The first profile of the series, Honouring Canada’s Victoria Cross recipients, honours Lance-Corporal Frederick Fisher of St. Catharines, Ontario.
Lance Corporal Fisher, age 20, was serving with the machine gun section of the 13th Battalion, Royal Highlanders of Canada when the Second Battle of Yypres commenced on April 22, 1915.
On that day, the German Army released chlorine gas over a 6.5-kilometre front, mainly in a section held by French colonial and territorial troops. The French, who were on the Canadian left flank, had 6,000 casualties within 10 minutes of this attack, and many of those not immediately affected fled. The Canadian 1st Division troops moved to close the massive gap that opened in the line.
The following day, as the defences around him collapsed, Lance-Corporal Fisher and six other men went forward with a machine gun and held off advancing German infantry under heavy fire, allowing the Canadian 18-pound field guns to be withdrawn. Four of the defenders died in the process. Later the same day, Fisher and four men of the 14th Battalion again went forward to fire on advancing German troops. Fisher was the only man to survive the engagement. He was killed later that day while once again attempting to repulse a German attack. His citation in the London Gazette, June 23, 1915, recounts that Fisher: “most gallantly assisted in covering the retreat of a battery” (London Gazette, no. 29202). Like many Canadian soldiers killed in the opening days of 2nd Ypres, Fisher’s body was never recovered. He is named on the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing in Ypres, along with the names of more than 54,000 other soldiers from Britain, Australia, Canada, and India with no known graves. His Victoria Cross is held by the Canadian Black Watch Museum in Montreal. Library and Archives Canada holds the CEF service file for Lance-Corporal Frederick Fisher.