THE VICTORIA CROSS AND OTHER CAMPAIGN MEDALS AWARDED TO CORPORAL FREDERICK TOPHAM, 1ST CANADIAN PARACHUTE BATTALION, HAVE BEEN SAVED FOR THE CANADIAN NATION.
6 February 2005


( select to enlarge )

Medal entitlement of Corporal Frederick Topham,
1st Canadian Parachute Regiment, Canadian Army

  • Victoria Cross
  • 1939-45 Star
  • France & Germany Star
  • Defence Medal ( 1939-45 )
  • Canadian Volunteer Service Medal ( 1939-45 )
  • War Medal ( 1939-45 )
  • Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal ( 1953 )
  • Canadian Centennial Medal ( 1967 )

For a number of years the Victoria Cross and campaign medals awarded to Corporal Fred Topham had been on loan to the Canadian War Museum, but, unfortunately, they were mostly kept in storage. When Topham's widow Mary found out they were not on display, she changed her mind about leaving the medals to the CWM and as a consequence left instructions in her will that the VC medal group be sold for her beneficiaries.

The executors of Mary Topham's estate had contacted various military museums in Canada to enquire if they would be interested in purchasing the medals but with no success. Eventually, the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion Association, Fred's Topham's wartime Battalion, was approached. A small committee, consisting of members of The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada and members of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion Association, was formed and a verbal agreement was reached with the executors to purchase the VC for $250,000 at which the medals were evaluated. A meeting was called and the executors stated that $250,000 was too low now that they had received an overseas offer of $319,000. The executors indicated they would prefer the Victoria Cross stay in Canada and an agreement was finally reached that the committee could purchase the medals for $275,000 with the condition attached if more funds were raised, a high of $300,000 would be paid, and if not, a low of $260,000.

A legal agreement was drawn up and fundraising began with promotion of the campaign by newspapers and TV producers. Donations large and small came in from Canadians all across the country; from school children, Legions, serving military, towns and cities, and corporations.

The announcement on 15th December 2004 was that $300,000 had been reached. As announced during the fund raising campaign, any surplus funds would go to the expansion of the Airborne Museum at Base Petawawa.

On 24th January 2005 at the Royal Canadian Military Institute in Toronto, a cheque for $300,000 was handed over to the executors of the Mary Topham Estate in exchange for the Victoria Cross. The full medal group was then handed over by Jan de Vries of the 1st CPBA into the care of a representive of the Canadian War Museum who agreed to place the medals in a secure display case to be shown in the CWM and at various locations across Canada.


[ London Gazette, 3 August 1945 ], East of the River Rhine, Near Wesel, Germany, 24 March 1945, Corporal Frederick George Topham, 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, Canadian Army.

On 24th March 1945, Corporal Topham, a medical orderly, parachuted with his Battalion on to a strongly defended area east of the Rhine. At about 11:00 hours, whilst treating casualties sustained in the drop, a cry for help came from a wounded man in the open. Two medical orderlies from a field ambulance went out to this man in succession but both were killed as they knelt beside the casualty. Without hesitation and on his own initiative, Corporal Toham went forward through intense fire to replace the orderlies who had been killed before his eyes. As he worked on the wounded man, he was himself shot through the nose. In spite of severe bleeding and intense pain, he never faltered in his task.

Having completed immediate first aid, he carried the wounded man steadily and slowly back through continuous fire to the shelter of a wood. During the next two hours Corporal Topham refused all offers of medical help for his own wound. He worked most devotedly throughout this period to bring in wounded, showing complete disregard for the heavy and accurate enemy fire.

On his way back to his company he came across a carrier which had received a direct hit. Enemy mortar bombs were still dropping around, and the carrier itself was burning fiercely and its own mortar ammunition was exploding. An experienced officer on the spot had warned all not to approach the carrier. Corporal Topham, however, immediately went out alone in spite of the blasting ammunition and enemy fire, and rescued the three occupants of the carrier. He brought these men back across the open and although one died almost immediately afterwards, he arranged for the evacuation of the other two, who undoubtedly owe their lives to him.

This N.C.O. showed sustained gallantry of the highest order. For six hours, most of the time in great pain, he performed a series of acts of outstanding bravery and his magnificent and selfless courage inspired all those who witnessed it.


According to the 'Canadian Gazette' of 2nd August 1945, Frederick Topham was awarded the Victoria Cross in recognition of "sustained gallanry of the highest order. For six hours, most of the time in great pain, he performed a series of acts of outstanding bravery and his magnificent and selfless courage inspired all those who witnessed it." Frederick "Toppy" Topham VC died suddenly on 31st May 1974 at the age of fifty-six and is buried in the Sanctuary Park Cemetery, Etobicoke, Ontario.

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Iain Stewart, 6 February 2005