Unique trio of Victoria Cross medals on display

November 27, 2012

The extraordinary trio of Victoria Cross medals that inspired the name of Winnipeg’s Valour Road have been united and placed on public display together —for the first time ever—by the Canadian War Museum. The awards were earned during the First World War by three men from the same block of a residential street, a coincidence unique in the world.

Since 1856, the Victoria Cross has been the highest award for gallantry in the presence of the enemy in Britain and much of the Commonwealth, including Canada. About 1,300 medals have been awarded in total, but the coincidence of having three of the medals awarded to residents of a single street is unique.

The Valour Road Victoria Cross medals were awardedto Company Sergeant-Major Frederick William Hall, Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Shankland and Corporal Lionel B. Clarke. The men were different ages, served in different military units and were recognized for heroism in different battles, but all hailed from the 700 block of Winnipeg’s Pine Street. Whether they knew each other before the war is unknown. After the war, about 200 residents of Pine Street signed a petition asking Winnipeg City Council to rename their street Valour Road in the men’s honour. Council did so on July 13, 1925. 

The War Museum acquired the medals from the men’s families between 2009 and 2012. The medals are now featured in The Royal Canadian Legion Hall of Honour, the gallery in which the Museum explores how Canadians have remembered and commemorated their military past.

Company Sergeant-Major Frederick Hall was awarded a Victoria Cross posthumously after he died attempting to rescue a wounded companion during the Second Battle of Ypres in 1915. Corporal Lionel B. (“Leo”) Clarke earned his medal in 1916 for single-handedly defeating a group of about 20 enemy soldiers in a trench at the Somme front. He died six weeks later after being mortally wounded by enemy shellfire. Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Shankland was awarded the Victoria Cross for his leadership and courage during the Battle of Passchendaele in October 1917.

Lieutenant-Colonel Shankland was the only one of the three recipients to survive the war. He also served in the Second World War. Although too old for combat duty—he turned 52 in1939—Shankland was appointed in 1940 as camp commandant of the Canadian Army Headquarters in England. He died in 1968.

Trio of Victoria Cross medals featured in The Royal Canadian Legion Hall of Honour

Eric Clarke and Doug Cargo admire the new permanent display of three Victoria Cross Medals awarded during the First World War to residents of Winnipeg’s Pine Street, later renamed Valour Road. Mr. Clarke and LCol (Rtd) Cargo are the great-nephews of Corporal Lionel B. Clarke and Company Sergeant Major Frederick William Hall, two of the three recipients. The third Victoria Cross was awarded to Lieutenant Robert Shankland.