Following a Victoria Cross exhibition in Vancouver in November 1998

( select to enlarge )
Medal entitlement of Lance Corporal William Metcalf,
16th Bn ( Canadian Scottish ), CEF

  • Victoria Cross
  • Military Medal & Bar
  • 1914-15 Star
  • British War Medal ( 1914-20 )
  • Victory Medal ( 1914-19 )
  • King George VI Coronation Medal ( 1937 )
  • Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal ( 1953 )

In November 1998 the Canadian Scottish Regiment Museum held an exhibition of the Regiment's Victoria Crosses, loaned to the museum by the Canadian War Museum and families of holders. Following an invitation by the museum's curator, the son and grandson of William Metcalf journeyed from Maine and spent a week in the city during the period of the exhibition. Stanley Metcalf, William's son, was so impressed with the exhibition he decided to present his father's Victoria Cross medal group, along with his scrapbook and other associated items to the Canadian Scottish Museum for permanent safekeeping.

When Canada and Great Britain began to mobilize for war in August 1914, William Metcalf, an American citizen from Waite, Walsh County, Maine, crossed the Canadian border to enlist in the Canadian Army, without telling his mother. He was first accepted into the 71st Regiment ( a militia unit ) at Fredericton, New Brunswick in August 1914 before transferring to a regular battalion, the 12th Bn, Canadian Expeditionary Force, on 22 September in Valcartier, Quebec. ( It was learned much later that Metcalf had added nine years to his age upon enlistment, saying he had been born in 1885 rather than his true date of birth of 1894 ). On 14 October 1914 the 12th Battalion sailed for Britain, with Private William Metcalf aboard, and by now his mother had learnt of his plans.

Waiting for the ship in England, carrying the Canadian 12th Battalion, was the American Ambassador to Britain. William Metcalf's mother had asked for assistance in having her son returned to the United States. When asked if he was the Metcalf about whom all the letters had been written, Metcalf told the Ambassador that "I'm not the man, I'm from St. David Ridge, a little farming town outside St. Stephen, New Brunswick". Metcalf's story was backed up by his colonel, so no action was taken.

After several months training in England, Metcalf was transferred to the 16th Battalion ( Canadian Scottish Regiment ) on 13 May 1915 which was already in France. He went on to be wounded six times and to be awarded the Military Medal and Bar for gallantry. It was not until near the end of the War that William Metcalf was to earn Britain's most prestigious award for gallantry.

[ London Gazette, 15 November 1918 ]. Arras, France, 2 September 1918, No. 22614 Lance-Corporal William Henry Metcalf MM, 16th Bn, Manitoba Regiment ( Canadian Scottish ), Canadian Expeditionary Force.

For most conspicuous bravery, initiative and devotion to duty in attack ( Arras, France ), when, the right flank of the battalion being held up, he realised the situation and rushed forward under intense machine-gun fire to a passing Tank on the left.

With his signal flag he walked in front of the Tank, directing it along the trench in a perfect hail of bullets and bombs. The machine-gun strong points were overcome, very heavy casualties were inflicted on the enemy, and a very critical situation was relieved. Later, although wounded, he continued to advance until ordered to get into a shell hole and have his wounds dressed.

His valour throughout was of the highest standard.

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

William Metcalf survived the war and following the armistice and cessation of hostilities on 11 November 1918, he returned to his native Maine and worked as a motor mechanic. He died on 8 August 1968 in South Portland and was buried in the Bayside Cemetery, Eastport. At his funeral his casket was covered with the Union Flag of Great Britain and among those in attendance were more than forty members of the Royal Canadian Legion. ( On each anniversary of William Metcalf's death, the Royal Canadian Legion journey to Eastport to lay a Union Flag over his grave ).


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pain tin Iain Stewart, 26 January 2000