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Profiles of Courage

Profiles of Courage (Pre-First World War):

William Hall

William Hall, who served on the British Royal Navy Ship HMS Shannon, was the first Black person—and the first Nova Scotian—to receive the Victoria Cross, the British Empire’s highest award for military valour.

In 1857, Hall was sent with a brigade of soldiers to Lucknow, India, to relieve the besieged British garrison that was fighting a rebellion there. As a member of one of four gun crews, Hall was attempting to help break through the walls of an important enemy stronghold. It was a very dangerous mission and heavy enemy gunfire eventually left only Hall and one other officer still alive. However, they continued to load and fire the last gun until the wall was finally broken through, allowing the soldiers of the British garrison to escape.

Hall survived the battle and returned to Nova Scotia where he died in 1904 at his farm in Avonport. Today, his Victoria Cross is on display at the Nova Scotia Museum, alongside his other medals.

William Hall, VC.

Profiles of Courage (First World War):

Curley Christian

Ethelbert 'Curley' Christian was born in the United States. He eventually settled in Canada where he enlisted in the Canadian Army in 1915 during the First World War. On April 9, 1917, Christian was serving with the 78th Canadian Infantry Battalion (the Winnipeg Grenadiers) during the Battle of Vimy Ridge when heavy artillery fire buried him in a trench. All four limbs were crushed by debris and the wounded soldier was trapped for two days. Found barely alive, Christian cheated death again when two of his stretcher bearers were killed by enemy fire while carrying him from the battlefield.

Christian survived but unfortunately gangrene set in and both arms and both legs had to be amputated. His positive demeanor remained, however, and after returning to Canada he married a volunteer aide who worked at the Toronto hospital where he was recuperating.

Christian received artificial limbs and lived a long and active life until his death in 1954. In fact, he was one of the more than 8,000 veterans who returned to France when the new Canadian National Vimy Memorial was dedicated by King Edward VIII in July 1936.

* The Mural of Honour is permanently displayed at the Military Museums in Calgary.

Curley Christian after the war.

Jeremiah "Jerry" Jones

Jeremiah "Jerry" Jones of Truro, Nova Scotia enlisted in the 106th Battalion (Nova Scotia Rifles) in June 1916. Being more than 50 years old, he had to lie about his age just to join the army. He was sent overseas and then transferred to the Royal Canadian Regiment where he saw combat on the front lines.

During the famous Battle of Vimy Ridge in April 1917, Private Jones’ unit was pinned down by machine gun fire. Jones volunteered to attack the enemy position, getting close enough to throw a grenade that killed several of the enemy and eliminated the threat of the gun position. The surviving German soldiers surrendered to Jones and he had them carry the machine gun back and drop it at the feet of his commanding officer. Jones was injured in the battle and again in the Battle of Passchendaele later that year, before being discharged from the army in early 1918 because of his injuries.

It was said that he was recommended for the Distinguished Conduct Medal (an award for military valour second only to the Victoria Cross), but he never received it. Jones died in 1950 and efforts were made over the years to get him the official recognition that he rightfully deserved. Finally in 2010, Jones was posthumously awarded the Canadian Forces Distinguished Service Medallion for his heroic actions in the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

Private Jeremiah 'Jerry' Jones.

Profiles of Courage (Second World War):

The Carty Brothers

Military service was in the Carty family blood. Five brothers from the Saint John, New Brunswick family served during the Second World War. They came by this dedication to duty honestly—their father Albert Carty had served with the No. 2 Construction Battalion during the First World War.

At a time when recruiting regulations restricted the ability of Black people to serve in the Royal Canadian Air Force, all five overcame the odds and became airmen. Four of the five served at military bases in Canada during the war. Flight Sergeant Adolphus Carty, the eldest, was an airframe mechanic. His brother, Flight Sergeant William Carty, was an aeronautical inspector. Leading Aircraftman Clyde Carty was a firefighter. And Aircraftman (Second Class) Donald Carty was an equipment assistant.

Gerald Carty enlisted at age 18 and became one of the youngest commissioned officers in the Royal Canadian Air Force a year later. He served as a wireless air gunner in more than 35 bomber missions over occupied Europe and was wounded in action.

In keeping with the family tradition, the two younger Carty brothers still at home during the war years, Robert and Malcolm, were members of the Army and Air Cadets.

The Carty Brothers.

Edwin Erwin Phillips

Edwin Erwin Phillips was born in Montréal and worked as a printer’s apprentice before volunteering for service with the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1942 during the Second World War. Only 21 years old when he enlisted, he would go on to work as a mechanic with the No. 168 Heavy Transport Squadron and rise to the rank of sergeant. As part of his duties, Phillips would sometimes accompany transatlantic cargo flights.

The eastern European country of Poland had suffered greatly during the Second World War and there was a serious shortage of medical supplies. The Canadian Red Cross donated tons of penicillin in response to the humanitarian crisis there after the end of the war and the military agreed to transport it overseas from Canada.

On November 4, 1945, the Flying Fortress aircraft carrying the vitally needed medicine to Warsaw, Poland crashed into a hilltop near Halle, Germany and burst into flames. Phillips and the four other crew members onboard were killed in the accident. The fallen Canadian airmen are buried at Munster Heath Cemetery in Germany.

Sergeant Edwin Erwin Phillips.

Profiles of Courage (Korean War and the Post-War Years):

Ainsworth Dyer

Ainsworth Dyer was born in Montréal and grew up in Toronto. He enlisted in the Canadian Forces in 1996 and would go on to become a member of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry.

A mature and responsible soldier, Dyer was well-respected by his colleagues. He took on many challenges including training for the military’s grueling ‘Mountain Man’ endurance competition, qualifying as a paratrooper and serving in Canadian Forces peace support efforts in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 2000.

Corporal Dyer was taking part in night training in Afghanistan on April 17, 2002 when his position was bombed by an American warplane in a friendly fire incident at Tarnak Farms. Sadly, he and three other Canadian soldiers were killed and eight more were injured. Dyer was just 24 years old.

The fallen soldier was buried with full military honours in the Necropolis Cemetery in Toronto. The Royal Canadian Legion named his mother, Mrs. Agatha Dyer, the 2004 National Silver Cross Mother.

Corporal Ainsworth Dyer.

Mark Graham

Born in Jamaica, Mark Graham moved to Hamilton, Ontario with his family as a child. An exceptional athlete, he was a member of the Canadian 4 x 400 metre relay team in the 1992 Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain. While his team did not reach the finals, Graham’s skills in track-and-field would go on to earn him an athletic scholarship from the University of Nebraska and later at Kent State University in Ohio.

In 2004, he answered the call to serve and enlisted in the Canadian Forces. Private Graham was sent to Afghanistan with the Royal Canadian Regiment. He was an excellent role model for the younger soldiers and had an excellent record of efficiency in his unit. Tragically, the 33-year old was killed by “friendly fire” on September 4, 2006, when his platoon was mistakenly attacked by an American warplane during an operation to capture a Taliban stronghold west of Kandahar.

Graham is buried at the National Military Cemetery in Ottawa and, in 2010, a Hamilton park where he had played as a boy was renamed “Mark Anthony Graham Memorial Olympic Park” in his honour.

Private Mark Graham.

Claude “Ollie” Cromwell

Claude “Ollie” Cromwell was born in Digby, Nova Scotia, and moved to Montréal as a young teenager. He joined the Canadian Armed Forces in 1979 and began a long career in military logistics. If our men and women in uniform are not effectively supported with the required resources, they cannot fulfill their duties—a fact that makes the logistical trades vital.

Chief Warrant Officer Cromwell’s military career would see him serve across Canada in places like Calgary, Alberta; Summerside, Prince Edward Island; Kingston, Ontario; Edmonton, Alberta; and the Ottawa, Ontario area. He also took part in domestic operations such as assisting in the aftermath of the massive ice storm in eastern Canada in 1998, contributing to security efforts for the G8 Summit meetings in Alberta in 2002, and fighting forest fires in British Columbia in 2003.

CWO Cromwell would also serve overseas. He was posted in Lahr, West Germany, with Canada’s NATO forces in Europe (1984-1990) and took part in international peace support efforts in the Golan Heights (1983), Cyprus (1993), Kosovo (1999) and Afghanistan (2006). As well, he was named Camp Sergeant Major for the Canadian Armed Forces continent at the Nijmegen Marches in the Netherlands in 2012. As the Task Force Sergeant Major of the Disaster Assistance Relief Team (DART), CWO Cromwell deployed to Nepal to help provide humanitarian relief after a major earthquake (2015).

Through it all he rose through the non-commissioned officer ranks while also remaining active in the curling clubs and community service organizations where he was posted. Over the years, CWO Cromwell has received numerous awards, most notably being inducted into the Order of Military Merit as a member in 2017. He retired from the Canadian Armed Forces as a Divisional Sergeant Major within Assistant Deputy Minister (Materiel) Group in 2019 after 40 years of distinguished service.

Chief Warrant Officer Ollie Cromwell.

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