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Canadian Victoria Cross Winners

The Film

Year
1919

Running Time
01 min 04 s

Producer
Canadian War Records Office, Topical Film Company

This clip includes close-ups of Lieutenant-Colonel Cyrus Wesley Peck, Sergeant William Merrifield and Corporal William Henry Metcalf — all recipients of the Victoria Cross. We then see the three men in the gardens at Buckingham Palace.

Established in 1856 during the Crimean War and named in honour of Queen Victoria, the Victoria Cross is the highest military honour that can be bestowed upon members of Commonwealth armies. Seventy-one Canadians earned the Victoria Cross during the First World War, more per capita than any other army in the British Empire. About 16,000 members of the Canadian Expeditionary Force would be decorated, and 6,679 would receive the Military Cross.

Lt-Colonel Peck enlisted in the 16th Battalion in 1914, going on to fight in the Second Battle of Ypres. He assumed command of the battalion in November 1916. The portly Peck was an unlikely looking officer but reputed for his fearlessness. He earned the Victoria Cross in recognition of leadership and valour displayed on September 2, 1918, during the assault on the Drocourt-Queant line. Having braved heavy fire to reconnoitre enemy positions, Peck proceeded to regroup men who had suffered very heavy casualties and lead them in a successful operation.

Corporal William Henry Metcalfe, an American serving with the 16th Battalion under Peck’s command, earned his Victoria Cross on the same day. Metcalfe calmly guided a tank over exposed bullet-swept ground, directing its fire onto German strongpoints. It’s one of the rare instances of two men from the same battalion earning a Victoria Cross on the same day. In all, seven Canadians were awarded for their actions on September 2, 1918, setting a record among Commonwealth forces for honours granted for actions carried out on a single day.

Sergeant William Merrifield, serving with the 4th Battalion, was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions during the fight to capture Abancourt, near Cambrai, on October 1, 1918. During this battle, Merrifield single-handedly eliminated two German machine-gun emplacements.


Pieces of History

The Incomparable Seventy-one : Canada's Victoria Cross Winners

The Lone Hawk: Ace Billy Bishop


Images

Sgt. William Merrifield, V. C., 4th Battalion Lt.-Col. Cyrus W. Peck, V. C., D.S.O. 16th Battalion

Other Materials

Trois qui ont reçu la Croix de Victoria