Gallantry on the Somme: W.H. Metcalf VC, MM & Bar

William Henry Metcalf V.C., M.M. and Bar. The Canadian Daily Record, November 26, 1918.

William Henry Metcalf V.C. M.M. and Bar
16th Battalion C.E.F., near Courcelette, France. October 7-9, 1916

In November 1998, the Canadian Scottish Regimental Museum was presented with the decorations, campaign and coronation medals of William Metcalf. This twice wounded veteran of the Great War was born in Waite Township, Maine, U.S.A. and joined the 12th Battalion C.E.F., September 23, 1914. In May 1915 he was transferred to the 16th. It was whilst on the Somme that William Metcalf and other members of his regiment, including Piper James Cleland Richardson, were recognized for their gallantry in action.

Metcalf was awarded the Military Medal for “Bravery in the Field” the first of three honours he was to earn during the Great War. Although citations for the award of the Military Medal are difficult to obtain, citations for awards, prior to December 1917, are more readily available.

Citation for the award of the Military Medal to William Henry Metcalf

Announced in the London Gazette: 6 January 1917

“For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty near COURCELETTE on the 7th, 8th, and 9th October, 1916. On the night of October 7th word was brought to a Battalion Headquarters, that a man was lying in a trench some distance away, bleeding to death, this N.C.O., a signaller [sic] volunteered to go and bind up his wound, which he did, although the trench was under terrific shell fire and he was in great peril. During the next two days he repeatedly went over the heavily shelled area and repaired broken telephone wires, thus keeping up communication with Brigade, which was of immense value to the situation. During twenty months service in the field his conduct has been one of uniform bravery and cheerful devotion to duty.”

Metcalf was later awarded a Bar to the Military Medal (for Amiens) and subsequently the Victoria Cross (for Arras). He survived the war.

William Henry Metcalf Medals: Victoria Cross, Military Medal and Bar, 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal, 1937 Coronation Medal, 1953 Coronation Medal. Canadian Scottish Regimental Museum. Exhibition “For Valour”. November 9-15, 1998.

Did you know?
William Henry Metcalf is one of five American born servicemen to have become a recipient of the Victoria Cross. The others are:

William Seeley, a member of the Royal Navy aboard H.M.S. Euryalus for his actions at Shimonoseki, Japan in 1864. The other three American Victoria Cross recipients served with the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the First World War. They are Bellenden Hutcheson (75th Battalion), George Mullin (Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry), and Raphael Zengel (5th Battalion).

In addition, the American Unknown Soldier became a recipient of the Victoria Cross in 1921.

About The Author

Paul has worked with the Paradigm Motion Picture Company since 2009 as producer, historian and research specialist. Paul first met Casey and Ian WIlliams of Paradigm in April 2007 at Ieper (Ypres), Belgium when ceremonies were being held for the re-dedication of the Vimy Memorial, France. Paul's sensitivity to film was developed at an early age seeing his first films at RCAF Zweibrucken, Germany and in Sardinia. Paul returned to Canada in 1967 and was further amazed by David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Bridge on the River Kwai". Film captivated Paul and with time 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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