William Merrifield’s Victoria Cross donated to the Canadian War MuseumNovember 21, 2005
William Merrifield’s Victoria Cross donated to the Canadian War Museum
November 21, 2005, Ottawa, Ontario — In a ceremony held today at the Canadian War Museum, the Victoria Cross set of medals belonging to the late Sergeant William Merrifield, who passed away in 1943, were donated to the Canadian War Museum by his descendants, the Merrifield family of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.
Merrifield, a member of the 4th Battalion, 1st Infantry Brigade, Canadian Expeditionary Force, won his Victoria Cross during the First World War on October 1, 1918 during an assault on the so-called “Marcoing Line”. This was the last of the formidable network of German defences known collectively as the Hindenburg Line, which once broken, opened the way for the assault northwards into Belgium. The award’s citation best describes Sgt Merrifield’s acts of bravery: his platoon was trapped by two enemy machine-gun posts. He gathered grenades and charged out of the shell hole where he had sought shelter and single-handedly attacked both crews of enemy gunners. After killing the first crew, although wounded, he leapt from shell hole to shell hole and attacked the second crew, killing its gunners with a bomb. Sgt Merrifield led his platoon forward until he was wounded yet again and forced to evacuate the battlefield.
“The human side of war forms the core of the visitor experience at the Canadian War Museum,” said Dan Glenney, Director of Special Projects at the Canadian War Museum. “William Merrifield is a local hero in Sault Ste. Marie, and the Canadian War Museum considers itself very fortunate to have been approached by the Merrifield family with this important medal set. We are very appreciative of their generosity, and look forward to sharing Sergeant Merrifield’s story with our visitors.”
The Sgt Merrifield V.C. medal set consists of the Victoria Cross, the Military Medal, the 1914–1915 Star, the British War Medal 1914–1920, the Victory Medal 1914–1919, and the King George VI Coronation Medal, 1937. The Victoria Cross is the British Empire’s highest military honour, and has been awarded to 94 Canadians from the nineteenth century to the end of the Second World War. Since that time, Canada has created its own military awards including a Canadian version of the Victoria Cross established in 1993. The Canadian War Museum has 29 Victoria Crosses in its collection.
The Canadian War Museum is Canada’s national military history museum. Since its May 2005 opening at its new home on LeBreton Flats, some 420,000 visitors have visited Canada’s newest National Museum.
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