WINNIPEG – The Manitoba Museum is commemorating the start of World War I with a display featuring the three Victoria Crosses awarded to three men who lived on one street in Winnipeg.
Cpl. Leo Beaumaurice Clarke, Sgt.-Major Frederick William Hall and Lt. Robert Shankland were separately given the Victoria Cross for acts of valour during World War I, which Canada entered when Britain declared war on Germany on Aug. 4, 1914.
The three men all lived on Pine Street in Winnipeg. The West End street was renamed Valour Road to honour them.
Their medals are now the property of the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, which has loaned the items to the Manitoba Museum. This is the first time all three medals have appeared together in Winnipeg.
“This story is one of ordinary Canadians responding to the call of duty, going overseas to serve their country. These three distinguished themselves in extraordinary ways. It’s appropriate they would be brought together and brought back to Winnipeg,” Tony Glen of the Canadian War Museum said about the exhibit.
Clarke won the Victoria Cross “for most conspicuous bravery” after his battalion attacked a German trench line in front of the town of Pozieres, France.
He led a party that entered the trench and forced its way toward the centre of the German position. Heavy casualties left him fighting a German counterattack without any support. He suffered a bayonet wound but continued to fight alone, killing five of the enemy and capturing another after he was wounded, his citation says.
Clarke survived the attack that earned the medal, but was killed a month later on Oct. 5, 1916, at age 23, when a blast from a shell buried him in a trench.
Hall was awarded the Victoria Cross for giving up his life to save a wounded comrade on April 24, 1915, during the Second Battle of Ypres in Belgium.
Hall, who was 30 when he died, and two other soldiers tried to reach a wounded man who was calling for help about 15 metres from their trench. The two other soldiers were wounded and they retreated, but Hall made a second attempt and was killed as he lifted the wounded man.
Shankland, the only one of the Boys of Valour Road to survive the war, earned the Victoria Cross at Passchendaele, Belgium, on Oct. 26, 1917.
Shankland, who rose to the rank of lieutenant after enlisting as a private, rallied the remnants of his own platoon and men from other companies during fighting for one of the main lines of defence before Passchendaele. They inflicted heavy casualties upon the Germans and later dispersed a counterattack.
“His courage and splendid example inspired all ranks and coupled with his great gallantry and skill undoubtedly saved a very critical situation,” his citation says.
The men’s original Victoria Crosses will be on display at the Manitoba Museum until Nov. 14.
Clarke and Hall and links to more information about them can be found on the map below. Because it lists the addresses of next of kin, Hall is listed at 260 Young St., the address of Mrs. M. Hall.
Shankland is not on the map because it only includes those who died during the war. Read more about him on the Canadian Forces website.Winnipeg’s First World War dead »
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