Victoria Cross Winners

The Saskatchewan Dragoons has one affiliated Victoria Cross winner, Sergeant Hugh Cairns VC, DCM. Sgt Cairns won the VC while serving with the 46th Canadian Infantry Battalion, our distinguished ancestor unit.

In addition, two soldiers from the Moose Jaw area, who enlisted with the 46th Battalion, won the Victoria Cross while serving with other units: Private William Milne and Sergeant Arthur Knight. In World War II, Major (later Lieutenant Colonel) David Currie, a citizen of Moose Jaw, won the Victoria Cross while serving with the South Alberta Regiment. Their stories are here as well.

Photographer: Alain Dubois-Choulik
This plaque is affixed to the wall near No. 3, Avenue Hugh Cairns. The only street in France ever named after a non-commissioned member of a foreign army, it runs from Canada Square (actually a major traffic circle) toward Nungesser Stadium, named after the WWI French flying ace.

Sergeant Hugh Cairns

Awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously, for acts of Valour before Valenciennes:

"For most conspicuous bravery before Valenciennes on 1 November 1918, when a machine gun opened on his platoon. Without a moment's hesitation, Sergeant Cairns seized a Lewis gun and single-handedly, in the face of direct fire, rushed the post, killed the crew of five, and captured the gun. Later, when the line was held up by machine-gun fire, he again rushed forward, killing 12 enemy soldiers and capturing another 18 and two guns. Subsequently, when the advance was held up by machine guns and field guns, although wounded, he led a small party to outflank them, killing many, forcing about 50 to surrender, and capturing all of the guns. After consolidation, he went with a battle patrol to exploit Marly and forced 60 enemy soldiers to surrender. Whilst disarming the party he was severely wounded. Nevertheless, he opened fire and inflicted heavy losses. Finally he was rushed by about 20 enemy soldiers and collapsed from weakness and loss of blood. Throughout the operation he showed the highest degree of valour, and his leadership contributed to the success of the attack. He died on 2 November from his wounds."

Sergeant Arthur George Knight

Awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously, for acts of Valour before Villers-les-Cagnicourt:

"For most conspicuous bravery, initiative, and devotion to duty when, after an unsuccessful attack, Serjt. Knight led a bombing section forward, under very heavy fire of all descriptions, and engaged the enemy at close quarters. Seeing that his party continued to be held up, he dashed forward alone, bayoneting several of the enemy machine-gunners and trench-mortar crews, and forcing the remainder to retire in confusion. He then brought forward a Lewis gun and directed his fire on the retreating enemy, inflicting many casualties. In the subsequent advance of his platoon in pursuit, Serjt. Knight saw a party of about thirty of the enemy go into a deep tunnel which led off the trench. He again dashed forward alone, and, having killed one officer and two N.C.O.S., captured twenty other ranks. Subsequently he routed, single-handed, another enemy party which was opposing the advance of his platoon. On each occasion he displayed the greatest valour under fire at very close range, and by his example of courage, gallantry and initiative was a wonderful inspiration to all. This very gallant N.C.O. was subsequently fatally wounded."

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Private William Milne

Awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously, for acts of Valour on Vimy Ridge:

"For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty in attack at Vimy Ridge on 9 April 1917. On approaching the first objective, Private Milne observed an enemy machine gun firing on our advancing troops. Crawling on hands and knees, he succeeded in reaching the gun, killing the crew with bombs [grenades], and capturing the gun.

"On the line reforming, he again located a machine gun in the support line, and stalking this second gun as he had the first, he succeeded in putting the crew out of action and capturing the gun. His wonderful bravery and resource on these two occasions undoubtedly saved the lives of many of his comerades.

"Private Milne was killed shortly after capturing the second gun."

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Major D.V. Currie

Awarded the Victoria Cross for acts of Valour before St. Lambert-sur-Dives:

"In Normandy on 18 August 1944 Major Currie was in command of a small mixed force... which was ordered to cut a main escape route from the Falaise pocket.

"This force was held up by... enemy resistance in the village of St. Lambert-sur-Dives, and two tanks were knocked out... Major Currie... entered the village alone on foot... to reconnoitre the German defences and to extricate the crews of the disbled tanks... in spite of heavy mortar fire.

"...the following morning, without artillery bombardment, Major Currie personally led an attack on the village... and by noon had succeeded in consolidating a position... inside the village.

Photographer: D.I. Grant. PA111565
Major David Currie (talking to man in light shirt) at St. Lambert-sur-Dives. This may be the only photograph ever taken of a soldier in the act of winning the Victoria Cross.

"During the next 36 hours the Germans hurled one counter-attack after another against the Canadian force, but... Major Currie organized his defensive positions so that these attacks were repulsed with severe casualties to the enemy...

"At dusk on 20 August 1944 the Germans attempted... a final assault on the Canadian positions, but the attacking force was routed before it... deployed. Seven... tanks, twelve 88mm guns and forty vehicles were destroyed, 300 Germans were killed, 500 wounded, and 2100 captured. Major Currie then... ordered an attack and completed the capture of the village, ... denying the Chambois-Trun escape route...

"Throughout three days and nights of fierce fighting, Major Currie's gallant conduct and contempt for danger set a magnificent example to all ranks of the force under his command...

"...the success of the attack on and stand against the enemy at St. Lambert-sur-Dives can... be attributed to this officer's coolness, inspired leadership and skilful use of the... weapons at his disposal.

"The courage and devotion to duty shown by Major Currie during... heavy fighting were outstanding and had a far-reaching effect on the successful outcome of the battle."

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Last updated 24 Aug 2003.

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