Leonard Joseph (Birch) Birchall, CM, O Ont, air force pilot, war hero, educator (born 6 July 1915 in St. Catharines, ON; died 10 September 2004 in Kingston, ON). During the Second World War, Birchall became known as the “Saviour of Ceylon” for alerting Allied forces of an approaching Japanese fleet. Captured after sending his message, he is also renowned for the courage and leadership he displayed while a prisoner of war.
Richard Pierpoint (also Pawpine, Parepoint; Captain Pierpoint, Captain Dick; Black Dick), loyalist, soldier, community leader, storyteller (born c. 1744 in Bondu [now Senegal]; died c. 1838, near present-day Fergus, ON). Pierpoint was an early leader in Canada’s Black community. Taken from West Africa as a teenager and sold into slavery, Pierpoint regained his freedom during the American Revolution. He settled in Niagara, Upper Canada, and attempted to live communally with other Black Canadians. In the War of 1812, he petitioned for an all-Black unit to fight for the British and fought with the Coloured Corps.
William George (Billy) Barker, VC, fighter pilot, war hero, businessman (born 3 November 1894 in Dauphin, MB; died 12 March, 1930 in Ottawa, ON). One of Canada’s foremost First World War flying aces, Barker is, to date, the most highly decorated military serviceman in Canadian history.
William Avery (Billy) Bishop Jr., VC, CB, DSO & Bar, MC, DFC, ED, First World War flying ace, author (born 8 February 1894 in Owen Sound, ON; died 11 September 1956 in Palm Beach, Florida). Billy Bishop was Canada’s top flying ace of the First World War, and was officially credited with 72 victories. During the Second World War, he played an important role in recruiting for the Royal Canadian Air Force and in promoting the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan.
Buckam Singh, labourer, soldier (born 5 December 1893 in Mahilpur, Punjab, India; died 27 August 1919 in Kitchener, ON). There is little information published about the role of Sikhs in Canadian military service during the First World War. The discovery of Buckam Singh’s Victory Medal led to his reclamation by his community, which commemorates him with an annual Remembrance Day service
Thomas (Tommy) Ricketts, soldier, pharmacist, Victoria Cross recipient (born 15 April 1901 in Middle Arm, White Bay, NL; died 10 February 1967 in St. John’s). During the First World War, Private Tommy Ricketts was the youngest soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross (VC), the highest award for bravery among troops of the British Empire.
Canada is a country so vast that too often, it seems, its history is lost inside its geography. A striking example is the history of Indigenous peoples, whose long, rich narrative is well-preserved by them, but seldom gets the same attention on a broader scale — even when their stories affect us all.
Joseph Georges Gilles Claude Lamontagne, O.C., O.Q., air force officer, businessman, mayor of Québec City and lieutenant-governor of Québec (born 17 April 1919 in Montréal, Québec; died 14 June 2016 in Québec City). Gilles Lamontagne was a veteran who was taken prisoner during the Second World War and who went on to have a long and successful political career at both the municipal and federal levels. Mayor of Québec City for some twelve years, Lamontagne contributed to modernizing the city’s infrastructure and governance. The former lieutenant-governor of Québec is also known for his civic engagement, especially with respect to military families.
Christopher Vokes, soldier (born in Armagh, Ireland, 13 April 1904; died in Toronto, ON, 27 March 1985). A tough-minded Second World War general, Vokes commanded Canadian army divisions in the Italian campaign and during the push through northern Germany at the end of the war. He was one of the few Canadian generals to emerge from the war with a reputation as a skilled operational commander.
Filip Konowal, Ukrainian immigrant, Great War soldier, Victoria Cross recipient for valour at the Battle for Hill 70, patron of Branch #360 of The Royal Canadian Legion in Toronto, Parliament Hill janitor (born 25 March 1887 in Kutkiw, Ukraine; died 3 June 1959 in Ottawa, Ontario).
Sir Samuel Hughes, teacher, journalist, soldier, politician (born at Darlington, Canada W 8 Jan 1853; died at Lindsay, Ont 24 Aug 1921). A Conservative and an enthusiastic supporter of Sir John A. Macdonald's National Policy, Sam Hughes was elected to Parliament for Victoria North in 1892.
Frederick William Hall, soldier, musician, clerk, Victoria Cross recipient (born 21 February, 1885 in Kilkenny, Ireland; died 24 April, 1915 near Ypres, Belgium). During the First World War, Sergeant-Major Fred Hall was the first of three soldiers, all from the same street in Winnipeg, to be awarded the Victoria Cross (VC), the highest award for bravery among troops of the British Empire. The three VCs earned by the men of Pine Street — later named Valour Road — was a feat unmatched in any other part of the Empire.
Robert Shankland, soldier, accountant, Victoria Cross recipient (born 10 October 1887 in Ayr, Scotland; died 20 January 1968 in Vancouver, BC). During the First World War, Lieutenant Robert Shankland was one of three soldiers, all from the same street in Winnipeg, to be awarded the Victoria Cross (VC), the highest award for bravery among troops of the British Empire. The three VCs earned by the men of Pine Street — later named Valour Road — was a feat unmatched in any other part of the Empire.
Lionel B. (Leo) Clarke, soldier, railroad surveyor, Victoria Cross recipient (born 1 December 1892 in Waterdown, ON; died 19 October 1916 in France). During the First World War, Corporal Leo Clarke was one of three Canadian soldiers, all from the same street in Winnipeg, to be awarded the Victoria Cross (VC), the highest award for bravery among troops of the British Empire. The three VCs earned by the men of Pine Street — later named "Valour Road" — was a feat unmatched in any other part of the Empire.
Morris (Moishe) Abraham Cohen, "Two Gun," China hand and Soldier of Fortune (b at London, Eng 3 Aug 1889; d at Salford, Eng 11 Sept 1970). An unruly youth, Cohen was sent to Canada to a farm in Saskatchewan, where he learned how to handle horses, guns and cards. He moved to Edmonton in 1912, where his skills as a gambler and as a real-estate promoter earned him a small fortune.
Arthur Herbert Lindesay Richardson, policeman, soldier, Victoria Cross recipient (b at Southport, Eng 1872; d at Liverpool, Eng 15 Dec 1932). Richardson served in the NWMP 1894 to 1907. In 1900 he was given leave to fight in the S African War in a Canadian regiment, Lord Strathcona's Horse.
"For most conspicuous bravery or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy." Such dry words to describe the courage and daring ascribed to the Victoria Cross (VC), the Commonwealth's highest decoration for bravery.