Valour Road Victoria Crosses united in Winnipeg for 1st time
Three First World War medals with a special Winnipeg connection are in the city and on display together for the first time ever.
The Victoria Cross, the highest military honour in the British Empire, was awarded nearly a century ago to Cpl. Leo Clarke, Sgt-Major Frederick William Hall and Lt. Robert Shankland.
"To have three, essential neighbours, having been awarded the Victoria Cross is extraordinary and it's singular in the world, in fact, that there would be three living on the same street," said Tony Glen, director of collections at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.
Only 96 Victoria Crosses — whose inscription is "For Valour" — were awarded to Canadians in the medal’s 156-year history.
The Canadian War Museum acquired, through auctions, the medals belonging to Shankland and Clarke in 2009 and 2010, respectively. Hall's medal was added in 2012.
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Later that same year, the medals were unveiled for the first time together at the Canadian War Museum.
“It's one thing to read about [the men] in history books but this is more like seeing a piece of them, you know, and it's like ‘ there they are, there's those guys, the guys from Pine Street,’" said Maj. Paddy Douglass, the deputy commanding officer with the Winnipeg Infantry Tactical Group, who is thrilled the medals are together in Winnipeg on the war's 100th anniversary.
"It's just a piece of Manitoba history.”
Their medals, each moulded from the metal of captured Russian cannons, will be on display in the foyer of Alloway Hall at the Manitoba Museum starting Aug. 6 and will be there until Nov. 14, to coincide with Remembrance Week.
Only one survived the war
Hall was honoured for refusing to leave three of his wounded comrades behind at the Second Battle of Ypres in 1915. He rescued two of them, but was killed by enemy fire while trying to drag a third to safety.
Clarke fought his way out of the trenches on the Somme Front in September 1916, killing or capturing 18 German soldiers and two officers. He was killed by enemy shell fire almost two months later.
In October 1917, Shankland's platoon came under heavy enemy fire in the Battle of Passchendaele. He managed to reach battalion headquarters and return with reinforcements and a plan for a counter-attack. His story was featured in the Canadian film Passchendaele, and his portrait hangs in the Canadian War Museum.
Shankland was the only one of the Winnipeg trio to survive the war.
The Victoria Cross was presented posthumously to the parents of Hall and Clarke.