Manitoba

War museum lands Winnipegger's medal

The Canadian War Museum has acquired two more Victoria Cross medal sets, calling them acquisitions of "outstanding significance."

Collection now holds 32 of 94 Canadian Victoria Cross awards

The Victoria Cross awarded to Cpl. Lionel B. (Leo) Clarke was one of three given out during the First World War to residents of Winnipeg's Pine Street, later named Valour Road in their honour. ((Department of National Defence) )
The Canadian War Museum has acquired two more Victoria Cross medal sets, calling them acquisitions of "outstanding significance."

One was awarded during the First World War to Cpl. Lionel B. (Leo) Clarke, who single-handedly defeated a force of about 20 attackers while armed only with a pistol.

The other was earned in the Second World War by Lt.-Col. John Keefer Mahony, who played a heroic role in a desperate river crossing in Italy.

The Victoria Cross is Canada's highest award for bravery in the presence of the enemy — the most recent one went posthumously to Corsair pilot Hampton (Hammy) Gray almost 65 years ago.

Clarke's medal is especially notable because it was one of three awarded during the First World War to residents of Winnipeg's Pine Street, later named Valour Road in their honour.

The museum now holds two of the Valour Road three.

Mahony's medal is one of only three awarded to Canadians in the Sicily-Italy campaign of 1943-45, and the first from the campaign acquired by the museum.

"These medal sets will help the museum document the country's role in both world wars and keep alive the remarkable legacy of Canada's veterans," said Mark O'Neill, the museum's director general.

"They will help us convey to a new generation what their forebears endured and achieved in the fight against tyranny."

Clarke single-handedly captured attackers

Clarke was serving on the Somme in 1916 as a volunteer member of a bombing platoon — soldiers who used hand grenades to clear enemy trenches.

Lt.-Col. John Keefer Mahony led his troops across the Melfa River in Italy under heavy artillery fire to secure a bridgehead. ((Department of National Defence) )
On Sept. 9, a small group led by Clarke captured a section of enemy trench, but all his comrades were killed or wounded.

Clarke was trying to build a barricade when about 20 enemy soldiers counter-attacked.

Armed only with his pistol and despite a bayonet wound to his leg, he killed or captured all of his attackers.

He was killed two months later and his medal was  presented posthumously.

Mahony led troops under heavy fire

Mahony, of New Westminster, B.C., was a major when he earned his VC on May 24, 1944.

He led his company under heavy machine-gun and artillery fire to seize a vital bridgehead over the Melfa River.

When a group of his soldiers was pinned down by enemy fire, Mahony crawled to the rescue with smoke grenades and led them to safety.

He was wounded in the head and twice in the leg during the battle, but refused evacuation or medical treatment until reinforcements arrived.

Mahony died in London, Ont., in 1990.

The museum now holds 32 of the 94 VCs awarded to Canadians since the medal was established in 1856.

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