First World War Centenary: Honouring Canada’s Victoria Cross recipients

As part of its commemoration of the centenary of the First World War, over the next three years we will profile each of Canada’s Victoria Cross recipients. Each profile will be published on the 100th anniversary of the day that the actions for which the recipient was awarded the Victoria Cross took place.

Colour photograph of a medal. Ribbon is crimson. Cross-shaped medal is bronze with a lion above a crown bearing the inscription For Valour on a scroll.

The Victoria Cross (MIKAN 3640361)

The Victoria Cross (VC) is the highest military decoration in the Commonwealth and takes precedence over all other medals, decorations and orders. A recognition of valour in the face of the enemy, the VC can be awarded to a person of any rank of military service and to civilians under military command. So far, 98 Canadians have been awarded the Victoria Cross, beginning with Alexander Roberts Dunn who in 1854 fought in the Battle of Balaclava in the Crimean War. The Victoria Crosses were awarded to 71 Canadian soldiers during the First World War, and 16 were awarded during the Second World War. The remaining VCs were awarded to Canadians for the Indian Rebellion of 1857 (in which William Hall of Nova Scotia became the first-ever black recipient of the VC) and the South African War (1899–1902).

In 1993, the Canadian Victoria Cross was adopted in place of the British VC. The medal is identical to the British VC but the inscription is in Latin—Pro Valore—a linguistic ancestor to both English and French. The Canadian Victoria Cross has yet to be awarded.

The profile series will also include links to photographs, service papers, war diaries, and other digitized artifacts in Library and Archives Canada’s collections that help to tell the stories of the Canadians who experienced the Great War on many fronts, including the home front, and whose actions and memories shape how contemporary Canadians remember and understand the first truly global conflict.

We will begin our First World War Victoria Cross profiles with Lance-Corporal Frederick Fisher.

3 thoughts on “First World War Centenary: Honouring Canada’s Victoria Cross recipients

  1. The Victoria Cross is the highest British decoration. It is not a Commonwealth decoration anymore.

    If 96 Canadians have been awarded the Victoria Cross how many were members of Canadian forces. There are 96 Australians awarded the VC but I always elaborate by saying 91 were members of the Australians forces while five were Australians serving with South African and British forces.

    The medal is not identical to the British VC.

    The scroll not only has a Latin inscription but also the fleur-de-lis at either end of the scroll which I particularly approve and would like to see Australia and New Zealand adopt appropriate national emblems.

    I also like the fact that the metal of the Canadian VC is an all Canadian idea.

    The British, Australians and New Zealanders all awarded VCs for Afghanistan which makes the absence of a Canadian VC disappointing and puzzling. It is 70 years since the last VC was awarded to a Canadian and I hope it is more than 70 years before Canada is in another war.

  2. In response to a statement about the official VC tally on the French blog( , we would like to offer the following clarification: Thank you for pointing out the discrepancy for the number of Victoria Cross recipients. The number of Victoria Cross recipients varies according to the source based on whether the tally includes pre-1948 Newfoundland VC winners and those who, during the First World War, served in Canadian units but were not Canadian citizens. We will acquiesce to the Veterans Affairs tally and change the number accordingly.

  3. While in the midst of celebrating the 100th year anniversary of The Great War, in particular the battles fought on The Western Front from 1914 to 1918, as well as the many brave souls lost at sea and while fighting in the air, and on all the other fronts, we have composed a variety of songs, and added a few of the classics from this era, such as Danny Boy and In Flanders Fields, to tell the story of going to war, sung by the Toronto Valour Ensemble and released an album called Sacrifice and Solace. Lest we forget.

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