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.
Morris (Moishe) Abraham Cohen, a.k.a. “Two-Gun,” bodyguard, aide-de-camp, arms dealer (born 3 August 1887 in Radzanow, Poland; died 11 September 1970 in Salford, England). Cohen’s life evolved from one of petty crime to international arms dealing. During that time, Cohen ingratiated himself with the revolutionary movement of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the father of modern China, and joined his inner circle. Before more formal biographies were written about him, Cohen was a figure of self-aggrandized legend.
Charles Cromwell Martin, DCM, MM, farmer, soldier, civil servant, author (born 18 December 1918 in Wales; died 13 October 1997 in Mississauga, ON). During the Second World War, Warrant Officer Class II (WO II) Charlie Martin was awarded both the Distinguished Conduct Medal and Military Medal. Martin’s "Battle Diary" memoirs, first released in 1994, remain among the most vivid portrayals of the lives of ordinary Canadian soldiers in the 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.
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). One of the most highly decorated Indigenous people in Canada during the First World War, Pegahmagabow became a vocal advocate for Indigenous rights and self-determination.2
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.1
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.
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.
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).
Christopher Vokes, soldier (born in Armagh, Ireland, 13 April 1904; died in Toronto, ON, 27 March 1985). A tough-minded Second World War general, Vokes commanded Canadian army divisions in the Italian campaign and during the push through northern Germany at the end of the war. He was one of the few Canadian generals to emerge from the war with a reputation as a skilled operational commander.
"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.
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.