Samuel Lewis Honey, VC

By Ashley Dunk

In Library and Archives Canada’s Victoria Cross blog series, we profile Canada’s Victoria Cross recipients on the 100th anniversary of the day they performed heroically in battle, for which they were awarded the Victoria Cross. Today, we remember Lieutenant Samuel Lewis Honey and his bravery during the Bourlon Wood operations between September 27 and September 30, 1918.

A colour poster with “Fall in the Grenadiers” in large red text, with varying other black and red text. On the right, a uniformed soldier with a tall black hat, a red coat and a rifle slung over his shoulder stands at attention.

Recruitment campaign poster for the 78th Battalion, undated (e010697069)

Born in Conn, Ontario, on February 9, 1894, Samuel Lewis Honey was a schoolteacher when he enlisted as a private on January 22, 1915, joining the 34th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. He was a decorated and accomplished soldier, receiving the Distinguished Conduct Medal and the Military Medal, and was later commissioned as an officer on July 2, 1917. In autumn 1918, he was serving in France as a lieutenant in the 78th Infantry Battalion.

On September 27, 1918, Honey was fighting alongside thousands of Canadian soldiers under heavy machine-gun fire from the German lines at Bourlon Wood. The operation to reach across the Canal du Nord with the ultimate objective of capturing Bourlon Wood and Village was vital for opening the road leading to Cambrai. When the commander and officers in his company became casualties to the unrelenting German attacks, Honey took charge. He commanded and reorganized the company and continued with the advance.

A black-and-white photograph of a soldier wearing a cap and a Sam Brown belt, part of an officer’s uniform.

Lieutenant Samuel Lewis Honey, undated. Source: National Defence and the Canadian Forces.

Under his leadership, the objective of capturing Bourlon Wood was achieved; however, it came at the expense of severe casualties. Machine-gun fire was causing significant damage and loss to his company. Honey located the machine-gun nest and rushed it alone, single-handedly capturing the guns and taking 10 prisoners.

Following this feat, Honey successfully resisted four enemy counterattacks. He later went out alone in the dark and located an enemy post. Honey and a party of soldiers captured the post and an additional three guns.

As recounted in the London Gazette:

On the 29th September he led his company against a strong enemy position with great skill and daring and continued in the succeeding days of the battle to display the same high example of valour and self-sacrifice.

London Gazette, no. 31108, January 6, 1919

A black-and-white photograph of three soldiers bent at the waist, searching around trees and through bushes for blackberries.

Canadian soldiers picking blackberries in Bourlon Wood after capturing it, France, October 1918 (a003275)

During this attack, Honey received fatal wounds and died at No. 12 Canadian Field Ambulance on September 30, 1918. Buried at the Queant Communal Cemetery in Pas de Calais, France, he was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously.

His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. A plaque is dedicated to Honey in Mount Forest, Ontario.

Library and Archives Canada holds the digitized service file of Lieutenant Samuel Lewis Honey.

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Ashley Dunk was a project assistant in the Online Content Division of the Public Services Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

One thought on “Samuel Lewis Honey, VC

  1. I was so pleased to see this posting regarding Lt. Honey. I have been waiting for it!
    I grew up in Arthur, Ontario, a village 12 miles to the northwest of Conn, and regularly passed through Conn as a teenager heading to Barrie or as an adult up the paved sideroad from Arthur when heading back to Muskoka where I now live. Every time I passed by his blue heritage plaque, I felt such a swell of pride that such a fine distinguished soldier had been born in Conn, such a tiny village — and now just a corner really.
    One day when turning on to the sideroad towards Arthur, I looked to my left expecting to see the plaque. Imagine my horror when I discovered that it was gone! I asked the head of the Arthur Historical Society, David Stack, where it had gone and he had no idea.
    How it ended up in Mount Forest, I cannot imagine. But it should not have been done. Lt. Honey was born in Conn. These little villages, now subsumed into regional municipalities by politicians in Toronto, have lost almost every vestige of their long-held identities already. To take away from Conn the honour of having borne such a son, seems to me a travesty — and possibly just another political move by people who do not understand what it is to have counted such a man as Lt. Honey as one of their own. I will always look to my left, in Conn, expecting to see his plaque, knowing it is not there anymore, and aching in my heart both for the loss of his life and for the loss of the plaque to honour him.

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