Victoria Cross Recipients
Origins: Between 1854 and 1945, 95 Canadians were awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest award for military personnel in Britain and Commonwealth countries. It is awarded only for most conspicuous bravery or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour, self-sacrifice or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy.
Among the first recipients, who received their medals in 1857 from Queen Victoria was Lt Alexander Roberts Dunn, a Toronto-born soldier serving as a cavalry officer in the Light Brigade of the British Army. He rode with the 11th Hussars into the "Valley of Death" on 25 October 1854, in the famous "Charge of the Light Brigade." Of the 110 members of the "Cherry Pickers" only Dunn and 24 others survived.
QOR Victoria Crosses: Since the medal was introduced, seven have been awarded to soldiers who served with The Queen’s Own at one time or another. Six of these were in the First and one in the Second World War.
First World War: Those honoured in the First World War were:
Lieutenant (later Captain) George Fraser Kerr, VC, MC and Bar, MM 3rd Battalion (Toronto Regiment) CEF 27 September 1918 – “Whilst in command of the left support company in an attack at Bourlon Wood, France, he handled his company with great skill and gave timely support by outflanking a machine-gun impeding the advance. Later, far in advance of his company, with the advance held up by a strong point, he rushed the position single handed, capturing four machine-guns and 31 prisoners”.
Corporal (later Sergeant) Colin Fraser Barron, VC 3rd Battalion (Toronto Regiment) CEF 6 November 1917 – “When his unit was held up by three machine-gun posts at Vine Cottage, Passchendaele, Belgium, he charged them single-handedly, killing four of the enemy and capturing the remainder. He then turned one of the guns on the retiring enemy, causing them severe casualties”.
Lieutenant Wallace Lloyd Algie, VC Late 20th Canadian Infantry Battalion, CEF Killed in action 11 October 1918 11 October 1918 - “During an advance near Cambrai, France, he dashed forward with nine volunteers and shot the crew of a German machine-gun which he turned on the enemy, enabling his unit to continue advancing. He then rushed another machine-gun, killing the crew, and capturing an officer and ten men. He subsequently went back for reinforcements but was killed whilst bringing them forward”.
2nd Lieutenant Edmund de Wind, VC Late 15th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles Killed in action 21 March 1918 21 March 1918 - “He held the Racecourse Redoubt near St-Quentin, France, almost single-handedly for seven hours despite being twice wounded. On two occasions he climbed up under machine-gun and rifle fire and cleared the Germans out of the trench. He continued to repel attack after attack until he collapsed, fatally wounded”.
Captain Thain Wendell MacDowell, VC, DSO 38th Canadian Infantry Battalion, CEF 9 April 1917 – At Vimy ridge, he advanced towards the enemy position in the company of two runners. As he went along, he bombed a machine-gun out of action and attacked and killed the crew of another. Reaching a large dugout, he walked down a flight of stairs into a room containing 77 Prussian Guards. Thinking quickly, he shouted orders to an imaginary force behind him and instantly the Germans surrendered. He sent the Germans up the stairs in batches of twelve, marshalling by the runners. When the Germans emerged into the daylight and saw they had been captured by only three men, they opened fire, but the outbreak was quickly checked. MacDowell held the dugout (which was found to contain ammunition, rations, and excellent cigars) for five days until he was relieved by his battalion”.
Lieutenant Charles Smith Rutherford, VC, MC, MM 5th Canadian Mounted Rifles 26 August 1918 – “Finding himself a long way ahead of his men at Monchy, France, he observed an armed enemy party outside a pillbox ahead of him. He beckoned the Germans to come to him; in return they waved to him to come to them. This he did and informed them he was taking them prisoner. They disputed this at first but he persuaded them by bluff that they were surrounded. As a result, 45 Germans (including 2 officers with three machine-guns) surrendered to him. When his men finally caught up with him, he attacked another pillbox with a Lewis-gun section and captured a further 35 prisoners with machine-guns”.
Second World War: Sergeant Aubrey Cosens was awarded the Victoria Cross for his valour in the Second World War. He was a 23 year old former railway worker who joined the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders before transferring to The Queen’s Own Rifles during the Normandy fighting after D-Day. During the clearing of the Rhineland in February, 1945, his platoon supported by two Sherman tanks , attacked a well-fortified position sited among farm buildings in the tiny German farming hamlet of Mooshof.
In fierce fighting, one tank was disabled, the platoon commander was killed and the troops sustained heavy casualties, leaving only four survivors. Sgt Cosens immediately took charge, telling the four to cover him while he directed the remaining Sherman tank in a frontal attack on the main building, in the face of lethal enemy fire.
Firing his Sten submachine gun and following the tank into the building as it crashed through the walls, Sgt Cosens killed or wounded all the enemy soldiers inside. He then charged two other buildings, clearing them, only to be killed by a sniper as he prepared to return and make his report of the action to his Company Commander .
His Sten gun was retrieved and now occupies a position of honour in the Sergeants’ Mess of The Queen’s Own in Moss Park Armoury. In his memory, a “Cosens’ Dinner” is held every 26 February in the QOR Sergeants’ Mess, where the dwindling number of Second World War Queen’s Own veterans -- all in their eighties today -- gather with the Sergeants and the Warrant Officers and their guests to pay tribute to a brave soldier. Buglers of the Regimental Band play “The Last Post” and “Reveille” and the traditional memorial toast is offered: “They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old...Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn...At the going down of the sun...and in the morning...We will remember them.”
"In Pace Paratus - In Peace Prepared"