Vokes, Christopher

Christopher Vokes, Chris, soldier (b at Armagh, Ire 13 Apr 1904; d at Toronto 27 Mar 1985). He was one of the few Canadian generals to emerge from WWII with a high reputation as an operational commander. Son of a British soldier, Vokes attended schools in Kingston, Ont, graduated from Royal Military College in 1925 and McGill (BSc) in 1927, joined the Royal Canadian Engineers, completed staff college in England in 1935 and, when war came, rose rapidly in command and staff appointments.

Vokes led the 2nd Canadian Infantry Brigade in the Sicily campaign in 1943 and took over 1st Canadian Division in November to lead it through the brutal house-to-house fighting at ORTONA and north to the Hitler Line. In Nov 1944, he was switched to command 4th Canadian Armoured Division and commanded it during the bitter Hochwald Forest battle and into Germany. At war's end, Vokes commanded the Canadian Army Occupation Force. In that role, he commuted the death sentence passed on Kurt Meyer, an SS general, by Canada's only WAR CRIMES trial.

In the postwar years, Vokes commanded the army's Central Command and then Western Command before retiring to Oakville, Ont, in 1959. While judged by Gen Montgomery as no better than "a good plain cook" as a tactician, Vokes was a tough, hard-driving divisional commander who met the tough objectives set for his 1st Division. No intellectual, he was one of the ablest products of Canada's tiny pre-1939 army. Command, Vokes insisted, "is often not what you do but the way you do it."