The Edmonton Journal and Post Media have put out a First World War website dedicated to commemorating that conflict. I was very happy to contribute an article on Edmonton’s VC winners that was printed in this Saturday’s paper and is now online here.
Canadians have long struggled to justify the enormous bloodshed of the Great War.
But during the conflict itself, the men who received the Victoria Cross — the highest award conferred on British and Commonwealth forces for bravery, valour, or self-sacrifice in the presence of the enemy — were considered paragons of military virtue.
The VC recipients who returned to Edmonton were greeted by huge crowds and presented with purses of gold — in the case of John Chipman Kerr, about $10,000 worth.
Even so, Kerr said with characteristic humility: “We don’t go in for heroics at the front. If a man is chosen for the job, he does it and that is all there is to it.”
A century later, however, it is hard not to marvel at their almost superhuman acts in unimaginable circumstances.