent back very clear reports. On the next day he again showed valorous leadership in the attack on the FresnesRouvroy line and Upton wood. Though severely wounded soon after the start, he refused aid, and dragged himself to a shellhole from which he could observe. Realizing that his exhausted troops could advance no further he established a strong line of defence and thereby prevented the loss of most important ground. Despite pain and serious loss of blood, he refused to be evacuated for over five hours, by which time he had established the line in a position from which it was possible for the relieving troops to continue the advance.”
After the war, Col. Kennedy went back to his old firm, of which he is now manager.
Herman James Good was a lumberman before the war. spending the winter in the woods, coming down with the spring drive and working through the summer on a farm and, occasionally, as he puts it, “guiding sports for Charley Cremmin.” When the call came he did not hesitate, and in August, 1918, was with his unit, the 13th Battalion, during the advance before Amiens. In Hangard Wood his company was held up by heavy fire from three machine guns which seriously delayed the advance. Used, in his native bush, to take quick and unhesitating action in emergency, Good dashed forward alone, killed several of the enemy manning the guns, and captured the remainder. Later in the day, 'while alone, he encountered a battery of enemy five-nine field guns which were pounding the advancing Canadian
lines. Collecting three men of his section, he charged the battery under point-blank fire and captured the entire crews of three guns. Now, Good is back in the woods, lumbering, or guiding an occasional hunting party, a normal man in his normal niche.
Playing a Man’s Game
BEFORE the war Colonel C. W. Peck was interested in several different business enterprises in Prince Rupert, B.C. During hostilities he was in command of the 16th Canadian Scottish. Early in September, 1918, when his battalion was in action at Cagnicourt, and while progressing to a further objective, it was caught under terrific enemy machine-gun fire. In this critical situation Colonel Peck pushed forward and made a personal reconnaissance over open ground. Acting upon the knowledge thus hazardously gained, he reorganized his battalion, pushed it forward and arranged to protect his exposed flanks. He then went out under heavy fire, intercepted the tanks and pointed out the way they were to go, thus paving the way for another infantry battalion to go forward. His display of courage and leadership cleared up a most dangerous situation, and enabled the advance to continue without serious halt.
While in the field in 1917 Colonel Peck was elected to the Dominion Parliament for the Skeena riding . of northern British Columbia, and after he won the V.C. the following year for the exploit related above, was the only elected member of a legislature in the Empire to hold that honor. In the spring of 1918 conditions at the front were so critical that he decided to remain with
his beloved battalion rather than attend the parliamentary sessions for that year. Colonel Peck left the bridge-head east of Cologne in February, 1919, and returned to Canada to attend the Dominion Parliament. He contested the same riding in 1921, but was defeated by a small majority, and later in the year moved down to Vancouver Island where, in the summer of 1924, he contested the Islands riding and was elected as a Conservative member in the Provincial Legislature. He commanded the Bisley team in 1921, and was appointed A.D.C. to the Governor-General in the fall of that year.
The Canadian V.C.’s do not seem to have acquired any aggrandised ideas of themselves because of the honor done them. Most of them, you will notice, have returned to their pre-war occupations. William Merrifield was a locomotive fireman before the war. During that red hiatus Merrifield became Sergeant Merrifield of the 4th Infantry Battalion, C.E.F. For most conspicuous bravery “and indomitable resolution in the face of the enemy” as the official record has it, he was awarded the V.C. His men having been held up by intense fire from two machine-gun emplacements during an attack near Abancourt, France, on October 1, 1918, Merrifield attacked them both singlehanded. Dashing from shell hole to shell hole, he worked his way forward and killed the occupants of the first post, and although wounded continued to attack the second emplacement and with a bomb killed the occupants. He refused to be turned over to the stretcher-bearers, and led his platoon
until again severely wounded. This non-commissioned officer had served with distinction in many previous actions. And now—Merrifield is once again a locomotive fireman on the Algoma Central Railway, running out of the Soo.
Colonel William George Barker was a schoolboy when war broke out. He elected air fighting, and later events proved that the choice was a wise one. The deed which led to his V.C. was as follows:
“While flying over a forest behind the enemy lines he ran into a formation of sixty German machines. Without hesitation he attacked them single-handed. Early in the fight he was severely wounded three times, and for spans of seconds at a time was practically unconscious. Despite this, he succeeded in destroying ten enemy ’planes before he descended, his machine practically shot to bits, behind the British lines. One of the most spectacular moments of this epic fight occurred near the end of the action. Believing that one of the enemy whom he had engaged was about to escape him, and counting his own chances of survival rather frail at best, he deliberately attempted to ram his enemy. When the ’planes were but a few feet apart and moving across each other’s bows at tremendous speed, the German’s nose dropped and just when collision seemed imminent crashed to the ground in flames.”
After the war Colonel Barker interested himself in commercial flying, but later returned to military flying, and to-day is a wing commander with the Royal Air Force.
Another Flying Fighter
ANOTHER Canadian flyer, and perhaps the greatest • ace the war produced,is Colonel William Bishop, who is unofficially credited with having destroyed more than 100 enemy aircraft in action. Bishop was attending the Royal Military College at Kingston when hostilities Continued on page 65
Continued from page 13
opened iii 1914. He was appointed to a cavalry regiment, but later transferred to the Royal Flying Corps. Concerning the award to him of the Victoria Cross, the London Gazette has this to say: “Captain Bishop, who had been sent out to work independently, flew first of all to an enemy aerodrome; finding no machine about, he flew on to another aerodrome about three miles south-east, which was at least twelve miles the other side of the line. Seven machines, some with their engines running, were on the ground. He attacked these from about fifty feet, and a mechanic, who was starting one of the engines, was seen to fall. One of the machines got off the ground, but at a height of sixty feet Captain Bishop fired fifteen rounds into it at a very close range, and it crashed to the ground. A second machine got off the ground, into which he fired thirty rounds at 150 yards range, and it fell into a tree. Two more machines then rose from the aerodrome. One of these he engaged at the height of 1,000 feet, emptying the rest of his drum ammunition. This machine crashed 300 yards from the aerodrome, after which Captain Bishop emptied a whole drum into the fourth hostile machine, and then flew back to his station. Four hostile scouts were about 1,000 feet above him for about a milë of his return journey, but they would not attack.”
After the _ war Bishop went into partnership with F. N. Pickett, engineer and contractor, who had secured the contract to clean up shell dumps in France, remove the charges and convert the metal to scrap. Later, he entered the financial game in England, where he has been very successful, and his financial interests are large and varied, showing that the qualities which brought him distinction in the war are of equal value in commercial life.
The Engineers Score
AT THE outbreak of the war C. N.
■ Mitchell, later captain in the 4th Battalion, Canadian Engineers, was employed by a large Montreal engineering firm as construction engineer, on the straightening of the C.P.R. Transcona elevator at Winnipeg. On the night of October 8, 1918, when his battalion was at the Canal de l’Escaut, north-east of Cambrai, he led a small party ahead of the first wave of infantry, in order to examine the various bridges on the line of approach, and if possible prevent their demolition,
On reaching the canal he found a bridge already blown up. Under a heavy barrage of shell-fire he crossed to the next bridge where, under constant danger of being blown to atoms with the bridge, he cut a number of lead wires by which the enemy intended to destroy the structure. Then, in total darkness, and unaware of the position or strength of the Germans at the bridgehead, he d&ghed across the main bridge over the canalThis bridge was found to be heavily charged with explosives for demolition, and while Captain Mitchell, ftgsisted by a non-commissioned officer, was cutting the wires, the enemy attempted to rush the bridge in order to blow up the charges. Captain Mitchell ran to the assistance of his sentry, who had been wounded, killed three Germans, captured twelve, and held the bridgehead until reinforced. Then, under heavy fire, he continued the task of cutting wires and removing charges, which he well knew might at any moment be exploded by the enemy.
The war over, Mitchell returned to his profession in civil life, and since demobilization has had a varied experience. For six months he was with the Manitoba Good Roads Board as a bridge engineer, at which time he rejoined the firm with which he was associated before the war. His work since has taken him on various engineering projects over piost of Canada and the United States, £nd he is now firmly settled in his old pre-war niche.
Thomas Dineson was a citizen of Denmark, and just before enlistment with the Canadian overseas forces had taken his degree as civil engineer from the Polytechnical School in Copenhagen, labile serving as a private with the 42nd
Battalion, Quebec Regiment, at Parvillers, France, on August 12, 1918, the advance of his unit was held up by a strongly held and stubbornly contested enemy position. Five times in succession Dineson rushed forward alone, and single-handed put hostile machine guns out of commission, and killed twelve Germans with bomb and bayonet. His sustained valor and resourcefulness inspired his comrades at a very critical stage of the action, and his conduct during the ten hours of bitter hand-tohand fighting resulted in the capture of over a mile of heavily garrisoned and desperately defended enemy trenches.
Dineson was demobilized with the rank of lieutenant, and in 1919 traveled in Canada and the United States. From 1920 to 1923 he was employed by the Caren Coffee estate in Nairobi, Kenya Colony, South Africa. In 1924 he returned to Denmark and England to study political economy, and then resumed his duties on the coffee plantation. It is his intention to return to Denmark and enter politics. His greatest ideal, he says, is to work for peace and international understanding and toleration.
Edward Donald Bellew, captain, 7th Battalion, C.E.F., during the war, was another engineer who won distinction. Prior to hostilities Captain Bellew was assistant to the district engineer, Department of Public Works, New Westminster, B.C. The deed which gained him a place in the annals of the empire occurred in Belgium, in April, 1915. While with his battalion near Keerselaere, on April 24, during a German attack on the Ypres salient, that place of bloody memory, Captain (then Lieutenant) Bellew, as battalion machine gun officer, had two guns in action on the high ground overlooking Keerselaere. The enemy’s attack broke in full force on the morning of the 24th against the front and right flank of the battalion—the latter being exposed owing to a gap in the line. The right company was soon put out of action, but the advance was temporarily stayed by Captain Bellew, who had sited his guns on the left of the right company. Reinforcements were sent forward but they in turn were surrounded and destroyed. With the enemy in strength less than 100 yards from him, with no further assistance, Captain Bellew and Sergeant Peerless, each operating a gun, decided to stay where they were and fight it out. Sergeant Peerless was killed and Captain Bellew was wounded and fell. Nevertheless, he got up and maintained fire till ammunition failed and then the enemy rushed the position. Captain Bellew then seized a rifle, smashed his machine gun, and fighting to the last, was taken Drisoner.
Upon his return Captain Bellew was not immediately successful in re-establishing himself, but later secured a temporary position as inspector of construction for the Public Works Department at New Westminster, B.C.
PRIOR to the war Lieut.-Col. G. R.
Pearkes was a member of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police. He, too, is an example of one who has resumed his pre-war occupation, although not in precisely the same field. At present Colonel Pearkes is General Staff Officer at Military District No. 10, Headquarters, Winnipeg. The action which won him the Victoria Cross is best described by quoting the official report which accompanied the award. At the time Colonel Pearkes was Captain (acting Major) with the 5th Canadian Mounted Rifles, near Passchendaele, Belgium, at the end of October. 1917. The report says:
“For most conspicuous bravery and skilful handling of the troops Und'er his command during the capture and consolidation of considerably more than the objectives allotted to him, in an attack. Just prior to the advance Major Pearkes was wounded in the left thigh. Regardless of his wound, he continued to lead his men with the utmost gallantry, despite many obstacles.
“At a particular stage of the attack his further advance was threatened by a strong point which was an objective of the battalion on his left, but which
it had not succeeded in capturing. Quickly appreciating the situation, he captured and held this point, thus enabling his further advance to be successfully pushed forward.
“It was entirely due to his determination and fearless personality that he was able to maintain his objective with the small number of men at his command against repeated enemy counter attacks, both his flanks being unprotected for a considerable depth meanwhile.”
Another student who heeded the call to arms and earned recognition and the highest award possible for his sovereign to bestow is Milton Fowler Gregg. Before the war Gregg was a student at Acadia University, Wolfville, N.S. He joined the Royal Canadian Regiment as a lieutenant, and was in action with it near Cambrai at the end of September, 1918. On September 28, when the advance of the brigade was held up by fire from both flanks, and by thick, uncut wire, he crawled forward alone and explored the wire until he found a small gap, through which he subsequently led his men, and forced an entry into the enemy trench. The enemy counterattacked in force, and, through lack of bombs, the situation became critical. Although wounded, Lieutenant Gregg returned alone under terrific fire and collected a further supply. Then rejoining the party, which by this time was much reduced in numbers, and, in spite of a second wound, he re-organized his men and led them with the greatest determination against the enemy trenches, which he finally cleared. He personally killed or wounded eleven of the enemy and took twenty-five prisoners, in addition to twelve machine guns captured in this trench.
After demobilization Gregg was assistant to the chairman of the Soldiers’ Settlement Board, at Ottawa. He then spent three years in an undertaking which attempted to import and distribute British-made motion pictures throughout Canada, and later became manager of the Casino Theatre in Halifax.
A Farmer V.C.
GH. MULLIN was a sergeant in the • famous Princess Pats during the storming of Passchendaele Ridge at the end of October, 1917. The enemy position was strongly defended with steel and concrete machine gun emplacements called by the troops “pill boxes.” One of these pill boxes had survived the British bombardment and was causing terrific casualties to the Canadian forces and holding up the attack. Mullin, single-handed, rushed a sniper’s post in front of the German position, destroyed the garrison with bombs, then crawled onto the top of the pill box and thrusting his revolver in the loop-hole shot the two machine gunners. Sergeant Mullin then rushed to the entrance at the back and forced the garrison of ten to surrender.
Before the war Mullin, who was demobilized with the rank of lieutenant, was farming in Saskatchewan. Now, with the war years of wild adventure behind him, he is once more at his old, peaceful occupation on the same farm.
Sergeant A. H. L. Richardson was a member of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police for fifteen years and was a South African War veteran. It was in that war that Richardson won his V.C. by an outstanding feat of arms and splendid display of self-sacrifice, while a sergeant with Strathcona’s Horse. He returned to England in later years and was employed as a laborer by the City of Liverpool Corporation, no one being aware that he was a V.C. Later he was forced to reveal his identity, in order to expose an imposter who was masquerading as himself, and imposing on the credulity and generosity of the people because of it. This led to full recognition and a better job for Richardson. He is still employed with the Liverpool Corporation, but hopes some day to return to the country of his adoption.
Major F. J. Holland was another Canadian who won his V.C. in South Africa. He did splendid work with his Colt gun, as the official report cites, and kept the Boers off two twelve-pounders by his fire at close range. When he saw that the Boers were too close for him to
escape with the gun carriage he calmly lifted the gun off and galloped away with it under his arm. He was at that time a sergeant with the Royal Canadian Dragoons. For the past twenty years, with the exception of the late war period, Major Holland has been in the mining and machinery business in northern Ontario.
The Medical Services
THE medical services in the late war did splendid work, and it can be understood when the exploits of Captains Scrimger and Hutcheson are taken as samples of leadership. Captain F. A. C. Scrimger, C.A.M.C., who was medical officer to the 14th Battalion, Canadian Infantry, was in charge of an advanced dressing station in the neighborhood of Ypres, on April 25, 1915. The farm buildings which he was utilizing were heavily shelled by the enemy. He directed the removal of the wounded and himself carried a severely wounded officer out of a stable in search of a place of safety. When, alone, he was unable to carry his patient further, hè remained with him under a storm of shells and machine gun fire until help could be obtained. During the extremely deadly fighting of the next few days he displayed, day and night unceasingly, the greatest devotion to duty among the wounded at the front.
Before the war Captain Scrimger was a clinical assistant in surgery at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Montreal. He left the army with the rank of Lieut.Colonel and returned to practise surgery in Montreal, with the position, first of associate, then of assistant surgeon, to the Royal A ictoria Hospital, and lecturer in surgery to the McGill University.
Captain Bellenden S. Hutcheson, C.A.M.C., is the only native American to win the ATctoria Cross. Before the war Captain Hutcheson was practising medicine in Mound City, Illinois. As with a number of his fellow-countrymen, he did not wait until the United States entered the _ combat, but crossed the border and joined the Canadian Army Medical Corps.
While attached to the 75th Battalion, Canadian Infantry, during the storming of the Drocourt-Queant switch line, a very heavily fortified enemy position in front of Arras on September 2, 1918, he encountered most intense shell, machinegun and rifle fire. He penetrated the German defences with his battalion, and without hesitation and with utter disregard of personal safety remained on the field until every wounded man had been attended to. He dressed the wounds of a badly smashed officer under a terrific hurricane of machine-gun and shell fire, and with the assistance of prisoners and his own stretcher-bearers succeeded in having him removed to a place of safety, despite the fact that the bearer party suffered severe casualties. Immediately aftemard he rushed forward in full view of the enemy, and under heavy machine-gun fire and rifle fire, to tend to a wounded sergeant. Having dressed his wounds and placed him in a shell hole which afforded seme cover, Captain Hutcheson performed a number of similar acts of gallantry and by his coolness and devotion to duty saved many lives.
After the war Captain Hutcheson took up the practice of his profession in Cairo, Illinois, and is there at the present time. Evidently, to sever all connection with the country he served so well did not suit this officer, for in December. 1919. he married a Canadian girl. Miss Frances R. A'oung, of Kentville, N.S.
This account of our surviving Canadian AAC.’s might be carried to much greater length. A number of them are scattered, however, and it has not been possible to get in touch with them. A reading of the foregoing should carry conviction that the men who were so fortunate as to be decorated with the A ictoria Cross are not presuming upon it, but are carrying on, quielly, unostentatiously, in their old occupations or those which circumstance and years have directed them to. There is no undue pride among them, for they know, and have often in mind, those gallant, but unheralded deeds, performed by the score by their old comrades, many Continued on pace 68
Continued from page 66 of whom met death in so doing, and their only reward was that one which is above price—the knowledge that they played up and played the game for the honor of the old Canadian Corps.
The List of Canadian V.C.’s Killed in Action or Who Died of Wounds follows:
Lieut. W. L. Algie, 20th Battalion.
Lieut. J. Brilliant, M.C., 22nd Battalion. * Pte. H. Brown, 10th Battalion.
Sgt. H. Cairns, 46th Battalion.
Lieut. R. G. Combe, 27th Battalion.
Pte. J. B. Croak, 13th Battalion.
L.-Corp. F. Fisher, 13th Battalion.
Lieut. G. M. Flowerdew, Lord Strathcona’s Horse.
Color-Sgt. F. W. Hall, 8th Battalion.
Sgt. F. Hobson, 20th Battalion.
Lieut. S. L. Honey, D.C.M., M.M., 78th Battalion.
Corp. J. Kaeble, M.M., 22nd Battalion. Sgt. A. G. Knight, 10th Battalion.
Capt. O. M. Learmonth, M.C., 2nd Battalion.
Lieut. H. McKenzie, D.C.M., 7th Coy., C.M.G.C.
Pte. W. J. Milne, 16th Battalion.
Corp. H. G. B. Miner, 58th Battalion. Pte. C. J. P. Nunney, D.C.M., M.M., 38th Battalion.
Pte. (Piper) J. Richardson, 16th Battalion. Pte. J. P. Robertson, 27th Battalion. L.-Sgt. E. W. Sifton, 18th Battalion. Sgt. R. Spall, P.P.C.L.I.
Lieut. J. E. Tait, M.C., 78th Battalion.