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Mount Forest resident awarded the Victoria Cross

December 2009

The highest award for bravery in the face of an enemy that can be awarded to members of British and Commonwealth forces is the Victoria Cross. 

The V.C. was first awarded by Queen Victoria in 1856 and since then 1,356 medals have been awarded, with three people being awarded the medal twice.

Frederick William Campbell was born in Mount Forest, Ontario, on 15 June 1867, to parents to Ephraim and Esther Hunt Campbell.

After quitting school, he worked on the family farm and, when he turned 18, joined the 30th Wellington Rifles, a local militia unit.

He served in the South Africa (Boer) War the 2nd Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment.  During his service in the war, Campbell was Mentioned in Dispatches for actions at the Modder River, where he repaired the damaged wheels of his Maxim gun using table legs from a local farmhouse.  He was awarded the South African Medal with four Bars.

After the war, Campbell returned to Mount Forest, married Margaret Annie, had three children, and raised horses on a farm near his childhood home.

When World War I broke out, Campbell re-joined his old unit and was commissioned an officer.  He was
assigned to No. 2 Company, 1st Battalion of the Western Ontario Regiment, Canadian Expeditionary Force.

Campbell was won the V.C. for his actions near Givenchy, France, on June 15, 1915, his 48th birthday,
making him the oldest V.C. winner of WWI.  His citation, as it appeared in London Gazzette on August 23, 1915, reads:

“For most conspicuous bravery on 15th June, 1915, during the action at Givenchy.  Lieutenant
Campbell took two machine-guns over the parapet, arrived at the German first line with one gun, and maintained his position there, under very heavy rifle, machine-gun, and bomb fire, notwithstanding the fact that almost the whole of his detachment had then been killed or wounded.

When our supply of bombs had become exhausted, this Officer advanced his gun still further to an exposed position, and, by firing about 1,000 rounds, succeeded in holding back the enemy’s counter-attack.

This very gallant Officer was subsequently wounded, and has since died.”

Upon withdrawing from his position, Campbell was wounded in the right thigh, shattering the bone.  Campbell died in hospital in Boulogne four days later from infection.  He was posthumously awarded the V.C and promoted to Captain.

Campbell was buried in the Boulogne Eastern Cemetery, in Boulogne-sur-Mer, France.  His Victoria Cross and other service medals are currently in the possession of the family.

 

 

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

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