Today is a day dedicated to the memory of all those who have selflessly served our country over the years. Our veterans deserve our endless respect and thanks for all they have given us. On this day, we look back on those who helped shape our country for the better. While the names of those who served bravely are too many to name, here are just a handful of great Canadians we remember.
Pte. James Peter Robertson
Pte. Robertson and his platoon were pinned down by machine gun while fighting in Passchendaele during World War I. With no way of escape and taking casualties, Pte. Robertson rushed the artillery, overpowering the enemy crew and turning the machine gun on the remaining German soldiers. His brave act allowed his platoon to advance. In a further display of his courage, Pte. Robertson rushed to the front of the trench to rescue two wounded comrades. After pulling one of the men to safety, Pte. Robertson died when he went back for the second man.
Sergeant Robert Spall
Like many brave men, Spall lived a quiet life before volunteering when World War I broke out. In October 1918, Spall and his platoon were pinned down in their trench as the enemy advanced on them rapidly. If they stayed, they would certainly be defeated, so Spall took up a machine gun, climbed out into the open and fired on the enemy. The surprising attack but the Germans on the defensive, stopping their advance. Spall returned to the trench and instructed his platoon to make their escape, then took up another machine gun and returned to give his men cover. While he died in the assault, his actions saved his platoon.
Known as the “Queen of the Hurricanes”, MacGill has the distinction of being the world’s first female aircraft designer. Overseeing a 4,500 person workforce, MacGill turned out four Hurricane aircrafts a week which helped the allies win the war.
The tales of Major sound like something out of an over-the-top action film rather than the heroics of a real man, but that’s the reality of it. While fighting in the Netherlands at the Battle of the Scheldt, Major managed to single-handedly capture 93 German solider while he was alone on patrol. That’s not even his most impressive act. In April 1945, Major and another officer were doing reconnaissance on a town called Zwolle which was held by the Germans. His comrade was killed in the process and an enraged Major entered the town alone. He captured a German officer and told him that the Canadian forces would be bombarding the town with artillery shortly and their only option was surrender. He then stalked around the town firing wildly and tossing grenades, convincing the Germans they really were under attack. They surrendered Zwolle to Major.
In 1961, while stationed in France, Clarke was assigned along with several other men to secure a nearby trench and allow his battalion to advance. Clarke and the other men quickly found themselves surrounded and outnumbered by German, and eventually Clarke was only man left standing. Armed with a pistol and whatever else he could find, Clarke fought off 22 Germans by himself. Sadly, a month later Clarke was paralyzed when an explosion caused the trench he was in to cave in. He died a week later.
Prince is one of the most highly decorated First Nations soldiers and a veteran of World War II and the Korean War. During WWII he distinguished himself with several instances of unbelievable bravery. When a communication line was down and needed repair, he disguised himself as a farmer and fixed the line with German soldiers nearby. He also was a part of a mission to walk behind enemy lines and captured 1,000 soldiers. Tragically he fell on hard times after returning home and died in 1977.
At the outset of WWI in 1914, Margaret MacDonald became matron-in-chief of the Canadian Army Medical Corps and became the first woman to receive a Major’s rank. It was her job to marshal and train civilian nurses, overseeing 2,845 Canadian nursing sisters by the end of the war. They cared for soldiers beyond the fighting into the 1920s.
Many Canadians grew up knowing Billy Bishop was a true Canadian hero. An Ace flyboy, Bishop was Canada’s most successful fighter pilot in the First World War. He’s been credited with 72 victories, the most notable being a flight into enemy territory to attack a German aerodrome. He is said to have brought down three enemy planes and flew under four more before returning to base. For his great service he was awarded the Victoria Cross.