Hope you will join me then.
Canadian Medal of
I have been off in several interesting directions of late, but I shall return on Sunday.
Hope you will join me then.
The past two blogs have brought you some of the history of the Victoria, Oak Bay and Saanich communities in a joint effort to create a lasting memorial honouring about 600 men and women from the area who lost their lives in the Great War.
In doing the research into this subject I have turned to many individuals and resources, one of these being the Daily Colonist newspapers of the day. On looking at these and so many others over the years, I have become fascinated with not only the story being researched but other events of the day I stumble upon. This applied equally to our Shelboure Street memorial.
Back in 1921 you could get six newspapers a week of about 20 pages daily. Over 500 pages for the month for a whopping $1.00.
Here's one of the gem's from 1921...
Another news clip of this October 2nd event (97 yrs ago Tuesday next) tells us that an official ceremony commemorating the Memorial Road would be conducted near the south end of Mount Doug on Shelbourne, The Honorable Lt Governor Walter C Nicoll was to plant a tree and others probably did so as well, including BC's Premiere John Oliver.
Apparently they were going to be using explosive charges in order to open up the ground, but cancelled the plan when they realized with some 5,000 spectators, its was far too dangerous to do this.
But what really caught my eye was the initials... GAUV. The Grand Army United Veterans. So similar in name to the famous US veterans national group..the GAR, the Grand Army of the Republic, which formed just after the US Civil War. GAR had several branches in central and eastern Canada, and it almost sounds like they may have been in BC, in some form or another. (yet more to research).
Union General John Logan became the first Commander in Chief of the GAR in the US back in 1868 and in very short order created a directive that all veterans SHALL seek out the graves of other veterans who had passed and decorate their graves, He chose a day that most would be in bloom across the US, that being the 30th of May. The holiday became known as Decoration Day, but it would morph in what is now Memorial Day in the US and celebrated on the last Monday of May each year. His story has appeared here several times.
Getting back again to the newspaper searches here in Victoria, another item jumped out regarding memorials and the 1921 ceremony in particular.
On today's date, back in 1921 the public were told of the coming home of the remains of a US soldier who could not be identified, but was known to be KIA in France.
On November 11th 1921 dignitaries from around the free world traveled to Washington DC, and Arlington National Cemetery to pay their own country's respects for the fallen comrade. Most brought along and awarded to the deceased their own country's highest of bravery medals that were of course joined by the US's Medal of Honor.
Britain presented the Victoria Cross. Canada's Prime Minister attended and with him were two Canadian Victoria Cross recipients, one of them being the oldest recipient then alive in the world.
Today the tomb is joined by other Unknowns from several war fronts and lay beside their comrade at Arlington. This is probably the most famous of all memorials on US soil.
Back in Victoria, yesterday about 1,000 friends and neighbours, veterans, dignitaries and serving members of the militia, the cadets, various bands and the RCN gathered to either participate in or witness the short but most dignified ceremony to unveil one of the new Memorial Avenue signs, an interpretation sign, and to officially learn that the project is well on its way to reaching goals sought so many years ago. Goals that have been allowed to slip by for far too long.
Here we see the memorial to the three tree plantings in 1922 and its location at the above intersection and at the base of a Londonplane tree. It was probably in this very spot where the premiere and Honorable Lt Governor planted at least one or more trees in 1921 . And in 1922 The Governor General and 2 other generals also planted trees. One of these being General Joffre who commanded all French troops in the Western Front area during the war.
Yesterday's ceremony took place several houses north of the white car on the tight in this image. One must wonder how many of those attending realized that yesterday they walked in the very footsteps of these great forefathers, while gathered to honor our dead.
Many, if not all of the new Memorial Avenue signs have been installed along both sides of Shelbourne now. At least one set of interpretative signs has also been installed already. it is at the very intersection where the General's plaques are found.
Here is the interpretive sign, with the one side giving some of the details about the program, while on the other is a map of the area showing Memorial Avenue in a red line running southbound from Mount Doug Park.
Looking closely at the image on the left, you can see a Londonplane tree. At its base, though not shown in the image, is the Generals' plague.
Here we see the Naden band, and below is the Canadian Scottish with other pipers.
Here we see the Air force cadets and below the CFB Esquimalt's Base Commander and Base Chief
Here we see Saanich Councillor Haynes standing in the dark suit. Three chairs to his right sits Mr. Nuttall and his wife, standing in the white Jacket. They lost their son during the Afghanistan war. A re-enactor looks on and chats with them.
Saanich Councillor Susan Brice is at the podium as MC, but unfortunately just of the picture to the left. I apologize but do not have the name of the representative from the First Nations who gave prayers in her native tongue and English. Member of Parliament Murray Rankin sits at her left and to his left sits Green Party leader Andrew Weaver, MLA, 2nd from end is Saanich Mayor Richard Attwell and to his left site the honourable Janet Austin BC's recently appointed Lt Governor.
Each brought words of wisdom, a reminder that we sit or stand on the lands of the First Nations, and how we must continue to preserve the memories of those who gave their all so that we could live in peace,
The Lt. Governor and others first unveiled the sample new Memorial Avenue road signs, as shown above and then an example of the Interpretive signs was also unveiled.
As we stood in stillness for the playing of the Last Post, I could not help but notice almost the perfect silence. There were a few rattling of chairs and a few babies crying, but they seemed to be off in the distance. But then the earey silence was broken by the ruffling of leaves being blown about in the airt and on the ground before us.
It was if the fallen were reaching out to us and thanking us for remembering them.
What more can I say !
This was indeed a community effort, but I feel much of its success rests on the shoulders of Ray Travers and his group for taking on this challenge and for the community to be so willing to play their roles to see it to this stage of fruition. There is more to be done but I will save that for another day.
In the mean time Ray's goal was to have a dignified service in remembrance of the fallen, to get the street up and running again and to again inject some life back into the stories of these community heroes. I'd say his efforts resulting in a resounding success.
Well done Sir.
See you next week.
Last week in this space I brought you the first part of the story of Saanich's Memorial Avenue. With shagrin, it had quickly become known as Shelbourne Street even though almost since it's opening was clearly proclaimed Memorial Avenue.
Back in 1918 the greater Victoria area consisted of the city of Victoria, the districts of Saanich and Oak Bay and the township of Esquimalt. Today there are 13 neighborhoods within the greater Victoria area. And back in 1918 the total population was about 50,000,
During the Great War about 600 of these metro men and women lost their lives in battle in order that we could live in peace back home.
The earlier blog told of the first authorizing of the road in 1918, (the first of its kind in Canada,) and its opening in 1921 with the first ever tree planting on the Memorial Avenue of a London Planetree that year. Three most prominent generals would also pay their highest of respect to the fallen with 3 more plantings on different dates the following year. In 1976 a plaque in site was erected on site honouring the generals, who in turn were honouring the deceased.
Here is that plaque, sometimes called the Generals' plaque.
The original plans called for about 800 trees along both sides of Shelbourne. With each there was to be a small iron fence circling the base of the tree and within, a small plaque bearing the name of a deceased soldier, sailor etc. But over the years the plaques got stolen. Only 2 were apparently still in place in the 1960's. A third had been saved after it was found in a ditch by students if the St Michael's school. It was given to the Head Master whom handed it over to the folks at Saanich archives.
Some of the trees died after being poorly maintained while hundred fell way of the buzz saw for road expansion. There is a wonderful story about school children that planted five new trees not far from the San Juan crossing and yet another where Gordon Head students...10 year olds.. took up a petition in 1969 pleading with Saanich to stop cutting these trees down... and Reeve Hugh Curtiss did.
Now it is time to introduce someone else... He's more than 7 times the age of the Gordon Head students but he is so proud of what they and so many others have done to rally around his efforts to develop short term and long term plans for the Memorial Avenue Committee. As Chair Ray has created an Action Plan known as the Street of Unfinished Dreams program of this committee known as the Street of Unfinished Dreams. This of course being the renewal of pledges to get the proper trees, back in place, and a plan in place to ensure proper maintenance in the years to come.
And Ray knows something about tree maintenance. He has worked around trees since the early 1969's and holds credentials as a retired Registered Professional Forester.
Ray is also a walking encyclopedia of the Canadian Great War battlefields of the Western Front. He is also a well talented researcher in genealogy. It is thru these that I met Ray several years ago. I quickly learned that when he spoke regarding any of these topics , it was wisest to simply pay close attention and learn from a master. Thus, l have been able to learn from his experience in all three areas.
On asking about his WW l interest he tells me that he lost both grandfathers in battles in the Western Front. But like many things in life it takes time to pick the roads you travel. Over the past few decades those roads led to the battlefields Canadians would last draw the breath of life. His two grandfathers included.
Over the past five years if not more, Ray has honed in on the Memorial Avenue project, has gathered the support of many groups and individuals, laid out plans of what to do, when and how and started making the rounds to dozens of organizations and meeting after meeting. I was lucky enough to travel with him on a handful of these and was so impressed to see and hear his presentations of what should have been done, what needs to be done and what after actions are necessary to bring life back into the Shelbourne area of Saanich and Victoria.
As a direct result of his efforts, Saanich has tweaked his ideas and both have come to agreement of the breathing of life back in to the Memorial Avenue.
Ray's committee and Saanich's have combined efforts to come up with a wonderful image or symbol to be mounted at about 30 cross roads along Shelbourne Street that identifies it as also Memorial Avenue. The folks in the area do not have ro worry as the Shelbourne name will continue to be used, but signage will include both names.
The folks at the Royal Canadian Legion are quite protective of the use of the poppy... which they own... but have approved of its use for the street signs. One appears to the left and right of the Londonplane Leaf in the centre, the red signifying the horrific loss of blood on the battlefields, though off colour with the actual yellowish of the Londonplane leaf, and to be used along the street. Ray and Saanich are quite thankful for the Legion's approval of the project.
It is hoped that these signs will be mounted along the Shelbourne corridor before month's end.
Part of the action plan is to also install interpretive signs at several locations along the route. These will explain various stages of the Memorial Avenue over the years and of course many of the battles Canadians lost their lives in during the war.
Below are the 4 signs....
Some of the writing for these signs was I believe done by a Western Front Association, Pacific Branch fellow member Allan Macleod. He is also on Ray's committee. Over several years Alan traveled across the country to document the soldiers memorialized in bronze or stone, and those who made the statues in a book called Remembered in Bronze or Stone.
The Interpretive panels are also expected to be mounted before month's end.,. and at several locations along the route. Saanich tells me that financial backing for part of the program has come from the good folks who do such great work at Heritage BC. ( https://heritagebc.ca/ )
Next Saturday, September 29, a formal ceremony will take place near Mount Doug park to officially unveil the road signs and interpretation panels. Here is the formal poster...
Ray Travers tells me that he wants the ceremony of Saturday to be dignified in the presence of the Honourable Lt Governor Janet Austin. He adds that the service must also be a noble tribute to the great human costs of the Great War including the preservation of the freedom of the Canada we know today, and why we live here.
Please try to get out on Saturday, and when there find Ray and shake his hand. He has earned it !
Last week's blog brought you information about many of our service men and women and other's who have spent years volunteering for a wide range of causes. I led into that with the observation that the very men and women mostly written about in this space were themselves volunteers who came forth when the call came to help preserve their way of life, to protect their country from attacks within and without.
This week again I wish to start by recognizing the men and women all along the Eastern seaboard of the US who are doing the herculean task of trying to protect their families, neighbours and their communities where possible from the deadly results of the hurricane, at its worse in many places as I write.
It was also only a week ago that men and women all around the world remembered the devastating costs of lost lives during the 911 attacks, and how the US and in fact the global society is still suffering from that catastrophe and at war since.
Here in Victoria BC we shared the grief with those around the world. We all are also preparing to give the proper honours due our forefathers and mothers, other family members and communities across the world that will soon find themselves in thoughts of the horrors they faced during the Great War that came to an end a century ago.
A war that once again called for the most... for volunteers... in the uniforms of the nurses, soldiers and sailors, airmen, coast guard and marines, the police and other emergency services back home or on the front line.
As the war progressed, back home the communities across the country were faced with dealing with the high costs of suffering the disabilities and the death that all wars bring. Soon families would be creating memorials to their lost loved ones that would add up to the thousands and more.
In England the communities and patriotic societies came to the concept of having something in addition to the tomb stone or the unit or town's statute at city hall and other public places. Thoughts turned to something living..., that would grow and give life to the community rather than the cold face of a grave marker.
There the International Congress of Women were discussing something they called the Roads to Remembrance. These called for the planting of grand trees that would grow to great heights and last for centuries and bring life, and blooms galore to those that passed under them. These being properly placed, would line both sides of the street and stretch for miles of pleasant walking or driving and hopefully be identified as tokens of thanks for those who gave their all for their hometowns. The very roads would be long and straight and symbolize the long roads the soldiers traveled in France. And the abundance of life shown by the trees as they aged would be a sign of life over death, rather than the usual cold grave stone or monument.
One of the Congress members was a friend of a Major by the name of Arthur Haggard who just happened to be the founder of Britain's Veterans Association, and a member of a committee set up on the very topic of these sorts of memorials.
Soon the concept was shared to many parts of the world. One of these was to Major Haggard's sister... the Baroness d'Anethan... who was living in a place called Victoria British Columbia. Da!
The Baroness (above) no doubt had many a discussion with patriotic organizations in Victoria and may have played a role in a smaller sized Road of Remembrance. The High School on Vinning Street planted 14 trees on the April 1917 anniversary of the famous battle at Ypres after 14 of their students and teachers were killed in action.
On Nov, 18 of the following year the Victoria city Mayor announced that a road would be made running in a straight line running northbound from Bay Street to Mount Doug Park. Discussions were apparently held on trees being planted on both sides of the street in honour of the dead soldiers etc, for the whole length and that it would be called Memorial Avenue. One of the strong proponents at the time was well respected businessman Thomas Walker.
For those not familiar with the City of Victoria BC, here is a map showing a portion of the Municipality of Saanich. It border several portions of the City, and shown here is a portion of Saanich The heavy line being what was supposed to be called memorial Avenue, but ended up being called Shelbourne Street, for unknown reasons.
The road continues to the south into the city of Victoria. About a dozen of the blocks adjacent to the map shown would have also been part of memorial Avenue.
On October 2 1921 The Honourable Lt. Governor of BC performed a memorial ceremony at Shelbourne/Memorial Avenue near Mount Doug and planted the first tree in honor of WWl soldiers who gave their lives in battle. The news clipping are most difficult to read but indicate that drivers were available to run the military and others out in time for the mid afternoon event.
The following month the road was officially opened with another ceremony. Here's what the press had to say about the event...
Premier Oliver also attended and witnessed The Honorable Walter Nichol , our Lt. Governor as he planted the first of what was to be about 800 trees along Memorial Avenue.
General Joffre of France, the Chief of France's General Staff during the war was in Victoria in 1922 and also planted a tree near Mount Doug. Here are a few clippings, one showing that earlier in the day he unveiled a plaque in Township of Esquimalt in honour of several of their lost men in battle.
Those with a sharp eye will recognize the name of General Joffre. He has been mentioned several times in these blogs, including at least once in presenting a Canadian nurse a medal.
As you can see from above, our Governor General, Lord Byng was also here in Victoria in the Fall of 1922 and also planted a tree in honour of our Great War dead. As was General Currie, but I have yet to locate articles on his visit.
In 1976 a small plaque detailing the above 3 visits and tree planting was mounted along Shelbourne Road at the corner of San Juan.
I suspect hundreds, if not thousands pass by it every day and do not even know it is there. If you are one of these folks, please take the time to visit it and pay your respects.
The monument is at the back of the circle and between the two signs.
One of the original London Plane Trees, now almost 100 years old, stands just behind the monument.
Here is a close up of that tree, complete with a wonderful kind thought of remembrance by some unknown passer bye.
Next week I will bring you some very exciting news about this Memorial Avenue. Please don't miss it. And further, keep from 10.30 till noon free on Saturday September 29th.
I'll tell you why next Sunday.
See you then,
The last two weeks have allowed me to get caught up with some health issues and plenty of needed rest.
While bringing you a blog once a week does not seem like a lot of work, often it takes days of digging and sorting and frustration before something can be put into a story that I feel I want to share with you.
Some over the years have been better than others. But I keep pushing on. The efforts I have chosen to spend so much time on, bring family stories together, help to put new pieces of the puzzle in place and often identify new missing pieces. But all the efforts are exerted to bring back the voices of heroes that have long since faded. Putting more life into them helps us to not only preserve our history and heritage, but also helps us remember who we are, where we have come from, and where we are going.
The stories told in this place are, for the most part, about volunteers who came forward to answer the call at a time of need. Volunteering for the most part possibly, that led to shaping their own lives and that of their place of birth, or in many a case, place they chose to serve and perhaps later reside.
Separated from family for months, or years saw the men... and women in many a case, coming home with the unheard of PTSD, or life long injuries and disease, lost limbs and often the loss of life.
Volunteering can start at an early age.. the selling of freshie in your front yard, or the delivering of the morning paper when the neighbour paperboy..or girl.. is sick in bed. As you grow older the more serous causes come to light and all still cry out for volunteerism.
Statistics Canada tells us that in 2010 alone, over 13.3 MILLION Canadians aged over 15, did volunteer work of one sort or another. That amounted to an equivalent of 2 BILLION hrs worked. And that would total just over 1.1 Million full time jobs.
And some times, while not expecting it, you get a nice thank you or pat on the back.
Back in April 1996 our RIght Honourable Governor General Romeo LeBlanc decided that one of his goals as the Commander in Chief was to reach out and thank the volunteers. He wanted to formally encourage those who had, and in many cases were continuing to give so much of their lives to volunteer, without compensation. And to do so to make their country a better place to live, work, raise their families and help to make their country a better place for all.
He pioneered the creation of what became known as the Caring Canadian Award. This program allowed anyone in Canada or beyond, to nominate anyone else in Canada, or beyond, whom the nominator believed was deserving of recognition for their tireless, extensive and far reaching efforts without any compensation, to improve the lot of others in Canada.
Plans called for the presentation of an award lapel pin, as shown above, a certificate and letter personally signed by the Governor General. If possible the presentation would include all the possible pomp and ceremony, and take place at Ottawa. Plans also allowed for Lt. Governor's or other high officials to present the award when trips to the capital were not possible.
Nominations came in from all across the country and from those a committee selected 116 recipients in that first year. (14 of these came to BC residents.) Each received the above shown lapel pin, the letter and certificate in impressive ceremonies at Ottawa and across the country.
Here we see Governor General LeBlanc presenting a certificate to one of the very fortunate, and no doubt well deserving volunteers.
The lapel pin above is in the colours of blue and gold, the same that appear of the Vice Regal flag. Thus, the connection is shown between the award and the Governor General of Canada.
The maple leaf symbolizes the people of Canada and their spirit. The heart depicts the open heartedness of the volunteer. The outstretched hand portrays the boundless generosity. The helping hand supports the maple leaf.
Over the years hundreds of men and women, and even youth, (one I found only 13 years of age,) were honoured with the presentation of the Caring Canadian Award.
In 2015 the then Governor General, the Right Honorable David Johnston received permission from HRH Queen Elizabeth ll to upgrade the Caring Canadian Award. His announcement in July advised that in keeping with the earlier award, it was being upgraded to an actual medal. It would join the list of the country's official medals and would also be awarded retroactively to all holders of the Caring Canadian Award.
On 12 April 2016, the first ever awarding of the new medal took place at Ottawa. Fifty five very proud Canadian men and women stood at Rideau Hall and had their medals presented by the Governor General in person.
While the medal is part of the official list of honours, it should be noted that this medal, called the Sovereign Medal for Volunteers, is the ONLY medal for volunteerism awarded by the Governor General of Canada.
Here we see the actual medal of honor with suspension ribbon. To the right is the medal's reverse. The ribbon's red honours Royalty while the blue and gold honours the Governor General. The five gold stripes represent the fingers of the hand used in the original Caring Canadian Award.
The front of the silver medal, which is made by the Canadian Mint, has a current image of the sovereign and the inscription of the Canadian Royal Title and the word "Canada" separated by two maple leafs.
The reverse reflects the ideas of caring and generosity and is represented by the two interlaced hearts. The sunburst pattern along the medal's rim reflect the time the volunteer gives and the actions they have performed.
In the fall of that first year of the new medal, I was advised that as a result of then about 17 years of research regarding the Canadian recipients of the Medal of Honor, I had been nominated for, and selected as one of the recipients of this most attractive and prestigious medal.
In Jan 2017 I had the incredible privilege to attend a most formal ceremony at Government House here in Victoria BC with 30 other recipients, as shown above.
After the introductions each new recipient was invited to the platform met with and shook hands with our Lt Governor of the time, Mrs Judith Guichon, had our pictures taken individually with the LG and listened as a brief description of our volunteer efforts were read out to our fellow inductees and a room full of honoured guests and family members.
This followed with a wonderful reception and the above photo being taken. I am standing in row two at the centre and behind our former Lt. Governor. Don't confuse me with the other guy with all the hair.
Each recipient was given a package with several items inside. This presentation folder contained a personal letter the Governor General wrote me, thanking me for my work, and also the formal certificate regarding the medal presented.
And here is the letter and certificate above mentioned.
The actual medal was pined on my chest, but above is its storage box. At right is an image from the net containing a medal. Also note the small silver lapel pin with the same facing as the reverse of the actual medal, and described above.
Over the years there have been thousands of Caring Canadian Awards and later the Sovereign Medal for Volunteers awarded. From my calculations I believe that a total of 589 of these came to British Columbia volunteers. About 82 came to the greater Victoria area.
And of the 589, about 214 were the Sovereign's Medal for Volunteers.
Three days ago our new Lt. Governor presided over another ceremony at Government House here in Victoria. At that time another 41 recipients received their medals in front of a packed room of dignitaries, family and friends.
You can see this live at... http://video.web.gov.bc.ca/gh/live/
You can see the list of recipients and their citations at...
A number of these recipients were either in or connected to the Canadian Forces or the legion or both.
I wish to congratulate all recipients, but in particular the military men and women listed below...
Having read all of this blog, you must know someone, in fact many people who have for years, if not decades gone out of their way to help with many a cause. While they have not sought compensation, why not reach out and give them a pat on the back by nominating them for one of these most impressive medals. (If you are in the US... research similar awards and start to nominate these unsung heroes.)
In Canada, Here's how... go the the Governor General's website...
And for the curious who want to see who has one of these or a dozen other federal medals you can search this out by going to... https://www.gg.ca/honours.aspx
That's enough for tonight. See you next week.
Reoccurring health issues require me to step back from the blogs for a few weeks. I will endeavor to return on Sunday Sept. 9TH.
Sorry for the short notice!
Last week I revisited a story brought to you during the 1st of 5 years and more in this space, I began with a Texas born youth nicknamed "Red." A name so earned because of his flaming red hair. (Future events would almost see him being totally engulfed in flames.)
Red was not a great scholar, attended many schools but his marks represented poor performance. Joining the labour market he also moved about and even managed to get some basic flying lessons. But an industrial accident saw him break his neck, and thoughts of flying for a living being shelved.
After his neck healed, and the world now in its 27th month of WWII, Red tried to sign up with the US military and fly planes. But all the services refused him, ruling that poor schooling and a broken neck rendered him a 4F candidate... unfit for services. So he came to Canada, applied and was accepted into the Royal Canadian Air Force in December 1941.
He would later say that no one asked him if he ever broke his neck before and he must have failed to mention it. hehe.
Red would take flight training in Saskatchewan and Ontario with thousands of others, many having also come up from the US. Neck problems behind him, he would soon be wearing Sgt's stripes and en-route to England in the Canadian Air Force uniform where he and others would be attached to the RAF and soon on B17 bombing runs with 3 different squadrons. He would fly at last a dozen combat missions with the RAF and having been promoted to Flight Officer, 8 months later he would be a 2nd Lt.
In March 1943 Red finally reached one of his goals. To be in US uniform. His current experiences were no doubt quite welcomed and that month he was enlisted with the US Army Air Force.
Less than 4 months later, his name would be recorded in the history books of US heroes forever!
While some sources have different dates, by a few days, it was on July 26th that about 1000 war planes made a daring flight over Germany in daylight. In part of a ruse, a few dozen where to veer off and head directly to Hanover and destroy rail yards and other targets. The raid was said to be the first daylight run so far into the enemy territory.
At the given time a few dozen planes veered off the remainder and went for their target. Soon they came under very heavy attack. Being in the front and center of the battle, Red's plane took numerous hits.
An enemy shell took out the windshield. A 30 Caliber cannon bullet scrapped inside the cockpit and crushed part of the pilot's scull. He was semi unconscious but used considerable strength to hold onto the controls as the plane was venturing of course. If such continued it would be on its own and a sitting duck for the enemy.
The breathing apparatus in rear was knocked out and most of the crew became unconscious. The communications systems were destroyed. And the overhead gunner had fallen into the cockpit, with his arm blown off and a terrible wound to his side.
Red had to deal with all of this by himself for the most part. His primary focus was on the crew safety and the fallen gunner. He managed to get him into a parachute and tossed from the plane knowing that the Germans respected the enemy air force and would treat the man. (They did and he lived.)
Meanwhile Red steered the plane with one hand and fought for the pilot's release of the controls... the pilot in a delirious condition even started punching Red not realizing that he was trying to keep it within the formation and also even continuing on the bomb run.
As the plane got lower some of the crew awakened and assisted Red, The mission carried on and all... including the plane made it back to British territory after at least two hours of flying under above conditions on the way there and another two returning to base. Sadly the pilot soon died.
There is a wonderful very short newsreel video of the era about John (RED) Carey Morgan, the hero of this story. It is at... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uXL2dnJykYI and I'd encourage you to have a look at it and share it with others.
Red was presented with a Medal of Honor for his July deed on 18 December 1945 at London by US Lt. General FC Eaker, commander, 8th Air Force.
Lt John Carey Morgan is at right in above picture as the general places the Medal of Honor around his neck. The lower image was taken about that time but appear to be before the medal ceremony in Dec., 1943.
John Carey Morgan had eared a Distinguished Flying Cross just about a week before the above event for actions over France. Both events probably were in the mind of General Eaker when he ordered Morgan to go on no further missions. But Morgan had other ideas as he felt that when the enemy flies, so shall he.
He went on several other missions and confused a pilot to step aside as he bluffed his way on yet another mission in March of 1944. But this would be his last mission. He was shot down over Germany on 6 March 1944. Actually blown out of the cockpit while sitting on his parachute. Managing to grab it on the way out, he incredibly fastened it to his chest straps as he dived towards the earth. Papers of the day claimed his miraculous dive probably set records as it was between 20,000 and 25,000 foot drop with the chute only opening within 500 feet and seconds before thundering in to the earth below.
One must wonder who was more surprised that he lived. He or those who captured him within seconds and took him to his new home... Stalag 1 at Barth Germany were he would remain till war's end some 14 months later.
Red may well be the only America 4f rejected candidate that would go from a declined bid to serve, would rise in rank from Pte to Lt. Colonel, serve in three nation's Air Forces, fly some 26 combat missions, be a POW for about 14 months, earn both the DFC and MOH, serve also in Korea, serve in the office of the US Air Force Deputy Assistant Secretary and have three wives... but that's another story...
Today he lays at rest with over 365 other Medal of Honor recipients at the nation's famous Arlington cemetery. One stop you should not miss while in the DC area.
Hope to see you next week, feel free to bring along your friends,
After finding his troops fully surrounded by the enemy, "Chesty" proclaimed that THE ENEMY "can't get away from us now!"
Chesty of course was none other than Lt. Col Lewis Puller, commanding officer of the marine battalion at Guadalcanal in 1942. They held their own, facing a force overpowering them some 29 to 1. And when finally driven back into the ocean, they were rescued by the US Coastguard, headed by British Columbia born Douglas Munro and others.
Munro was killed in the action and posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. This was the only MOH award to a serving member of the Coast Guard in its history. Another MOH went to a member but it was after CG service and then with the Army, as noted on this site in the past. Search ... the snake... at this site for details.
Munro's heroism was recognized by Puller, a later Lt. General and the most decorated marine in US Marine Corps history.
Puller and Munro and so many thousands of others have their names carved in stone. Part of each of their stories is the fact that when everything possible went wrong... they went right ... and pushed on, regardless of the obstacles to overcome.
Read their stories and pass them on to those who too, will come across roadblocks to their own success. Roadblocks that chipped up, make wonderful smaller stepping stones to make a new path around the obstacles sent to challenge us.
Search this site for the stories of James Allen, who lost his parents before the age of 5... but kept going and going and going like the rabbit in the commercial and having a Medal of Honor pinned to his chest. Search this site for the numerous mentions to Rowland Bourke, who lost an eye and none of the military services in Canada or the US would allow him to sign up for war service. But he kept going until Britain issued him a uniform. The very one His Royal Highness would later pin a Victoria Cross onto.
These are just two of well over 100 stories, in over 450 blogs, that have reminded every reader of our own duty to ... "Ask not what your county can do for you, but what you can do for your country."
Then there is the story of "Red." He volunteered to serve but was rebuffed. But even they were to find that it is never too late to correct a wrong.
Born and bred in Texas, Red attended a military school and several colleges there and in New Mexico but schooling was not his thing. Poor marks saw him bounce around. He took up flying and had an industrial accident that saw him break his neck, but recovered. He would even try his hand in Fiji on a pineapple plantation as a supervisor but by the late 1930's he was back in Texas where he became a married man destined to settle down... not. It would only last a few years, in the midst of which he tried to join up with the US air services but was declined. His record of schooling and a bad neck no doubt put a halt on that front.
Like thousands before him during the Great War, and throughout WWll Red turned his efforts northbound and headed for Canada. Like his countrymen of earlier days, he applied for, and was accepted into the RCAF. Training in several parts of the country soon saw him wearing Sgt's stripes and shipped off to England and attached to the Royal Air Force where he would fight in at least 12 missions, but still in Canadian uniform.
John Gillespie McGee was not only the poet who wrote this poem, he was also a hands on pilot. Born in China to an American father and British mother, he would take the same steps from the US to Canada to join the Air Force prior to America's official joining of the war.
McGee actually also flew with Red. But his time in the RAF lasted only 10 weeks. While in his 19th year of age, he and another youth pilot were killed when their two planes crashed in a mid-air accident over England.
In March 1943 Red finally saw his goal come to life. The US not only entered the war, but now, due to the training that Red had received, allowed him to transfer over to the US and its Army Air Force. Along with the paper work came a promotion to Flight Officer.
I will share more about his heroism next Sunday.
Last Sunday's blog, moved to Wednesday, brought notice regarding the status of the Thomas Kersey and Alonzo Wyman stories.
I had also hoped to also use that column to remind of the July connections to a horrendous Civil War battle. One that so upset Civil War General and later President U.S. Grant, that he would later describe it to have being the ''the saddest affair I have witnessed in this war."
The 2003 blockbuster movie about Cold Mountain and staring Jude Law, Nicole Kidman and Renee Zellweger tells in part, the story of the Battle of the Crater. Those reading this blog since its earliest days will hopefully recall the story and of a Canadian connection to this battle.
By using the search engine at upper right, several blogs about this can be found. Searches under... Crater... and... Robert Fulton Dodd will give you links to them.
Robert should not be confused with MOH recipient Edward Edwin Dodds (plural) said to be Ontario born, but in fact from England, but lived for the most part in Ontario. His bravery was recognized for actions at yet another July 1864 battle, at Ashby's Gap Virginia.
In the months before July of 1864, with the war dragging on and on, the Union troops in the Petersburg campaign found themselves at the doorsteps to Richmond, headquarters of the Confederate Army.
Only some 100 miles from DC, Richmond was well protected and all knew that it's fall would lead to the very quick end to the war. But the taking of Petersburg meant charging across open land that would cost thousands of casualties for the Northerners.
One Union officer, a commander of a regiment of miners suggested that rather than go in the attack over open ground, why not go underground? Dig a tunnel to the point directly below the surface where the Southerners had mounted their left right and center guns. Then blow the gun powder.
Most thought it to be a ridiculous idea and lent little in the way of support but the go ahead was given probably more in order to "keep busy" while another plan might be hatched.
But the miners pushed forward and dug out a tunnel some 500 feet long and about 50 feet below the surface.
Then about 8000 pounds of powder, some in piles upwards of 20ft. were lit by fuses. Or so they thought. Something went wrong and the bravest of the bravest had to go in and relight them.
The above sketch shows the Union lines in Blue and the Confederate in red. The tunnel began to the right of the Union line, crossed open no man's land and ended at the base ...beyond the Confederate lines and at base of the big guns, but 50 feet underground.
The lower sketch going from the opposite view, has the tunnel starting at left and probably quite some distance off to the left...of the sketch..and ending at right, again below the Confederate guns.
While the tunnel was being dug orders had been given and passed on regarding what troops would advance and what their duties were to be. Practice after practice was carried on while the tunnel was worked. They it came time to light the fuse. Someone was sent it to do this dangerous job. It failed and in a second time a soldier was sent on an even more dangerous task. This time it took.
The blast could he heard miles away and men, cannons horses and earthwork were flown dozens of feet in the air. When the dust settled, pardon the pun, a crater large enough to hold a house was left. It measured 130 ft long, 6 feet wide and 30 deep.
The explosion was a success but the battle a failure. Just before the fuse was lit orders came down to change the plan of attack. While all had been practicing day and night for the event, and given orders on what to do and when, at the last minute all changed. Having volunteered, a black regiment was anxious at having the chance to be first in, and new exactly what to do. Among others things was that they were to go AROUND and NOT INTO the crater.
But politics kicked in at the last minute. If there were a slaughter of the blacks, politics would destroy those in charge. So the blacks were held back. The whites when in first... with no idea of what to do or when.They poured into the crater and then push came to shove as others were also moved forward... INTO the crater.
What those at the back of the line could not know was that within the crater the soldiers were trapped and could not get out. The sides were very unstable and it was like trying to crawl out of a barrel of corn. The explosion also had unearthed some damp material that made attempts to climb out even more impossible.. It was like sinking sand.
And the Confederates, after about 20 minutes of shock came to, and realized that they now had a turkey shoot and started firing away. Some claimed no white was to be allowed to live cause he supported the blacks. Others offered hep to the black who would surrender and in the process would himself get slaughtered.
And this was to be ongoing for about 4 hours. The Southerners that day lost about 278 to death or wounds. But the North lost almost 4,000. General Grant would later make the statement ... "The saddest affair I have witnessed in the war."
Among all this horror, Ontario's Robert Fulton Dodd would be awarded a medal of Honor for helping to save some of the wounded from the area around the edge of the crater on 30 July 1864. And that action took place 154 years and a few days ago today.
Tourists are shown here having a look at a portion of the crater after the war.
see you next week,
About 160 July's have come and gone since the medal was created.
Many a battle fought during the month resulted in a later award. One even saw almost 900 medals awarded, and oft noted in this space. Many a recipient was born, or died or had his award officially approved during the month. Many original stories have resulted in anniversary ceremonies of sorts during this month. Be it the discovery of a long lost grave, a correction of dates, names, or unveiling of new markers and more.
Some changes made during the month bring us new and exciting details previously unknown about our past heroes, and, in many a case, an actual relative. Quite a few of these have appeared here in this blog space over the past few years.
Over the past month and more I have tried to bring you news of a ceremony to unveil a new marker for Newfoundland born Thomas Kersey. On 26 July 1876 this US Sailor risked his life while diving into the waters and saving a crew mate from drowning. A date that victim remembered throughout the remainder of his life. (And a date... many a year later, when my mother introduced me to the world for the first time.)
The Kersey grave could not be located for many years but was finally discovered recently, as noted in past blogs. It's condition clearly shows a need for replacement.
A MOH marker ought to be installed and with the appropriate service due the hero, his descendants,fellow Americans and Canadians.
Indications are that a ceremony will be arranged for a formal unveiling of a new marker. I have since reached out to some folks and noting that Canada would be most interested in attending and in fact, since Kersey was a Canadian, actually participating in the ceremony.
Positive feedback has been passed on to Canadian authorities, but delays still seem to preclude the release of any possible dates for this service. I shall keep my eye on the matter and will bring news once it is learned.
Thomas Kersey's Medal of Honor would be like the one shown on the left, that of the Naval service of Civil War days and for a few decades beyond. When newer models were introduced it would be standard to receive the replacement with a request to send back the original. But most refused to send back their first keepsake, so the request was soon dropped. Though none were allowed to wear both medals at the same time. On the right is the army version of the first ever Medals of Honor.
History tells us that 19 men were allowed to wear 2 medals at once. These men were actual double recipients. Should any choose to do serious research, they will find that there were at least 21 double recipients. and perhaps more yet to be detected. The two additional double recipients have been profiled in past blogs in this space.
In 1896 a new ribbon was introduced for the army Medal of Honor. It is shown above with also the addition of a Bow Knot, or pin that could be worn on less formal occasions by the veteran MOH recipient.
One of the reasons for its introduction was to help to better show a difference between the Medal of Honor and the badge of membership adopted in earlier years by the ever so influential Grand Army of the Republic. Both looked so much alike that many could not tell one from the other and demands resulted in a change of some sort.
I believe this model should have been the version that was awarded in the late 1890's to Civil War Major General Sickles, whom I hope you have read a little in recent blogs here.
In the recent blogs I told of the two newspaper accounts claiming that an Ontario man, Alonzo Wyman, (above in 1913) serving in the Civil War was actually awarded a Medal of Honor. The claim was that he was one of the men who saved General Sickles from death and taken to safety.
An enemy cannon ball apparently shattered his leg resulting in an amputation within hours. That was during the famous Gettysburg battles and the day before Pickett's famous Charge. And both being in July 1863.
However all attempts to verify such an award to Wyman have so far provided no evidence of such an award being actually made. Investigations continue on several fronts and if the story sees more light, I will share it with you.
On discussing the matter with the Congressional Medal of Honor folks I am reminded that back in CW days some of the generals and admirals were so proud of their troops that they actually went out and purchased some form of a medal to thank their men for their service.
Could this be the case here? Did he get a MOH that was not in fact a MOH as we know it to be? I am unaware of any recorded lists of these types of medals.
Some even called these...Medals of Honor. But whenever that term is mentioned in this space it refers to THE Medal granted not by individual officers...but by the President after being approved at the highest of authorities... the Congress.
More on this on Sunday...