New Display Unveiled at the Canadian War Museum
Photo credit: Canadian War Museum, CWM2019-0029-0002-Dm
With origins that trace back to the 1800s, the Canadian War Museum has presented us with several stories and artifacts from wars of the past. Recently, some new artifacts have been unveiled to the public: the medals of all six men who received the Victoria Cross for their actions during the Battle of Hill 70.
Private Harry Brown, Lieutenant Robert Hill Hanna, Sergeant Frederick Hobson, Sergeant Filip Konowal, Acting Major Okill Massey Learmonth and Private Michael James O’Rourke all received the V.C (or Victoria Cross), which is the British Commonwealth’s highest military honour for bravery in battle, and was created by Queen Victoria in 1856 for demonstrating uncommon valour at the Battle of Hill 70. Only 73 of these medals were awarded during the First World War, and only 99 have ever been award to Canadians.
Fought in northern France between August 15 and 25, 1917, the Battle of Hill 70 marked the first major action by the Canadian Corps under a Canadian commander — in this case, Lieutenant-General Sir Arthur Currie. By capturing the high ground of Hill 70 overlooking the German-occupied town of Lens, the Canadians forced dug-in defenders to leave their prepared trenches. The defenders were subsequently cut down in the open, suffering horrendous losses. But victory came at a high cost: more than 9,000 Canadians were killed, missing in action or wounded.
“The capture of Hill 70 was one of the hardest-fought victories for Canada during the First World War. We are proud to commemorate that victory by giving these medals a special place at the War Museum,” said Mark O’Neill, President and CEO of the Canadian War Museum and the Canadian Museum of History. “Together, these medals tell a story of extraordinary collective achievement, through six Canadians of different ranks and backgrounds who showed great courage and leadership when it counted most.”
Private Brown, Sergeant Hobson, Sergeant Konowal, and Lieutenant Hanna’s medal sets are held by the Canadian War Museum; whereas Acting Major Learmonth’s were generously loaned from the Governor General’s Foot Guards Regimental Museum, and the official replica of Private O’Rourke’s is on loan from the British Columbia Regiment Museum Society. Thanks to these loans, the public may view all six sets together in the Museum’s Royal Canadian Legion of Honour.
For more information, or to plan your next visit to the museum, visit http://www.warmuseum.ca/