Friday, August 27, 2004

Extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy - Part V

Babble on.

Below are the citations for two more Canadian VC recipients from World War I.

I don't want to minimize in any way the heroism of these two men, but I must confess I was somewhat surprised they were awarded the Victoria Cross - the Commonwealth's highest honour for bravery - for these particular actions. Here is what I have only recently learned:

In 1856 the Victoria Cross was the only way to reward acts of battlefield bravery whilst this century has seen the introduction of a wide range of lesser awards (in terms of the VC) for meritorious service or gallantry (the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) and Military Cross (MC) for officers and the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) and the Military Medal (MM) for other ranks). These have been awarded for deeds which earlier might have merited a VC.

It is worth remembering that many servicemen who merited the Victoria Cross never received it because their actions went unnoticed, or the witnesses were killed, or whose self-sacrifice resulted in a lonely death in an unmarked grave. This is true no matter what the nationality of the person and is the reason why the tomb of a nation's unknown warrior usually has the highest gallantry decoration bestowed upon it.

With that, I give you two courageous Canadians whose actions didn't go unnoticed:
Lieutenant Colonel William Hew Clark-Kennedy (24th Bn., Quebec Regiment (Victoria Rifles), Canadian Expeditionary Force)
On 27/28 August 1918 on the Fresnes-Rouvroy line, France, the brigade of which Lieutenant Colonel Clark-Kennedy's battalion was a central unit suffered heavy casualties. At this juncture the colonel encouraged his men and led them forward, then by controlling the direction of neighbouring units and collecting stragglers he enabled the whole brigade front to advance. Next day he was severely wounded, but despite intense pain and loss of blood, he refused to be evacuated until he had gained a position from which the advance could be resumed.

Lieutenant Charles Smith Rutherford (5th Canadian Mounted Rifles Bn., Quebec Regiment, Canadian Expeditionary Force)
On 26 August 1918 at Monchy, France, Lieutenant Rutherford, commanding an assaulting party, found himself a considerable distance ahead of his men and at the same moment saw a fully armed strong enemy party outside a pill-box in front of him. By masterly bluff he managed to persuade the enemy that they were surrounded and the whole party of 45, including two officers and three machine-guns, surrendered. The lieutenant then observed that gun fire from another pill-box was holding up the assault, so with a Lewis gun section he attacked it capturing another 35 prisoners and their guns.

November 11th shouldn't be the only day we remember.

Babble off.


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