Charles Smith Rutherford, VC

By Ashley Dunk

Today in Library and Archives Canada’s blog series on Canadian Victoria Cross recipients, we remember Charles Smith Rutherford, who earned his Victoria Cross one hundred years ago today for his heroic actions on the battlefield.

A black-and-white photograph of a military officer standing with a cane.

Lieutenant Charles S. Rutherford, VC, ca. 1914–1919 (a006703)

Born on January 9, 1892, in Colborne, Ontario, Rutherford was a farmer before the war. On March 2, 1916, he enlisted in Toronto, Ontario, joining the 83rd Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force as a private. He arrived in France on June 10, 1916. Rutherford was a decorated soldier, earning the Military Medal on February 23, 1918, and the Military Cross on January 11, 1919. He was promoted to Lieutenant on April 28, 1918.

On August 26, 1918, while serving in the 5th Battle of the Scarpe, near Monchy, France, Rutherford was in command of an assault party. Finding himself noticeably ahead of his men, he observed an enemy party standing outside a pillbox. With his revolver, Rutherford beckoned them to come to him. Instead, they waved for him to approach. Through skillful bluffing, he convinced the enemy soldiers that they were surrounded. The party of 45 men, which included two officers and three machine guns, surrendered to him.

A black-and-white photograph of three people standing and posing for a photograph: a woman in a fur coat, a military officer with a cane, and a soldier with a cane and beret.

Lt. C.S. Rutherford, VC (centre), ca. 1914–1919 (a006705)

After capturing the party, he persuaded one of the enemy officers to stop a nearby machine gun from firing, which then allowed Rutherford’s men to advance to his position.

Beyond the pillbox, Rutherford saw that some of his assault party was held up by heavy machine-gun fire from another pillbox. With the support of the rest of his party, he attacked the pillbox with a Lewis gun section, successfully capturing an additional 35 prisoners and their machine guns. His leadership enabled his assault party to continue its advance.

As reported in the London Gazette two months later:

The bold and gallant action of this officer contributed very materially to the capture of the main objective and was a wonderful inspiration to all ranks in pressing home the attack on a very strong position.

London Gazette, No. 31012, November 12, 1918

On March 20, 1919, Rutherford was discharged through general demobilization.

He died in Ottawa, Ontario, on June 11, 1989, at the age of 97.

A black-and-white photograph of a military officer in a ceremonial uniform.

Captain Charles S. Rutherford, VC, Sergeant-at-Arms, Ontario Legislature, 1937 (a053785)

Library and Archives Canada holds the digitized service file of Lieutenant Charles Smith Rutherford.


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

The Canadian Expeditionary Force digitization project is complete!

How does a cultural institution like Library and Archives Canada (LAC) complete a groundbreaking digital imaging project? By bringing together a great set of ingredients, of course! Blend a team of professionals. Add a dose of technological equipment and know-how. Mix dedication and hard work for five years. The satisfying result: a comprehensive research tool for Canadians and people around the world to use.

Before the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) document scanning could begin, over 260 kilograms of brass fasteners had to be carefully removed from the files. Then another team prepared the documents for scanning based on size and condition. This was followed by the actual digital imaging using various types of scanners. The CEF project was LAC’s largest digitization endeavour to date. At its peak, this project brought together more than 50 trained professionals.

With approximately 30 million pages digitized now that the project has come to an end, LAC has provided easy access to the records of 622,290* soldiers who enlisted in the CEF during the First World War. In addition, generating over half a petabyte of high-resolution still-image data enables LAC to better protect the documents themselves for future generations.

 

*Although the number of files was estimated at 640,000, the final file count was 622,290. This is because for the project, LAC digitally linked the documents of soldiers who enlisted multiple times and therefore had more than one file.

Victoria Cross Recipients Alexander Picton Brereton, Frederick George Coppins, John Bernard Croak, Raphael Louis Zengel

By John Morden

Today we honour four Canadians who earned the Victoria Cross during the last campaign on the Western Front, known as the Hundred Days Offensive. They are Alexander Picton Brereton, Frederick George Coppins, John Bernard Croak and Raphael Louis Zengel.

Alexander Picton Brereton

A black-and-white photograph of a seated soldier in uniform and cap.

Sergeant Alexander Picton Brereton, VC, 8th Battalion, undated (a006962)

Alexander Picton Brereton was born in Oak River, Manitoba, on November 13, 1892. Before enlisting in the 144th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force on January 31, 1916, Brereton worked as a barber and served in the militia. In April of 1917, he was transferred to the 8th Battalion. Brereton earned the Victoria Cross for his actions near Warvillers, France, on August 9, 1918. During an attack on German positions, Brereton and his men got caught in the open and were pinned down by heavy German machine-gun fire. With the most conspicuous bravery, realizing his unit faced certain destruction, Brereton single-handedly charged and captured a German machine-gun position. Brereton’s actions rallied his men to capture other German machine-gun nests. Brereton would survive the First World War and be discharged from the army on April 10, 1919. Brereton died on January 10, 1976, in Calgary, Alberta, where he was laid to rest in Elnora Cemetery.

Frederick George Coppins

A black-and-white photograph of a soldier in full uniform standing with his hands behind his back.

Sergeant Frederick George Coppins, VC, undated (a006765)

Born on October 25, 1889, in London, England, Frederick George Coppins served in the Royal West Kent Regiment before immigrating to Canada. Coppins enlisted with the Canadian Expeditionary Force much earlier than other Canadian soldiers. He joined the 19th Alberta Dragoons on September 23, 1914. By the time of the final Allied drive to victory in the summer of 1918, Coppins was a hardened veteran. Coppins was promoted to Corporal and transferred to the 8th Battalion, the same unit as Brereton. Coppins earned the Victoria Cross on August 9, 1918. Much like Brereton, Coppins and his men were held up by German machine-gun fire. Realizing the situation at hand, Coppins gathered a handful of men to attack a German machine-gun post. During the attack, Coppins was wounded and the rest of the men were killed. Yet, Coppins persisted and captured the position, taking several enemy soldiers prisoner. Despite his wounds, Coppins stayed in the field of battle until the Canadian objectives were secured. Coppins would miraculously survive four years of service and be discharged from the army on April 30, 1919. He died on March 30, 1963, in Livermore, California, at the age of 73.

John Bernard Croak

A candid black-and-white photograph of a soldier standing outdoors.

Private John Bernard Croak, VC, undated Photo from Directorate of History and Heritage.

John Bernard Croak was born on May 18, 1892, in Little Bay, Newfoundland. He then moved with his family to Glace Bay, Nova Scotia. Before the outbreak of war in the summer of 1914, Croak worked as a labourer. Croak joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force on August 7, 1915, and was assigned to the 55th Battalion. In April of 1916, he was transferred to the 13th Battalion. Croak earned the Victoria Cross for his actions at the battle of Amiens on August 8, 1918. During the Canadian attack on that day, Croak became separated from his unit. He encountered a German machine position and, on his own, captured the entire gun crew. Although he was wounded later, he remained in the field. After reuniting with his unit, Croak came upon a position holding numerous German machine guns. In response to this threat, Croak, again on his own, charged the German position, soon to be followed by his comrades. The charge was successful, as they captured three machine guns and the German soldiers operating them. But Croak suffered severe wounds and died minutes later in an action that was “an inspiring example to all.” Croak’s final resting place is in Hangard Wood British Cemetery near the Somme in France.

 

Raphael Louis Zengel

A black-and-white bust photograph of a soldier wearing a light coloured non-commissioned officer (NCO) belt with bullets across his chest.

Sergeant Raphael Louis Zengel, VC, 5th Battalion, 1914 (a006796)

Born in Faribault, Minnesota, on November 11, 1894, Raphael Louis Zengel was one of several American-born Victoria Cross recipients. As a young boy he moved with his mother to Plunkett, Saskatchewan. Before the war, Zengel worked as a farm labourer. In December of 1914, shortly after the outbreak of hostilities, Zengel enlisted in the 45th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. He was later transferred to the 5th Battalion. On October 17, 1917, he was promoted to Sergeant.

Zengel earned the Victoria Cross on August 9, 1918, during the battle of Amiens. In that action, Zengel was leading his platoon in an attack when he noticed a gap had occurred on his flank. Under a hail of bullets from German machine-gun fire, Zengel charged ahead of his unit and captured the German machine-gun position. Later that day, a German shell knocked him unconscious. After coming to, Zengel continued to lead his men. His “work throughout the attack was excellent.” Though wounded in September, Zengel would live to see the end of the war on his 24th birthday and his discharge from the army on April 24, 1919. On February 27, 1977, at the age of 82, Zengel died in Errington, British Columbia.

Library and Archives Canada holds the digitized service files of Brereton, Coppins, Croak and Zengel.


John Morden is an honours history student from Carleton University doing a practicum in the Online Content Division at Library and Archives Canada.

Lieutenant Jean Brillant, Corporal Herman James Good, Corporal Harry Garnet Bedford Miner

By John Morden

Today, Honouring Canada’s Victoria Cross Recipients series remembers the first three soldiers to receive the Victoria Cross medal during Canada’s Hundred Days campaign: Jean Brillant, Herman James Good and Harry Garnet Bedford Miner.

Lieutenant Jean Brillant

A black-and-white photograph of a soldier in uniform looking straight at the camera. He is standing behind two other men in uniform whose faces are partially visible in the foreground. There is a tree in the background.

Lieutenant Jean (John) Brillant, VC, MC, June 1918 (c009271)

Born on March 15, 1890, in Assemetquaghan, Quebec, Lieutenant Jean Brillant served in the Canadian militia and as a telegraph operator before enlisting in the 189th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force on January 11, 1916. Brillant was later transferred to the 22nd French Canadian Battalion. In May 1918, Brillant successfully led a raid that earned him the Military Cross (MC). Early in the battle of Amiens, the first major action of the 100 days’ offensive, Brillant earned the Victoria Cross for his acts of heroism on August 8 to 9, 1918 outside Meharicourt, France. During this action, with his company pinned down by machine-gun fire, Brillant charged the position on his own and captured the German machine gun. Despite being wounded, he rallied two platoons, and together they captured another German machine-gun post. One hundred and fifty German soldiers were taken captive and 15 machine guns were seized. Brillant was wounded for a second time. When a German artillery piece was shelling Brillant’s units, he again led his men against the position and was wounded for a third time, eventually collapsing from exhaustion and loss of blood. Brillant would die of his wounds the next day, August 10, 1918. Read the description of his actions in the London Gazette. Brillant’s final resting place is in Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetary near the Sommes, France.

Corporal Herman James Good

A black-and-white photograph of a soldier in uniform looking straight at the camera and wearing a large beret.

Corporal Herman James Good, VC, undated (a006663)

Corporal Herman James Good was born on November 29, 1887 in Bathurst, New Brunswick. Prior to the First World War, Good was a farmer. He joined the 55th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force on June 29, 1915. Good was later transferred to the 13th Royal Highlanders of Canada Battalion on April 15, 1916. Despite suffering from shell shock, he would continue to serve until the end of the war. On August 8, 1918, Good earned the Victoria Cross for his actions on the first day of the battle of Amiens. During this action, Good’s unit had been stalled by three German machine guns. In response to this, Good charged the position of his own accord, killed several German soldiers and captured the rest. Later in the day, Good stumbled upon a German artillery battery. He, along with three other men, captured the gunners and artillery. Good would survive the war and live a long life afterward. He passed away at the age of 81 in his hometown of Bathurst on April 18, 1969.

Corporal Harry Garnet Bedford Miner

Black-and-white photograph of a solider in uniform sitting in a chair with his hands crossed and looking at the camera.

Corporal Harry Garnet Bedford Miner, VC, undated. Source Directorate of History and Heritage (http://www.cmp-cpm.forces.gc.ca/dhh-dhp/index-eng.asp)

Born on June 24, 1891 in Cedar Springs, Ontario, Corporal Harry Garnet Bedford Miner worked as a farmer prior to the outbreak of war in the summer of 1914. In November of 1915, Miner joined the 142nd Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. He was later transferred to the 58th Battalion and would serve in this unit for the remainder of his war. Miner won the French Croix de Guerre military medal in 1917 for his actions in a mission from Lens, France. Miner’s deeds on the battlefield on August 8, 1918 earned him the Victoria Cross. On this day, despite suffering a severe wound, Miner charged and captured a German machine-gun nest, killed the soldiers operating the position and began firing at the enemy. Later that day, with two comrades, he captured another German machine-gun position, as well as a bombing post. Unfortunately, Miner would die of his wounds later that day. Miner is buried in Crouy British Cemetery near the Somme, France.

Library and Archives Canada holds the complete service files for Lieutenant Jean Brillant, Corporal Herman James Good, and Corporal Harry Garnet Bedford Miner. Find your family member who fought in the First World War by searching the personnel records of the First World War database.


John Morden is an honours history student from Carleton University doing a practicum in the Online Content Division at Library and Archives Canada.

Digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Personnel Service Files – Update of July 2018

As of today, 608,399 of 640,000 files are available online in our Personnel Records of the First World War database. Please visit the Digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Service Files page for more details on the digitization project.

Library and Archives Canada is digitizing the service files systematically, from box 1 to box 10686, which roughly corresponds to alphabetical order. Please note that over the years, the content of some boxes has had to be moved and, you might find that the file you want, with a surname that is supposed to have been digitized, is now located in another box that has not yet been digitized. So far, we have digitized the following files:

  • Latest box digitized: Box 10449 and last name Wilson.

Please check the database regularly for new additions and if you still have questions after checking the database, you may contact us directly at 1-866-578-7777 for more assistance.

Digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Personnel Service Files – Update of June 2018

As of today, 601,736 of 640,000 files are available online in our Personnel Records of the First World War database. Please visit the Digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Service Files page for more details on the digitization project.

Library and Archives Canada is digitizing the service files systematically, from box 1 to box 10686, which roughly corresponds to alphabetical order. Please note that over the years, the content of some boxes has had to be moved and, you might find that the file you want, with a surname that is supposed to have been digitized, is now located in another box that has not yet been digitized. So far, we have digitized the following files:

  • Latest box digitized: Box 10331  and last name Whittey.

Please check the database regularly for new additions and if you still have questions after checking the database, you may contact us directly at 1-866-578-7777 for more assistance.

Digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Personnel Service Files – Update of May 2018

As of today, 592,203 of 640,000 files are available online in our Personnel Records of the First World War database. Please visit the Digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Service Files page for more details on the digitization project.

Library and Archives Canada is digitizing the service files systematically, from box 1 to box 10686, which roughly corresponds to alphabetical order. Please note that over the years, the content of some boxes has had to be moved and, you might find that the file you want, with a surname that is supposed to have been digitized, is now located in another box that has not yet been digitized. So far, we have digitized the following files:

  • Latest box digitized: Box 10117 and last name Waterous.

Please check the database regularly for new additions and if you still have questions after checking the database, you may contact us directly at 1-866-578-7777 for more assistance.

Digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Personnel Service Files – Update of April 2018

As of today, 581,553 of 640,000 files are available online in our Personnel Records of the First World War database. Please visit the Digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Service Files page for more details on the digitization project.

Library and Archives Canada is digitizing the service files systematically, from box 1 to box 10686, which roughly corresponds to alphabetical order. Please note that over the years, the content of some boxes has had to be moved and, you might find that the file you want, with a surname that is supposed to have been digitized, is now located in another box that has not yet been digitized. So far, we have digitized the following files:

  • Latest box digitized: Box 9926 and last name Venables.

Please check the database regularly for new additions and if you still have questions after checking the database, you may contact us directly at 1-866-578-7777 for more assistance.

Digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Personnel Service Files – Update of March 2018

As of today, 568,203 of 640,000 files are available online in our Personnel Records of the First World War database. Please visit the Digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Service Files page for more details on the digitization project.

Library and Archives Canada is digitizing the service files systematically, from box 1 to box 10686, which roughly corresponds to alphabetical order. Please note that over the years, the content of some boxes has had to be moved and, you might find that the file you want, with a surname that is supposed to have been digitized, is now located in another box that has not yet been digitized. So far, we have digitized the following files:

  • Latest box digitized: Box 9700 and last name Timson.

Please check the database regularly for new additions and if you still have questions after checking the database, you may contact us directly at 1-866-578-7777 for more assistance.

Digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Personnel Service Files – Update of February 2018

As of today, 555,443 of 640,000 files are available online in our Personnel Records of the First World War database. Please visit the Digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Service Files page for more details on the digitization project.

Library and Archives Canada is digitizing the service files systematically, from box 1 to box 10686, which roughly corresponds to alphabetical order. Please note that over the years, the content of some boxes has had to be moved and, you might find that the file you want, with a surname that is supposed to have been digitized, is now located in another box that has not yet been digitized. So far, we have digitized the following files:

  • Latest box digitized: Box 9467 and last name Swindells.

Please check the database regularly for new additions and if you still have questions after checking the database, you may contact us directly at 1-866-578-7777 for more assistance.