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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Lionel B. (Leo) Clarke, soldier, railroad surveyor, Victoria Cross recipient (born 1 December 1892 in Waterdown, ON; died 19 October 1916 in France). During the First World War, Corporal Leo Clarke was one of three Canadian soldiers, all from the same street in Winnipeg, to be awarded the Victoria Cross (VC), the highest award for bravery among troops of the British Empire. The three VCs earned by the men of Pine Street — later named "Valour Road" — was a feat unmatched in any other part of the Empire.
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).
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.
Leonard Joseph (Birch) Birchall, CM, O Ont, air force pilot, war hero, educator (born 6 July 1915 in St. Catharines, ON; died 10 September 2004 in Kingston, ON). During the Second World War, Birchall became known as the “Saviour of Ceylon” for alerting Allied forces of an approaching Japanese fleet. Captured after sending his message, he is also renowned for the courage and leadership he displayed while a prisoner of war.
Marion Alice Orr (née Powell). Pioneer pilot. (b. Jun 25, 1916 [?], Toronto, ON; d. April 4, 1995, Peterborough, ON). Marion Orr's birth date has been given variously as 1916, 1918 and 1920. She obfuscated sometimes on documents related to flying for fear that she would be grounded by her age.
William Avery (Billy) Bishop Jr., VC, CB, DSO & Bar, MC, DFC, ED, First World War flying ace, author (born 8 February 1894 in Owen Sound, ON; died 11 September 1956 in Palm Beach, Florida). Billy Bishop was Canada’s top flying ace of the First World War, and was officially credited with 72 victories. During the Second World War, he played an important role in recruiting for the Royal Canadian Air Force and in promoting the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan.
William George (Billy) Barker, VC, fighter pilot, war hero, businessman (born 3 November 1894 in Dauphin, MB; died 12 March, 1930 in Ottawa, ON). One of Canada’s foremost First World War flying aces, Barker is, to date, the most highly decorated military serviceman in Canadian history.