Georges-Philéas Vanier, PC, governor general of Canada 1959-1967, soldier, diplomat, (born 23 April 1888 in Montreal; died 5 March 1967 in Ottawa). Vanier was the first French Canadian to serve as governor general. As a diplomat, he and his wife helped many Europeans displaced by the Second World War. A devout Christian, he urged love and unity amid the emergence of Quebec separatism in the 1960s. In 1988 he was named the most important Canadian in history by Maclean’s magazine.
James Campbell Clouston, naval officer (born 31 August 1900 in Montréal, Québec; died 2 or 3 June 1940 at sea, in the English Channel near Gravelines, France). Born and raised in Montréal, Campbell Clouston joined the British Royal Navy in 1918 and served on ships in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. During the Second World War, Clouston acted as pier master during the Allied evacuation at Dunkirk, overseeing the evacuation of nearly 200,000 servicemen between 27 May and 2 June 1940. He died at sea after his boat was sunk by German aircraft. In September 2017, a commemorative plaque was dedicated to him in Montréal.1
David Vivian Currie, VC, auto mechanic, welder, soldier, House of Commons sergeant-at-arms (born 8 July 1912 in Sutherland, SK; died 24 June 1986 in Ottawa, ON). During the Second World War, Major Currie was the only member of the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps to be awarded the Victoria Cross (VC), the highest award for bravery among troops of the British Empire.
Charles Cecil Ingersoll Merritt, VC, barrister, soldier, Member of Parliament (born 10 November 1908 in Vancouver, BC; died 12 July 2000 in Vancouver). During the Second World War, Lieutenant-Colonel Cec Merritt was the first Canadian to earn the Victoria Cross (VC) in the European theatre, the highest award for bravery among troops of the British Empire.
John Weir Foote, VC, Presbyterian minister, soldier, Member of (Ontario) Provincial Parliament, cabinet minister (born 5 May 1904 in Madoc, ON; died 2 May 1988 in Coburg, ON). During the Second World War, Honorary Captain John Foote was the only Canadian chaplain to be awarded the Victoria Cross (VC), the highest award for bravery among troops of the British Empire.
Richard Pierpoint (also Pawpine, Parepoint; Captain Pierpoint, Captain Dick; Black Dick), loyalist, soldier, community leader, storyteller (born c. 1744 in Bondu [now Senegal]; died c. 1838, near present-day Fergus, ON). Pierpoint was an early leader in Canada’s Black community. Taken from West Africa as a teenager and sold into slavery, Pierpoint regained his freedom during the American Revolution. He settled in Niagara, Upper Canada, and attempted to live communally with other Black Canadians. In the War of 1812, he petitioned for an all-Black unit to fight for the British and fought with the Coloured Corps.
John McCrae, soldier, physician, poet (born 30 November 1872 in Guelph, ON; died 28 January 1918 in Wimereux, France). A noted pathologist and army physician, Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae was also a poet; he wrote “In Flanders Fields” — one of the most famous poems of the First World War.
Charles Cromwell Martin, DCM, MM, farmer, soldier, civil servant, author (born 18 December 1918 in Wales; died 13 October 1997 in Mississauga, ON). During the Second World War, Warrant Officer Class II (WO II) Charlie Martin was awarded both the Distinguished Conduct Medal and Military Medal. Martin’s "Battle Diary" memoirs, first released in 1994, remain among the most vivid portrayals of the lives of ordinary Canadian soldiers in the war.
Hugh Cairns, VC, plumber, soldier (born 4 December 1896 in Ashington, Northumberland, England; died 2 November 1918 in Valenciennes, France). During the First World War, Sergeant Cairns was the last Canadian soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross (VC), the highest award for bravery among troops of the British Empire.
Frederick (Bud) Fisher, VC, student, soldier (born 3 August 1894 in St. Catharines, ON; died 24 April 1915 in St-Julien, Belgium). Lance Corporal Fisher’s act of bravery made him the first Canadian in the First World War to earn a Victoria Cross (VC), the highest award for bravery among troops of the British Empire.
Coulson Norman Mitchell, VC, engineer, soldier (born 11 December 1889 in Winnipeg, MB; died 17 November 1978 in Montréal, QC). During the First World War, Captain Mitchell was the only member of the Canadian engineers to be awarded the Victoria Cross (VC), the highest award for bravery among troops of the British Empire.
Mary Greyeyes Reid, Cree veteran of the Second World War (born 14 November 1920 on the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation reserve, Marcelin, SK; died 31 March 2011 in Vancouver, BC). The first Indigenous woman to join Canada’s armed forces, Mary became a member of the Canadian Women’s Army Corps during the Second World War. The military tried to boost Indigenous recruitment and demonstrate Canada’s military might by posing her in a staged photo that has since been widely circulated in Canada.
Filip Konowal, Ukrainian immigrant, Great War soldier, Victoria Cross recipient for valour at the Battle for Hill 70, patron of Branch #360 of The Royal Canadian Legion in Toronto, Parliament Hill janitor (born 25 March 1887 in Kutkiw, Ukraine; died 3 June 1959 in Ottawa, Ontario).
Charlotte Edith Anderson Monture (often known simply as Edith Monture), Mohawk First World War veteran, registered nurse, (born 10 April 1890 on Six Nations reserve near Brantford, ON; died 3 April 1996 in Ohsweken, ON). Edith was the first Indigenous woman to become a registered nurse in Canada and to gain the right to vote in a Canadian federal election. She was also the first Indigenous woman from Canada to serve in the United States military. Edith broke barriers for Indigenous women in the armed forces and with regards to federal voting rights. A street (Edith Monture Avenue) and park (Edith Monture Park) are named after her in Brantford, Ontario.
Christopher Vokes, soldier (born in Armagh, Ireland, 13 April 1904; died in Toronto, ON, 27 March 1985). A tough-minded Second World War general, Vokes commanded Canadian army divisions in the Italian campaign and during the push through northern Germany at the end of the war. He was one of the few Canadian generals to emerge from the war with a reputation as a skilled operational commander.
Robert Hampton (Hammy) Gray, VC, aviator, student (born 2 November 1917 in Trail, BC; died 9 August 1945 in Onagawa Bay, Honshu, Japan). Following the Second World War, Gray was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross (VC), the highest award for bravery in the British Empire, becoming the last VC recipient of any nation during that war.
John Robert Osborn, VC, soldier, labourer (born 2 January 1899 in Foulden, Norfolk, England; died 19 December 1941 in Hong Kong). During the Second World War, Osborn’s heroic act was the first to earn a Canadian the Victoria Cross (VC), the highest award for bravery among troops of the British Empire.
Alexander Roberts Dunn, VC, army officer (born 15 September 1833 in York, Upper Canada; died 25 January 1868 near Senafe, Abyssinia). During the Crimean War, Lieutenant Dunn was the first Canadian ever to be awarded the Victoria Cross (VC), the highest award for bravery among troops of the British Empire.
Buckam Singh, labourer, soldier (born 5 December 1893 in Mahilpur, Punjab, India; died 27 August 1919 in Kitchener, ON). There is little information published about the role of Sikhs in Canadian military service during the First World War. The discovery of Buckam Singh’s Victory Medal led to his reclamation by his community, which commemorates him with an annual Remembrance Day service
"For most conspicuous bravery or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy." Such dry words to describe the courage and daring ascribed to the Victoria Cross (VC), the Commonwealth's highest decoration for bravery.
Francis “Peggy” Pegahmagabow, Anishnaabe (Ojibwa) chief, Aboriginal rights advocate, war hero (born on 9 March 1889 on the Parry Island reserve, ON; died 5 August 1952 at Parry Island, ON). The most highly decorated Aboriginal person in Canada during the First World War, Pegahmagabow became a vocal advocate for Indigenous rights and self-determination.