Montreal-born unsung hero in WW II's Battle of Dunkirk honoured at Lachine Canal

As an unsung hero of the Battle of Dunkirk, the Montreal-born British Royal Navy officer James Campbell Clouston was finally given his due today with a commemoration in his native city for his contributions in the Second World War.

James Campbell Clouston played instrumental role in 'Miracle of Dunkirk' in spring of 1940

The Montreal-born British Royal Navy commander's family was on hand for the ceremony, including his grandson Milo Clouston, left, his son, Moray Clouston, right, and Moray's wife, Maggie Clouston. (Jay Turnbull/CBC)

As an unsung hero of the Battle of Dunkirk, a Montreal-born Canadian commander was finally given his due today with a commemoration in his native city for his contributions during the Second World War.

A new plaque, unveiled by Parks Canada on the Lachine Canal in front of the late British Royal Navy officer's family and friends, pays tribute to the significant role Cmdr. James Campbell Clouston played in the "Miracle of Dunkirk" during the spring of 1940.

"We're so proud of him," said his son Moray Clouston, who was present for the ceremony.

Moray Clouston never met his father, who was killed in action before his son's birth.

"To be here commemorating my father 77 years after his death in the place where Campbell has such deep roots is very moving and humbling."

In May 1940, Allied forces were tasked with rallying all kinds of boats in what became a massive and last-ditch effort to rescue thousands of British and French troops cornered in Dunkirk by German soldiers. Winston Churchill dubbed the rescue a "miracle."

Canadian Cmdr. James Campbell Clouston was born in Montreal. (CBC)

While Clouston's name is never mentioned in Christopher Nolan's hit movie about the Dunkirk evacuations, the McGill University graduate has been hailed as being instrumental in helping save the lives of 338,000 troops trapped by the Germans.

As German forces approached, Clouston worked for six days straight under enemy fire as he oversaw the evacuation of British and other Allied troops from northern France.

Clouston, who joined the Royal Navy after moving to the U.K., died after his ship was attacked and was lost at sea.

'It made you feel like he hadn't wasted his life'

It was also a homecoming for Clouston's family members who made the trip from overseas to be present at the ceremony in the town in which the Canadian commander was born, returned to regularly and adored.

"It made you feel that he hadn't wasted his life," said Moray Clouston.

"He had a good life, an interesting life up to that moment. It's just unfortunate that he didn't survive and carry on."

The tribute to James Campbell Clouston was unveiled on the Lachine Canal. (Jay Turnbull/CBC)

For Michael Zavacky, an amateur war historian, the ceremony is a step forward in commemorating Clouston's integral role in the Dunkirk evacuations and honouring a person who too few people have heard about.

"When I found out that a Canadian, especially one from my hometown, played a key role, I was totally intrigued. I had to find out more about this person, and sadly, there wasn't a lot written about him," said Zavacky. 

He said he is also hoping that Canada Post will commission a stamp in the war hero's honour.

With files from CBC's Jay Turnbull and the Canadian Press