Canadians at Passchendaele.

Passchendaele Ridge was little more than a wrinkle in the flatness of the Salient but it commanded the important railway center at Roulers. Capture of the Ridge offered some advantage since the Germans had been ordered to hold the position at all costs, and failure would damage their moral.

Canadian preparations for the opening attack went on feverishly, supplies and ammunition poured into the area.  In general, the plans for machine gun employment were similar to those use at Vimy, with a harassing indirect fire, protective barrages and mobile guns.  Sniping sections were added of four guns each, with one to two at each divisional front. Artillery plans, although already proven at Vimy, nevertheless, under went continuous improvement.  Currie was determined to provide massive support for his infantry and to destroy the fire power of the enemy. 

The offensive was planned in four stages.  The first, October 26, 27 and 28, 1917 met with limited success.  Approximately 2,500 casualties had been sustained and eight Canadians had  been taken prisoner.  In the second stage on the 30th the Canadians made gains and consolidated them; the days casualties were 2,300 men and another eight men taken prisoner.  On November 5th the 1st and 2nd Divisions relieved the 3rd and 4th and early in the morning of November 6th the infantry attached again close behind their powerful barrage.

In less than three hours the village of Passchendaele was in Canadian hands, but more than 2,200 men lay dead or wounded.  Four days later the final assault was made on the Ridge itself.  A long day of bitter fighting in heavy rain brought to an end the Third Battle of Ypres.  The village and Hill 52, the highest point on the northern end of the Ridge, were in the possession of the Canadians.

The Canadians had once more keep their promise.  In two weeks of aggressive attacks they took Passchendaele Ridge,  but the cost was high, nearly 16,000 men where killed or wounded in the twenty-eight days that the Corps occupied that front.

The Battle of Passchendaele is remembered for its atrocious conditions, heavy casualties and Canadian velour. The Canadians instrumental in securing this victory earned nine Victoria Crosses for their courage and sacrifice.

Victoria Crosses

Colin Fraser Barron. At the time he won his V.C., Colin Fraser Barron held the rank of corporal.  Barron was born in Baldavie, Scotland, he moved to Toronto in 1910 where he became a railway worker.   Not much is known of his private life as he was something of a recluse.  All that is really known is that between wars he was married and lived in Toronto.  In WWII he re-enlisted with the Royal Regiment of Canada and served in Iceland and Great Britain.  He was discharged with the rank of Lieutenant and became an employee of the Don Street Jail.  

Barron died on August 15, 1958 at the age of sixty-five and was buried in Prospect Cemetery in Toronto.  No trace has ever been found of his Victoria Cross or his service medals, it is presumed that they are in the possession of family members.

Thomas William Holmes.  Was born in Montreal on August 17, 1898 at the age of 5 his family moved to Owen Sound, Ontario and he always considered this as his home.  Holmes enlisted in 1915 in the 147th Canadian Infantry Battalion, later transferring to the 4th Royal Canadian Mounted Rifles. Following his discharge at the rank of sergeant, Holmes moved to Toronto, where for 14 years he worked as a chauffeur with the Toronto Harbour Commission until ill health forced him to retire. 

 Holmes died in Toronto on January 4, 1950 after spending 10 years in hospital.  He was buried in the Owen Sound Cemetery, in 1959 a plaque in his memory was unveiled in Queen's Park, Owen Sound.  His daughter donated his Victoria Cross and service medals to the Owen Sound Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion. 

Cecil John Kinross. Was born in Uxbridge, Middlesex, England, his family emigrated to Alberta and settled on a farm near Lougheed.  In 1915, Kinross enlisted in the 51st Battalion and later transferred to Edmonton's 49th.

Two hours after receiving his V.C from King George V on April 6, 1918, Kinross was arrested by military police while waiting for a train to take him to Scotland and charged with illegally wearing the ribbon.  When he pulled the medal itself from his pocket with his name inscribed on the back, there were red shamed face apologies all around.

In 1929 , he returned to England to attend a reception for the V.C. holders that was hosted by the Prince of Wales.  Again in 1956 he would attend the 100 anniversary of the founding of the Victoria Cross in London. By this time Kincross was a confirmed bachelor, he had given up farming and had moved into a hotel in Lougheed, living on his veteran's pension.  He died in his hotel room on June 21, 1957.

Kincross was buried with full military honours in the Soldiers Plot in Lougheed Cemetery.  In 1951 one of the most spectacular mountains in Jasper National Park was named after him. His Victoria Cross was retained by his sister.

Hugh McKenzie is one of the Canadian Victoria Cross holders that has no known grave.  His name is inscribed on the Menin Gate Memorial at Ypres.  McKenzie was born in Liverpool, England on December 5, 1885.  He was educated in Scotland and there he worked for the railway.  He would move to Canada in 1911 and lived in the Ottawa area, where he married Marjorie McGuigan and had two children, a son and daughter.  In August of 1914 he enlisted in the PPCLI. He was promoted to corporal in the field and later to sergeant that same year.  In August of 1916 he was transferred to the Canadian Machine Gun Corps where his was promoted to the rank of Company Sergeant-Major.  He would be commissioned on January 28, 1917.  

In addition to his V.C., McKenzie also won the Distinguished Conduct Medal as an NCO and then the Croix de Guerre (Fr.).  His Victoria Cross along with his service medals were destroyed when his widow lost her life in a fire in Amherstburg, Ontario in 1959.  His Distinguished Conduct Medal and Croix de Guerre where in the possession of relatives in Scotland.  Through the efforts of the Canadian War Museum the destroyed medals were replaced.  In 1979 his daughter, Mrs Elizabeth McAndrew of Windsor, Ontario, presented the complete set to the national collection.

George Harry Mullin was born in Oregon on August 15, 1892.  In 1894 his family moved to Moosomin, Sask. where they took up farming. Mullin was educated at Mossomin Public School and Moosomin Collegiate.

As a corporal in a scout and sniper squad, Mullin had already won the Military Medal at Vimy Ridge.  By the time of the battle of Passchendaele he had reached the rank of lieutenant.  After the war he returned to farming and joined the Assiniboia Militia, attaining the rank of Major.  In 1934, he was appointed Sergeant-At-Arms for Saskatchewan and moved to Regina.  He served in the Second World War in the Veteran's Guard as a lieutenant for six years.  In June of 1953 he was among those who was representing Saskatchewan at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.  Mullin died in 1963 at the age of eighty, he was laid to rest in the South Cemetery Legion Plot in Moosomin.

Christopher Patrick John O’Kelly was born in Winnipeg on November 18, 1895.  He was the first man to return to Winnipeg wearing the Victoria Cross.  When the war started, O'Kelly was an undergraduate at St. John's College and was still a student when he joined the 144th Battalion in 1916, later being transferred to the 52nd.  At Vimy Ridge O'Kelly was decorated for bravery and awarded the Military Cross.  Just two months after winning the Victoria Cross, O'Kelly was promoted to the rank of Captain.

After the war he would join the Winnipeg Rifles with the rank of Major.  In 1921 O'Kelly and an associate traveled to Lac Seul in Northern Ontario to prospect mining sites.  The pair were last seen in a canoe powered by an outboard motor.  A storm blew up and after it had abated, some equipment from the canoe was washed ashore.  In 1923 the body of O'Kelly's associate was found but O'Kelly's body was never recovered.

George Randolph Pearkes was born in Watford, England on February 26, 1888.  Before coming to Canada he joined the Bedfordshire Regiment as a bugle boy.  He arrived in Red Deer, Alberta in 1911 and worked on a training farm.  In 1913 he joined the Northwest Mounted Police and served in the Yukon.  In 1915 he bought himself out and enlisted as a trooper in the 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles.  While in France he was granted a commission and won rapid promotion to the rank of lieutenant colonel.

At the end of the war Pearkes stayed in the army and in 1922 was made general staff officer of the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario, a post which he held until 1933.  When the Second World War broke out Pearkes was given command of the First Canadian Division, then with the entry of Japan into the conflict he became Commander-in-Chief Pacific Command.

After the end of the Second World War, Pearkes retired from the military and was elected Conservative Member of Parliament for Nanaimo, B.C. In 1957 he was appointed Minister of Defence and in 1960, he became lieutenant-governor of B.C. From 1966 to 1976 Pearkes served as Grand President of the Royal Canadian Legion and at the time of his death on May 30, 1984, at the age of 96, he was vice patron.

Pearkes was accorded a full military and state funeral, the parade was led by 32 Mounties, 100-man units of the PPCLI and a 50 man guard from the Canadian Scottish. At his burial he was given a fifteen gun salute. Pearkes Victoria Cross was donated to the Canadian War Museum in 1994.

James Peter Robertson, was born in Albion Mines, Pictou, N.S. on October 25, 1883. At the age of four his family moved to Springhill, N.S. where he received his early education.  In 1899 the Robertsons moved to Medicine Hat Alberta, where "Singing Pete" joined the Canadian Pacific Railway. It was while he was working for the railway, that he earned his nickname "Singing Pete", as he could be hear day or night singing or whistling cheerfully. 

Early in 1915, he joined the 13th Canadian Mounted Rifles and in England was transferred to the 27th Battalion.  Robertson is buried in Tyne Cote Cemetery in Passchendaele. In April 1918, his mother received his Victoria Cross in a public ceremony in Medicine Hat Alberta from Lieutenant-Governor Robert G. Brett.

Robertson's Victoria Cross was last report in the possession of his sister who lived in Long Beach, California. 

Robert Shankland was born in Ayr Scotland on October 10, 1887.  He emigrated to Canada in 1910 where he worked for the Crescent Creamery Company as a cashier.  In 1914, he enlisted in the 43rd Battalion Cameron Highlanders of Canada as a private.
    When World War II broke out he re-enlisted in the Queens Own Highlander of Canada, the new name for his old regiment, but by this time he was well into his fifties, too old for combat duty.  In December 1940, he was appointed camp commandant of Canadian Army Headquarters in England with the rank of lieutenant-colonel.  

    Robert Shankland died on January 20, 1968 in Shaughnessy Hospital in Vancouver. His V.C was willed to his grandson, by his son David.

    References form: Victoria Cross Heroes by Arthur Bishop
    Amid the Gus Below, by L Worthington