Lieutenant Wallace Lloyd Algie, VC

By Emily Monks-Leeson

On this day in 1918, Lieutenant Wallace Lloyd Algie was killed in action northeast of Cambrai, France. His actions on that day would lead to his posthumous award of the Victoria Cross.

Wallace Lloyd Algie was born on June 10, 1891, in Alton, Ontario, the son of James and Rachel Algie of Toronto. He graduated from the Royal Military College of Canada and volunteered in the active militia with the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada and the 40th Regiment, serving as a lieutenant.

A black-and-white photograph of an officer wearing a peak cap.

Lieutenant Wallace Lloyd Algie, undated. Source: Directorate of History and Heritage (National Defence and the Canadian Forces)

Algie was a bank clerk in Toronto before enlisting as an officer in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) on April 19, 1916. He sailed on the SS Laconia on September 25, 1916, and was attached to the 95th Battalion upon arrival at Seaford, England. He proceeded to the European theatre with the 20th Canadian Infantry Battalion on May 26, 1917. He completed various officer training courses, including one on the Lewis Gun.

On October 11, 1918, the 27-year-old lieutenant was leading his troops in the 20th Battalion of the CEF near the village of Cambrai, France, when they came under intense machine-gun fire from a nearby village. His citation in the London Gazette, January 28, 1919, tells the story of the actions that led to his death and the awarding of the Victoria Cross:

“For most conspicuous bravery and self-sacrifice on the 11th October, 1918, north-east of Cambrai, when the attaching troops which came under heavy enfilade machine-gun fire from a neighbouring village. Rushing forward with nine volunteers, he shot the crew of an enemy machine gun, and, turning it on the enemy, enabled his party to reach the village. He then rushed another machine gun, killed the crew, captured an officer and 10 enemy, and thereby cleared the end of the village. Lt. Algie, having established his party, went back for reinforcements, but was killed when leading them forward. His valour and personal initiative in the face of intense fire saved many lives and enabled the position to be held.”

Lieutenant Wallace Lloyd Algie is buried in Niagara Cemetery, Iwuy, France.

A typed page detailing the events of October 10 to 11, 1918.

War diary page of the 20th Canadian Infantry Battalion explaining Lieutenant Algie’s actions for the day (e000960948)

Library and Archives Canada holds the CEF service file for Lieutenant Wallace Lloyd Algie.


Emily Monks-Leeson is an archivist in the Digital Operations and Preservation Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

Captain Coulson Norman Mitchell, 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 Captain Coulson Norman Mitchell and his courageous acts at the Canal de l’Escaut, France, from October 8 to 9, 1918.

A black-and-white photograph of an officer in uniform.

Captain Coulson Norman Mitchell, VC, ca. 1918 (c001595)

Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on December 11, 1889, Mitchell was a civil engineer before enlisting as a private with the Canadian Railway Construction Corps on January 21, 1915. In 1916, he became a lieutenant and joined the 1st Tunneling Company, Canadian Engineers. Mitchell was promoted to captain in 1917 after receiving the Military Cross for his gallantry. In 1918, Mitchell was posted to the 4th Battalion, Canadian Engineers. During his time with the 4th Battalion, he performed a heroic feat that helped to ensure Allied success at the Canal de l’Escaut, northeast of Cambrai, France.

A black-and-white photograph of a dried-out canal with a crooked bridge in the background. A bridge in the middle distance has a horse-drawn carriage crossing it with supplies. Throughout the photo, soldiers are moving about, and some are carrying supplies.

Canadians constructing a bridge to move supports and supplies, Canal du Nord, France, September 1918 (a003285)

After the end of the Battle of Canal du Nord on October 1, 1918, Allied soldiers were intent on entering and clearing the town of Cambrai. Previous offensives had opened some roads into the town, and now a further manoeuvre was needed to bring in the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division. German resistance was strong to the northeast of Cambrai, and the Canadians aimed to capture and move beyond the town. The following days would see a Canadian offensive, with Canadian forces liberating French villages against stubborn German resistance.

On the night of October 8 to 9, 1918, Mitchell led a party of sappers (soldiers responsible for building and repairing roads and bridges, and clearing mines) on a reconnaissance mission near Cambrai. Their task was to go beyond the security of the Canadian front lines to inspect bridges over which the Canadian 5th Infantry Brigade planned to advance. The goal was to prevent these bridges from being demolished. After coming across one bridge that had been destroyed, Mitchell and his team moved on to the next bridge, which stretched across the Canal de l’Escaut.

A black-and-white photograph of a town with damaged buildings, with stone and rubble heaped in the middle. One soldier is bent to the ground beside a large pile of debris. A nearby soldier standing to the left is watching him.

Canadian Engineers looking for mines in Cambria, France, October 1918 (a003271)

Under heavy barrage and in total darkness, Mitchell ran across the bridge, unaware of the enemy’s positions or strength. He discovered that the Germans had prepared it for demolition. With the assistance of a non-commissioned officer, he cut the detonation wires and removed the explosive charge. When the Germans realized that their explosives were being removed, they moved toward the bridge to set off the detonations. Seeing that his sentry was wounded, Mitchell rushed forward to assist. He killed three German soldiers and took 12 prisoners. Saving the bridge helped to assure the later success of the 5th Infantry Brigade’s operations.

As recounted in the London Gazette:

Then under heavy fire he continued his task of cutting wires and removing charges, which he well knew might at any moment have been fired by the enemy. It was entirely due to his valour and decisive action that this important bridge across the canal was saved from destruction.

London Gazette, no. 31155, January 31, 1919, pp. 1503.

A black-and-white photograph of an officer in uniform.

Captain Coulson Norman Mitchell, VC, ca. 1918 (c001594)

Mitchell served in the Canadian Engineers until April 28, 1919, when he left during general demobilization. He returned to Canada after the war and resumed his career as a civil engineer. During the Second World War, he commanded engineering units in Britain. In 1943, he returned to Canada as a lieutenant-colonel in charge of an engineering training centre. After the war, he returned to his civilian career once again.

Mitchell’s service in both world wars has been commemorated in a variety of locations. In Manitoba, Coulson Mitchell Lake was named in his honour. In Montréal, a street and a branch of the Royal Canadian Legion bear his name. The main building of the Canadian Forces School of Military Engineering at the Canadian Army Base in Gagetown, New Brunswick, also carries his name.

Mitchell passed away at his home in Montréal on November 17, 1978.

Library and Archives Canada holds the digitized service file of Captain Coulson Norman Mitchell.

Transcribe war diaries or tag pictures, and give history a hand!

The War Diaries of the Canadian Engineers are open for you to transcribe, tag, translate and describe their contents. Every addition to a record becomes new metadata, searchable within 24 hours, helping Library and Archives Canada’s records become more “discoverable” day after day. Visit the blog article explaining how you can give a hand to history!


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

Sergeant William Merrifield, 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 Sergeant William Merrifield and his gallant actions near Abancourt, France, on October 1, 1918.

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

Sergeant William Merrifield, VC, undated. Source: National Defence and the Canadian Forces

Born in Brentwood, Essex, England, on October 9, 1890, Merrifield was a firefighter before the outbreak of the First World War. He enlisted on September 23, 1914, at Valcartier, Quebec, joining the 2nd Battalion (Canadian Mounted Rifles) of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. In 1917, he joined the 4th Canadian Infantry Battalion. For his bravery in November 1917 during the Battle of Passchendaele, Merrifield received the Military Medal.

As September 1918 drew to a close, the Battle of Canal du Nord in France was also near its end. The Canadians stationed around the battlefield were engaged in regular patrols and reconnaissance missions. Allied artillery, including 6-inch guns and 60-pounders, fired continually, but the shells often fell short of their targets in the German trenches. In one instance, the Allies accidentally shelled and destroyed one of their own Lewis guns and caused casualties among their own soldiers. The Germans stubbornly defended their trenches, making the Canadians’ objective of breaking through the lines very difficult.

On October 1, 1918, near Abancourt, Merrifield and his men were under fire from two enemy machine-gun posts. Unable to advance further because of the German guns, Merrifield decided to attack both posts single-handedly to eliminate them. Dashing from shell hole to shell hole, he killed the enemy soldiers in the first post and sustained wounds during the assault. In spite of his injuries, he pressed on to the second post, killing its occupants with a hand grenade. He remained in battle and continued to lead his platoon until he was severely wounded.

A black-and-white copy of a typed textual record, with handwritten signatures down the right side of the page.

War Diaries, 4th Canadian Infantry Battalion, describing some events from October 1, 1918, page 4 (e001078521)

Merrifield survived the remainder of the war and was discharged on April 24, 1919, in general demobilization. He moved to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. He died in Toronto on August 8, 1943.

A public elementary school in Sault Ste. Marie was named after Merrifield; William Merrifield V.C. Public School in the Algoma District School Board was open from 1946 until June 2015. And Merrifield Outdoor Rink is located at the corner of Henrietta Avenue and Patrick Street in Sault Ste. Marie.

As well, the 56th Field Artillery Regiment in Brantford, Ontario, dedicated its armoury (Sergeant William Merrifield VC Armoury) to his memory.

Merrifield’s Victoria Cross was donated to the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.

Library and Archives Canada holds the digitized service file of Sergeant William Merrifield.

Want to experience life during a time of war?

The War Diaries of the 4th Canadian Infantry Battalion are open for you to transcribe, tag, translate and describe their contents. Every addition to a record becomes new metadata, searchable within 24 hours, helping Library and Archives Canada’s records become more “discoverable” day after day. Visit the blog article explaining how you can give a hand to history!

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

Captain John MacGregor, 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 Captain John MacGregor and his bravery during the Battle of Canal du Nord near Cambrai, France, between September 29 and October 3, 1918.

A black-and-white photograph of a smiling soldier in his service dress uniform.

Captain John MacGregor, VC, April 1919 (a004598-v8)

Born near Nairn, Scotland, on February 11, 1888, John MacGregor moved to Canada in 1909. He was a carpenter before he enlisted with the 11th Canadian Mounted Rifles of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) on March 26, 1915. MacGregor had served for three years with the Garrison Artillery in Nairn. During the First World War, he was a decorated soldier, earning several military awards including the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his actions during the Battle of Vimy Ridge, the Military Cross and the Bar to Military Cross.

MacGregor rose quickly through the ranks in the CEF, starting with a promotion to sergeant in 1916, then to lieutenant in 1917, and finally to captain in 1918. He was wounded twice in the line of duty and invalided for a period with influenza; his resilience helped him through the war and served him well in combat. By September 1918, he was assigned to the 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles Battalion in France, fighting as part of Canadian Corps operations to break across the Canal du Nord and capture the roads leading into Cambrai.

A black-and-white photograph of four people standing and looking toward the camera.

Captain John MacGregor, VC, between two unidentified women, with Lieutenant R. Darcus, MC (a006914-v8)

During the Battle of Canal du Nord, MacGregor led the battalion’s “C” Company under intense pressure from the German defences. With the company’s advance hampered by debilitating machine-gun fire, he pushed on and located the enemy guns, despite being wounded during the fight. In broad daylight, he ran forward, armed with a rifle and bayonet, coming under heavy fire from all directions, and single-handedly put the enemy crew out of action. His bravery resulted in the deaths of four German soldiers and eight taken prisoner. MacGregor’s quick thinking and initiative saved his men from danger and allowed the advance to continue.

Afterward, he reorganized his command while facing continued heavy fire, and he offered support to neighbouring troops. As the German lines continued to resist, he defiantly moved along the front lines. Many other officers were wounded or killed in action, so MacGregor took command of platoons, organized waves of soldiers and pushed the advance forward.

During daytime reconnaissance under suppressive fire, MacGregor established his company in Neuville-St.-Remy, which greatly assisted the advance into Tilloy. Throughout the operation across the Canal du Nord and leading toward Cambrai, MacGregor showed strong leadership and bravery in the face of danger.

A black-and-white photograph of a soldier in service dress uniform, squinting in the sun and turned slightly away from the camera.

Captain John MacGregor, VC, date unknown (a007507-v8)

MacGregor survived the remainder of the war and was “struck off strength,” or released from service, in general demobilization on April 9, 1919. He went on to serve in the Second World War, rising to the rank of lieutenant-colonel; he commanded the Canadian Scottish Regiment (Princess Mary’s), a reservist infantry regiment based on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. He died on June 9, 1952, and was buried at Cranberry Lake cemetery in Powell River, British Columbia.

A black-and-white copy of a typed textual record with titles underlined and some text organized into columns.

War Diaries from the 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles Battalion, with McGregor’s name under “C” Company, September 1918, p. 26 (e001126713)

MacGregor’s Victoria Cross and other medals are on display at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.

Library and Archives Canada holds the digitized service file of Captain John MacGregor.

Do you want to experience military life during the First World War?

The War Diaries of the 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles Battalion are open for you to transcribe, tag, translate and describe their contents. Every addition to a record becomes new metadata, searchable within 24 hours, helping Library and Archives Canada’s records become more “discoverable” day after day. Visit the blog article explaining how you can give a hand to history!


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

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.

Tag pictures and give a hand to history!

The images in this blog post are open for tagging! Immerse yourself in the Canadian Expeditionary Force digitized files and transcribe, tag, translate and describe their contents. Every addition to a record becomes new metadata, searchable within 24 hours, helping Library and Archives Canada’s records become more “discoverable” day after day. Read the blog article explaining how you can give a hand to history!


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

Lieutenant Milton Fowler Gregg, 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 Milton Fowler Gregg and his courageous actions during the Battle of Canal du Nord on September 28, 1918.

Born on April 10, 1892, in Mountain Dale, Kings County, New Brunswick, Milton Fowler Gregg was a student before enlisting with the Canadian Expeditionary Force on November 5, 1914. Gregg earned the Military Cross in 1917 and was awarded a bar for the Cross for gallant actions in 1918. A decorated soldier, Gregg was serving as a Lieutenant with the Royal Canadian Regiment (RCR) in September 1918.

A black-and-white photograph of a soldier.

Lieutenant Milton Fowler Gregg, VC, undated (a006811)

From September 28 to September 30, 1918, the RCR was moving with the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division on operations to cross the Canal du Nord, capture Bourlon Wood and Village, and advance to Cambrai, France. With the ultimate objective of opening the road to Cambrai, it was essential for the RCR to advance and gain a foothold. The RCR assault began at 5:40 a.m. and faced little opposition until it was met with heavy machine-gun fire from enemy soldiers positioned in nearby buildings. Three tanks were brought up as reinforcements; however, the persistent machine guns and anti-tank guns put them out of action.

During the Battle of Canal du Nord, Gregg performed heroically, as in previous operations. On September 28, 1918, both flanks of the brigade were held up by heavy enemy fire, pinned down by rapid machine-gun bursts, and trapped by twisted, uncut barbed wire. Crawling forward alone, Gregg eventually found a small gap in the wire. He led his men through the hole and forced his way into the enemy trench.

A black-and-white photograph of large mortars pointing upward, as a soldier leans over one to look down its barrel.

Trench mortar referred to as “minenwerfers” were used by the German armies in the Canal du Nord during the Canadian advance east of Arras, September 1918 (a003200)

A heavy counterattack from German soldiers saw increasing RCR casualties, and dwindling bomb supplies, leaving the brigade vulnerable. Gregg, who had been wounded during his forward push, retreated in order to retrieve additional grenades. He rejoined his party with much-needed supplies but suffered a second wound in the effort. Despite his injuries, he reorganized the men and led them against the enemy trenches. Under his leadership, they cleared the enemy trench and gained a footing in the Marcoing Line.

A black-and-white copy of a page with paragraphs of texts typed in black ink.

War Diaries, Royal Canadian Regiment, describing operations, September 1918, page 28 (e001072260)

As detailed in the London Gazette:

He personally killed or wounded 11 of the enemy and took 25 prisoners, in addition to 12 machine guns captured in this trench. Remaining with his company in spite of wounds, he again on the 30th September led his men in attack until severely wounded. The outstanding valour of this officer saved many casualties and enabled the advance to continue.

London Gazette, no. 31108, January 6, 1919

Gregg survived the remainder of the war, held a variety of political positions, and served overseas during the Second World War. He passed away on March 13, 1978, at the age of 85. His Victoria Cross is on display at the Royal Canadian Regiment Museum in London, Ontario.

Library and Archives Canada holds the digitized service file of Lieutenant Milton Fowler Gregg.

Want to experience life during a time of war?

The War Diaries of the Royal Canadian Regiment are open for you to transcribe, tag, translate and describe their contents. Every addition to a record becomes new metadata, searchable within 24 hours, helping Library and Archives Canada’s records become more “discoverable” day after day. Read the blog article explaining how you can give a hand to history!


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

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.