17 October 2005

( select to enlarge )
Medal entitlement of Captain Francis Scrimger,
Canadian Army Medical Corps

  • Victoria Cross
  • 1914-15 Star ( missing )
  • British War Medal ( 1914-20 )
  • Victory Medal ( 1914-19 )

The Canadian War Museum today accepted from his three daughters the Victoria Cross and campaign medals awarded to Lieutenant Colonel Francis Scrimger, the first Canadian medical officer to be awarded Britain's highest award for gallantry. Representatives of the Scrimger family and museum staff participated in a formal donation ceremony in the First World War gallery of the new museum.

Captain Scrimger, who studied medicine at McGill University before the war, endured the most difficult circumstances a surgeon could imagine whilst serving with the Royal Montreal Regiment ( 14th Battalion ) during the Second Battle of Ypres in 1915.

On 22nd April 1915 German forces opened the valves on more than 5,000 cylinders of greenish-yellow chlorine gas on the Allied Forces in Belgium. It was the first major use of poisonous gas in warfare, and thousands of unprepared soldiers succumbed to its effects. Captain Scrimger, who was aware that the gas was water-soluble, instructed the men in his battalion to urinate into their handkerchiefs and hold them over their mouths when he saw the green clouds approaching. History books say Captain Scrimger's unusual advice saved thousands of Canadian lives, but it was his dedication to his men in the following days that would earn him the highest recognition.

By the afternoon of 25th April Captain Scrimger, who hadn't slept since the first attack, and his medical team were furiously tending to the casualties at a temporary dressing station in an abandoned farm building near Ypres. The building became a target of such heavy shelling that Captain Scrimger ordered it evacuated. However, not everyone was well enough to get out by themselves. One soldier was so badly hurt he couldn't move, let alone walk out of the dressing station.

The soldier recalled later "Captain Scrimger carried me down to a moat 50 feet in front where we lay half in the water. Scrimger curled himself round my wounded head and shoulder to protect me from the heavy shell fire, at obvious peril to his own life. He stayed with me all the time and by good luck was not hit." At length when the fire slackened, Scrimger found some stretcher-bearers and had the soldier carried to a dressing station. This, however, was only one of many incidents of Francis Scrimger's heroism in those awful few days.

[ London Gazette, 23 June 1915 ], St Julien, Belgium, 25 April 1915, Captain Francis Alexander Carron Scrimger, Canadian Army Medical Corps, att'd 14th Bn, Royal Montreal Regiment, Canadian Expeditionary Force.

On the afternoon of 25th April 1915, in the neighbourhood of Ypres, when in charge of an advanced dressing station in some farm buildings, which were being heavily shelled by the enemy, he directed under heavy fire the removal of the wounded, and he himself carried a severely wounded officer out of a stable in seach of a place of greater safety. When he was unable alone to carry this officer further, he remained with him under fire till help could be obtained.

During the very heavy fighting between 22nd and 25th April, Captain Scrimger displayed continuously day and night the greatest devotion to his duty among the wounded at the front.

Francis Scrimger was invested with his Victoria Cross by King George V at Buckingham Palace on the 21st July 1915.

Francis Scrimger continued to serve at Canadian Army Hospitals until 1919, after which he returned home with his new wife, a nurse he had met overseas. Francis Scrimger died at his home in Montreal, aged 57, on 13th February 1937, and is buried in the Mount Royal Cemetery. A mountain near the Kootenays was named after him in 1918.


Go to VC UK flag Home Page

Iain Stewart, 18 October 2005