The joint Canadian, British and American operation was known as "Operation Varsity" and was to aid the land troops who had already pushed the Germans back into their own country were the enemy unwisely felt they'd be better protected. The Allies proved them wrong. The operation called for the paratroopers to secure the landing areas for the gliders with all their much needed supplies to hopefully bring the war to an end soon. But the drop was met with a fierce resistance form enemy machine guns and sniper fire resulting in heavy Allied casualties very quickly.
Fred then found work as a hardrock miner with the Wright Hargreaves mine about 400 miles north at a place called Kirkland Lake.
In August of 1942 he left this dangerous job to take on another that had him jumping out of planes. He joined the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion and became a medical orderly and would see service in Canada and the US and then in Britain and Europe.
He might have been one of the soldiers that is in this picture, taken on 24 March 1945 when the thousands of troops jumped into Germany. It appears that the men were drifting off to the left, perhaps eastbound, if you are looking southbound in the picture showing the Rhine River with their landing target off still further to the left. The operation was the largest one day and single location drop in history. An interesting American short clip of the operation can be seen at... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2m_earvE5_0
Still later that day he was en-route back to his lines when he came across a Bren gun carrier that had received a direct hit by German shells and was on fire. An officer standing by thought the men inside were killed and ordered others to stay away from it because, not only was it on fire, he felt it was about to explode due to the ammunition contained inside. But Corporal Topham disregarded his own safety and rushed to the carrier and managed to haul 3 wounded troopers out of the carrier and back to friendly lines. Two of the three survived the battle. This all being done again under heavy fire and with the very real possibility of the carrier blowing up with the Corporal inside during his rescue attempts.
Just over 4 months later the Canadian Gazette would announce that Upham had been awarded the Victoria Cross. The following day the London Gazette carried a similar announcement.
Just a few days after his awarding of the Victoria Cross, the city of Toronto hosted a parade for Topham and in attendance was a guard of Honour, 100 men strong... all members of his unit, the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion. Three months later he would lay the cornerstone for the very well known Sunnybrook Memorial Hospital at Toronto.
Frederick worked for a short period for the Toronto Police, and then moved on to a position with the Toronto Hydro, a job he held until killed in an electrical accident in 1974, while he was only 56 years of age. His widow would later lend his complete medal group to the War Museum at Ottawa but would later become concerned that these were not being put on display. Space issues, insurance, adequate security and other matters often complicate the display of these very valuable keepsakes of Canadian history in museums across the country.
On her death, the estate requirement was for the medals to be retrieved from the museum and sold. Soon a foundation was started by the Queens Own Rifles of Toronto and the Canadian Parachute Battalion Association and others to secure funding to make the purchase. Funds came in from all across Canada and the medals were purchased and presented back to the War Museum on the condition that they must be either on display... or on loan to a bonafide museum somewhere else in Canada on the condition that they also had to have them ON DISPLAY.
So here they are on display!
There are several markers and plaques around Toronto that help to keep the story of this hero alive. There is even a small community in the city named after him and a street so named, just one street away from that for another VC man, Colonel Cecil Merritt, a distant relative of mine.
In the same parachute drop in Germany were obviously thousands of Americans. Two of them were later awarded with the Medal of Honor.
Cpl Frederick George Topham died on 31 May 1974. 39 years ago today.