Ottawa, Ontario, 23 August 2004

( select to enlarge )

Medal entitlement of Corporal Filip Konowal,
47th Bn ( British Columbia ), Canadian Expeditionary Force

  • Victoria Cross
  • British War Medal ( 1914-20 )
  • Victory Medal ( 1914-19 )
  • King George VI Coronation Medal ( 1937 )
  • Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal ( 1953 )

Monday, 23rd August 2004: At a prestigious ceremony held at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, the Victoria Cross medal group awarded to Corporal Filip Konowal was finally handed over into the care of the museum. This concludes the extraordinary events described below and finally lays to rest the known location of the Konowal VC. The Victoria Cross, campaign medals and commemorative medals will now join the other VCs in the possession of the Canadian War Museum.

Monday, 28th June 2004: The Victoria Cross awarded to Corporal Filip Konowal has been returned to the custody of the Canadian War Museum. A recovery ceremony is being planned for the 23rd August 2004 at the Canadian War Museum in concert with the Royal Canadian Legion Branch #360 ( Konowal Branch ) and the UCCLA ( Ukranian Canadian Civil Liberties Association ).

There always has been a mystery over the whereabouts of the Victoria Cross awarded to Corporal Filip Konowal, 47th Canadian Infantry Battalion, CEF, who was of Ukrainian descent. Following Konowal's death in 1959, aged 72, his VC passed to his widow, who loaned it to an unknown person in Toronto, then requested its return, and subsequently sold it to an Ottawa medal collector. In 1969 the Victoria Cross and other medals were offered to the Canadian War Museum who purchased them for $3,750 ( Canadian ). The medals were displayed in the museum until 1972 after which they were put in storage.

It the middle of the 1990s the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Assocation (UCCLA) made contact with the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa enquiring over the location and safety of the Filip Konowal Victoria Cross. The reply from the museum was not promising, stating "our records indicate that at some point between 1972 and 1974 the VC was listed as missing. However, early museum records are sketchy and there is no clear way of determining what happened to the medal, whether it was stolen or misplaced. None of the staff employed at the museum in the early 1970s is around to provide any clues. Furthermore, there were no computer databases maintaining detailed records of inventory and the warehouse storing such historical artefacts has since been relocated."

Professor Lubomyr Luciuk of the UCCLA continued to exchange correspondence with the CWM over the VC's location which, after a further exhaustive search of the museum's archives, still failed to shed any new light on the situation.

On Friday, 2nd April 2004 After a tip off from a Canadian contact, I learned that the Filip Konowal Victoria Cross had been put up for sale by Jeffrey Hoare Auctions Inc, of London, Ontario, and was included in an auction to be held on the 30th May 2004. I immediately emailed Professor Lubomyr Luciuk at the Royal Military College with the news, who was completely unaware of the sale of the Victoria Cross and accompanying campaign medals.

To quote Professor Luciuk; "I had no knowledge of this sale from any other source. I immediately contacted Wendy Hoare, the spokesperson for Jeffrey Hoare Auctions, and subsequently Joe Geurts, the senior vice-president of the Canadian War Museum. Once Mr Geurts had been alerted steps were taken by his institution's senior staff; the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Branch 360 of The Royal Canadian Legion ( Konowal Branch ); Ron Sorobey, co-auther of Konowal: A Canadian Hero; Inky Mark, MP ( Dauphin-Swan River ); the Metropolitan Ottawa Police; and of course the RCMP to secure and remove the Konowal VC from Jeffrey Hoare Auctions, which had always previously been assumed to be "misplaced" within the CWM's collections.

The removal of the Konowal VC from Jeffrey Hoare Auctions was carried out by two officers of the RCMP on Monday, 5th April 2004. The time span from myself first alerting Professor Luciuk, to the recovery of the VC was three days, something which should be applauded. The Victoria Cross has now been lodged once again with the Canadian War Museum where authentication will take place.

Filip Konowal was born in Kudkiv, Podolia province in the Ukraine on 15 September 1886. Aged 21 he was conscripted into the Imperial Russian Army, but after five years service, emigrated to Canada via Vladivostok, arriving in Vancouver in April 1913. Upon the outbreak of the First World War, like many other Ukrainian Canadians, Konowal enlisted, in his case on 12th July 1915, into Ottawa's 77th Canadian Infantry Battalion. After ten months training the battalion was shipped overseas on 19th June 1916 aboard the SS Missanabie, arriving in Liverpool later that month. During a six week layover at the Bramshott Camp a large number of men from the 77th Battalion were reassigned to the 47th Canadian (British Columbia) Infantry Battalion, Konowal among them. The 47th Battalion was shipped to France in August 1916 and went into combat as part of the 4th Canadian Division.

[ London Gazette, 26 November 1917 ], Lens, France, 22 - 24 August 1917, No. 144039, A / Corporal Filip Konowal, 47th Canadian Infantry Battalion, CEF.

"For most conspicuous bravery and leadership in charge of a section in attack. His section had the difficult task of mopping up cellars, craters, and machine-gun emplacements. Under his able direction all resistance was overcome successfully, and heavy casualties inflicted on the enemy. In one cellar he himself bayonetted three enemy and attacked single-handed seven others in a crater, killing them all.

On reaching the objective, a machine-gun was holding up the right flank, causing many casualties. Corporal Konowal rushed forward and entered the emplacement, killed the crew, and brought the gun back to our lines.

The next day he again attacked single-handed another machine-gun emplacement, killed three of the crew, and destroyed the gun and emplacement with explosives.

This non-Commissioned Officer alone killed at least sixteen of the enemy, and during the two days' actual fighting carried on continuously his good work until severely wounded."

Philip Konowal was invested with his Victoria Cross by King George V at Buckingham Palace on the 5th December 1917.

Filip Konowal died on the 3rd June 1959, aged 72, and is buried in the Notre Dame Cemetery, Ottawa.


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Iain Stewart, 24 August 2004