Kerr, John Chipman VC

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Born: January 11, 1887

Died: February 19, 1963

Kerr worked as a lumberjack near Kootenay, BC; 1912 bought a homestead in Spirit River, Alberta, where he and his brother farmed until war broke out; 1914 they set out for Edmonton, leaving only a single note tacked to the door of their humble shed. It read: “War is Hell, but what is homesteading?”.

1916, September 16 a private in the 49th Canadian Infantry Battalion at Courcelette, France, during a bombing attack, Private Kerr was acting as bayonet man and noting that bombs were running short, he ran along the parados under heavy fire until he was in close contact with the enemy when he opened fire at point-blank range, inflicting heavy losses. The enemy, thinking that they were surrounded, surrendered: 62 prisoners were taken and 250 yards of enemy trench captured. Earlier, Private Kerr’s fingers had been blown off, but he did not have his wound dressed until he and two other men had escorted the prisoners back under fire and reported for duty.

“For most conspicuous bravery. During a bombing attack he was acting as bayonet man, and, knowing that bombs were running short, he ran along the parados under heavy fire until he was in close contact with the enemy, when he opened fire on them at point-blank range, and inflicted heavy loss. The enemy, thinking they were surrounded, surrendered. Sixty-two prisoners were taken and 250 yards of enemy trench captured. Before carrying out this very plucky act one of Private Kerr’s fingers had been blown off by a bomb. Later, with two other men, he escorted back the prisoners under fire, and then returned to report himself for duty before having his wound dressed.”

(London Gazette, no.29802, 26 October 1916)

His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Canadian Department of National Defence: https://www.canada.ca/en/department-national-defence/services/medals/victoria-cross-recipients/john-chipman-kerr.html

Follow Stephanie Allen:

I learned my love of “spirit walking” from my Mother, Barbara Ann Scott. My Mum was an avid genealogist who spent many days in cemeteries in Ontario, Quebec and Scotland. I joined my Mother on many of these research visits and found that I was really moved by some of the inscriptions, the dates and trends. I realized that much could be learned about the local history of an area by examining the cemeteries. I have continued to be inspired to visit cemeteries in communities even if I don’t know anyone who is interred there. I have stumbled upon former Canadian Prime Ministers, artists and athletes. I have also discovered many small communities and vanished villages near and far from home. This web site is about acknowledging the many great Canadians who shaped the Canada I know.

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