Bronze – The Reminders of their Service

A Great War Memorial Plaque presented to the family of Robert Blakeley.

FOR FREEDOM AND HONOUR. A Great War Memorial Plaque presented to the family of Robert Blakeley.

For Freedom and Honour…For Valour

There is a round bronze disc about 5″ across…Britannia with a lion, a son’s or daughter’s name, and the words “HE [or SHE] DIED FOR FREEDOM AND HONOUR. One Vancouver, B.C. family to receive a Great War Memorial Plaque was the family of Captain Cecil Mack Merritt, a former officer of the 72nd Regiment (Seaforth Highlanders of Canada), killed in action 23 April 1915 at St. Julien, Belgium when serving with the 16th Battalion CEF (The Canadian Scottish). On this occasion a widow received her husband’s plaque, Mrs. Sophie Almon Merritt of Vancouver, who received, as well, his campaign medals with oakleaf symbolizing a Mention in Despatches as well as the Canadian Memorial Cross. A second Memorial Cross was received by Cecil’s mother in England, Mrs. Mary B. Merritt, of Summer Place, London. These are the reminders of his service.

Captain Cecil Mack Merritt in the uniform of the 72nd Regiment (Seaforth Highlanders of Canada).

Captain Cecil Mack Merritt in the uniform of the 72nd Regiment (Seaforth Highlanders of Canada).

Cecil and Sophie had a son Cecil Jr., aged six when his father fell. Cecil became a soldier…another soldier of bronze who would wear the  bronze cross,  the Victoria Cross, “FOR VALOUR”. Cecil, like his father, was originally a Seaforth, who later commanded the Saskatchewan Regiment at Pourville, France during the raid on Dieppe when, on 19 August 1942, he earned his bronze that now resides with the Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, Canada. His awards, like his father’s, include a Mention in Despatches oakleaf and the Efficiency Decoration.  In 1951 Merritt was made the Honorary Colonel of the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada. In 1984, Major General George Randolph Pearkes, a Great War recipient of the Victoria Cross passed away and “Cece” Merritt attended the service held in Victoria, B.C. As the horse-drawn caisson, carrying  the casket of George Pearkes wheeled its way along Fort Street towards Christchurch Cathedral, “Cece” Merritt was alongside wearing his own bronze cross and other awards. Cece Merritt died in Vancouver 12 July 2000.

Lieutenant Colonel Charles Cecil Ingersoll Merritt V.C., E.D.

Lieutenant Colonel Charles Cecil Ingersoll Merritt V.C., E.D. in the uniform of the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada.

For matchless gallantry and inspiring leadership whilst commanding his battalion during the Dieppe raid on the 19th August, 1942

From the point of landing, his unit’s advance had to be made across a bridge in Pourville which was swept by very heavy machine-gun, mortar and artillery fire: the first parties were mostly destroyed and the bridge thickly covered by their bodies. A daring lead was required; waving his helmet, Lieutenant-Colonel Merritt rushed forward shouting ‘Come on over! There’s nothing to worry about here.’

He thus personally led the survivors of at least four parties in turn across the bridge. Quickly organising these, he led them forward and when held by enemy pill-boxes he again headed rushes which succeeded in clearing them. In one case he himself destroyed the occupants of the post by throwing grenades into it. After several of his runners became casualties, he himself kept contact with his different positions.

FOR VALOUR. THe Victoria Cross.

FOR VALOUR. The Victoria Cross.

Although twice wounded Lieutenant-Colonel Merritt continued to direct the unit’s operations with great vigour and determination and while organising the withdrawal he stalked a sniper with a Bren gun and silenced him. He then coolly gave orders for the departure and announced his intention to hold off and ‘get even with’ the enemy. When last seen he was collecting Bren and Tommy guns and preparing a defensive position which successfully covered the withdrawal from the beach.

Lieutenant-Colonel Merritt is now reported to be a Prisoner of War.

To this Commanding Officer’s personal daring, the success of his unit’s operations and the safe re-embarkation of a large portion of it were chiefly due.

(London Gazette, no.35729, 2 October 1942)

With the 75th anniversary of the Dieppe Raid on our horizon we remember son and father, for their strength and their bronze, alloys of one and other…father and son…for Freedom, for Honour, for Valour…the reminders of their service.


About The Author

pferguson
In April 2007 Paul met Casey and Ian Williams of the Paradigm Motion Picture Company in Ieper (Ypres), Belgium when ceremonies were being held for the re-dedication of the Vimy Memorial, France. Paul has worked with Paradigm since 2009 as Producer and Historian. Paul's sensitivity to film was developed at an early age seeing his first films at RCAF Zweibrucken, Germany and Sardinia. Paul returned to Canada in 1967 and was amazed by films such as David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Bridge on the River Kwai". Film captivated Paul and he became increasingly interested in storytelling, content development, character, direction, cinematography and soundtracks. At the University of Victoria, Paul studied and compared Japanese and Australian film and became interested in Australian film maker Peter Weir and his film "Gallipoli" (1981). Paul was entranced when he learned Weir had visited the beaches, ridges and ravines of the peninsula. The film "Gallipoli" alone led Paul on many journeys to sites of conflict in England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Malta, Hawaii and Gallipoli. It was, however, when Paul watched documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, "The Civil War", that Paul understood how his own experience and insight could be effective and perhaps influential in film-making. Combining his knowledge of Museums and Archives, exhibitions and idea strategies with his film interests would be a natural progression. Paul thinks like a film-maker. His passion for history and storytelling brings to Paradigm an eye (and ear) to the keen and sensitive interests of; content development, the understanding of successful and relational use of collections, imagery and voice. Like Paul's favorite actor, Peter O'Toole, he believes in the adage “To deepen not broaden.” While on this path Paul always remembers his grandmother whose father did not return from the Great War and how his loss shaped her life and how her experience continues to guide him.

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