War museum lands Winnipegger's medal
Collection now holds 32 of 94 Canadian Victoria Cross awards
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.
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.