21 November 2005

( select to enlarge )

Medal entitlement of Sergeant William Merrifield,
4th Bn ( Central Ontario ), CEF

  • Victoria Cross
  • Military Medal
  • 1914-15 Star
  • British War Medal ( 1914-20 )
  • Victory Medal ( 1914-19 )
  • King George VI Coronation Medal ( 1937 )
At a ceremony held on Monday, 21 November 2005, at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, the Victoria Cross and campaign medals awarded to Sergeant William Merrifield were donated to the museum by his descendants, the Merrifield family of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.

Sergeant Merrifield's Victoria Cross was one of a total of 30 earned by Canadians in the last "Hundred Days" of the First World War. During this period, which began with the huge victory at Amiens on 8th August 1918 and ended with the German surrender on 11th November, William Merrifield, a member of the 4th Battalion, 1st Infantry Brigade, Canadian Expeditionary Force, won the Victoria Cross 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", the breaking of which opened the way for the assault northwards into Belgium.

The objective of Merrifield's battalion was the village of Abancourt, which lay about four kilometres north of the town of Cambrai. The 4th Battalion and its neighbour to the right, the 1st Battalion, found themselves pinned down and unable to move, owing to heavy German machine-gun fire. It was this opposing enemy machine-gun fire that prompted Sergeant Merrifield, who had won the Military Medal at Passchendaele, to perform the deeds that earned him the Victoria Cross. He charged out of the shell hole in which he had taken cover, and leaping from one shell hole to another attacked two enemy machine-guns single-handed as described in his VC citation below. After disposing of the two machine-gun posts Merrifield proceeded to lead his platoon forward until another wound forced his evacuation from the field.

[ London Gazette, 6 January 1919 ], Abancourt, France, 1 October 1918, Sergeant William Merrifield, 4th Bn ( Central Ontario Regiment ), CEF.

For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty during the attack near Abancourt on the 1st October 1918. When his men were held up by an intense fire from two machine-gun emplacements, he attacked them both single-handed. Dashing from shell-hole to shell-hole he killed the occupants of the first post, and, although wounded, continued to attack the second post, and with a bomb killed the occupants. He refused to be evacuated, and led his platoon until again severely wounded.

Sergeant Merrifield has served with exceptional distinction on many former occasions, and throughout the action of the 1st October showed the highest qualities of valour and leadership.

William Merrifield was invested with his Victoria Cross by King George V at Sandringham on 26th January 1919.

William Merrifield was born in in Brentwood, Essex, England, on 9th October 1890, after which his family emigrated to Canada, living in Aylmer Road, Ottawa. Merrifield enlisted into the CEF at Sudbury on 23rd September 1914 at Camp Valcartier where he was assigned to the 2nd Battalion. He fought with this unit at Second Ypres in 1915 before being transferred to the 4th Battalion with which he served for the remainder of the war.

He left Southampton to travel back to Canada on board the S.S. Olympic on 15th April 1919 and was discharged from the Canadian Army on 24th April. He suffered a stroke in 1939 from which he never fully recovered and died at Christie Street Military Hospital on 8th August 1943. He is buried in West Korah Cemetery, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.


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Iain Stewart, 29 November 2005