Author Archives: Ryan Paul

Cpl Léo Major

Corporal Léo Major DCM was a French Canadian soldier in the Régiment de la Chaudière in World War II. He was one of only three Canadian soldiers to be awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal and the only Canadian to have been awarded a bar to his DCM. Major was the only person whose DCMs were awarded in two different wars (World War II and Korea)

On the night of 13 April 1945, Major single-handedly liberated the city of Zwolle in the Netherlands from German army occupation. This action earned him his first Distinguished Conduct Medal. He received his second DCM during the Korean War for leading the capture of a key hill.

The Allied landings in France

During a reconnaissance mission on D-Day, Major captured a German armoured vehicle (a Hanomag) by himself. The vehicle contained German communication equipment and secret German Army codes.

Days later, during his first encounter with an SS patrol, he killed four soldiers; however, one of them managed to ignite a phosphorus grenade. After the resulting explosion, Major lost one eye. He refused to be evacuated.

He continued his service as a scout and a sniper by insisting that he needed only one eye to sight his weapon. According to him, he “looked like a pirate.”

The Netherlands summer 1944

Battle of the Scheldt

Major single-handedly captured 93 German soldiers during The Battle of the Scheldt in Zeeland in the southern Netherlands. During a reconnaissance, whilst alone, he spotted two German soldiers walking along a dike. As it was raining and cold, Major said to himself, “I am frozen and wet because of you so you will pay.” He captured the first German and attempted to use him as bait so he could capture the other. The second attempted to use his gun, but Major quickly killed him. He went on to capture their commanding officer and forced him to surrender. The German garrison surrendered themselves after three more were shot dead by Major. In a nearby village, SS troops who witnessed German soldiers being escorted by a Canadian soldier shot at their own soldiers, injuring a few and killing seven. Major disregarded the enemy fire and kept escorting his prisoners to the Canadian front line. Major then ordered a passing Canadian tank to fire on the SS troops.

He marched back to camp with nearly a hundred prisoners. Thus, he was chosen to receive a DCM. He declined the invitation to be decorated, however, because according to him General Montgomery (who was giving the award) was “incompetent” and in no position to be giving out medals.

The first Distinguished Conduct Medal

In February 1945, Major was helping a padre load corpses from a destroyed Tiger Tank into a Bren Carrier. After they finished loading the bodies, the padre and the driver seated themselves in the front whilst Major jumped on the back of the vehicle. The carrier soon struck a land mine. Major claims to have remembered a loud blast followed by his body being thrown into the air and smashing down hard as he landed on his back. He lost consciousness and awoke to two concerned medical officers trying to assess his condition. He simply asked if the padre was okay. They did not answer, but loaded him onto a truck so he could be transported to a field hospital 30 miles (48 km) away, stopping every 15 minutes to inject morphine to relieve the pain in his back.

A doctor at the field hospital informed him that he had broken his back in three places, four ribs, and both ankles.. Again they told Major that the war was over for him. A week went by and Major had the opportunity to flee. He managed to get a ride from a passing jeep that drove him to Nijmegen, a town where he had previously met a family. He stayed with that family for close to a month. He went back to his unit in March 1945.

In the beginning of April, the Régiment de la Chaudière were approaching the city of Zwolle, which presented strong German resistance. The Commanding Officer asked for two volunteers to reconnoitre the German force before the artillery began firing at the city. Major and his friend Willie Arseneault stepped forward to accept the task. In order to keep the city intact, the pair decided to try to capture Zwolle alone, though they were only supposed to reconnoitre the German numbers and attempt contact with the Dutch Resistance.

Around midnight Arseneault was killed by German fire after accidentally giving away the team’s position. Enraged, Major killed two of the Germans, but the rest of the group fled in a vehicle. He decided to continue his mission alone. He entered Zwolle near Sassenport and came upon a staff car. He ambushed and captured the German driver, and then led him to a bar where an officer was taking a drink. Inside he found that they could both speak French (the officer was from Alsace), and Major told him that at 6:00 am Canadian artillery would begin firing at the city, causing numerous casualties among both the German troops and the civilians. As a sign of good faith, he gave the German his gun back.

Major then proceeded to run throughout the city firing his machine gun, throwing grenades and making so much noise that he fooled the Germans into thinking that the Canadian Army was storming the city in earnest. As he was doing this, he would attack and capture German troops. About 10 times during the night he captured groups of 8 to 10 German soldiers, escorted them out of the city and gave them to the French-Canadian troops that were waiting in the vicinity. After transferring his prisoners to the troops, he would return to Zwolle to continue his assault. However, four times during the night he had to force his way into civilian’s houses to get some rest. He eventually located the Gestapo HQ and set the building on fire. Later stumbling upon the SS HQ, he got into a quick but deadly fight with eight ranking Nazi officers: four were killed, and the other half fled. He noticed that two of the SS he just killed were disguised as resistance members. The Zwolle resistance had been (or were going to be) infiltrated by the Nazis.

By 4:30 am, the exhausted Major found out that the Germans had retreated, Zwolle had been liberated, and the Resistance contacted. Walking in the street he met four members of the Dutch Resistance. He informed them that the city was now free of Germans. Major found out later that morning that the Germans had fled to the west of the River IJssel and, perhaps more importantly, that the planned shelling of the city would be called off and his Régiment de la Chaudière could enter the city unopposed. Major then took his dead friend back to the Van Gerner farm until regimental reinforcements could carry him away. He was back at camp by 9:00 am. For his actions, he received the Distinguished Conduct Medal.

The Korean War and his second Distinguished Conduct Medal

Léo Major fought in the Korean War, where he was awarded a bar to his Distinguished Conduct Medal for capturing and holding a key hill (Hill 355).

This position was being controlled by the Third US Infantry Division (around 10,000 men) when the 64th Chinese Army (around 40,000 men) lowered a decisive artillery barrage. Over the course of two days, the Americans were pushed back by elements of the Chinese 190th and 191st Divisions.

They tried to recapture the hill, but without any success, and the Chinese had moved to the nearby Hill 227, practically surrounding the US forces. In order to relieve pressure, LCol J.A. Dextraze, Commanding Officer of the 2nd Battalion Royal 22nd Regiment, brought up an elite scout and sniper team led by Léo Major. Wielding Stenguns, Major and his 18 men silently crept up the hill. At a signal, Major’s men opened fire, panicking the Chinese who were trying to understand why the firing was coming from the center of their troops instead of from the outside. By 12:45 am they had retaken the hill.

However, an hour later two Chinese divisions (the 190th and the 191st, totaling around 14,000 men) counter-attacked. Major was ordered to retreat, but refused and found scant cover for his men. There he held the enemy off throughout the night, though they were so close to him that Major’s own mortar shells were practically raining down on him.

For three days his men held off multiple Chinese counter-assaults until reinforcements arrived. For his actions, Major was awarded the bar to the Distinguished Conduct Medal.

Major died in Longueuil on 12 October 2008 and was buried at the Last Post Fund National Field of Honour in Pointe-Claire, Quebec. He was survived by: Pauline De Croiselle, his wife of 57 years; four children; and five grandchildren.

Pte. James Peter Robertson

Passchendaele, Belgium – November 6, 1917
27th Battalion, Manitoba Regiment

Citation

“For most conspicuous bravery and outstanding devotion to duty in attack. When his platoon was held up by uncut wire and a machine gun causing many casualties, Pte. Robertson dashed to an opening on the flank, rushed the machine gun and, after a desperate struggle with the crew, killed four and then turned the gun on the remainder, who, overcome by the fierceness of his onslaught, were running towards their own lines. His gallant work enabled the platoon to advance. He inflicted many more casualties among the enemy, and then carrying the captured machine gun, he led his platoon to the final objective. He there selected an excellent position and got the gun into action, firing on the retreating enemy who by this time were quite demoralised by the fire brought to bear on them.

During the consolidation Pte. Robertson’s most determined use of the machine gun kept down the fire of the enemy snipers; his courage and his coolness cheered his comrades and inspired them to the finest efforts.

Later, when two of our snipers were badly wounded in front of our trench, he went out and carried one of them in under very severe fire.

He was killed just as he returned with the second man.”

Robertson was born in Pictou County, Nova Scotia on 26 October 1883. As a child Robertson moved with his family first to Springhill, Nova Scotia, then to Medicine Hat, Alberta. He joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force in 1915.

 

Lt. Thomas Orde Lawder Wilkinson

Somme, France – 5 July 1915
The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment

Citation:

For most conspicuous bravery. During an attack, when a party of another unit was retiring without their machine-gun, Lieut. Wilkinson rushed forward, and, with two of his men, got the gun into action, and held up the enemy till they were relieved. Later, when the advance was checked during a bombing attack, he forced his way forward and found four or five men of different units stopped by a solid block of earth, over which the enemy was throwing bombs.

With great pluck and promptness he mounted a machine-gun on the top of the parapet and dispersed the enemy bombers. Subsequently he made two most gallant attempts to bring in a wounded man, but at the second attempt he was shot through the heart just before reaching the man.

Throughout the day he set a magnificent example of courage and self-sacrifice.

Pte John Francis Young

Dury, France – 2 September 1918
‘D’ Company, 87th Bn, Quebec Regiment

Citation

“For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty in attack at Dury-Arras sector on the 2nd September, 1918, when acting as a stretcher-bearer attached to ‘D’ Company of the 87th Bn., Quebec Regiment.

This company in the advance over the ridge suffered heavy casualties from shell and machine-gun fire.

Pte. Young, in spite of the complete absence of cover, without the least hesitation went out, and in the open fire-swept ground dressed the wounded. Having exhausted his stock of dressings, on more than one occasion he returned, under intense fire, to his company headquarters for a further supply. This work he continued for over an hour, displaying throughout the most absolute fearlessness.

To his courageous conduct must be ascribed the saving of the lives of many of his comrades.

Later, when the fire had somewhat slackened, he organised and led stretcher parties to bring in the wounded whom he had dressed.

All through the operations of 2nd, 3rd, and 4th September Pte. Young continued to show the greatest valour and devotion to duty.”

John Francis Young was born in Kidderminster, England on 14 January 1893, and is believed to have come to Canada as a young man. When the First World War began, he enlisted in the 87th Infantry Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force, serving as a stretcher-bearer.

Private Young was awarded the Victoria Cross for his conduct on 2 September 1918 during the fighting for the Drocourt-Quéant Line, near Dury in France. On that day, his company suffered heavy casualties from German shell- and machine gun fire. Young went out to treat the wounded despite the complete absence of any cover. When he ran out of dressings, he went back to his company headquarters for more medical supplies and then returned to his task, all the while under enemy fire. Later, when the German fire had slackened somewhat, Young organized and led stretcher parties to bring in the wounded men he had treated. Private Young’s courage throughout this action resulted in many lives being saved.

Young died in Ste-Agathe, Quebec, on 7 November 1929.

 

Sgt. Raphael Louis Zengel

Amiens, France – 9 August 1918
Canadian Expeditionary Force

Citation:

For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty when protecting the battalion right flank. He was leading his platoon gallantly forward to the attack, but had not gone far when he realised that a gap had occurred on his flank, and than an enemy machine gun was firing at close range into the advancing line. Grasping the situation, he rushed forward some 200 yards ahead of the platoon, tacked the machine-gun emplacement, killed the officer and operator of the gun, and dispersed the crew. By his boldness and prompt action he undoubtedly saved the lives of many of his comrades.Later, when the battalion was held up by very heavy machine-gun fire, he displayed much tactical skill and directed his fire with destructive results. Shortly afterwards he was rendered unconscious for a few minutes by an enemy shell, but on recovering consciousness he at once continued to direct harassing fire on the enemy.

Sjt. Zengel’s work throughout the attack was excellent, and his utter disregard for personal safety, and the confidence he inspired in all ranks, greatly assisted in bringing the attack to a successful end.

Raphael Louis Zengel was born on 11 November 1894 in Faribault, United States. While he was still very young, he and his mother moved from the United States to a homestead in Saskatchewan. Zengel enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) in December 1914. He served overseas with the 5th Infantry Battalion, CEF, taking part in several raids on German trenches. For his role in one of these raids, near Passchendaele in Belgium in 1917, Zengel received the Military Medal.

On 9 August 1918, Sergeant Zengel was leading his platoon forward during the second day of the massive Allied offensive against the German lines around Amiens, in France. When he noticed a gap on the flank of his platoon and an enemy machine gun firing on the advancing Canadians at close range, he quickly decided to deal with the machine gun position himself. Rushing 200 metres ahead of his platoon, Zengel charged the German emplacement, killing two of the machine gun’s crew and compelling the rest to flee. Later that day, when the progress of the 5th Battalion was blocked by heavy machine gun fire, he demonstrated great tactical skill in directing the fire of his platoon to eliminate the enemy resistance. Sergeant Zengel’s courage, leadership and disregard for his own safety inspired his men, and were important factors in enabling the advance to continue. For his conduct on this day, he was awarded the Victoria Cross. Zengel died in Vancouver, British Columbia on 27 February 1977.


William Hall

Lucknow, India  – 16 November 1857
HMS Shannon, Royal Navy

Citation:

When the Indian Mutiny broke out in May 1857, Hall was on HMS Shannon en route to China. She was intercepted and ordered to Calcutta (since renamed Kolkata). A Shannon Brigade was formed of several gunners, sailors, and marines, under Captain William Peel. The ship was towed over 600 miles up the Ganges River to Allahabad. Then the force fought across country to Campbell’s headquarters at Cawnpore and were in time to take part in the Siege of Lucknow.

On 16 November 1857 at Lucknow, India, naval guns were brought up close to the Shah Nujeff mosque, and the gun crews kept up a steady fire in an attempt to breach and clear the walls, while a hail of musket balls and grenades from the mutineers inside the mosque caused heavy casualties. Able Seaman Hall and Lieutenant Thomas James Young, the battery’s commander, were eventually the only survivors, all the rest having been killed or wounded, and between them they loaded and served the last gun. His citation reads:

Lieutenant (now Commander) Young, late Gunnery Officer of Her Majesty’s ship ” Shannon,” and William Hall, “Captain of the Foretop,” of that Vessel, were recommended by the late Captain Peel for the Victoria Cross, for their gallant conduct at a 24-Pounder Gun, brought up to the angle of the Shah Nujeff, at Lucknow, on the 16th of November, 1857.

William Edward Hall was born at Summerville, Nova Scotia, in 1827 as the son of Jacob and Lucy Hall, who had escaped American slave owners in Maryland during the War of 1812 and were brought to freedom in Nova Scotia by the British Royal Navy as part of the Black Refugee movement. The Halls first lived in Summerville, NS where Jacob worked in a shipyard operated by Abraham Cunard until they bought a farm across the Avon River at Horton Bluff.  Hall first worked in shipyards at nearby Hantsport, Nova Scotia, before going to sea at the age of seventeen. He sailed first on merchant ships based out of the Minas Basin including the barque Kent of Kentville, Nova Scotia.

Hall is buried in Hantsport, Nova Scotia where his grave is marked by a monument at the Baptist church. The Royal Canadian Legion in Hantsport is named “The Lucknow Branch” in honour of his Victoria Cross action. Hall’s Victoria Cross was repatriated from Britain in 1967 by the government of Nova Scotia and is on permanent display at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax. Hall is also featured in exhibits at the Halifax Citadel and at the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia.

?Canada Post commemorated William Hall on a stamp, first issued on February 1, 2010 in Hantsport, Nova Scotia and officially launched at the Black Cultural Centre on February 2, 2010.   Hall was designated a Nationally Historic Person by the Canadian Historic Sites and Monuments Board at Hantsport on October 8, 2010 and a new plaque was unveiled in his honour.

Lt. Robert Hampton Gray

Onagawa Wan, Japan – August 9, 1945
Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve

Citation:

For great bravery in leading an attack to within 50 feet of a Japanese destroyer in the face of intense anti-aircraft fire, thereby sinking the destroyer although he was hit and his own aircraft on fire and finally himself killed. He was one of the gallant company of Naval Airmen who, from December 1944, fought and beat the Japanese from Palembang to Tokyo. The actual incident took place in the Onagawa Wan on the 9th of August 1945. Gray was leader of the attack which he pressed home in the face of fire from shore batteries and at least eight warships. With his aircraft in flames he nevertheless obtained at least one direct hit which sank its objective.

Lieut. R.H. Gray, D.S.C., R.C.N.V.R., of Nelson, B.C., flew off the Aircraft Carrier, HMS Formidable on August 9th 1945, to lead an attack on Japanese shipping in Onagawa Wan (Bay) in the Island of Honshu, Mainland of Japan. At Onagawa Bay the fliers found below a number of Japanese ships and dived into attack. Furious fire was opened on the aircraft from army batteries on the ground and from warships in the Bay. Lieut. Gray selected for his target an enemy destroyer. He swept in oblivious of the concentrated fire and made straight for his target. His aircraft was hit and hit again, but he kept on. As he came close to the destroyer his plane caught fire but he pressed to within 50 feet of the Japanese ship and let go his bombs. He scored at least one direct hit, possibly more. The destroyer sank almost immediately. Lieutenant Gray did not return. He had given his life at the very end of his fearless bombing run.

Robert Hampton Gray was born in Trail, British Columbia, on the 2nd of November 1917, the son of a Boer War Veteran. He received his early education in a public school and high school in Nelson, B.C., and then spent a year at the University of Alberta in Edmonton followed by two years at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. In 1940 he was selected as one of 75 candidates for commissions in the Navy. He was one of 13 who qualified as pilots in the Fleet Air Arm. In 1944 he was a lieutenant on board the HMS Formidable. For his brilliant work during the attack on the German battleship Tirpitz in Alten Fjord he was Mentioned-in-Dispatches. In July 1945, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for aiding in the destruction of a destroyer in the Tokyo area and on the 9th of August he won the Victoria Cross as recorded in the citation. Lieutenant Gray has no known grave as neither he nor his plane were ever found, but his name is inscribed on the Sailor’s Memorial in Halifax, Nova Scotia. His Victoria Cross is on loan to the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.

Major David Vivian Currie

St. Lambert-sur-Dives, France – August 18, 1944
The South Alberta Regiment

Citation:

In Normandy on the 18th of August 1944, Major Currie was in command of a small mixed force of Canadian tanks, self-propelled anti-tank guns and infantry which was ordered to cut one of the main escape routes from the Falaise pocket.This force was held up by strong enemy resistance in the village of St. Lambert-sur-Dives, and two tanks were knocked out by 88 mm. guns. Major Currie immediately entered the village alone on foot at last light through the enemy outposts to reconnoiter the German defences and extricate the crews of the disabled tanks, which he succeeded in doing in spite of heavy mortar fire.

Early the following morning, without any previous artillery bombardment, Major Currie personally led an attack on the village in the face of fierce opposition from enemy tanks, guns and infantry, and by noon had succeeded in seizing and consolidating a position half-way inside of the village.

During the next 36 hours the Germans hurled one counter-attack after another against the Canadian force, but so skillfully had Major Currie organized his defensive position that these attacks were repulsed with severe casualties to the enemy after heavy fighting.

At dusk on the 20th August the Germans attempted to mount a final assault on the Canadian positions, but the attacking force was routed before it could even be deployed. Seven enemy tanks, 12 88 mm. guns and 40 vehicles were destroyed, 300 Germans were killed, 500 wounded and 2,100 captured. Major Currie then promptly ordered an attack and completed the capture of the village, thus denying the Chambois-Trun escape route to the remnants of two German Armies cut off in the Falaise pocket.

Throughout three days and nights of fierce fighting, Major Currie’s gallant conduct and contempt for danger set a magnificent example to all ranks of the force under his command.

On one occasion he personally directed the fire of his command tank on to a Tiger tank which had been harassing his position and succeeded in knocking it out. During another attack, while the guns of his command tank were taking on other targets at longer ranges, he used a rifle from the turret to deal with individual snipers who had infiltrated to within 50 yards of his headquarters. The only time reinforcements were able to get through to his force, he himself led the 40 men forward to their positions and explained the importance of their task as part of the defence. When, during the next attack, these new reinforcements withdrew under the intense fire brought down by the enemy, he personally collected them and led them forward into position again, where, inspired by his leadership, they held for the remainder of the battle. His employment of the artillery support, which became available after his original attack went in, was typical of his cool calculation of the risks involved in every situation. At one time, despite the fact that short rounds were falling within fifteen yards of his own tank, he ordered fire from medium artillery to continue because of its devastating effect upon the attacking enemy in his immediate area.

Throughout the operations the casualties to Major Currie’s force were heavy. However, he never considered the possibility of failure or allowed it to enter the minds of his men. In the words of one of his non-commissioned officers, ‘We knew at one stage that it was going to be a fight to the finish but he was so cool about it, it was impossible for us to get excited.’ Since all the officers under his command were either killed or wounded during the action, Major Currie virtually had no respite from his duties and in fact obtained only one hour’s sleep during the entire period. Nevertheless he did not permit his fatigue to become apparent to his troops and throughout the action took every opportunity to visit weapon pits and other defensive posts to talk to his men, to advise them as to the best use of their weapons and to cheer them with words of encouragement. When his force was finally relieved and he was satisfied that the turnover was complete he fell asleep on his feet and collapsed.

There can be no doubt that the success of the attack on and stand against the enemy at St. Lambert-sur-Dives can largely be attributed to this officer’s coolness, inspired leadership and skillful use of the limited weapons at his disposal.

The courage and devotion to duty shown by Major Currie during a prolonged period of heavy fighting were outstanding and had a far-reaching effect on the successful outcome of the battle.

David Vivian Currie was born in Sutherland, Saskatchewan, on the 8th of July 1912. He attended King George Public School, the Central Collegiate and Moose Jaw Technical School where he learned his trade as an automobile mechanic and welder. In 1939 he joined the militia and in January 1940 he enlisted in the regular army with the rank of lieutenant. He was promoted to captain in 1941 and to major in 1944. After the war he spent eight years in Baie Comeau, Quebec, as equipment superintendent of a paper company. In 1953 he moved to Montréal and joined a manufacturing company where he became vice-president. In 1959 Prime Minister John Diefenbaker appointed him Sergeant-at-Arms of the House of Commons. He died in Ottawa on the 24th of June 1986 and is buried in Owen Sound, Ontario.

Pte. Ernest Alvia Smith

Savio River, Italy – October 21-22, 1944
The Seaforth Highlanders of Canada

Citation:

In Italy on the night of 21st-22nd October 1944, a Canadian Infantry Brigade was ordered to establish a bridgehead across the Savio River. The Seaforth Highlanders of Canada were selected as the spearhead of the attack, and in weather most unfavourable to the operation they crossed the river and captured their objective in spite of strong opposition from the enemy.Torrential rain had caused the Savio River to rise six feet in five hours, and as the soft vertical banks made it impossible to bridge the river no tanks or anti-tank guns could be taken across the raging stream to the support of the rifle companies.

As the right forward company was consolidating its objective it was suddenly counter-attacked by a troop of three Mark V Panther tanks supported by two self-propelled guns and about thirty infantry and the situation appeared hopeless.

Under heavy fire from the approaching enemy tanks, Private Smith, showing great initiative and inspiring leadership, led his P.I.A.T.(1) Group of two men across an open field to a position from which the P.I.A.T. could best be employed. Leaving one man on the weapon, Private Smith crossed the road with a companion and obtained another P.I.A.T. Almost immediately an enemy tank came down the road firing its machine-guns along the line of the ditches. Private Smith’s comrade was wounded. At a range of thirty feet and having to expose himself to the full view of the enemy, Private Smith fired the P.I.A.T. and hit the tank, putting it out of action. Ten German infantry immediately jumped off the back of the tank and charged him with Schmeissers and grenades. Without hesitation Private Smith moved out on the road and with his Tommy gun at point-blank range, killed four Germans and drove the remainder back. Almost immediately another tank opened fire and more enemy infantry closed in on Smith’s position. Obtaining some abandoned Tommy gun magazines from a ditch, he steadfastly held his position, protecting his comrade and fighting the enemy with his Tommy gun until they finally gave up and withdrew in disorder.

One tank and both self-propelled guns had been destroyed by this time, but yet another tank swept the area with fire from a longer range. Private Smith, still showing utter contempt for enemy fire, helped his wounded friend to cover and obtained medical aid for him behind a nearby building. He then returned to his position beside the road to await the possibility of a further enemy attack.

No further immediate attack developed, and as a result the battalion was able to consolidate the bridgehead position so vital to the success of the whole operation, which led to the capture of San Giorgio Di Cesena and a further advance to the Ronco River.

Thus, by the dogged determination, outstanding devotion to duty and superb gallantry of this private soldier, his comrades were so inspired that the bridgehead was held firm against all enemy attacks, pending the arrival of tanks and anti-tank guns some hours later.

Ernest Alvia Smith was born in New Westminster, British Columbia, on the 3rd of May 1914. He was educated at the Herbert Spencer Elementary School and the T.J. Trapp Technical High School. Before enlisting in the army he engaged in contracting work. He enlisted in the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada and served with that unit until the 13th of April 1945. For some time following demobilization Ernest “Smokey” Smith worked in a photographic studio in New Westminster. In 1951 he re-enlisted in the Permanent Force retiring in 1964 with the rank of sergeant as a member of the Tri-Service Recruiting Unit in Vancouver and served as a sergeant at Headquarters of the British Columbia Army Command in Vancouver. Ernest “Smokey” Smith was appointed a member of the Order of Canada in November 1995.

On August 3, 2005, Ernest Alvia “Smokey” Smith, died peacefully at his home in Vancouver, British Columbia, surrounded by family and friends at the age of 91. Many thousands paid their respects when he lay in state in Parliament Hill in Ottawa and at his military funeral in Vancouver. His ashes were committed to the sea on August 15, 2005, as a fulfilment of one of his last wishes.