OTTAWA, Nov. 5, 2012 /CNW/ - An extraordinary collection of all three
Victoria Cross Medals awarded during the First World War to residents
of Winnipeg's Pine Street, later renamed Valour Road, was unveiled
today at the Canadian War Museum.
This collection was completed with the recent acquisition of the medal
awarded in 1915 to Company Sergeant Major Frederick William Hall. The
War Museum acquired the Valour Road Victoria Crosses of Lieutenant
Robert Shankland and Corporal Lionel B. Clarke in 2009 and 2010
Only 96 Victoria Crosses were awarded to Canadians in the medal's
156-year history, making this coincidence truly exceptional. With the
acquisition of the Hall Victoria Cross, the Canadian War Museum now has
33 Victoria Crosses in its collection, including one from the
nineteenth century, 28 from the First World War and four from the
Second World War.
"Valour Road is remarkable for its association with three recipients of
this renowned award for bravery. The three men were honoured for their
heroic acts in different battles and in different years, but all were
from a single block of the same residential street," said Mark O'Neill,
President and CEO of the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation,
which operates the Canadian War Museum. "These medals belong together
and so they shall remain in perpetuity, held in the name of all
The trio of medals will remain on permanent display in the Royal
Canadian Legion Hall of Honour. In 2014, this famous trio of Victoria
Cross Medals will be loaned to the Manitoba Museum in Winnipeg for a
special exhibition commemorating the role of the Winnipeg Rifles and
Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders regiments during the First World War.
"Our Government is very proud to see this extraordinary story displayed
in the War Museum's collection and shared with other museums and
institutions across the country," said Minister Moore. "On the road to
Canada's 150th birthday in 2017, let us continue to celebrate all of the things that
make Canada the united, prosperous, and free country we are today."
The Victoria Cross was introduced during the reign of Queen Victoria and
remains the highest award for military valour in Britain and much of
the Commonwealth including Canada, which created its own version of the
Victoria Cross in 1993. The Victoria Cross is awarded "for the most
conspicuous bravery, a daring or pre-eminent act of valour or
self-sacrifice or extreme devotion to duty, in the presence of the
Company Sergeant Major Frederick William Hall received the medal for his
actions during the 2nd Battle of Ypres, infamous as the site of the
first German gas attack on the western front. Hall was shot in the
forehead and killed during a prolonged and valiant attempt to rescue a
wounded comrade. The posthumous award was presented to his mother.
Corporal Clarke received his medal for valour in the face of the enemy
at the Somme Front on September 9, 1916, while Lieutenant Shankland
received his Victoria Cross for actions during the Battle of
Passchendaele in October 1917.
The Canadian War Museum is Canada's national museum of military history.
Its mission is to promote public understanding of Canada's military
history in its personal, national, and international dimensions.
The Victoria Cross and the Heroes of Valour Road
The Victoria Cross was instituted on February 5, 1856 with the first
awards given to heroes of the Crimean War (1854-1856). It is the
British Commonwealth's highest award for military bravery.
Since its inception, the Victoria Cross has been awarded to 96 Canadians
(Canadian born or serving in the Canadian Army). Ten of the awards were
for actions during the late nineteenth century and the South African
War (1899-1902), 70 for actions during the First World War (1914-1918)
and 16 for actions during the Second World War (1939-1945). No Victoria
Crosses have been awarded to Canadians in the post-war era.
The issue of the Victoria Cross to Canadians was discontinued when
Canada instituted its own awards for bravery and gallantry during the
late 1960s and early 1970s. However, a uniquely Canadian version of the
Victoria Cross was introduced in 1993, again becoming Canada's highest
award for bravery in the face of the enemy. It is identical to the
earlier British award except the words For Valour are replaced by the Latin Pro Valore. The Canadian Victoria Cross has yet to be awarded.
The Heroes of Valour Road
Of the 70 Victoria Crosses awarded to Canadians during the First World
War, three went to residents of a single block of one residential
street: the 700 block of Pine Street in Winnipeg. In recognition of
their gallantry, the city changed the name of the street to Valour Road
The men were different ages, served in different military units, and
were recognized for heroism in different battles. The nature of their
pre-war connections—if any—are unknown. But the coincidence of having
so many Victoria Crosses associated with a single street is unique in
Frederick William Hall
Hall was born in Kilkenny, Ireland, in 1885. A veteran of the British
Army, he immigrated to Canada with other members of his family a few
years before the outbreak of the First World War. He worked as a
shipping clerk in Winnipeg and then enlisted in the 8th Canadian
Infantry Battalion in September 1914.
Seven months later, the Battalion was at the western front helping to
defend the Ypres Salient, a bulge pushing into the German lines around
the city of Ypres, Belgium. The Salient guarded an important
communication crossroads and access to the channel ports of Calais and
On April 22, 1915, the Battalion was among the Allied defenders
enveloped by the first use of poison gas on the western front. The
Germans attacked again the next night with artillery and another
release of chlorine gas. Hall's company was ordered to leave its trench
and move to another, exposing the men to enemy fire as they crossed a
raised bank. After arriving at the new location, Company Sergeant Major
Hall determined that two of the men under his command were missing. He
left the trench, found both wounded men in the darkness, and brought
them back to safety.
The next morning, on April 24, he heard the groans and cries of another
wounded man and organized a rescue party with two volunteers from his
company. Both volunteers were wounded in the attempt, and Hall pulled
them back to safety. He then decided to try again on his own. With
bullets hitting the ground around him, he made his way to the wounded
soldier. As he was attempting to lift the man, Hall was hit in the
forehead by an enemy bullet and killed. The soldier he was attempting
to save was also shot to death.
For his heroic deeds, Hall was recommended for the Victoria Cross. The
medal was presented to his mother, Mrs. Mary Ann Hall, who was then
living in Winnipeg with Fredrick's two sisters.
Lionel B. ("Leo") Clarke
Clarke was born in Waterdown, Ontario, in 1892, but his family
eventually settled in Winnipeg. He was a railroad surveyor in
Saskatchewan when the First World War began, and he returned to
Winnipeg to enlist in the 27th Battalion. He later transferred to the
2nd Battalion, 1st Canadian Division to be with his brother Charles.
Leo Clarke volunteered for a bombing platoon, whose members were trained
in the use and tactics of hand-grenades. Working with bayonet men,
their task was to clear enemy trenches in close quarter combat. On
September 9, 1916, Corporal Clarke and his platoon were at the Somme
Front. Their objective was to clear a section of enemy trench, then
build an earth and sandbag barrier to prevent a counterattack. Clarke
led a small group of men down a section of the trenchline while the
other Canadians began building the barrier. The fighting was so fierce
for Clarke's group that all of his comrades were soon dead or injured.
About 20 German soldiers, led by two officers, began a counterattack.
Clarke built and defended his own hasty barrier. When the fighting
stopped, Clarke had been bayoneted in the leg, but had killed or
captured all of his attackers.
For that valour in the face of the enemy, Clarke earned the Victoria
Cross. Sadly, he did not live to receive the decoration. Almost two
months after his remarkable display of heroism, he was killed by enemy
shellfire. The medal was presented posthumously to his father during a
ceremony in Winnipeg.
Born in Ayr, Scotland, in 1887, Robert Shankland moved to Canada in 1910
and found work as a cashier at a Winnipeg creamery. He enlisted in the
43rd Canadian Infantry Battalion (Cameron Highlanders of Canada) in
Shankland received the Victoria Cross for his actions during the Battle
of Passchendaele in October 1917. At the time, he was a Lieutenant in
the 43rd Battalion. On the morning of October 26, the opening day of
the battle, Shankland led his platoon of men from D Company to the
crest of a hill overlooking the enemy trenches at Bellevue Spur. To his
right were elements of the 58th Battalion and to his left were troops
from the 8th Brigade.
When the Canadians moved forward, B Company of the 43rd Battalion
captured Bellevue Spur, but heavy enemy fire caused the 58th to retire,
leaving Shankland and his platoon from D Company exposed on the right
flank. Eventually, the left flank retired, further exposing Shankland's
troops. They were subjected to enemy fire and a counter-attack,
suffering heavy casualties for four hours. Recognizing the desperate
need for reinforcements, Shankland made the perilous journey back to
Battalion headquarters where he provided a detailed report of the
situation and a plan to counter-attack. He then returned to his men,
who were soon successfully reinforced by soldiers from the 52nd and
58th battalions. For his actions that day Robert Shankland was awarded
the Victoria Cross for his leadership and courage.
Shankland was the only one of the three Valour Road Victoria Cross
recipients to survive the war.
Image with caption: "Eric Clarke and Doug Cargo admire the new display of three Victoria Cross Medals awarded during the First World War to residents of Winnipeg's Valour Road. Mr. Clarke and LCol (Rtd) Cargo are the great-nephews of Corporal Lionel B. Clarke and Company Sergeant Major Frederick William Hall. (CNW Group/Canadian War Museum)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20121105_C5123_PHOTO_EN_20207.jpg
SOURCE: Canadian War Museum
For further information:
Manager, Public Affairs
Canadian War Museum
Avra Gibbs Lamey
Communications and Media Relations Officer
Canadian War Museum
For more information visit www.warmuseum.ca. Follow us on http://twitter.com/CanWarMuseum