Under the orders of your devoted officers in the coming battle you will advance or fall where you stand facing the enemy. To those who will fall I say ‛You will not die, but step into immortality. Your mothers will not lament your fate, but will be proud to have borne such sons. Your name will be revered forever and ever by your grateful country, and God will take you unto Himself.

General Sir Arthur Currie – special order to the Canadian Corps – France – March 27, 1917
 
 
 
For Valour

Sgt. Hugh Cairns, V.C., D.C.M.

On November 1, 1918, just 10 days before the First World War ended, Sgt. Hugh Cairns of the 46th Battalion, Saskatchewan Regiment, won the Victoria Cross, Great Britain's highest award, awarded for most conspicuous bravery, a daring or pre-eminent act of valour, self sacrifice or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy. The next day he died of injuries sustained in the campaign which resulted in the medal.

General Currie would later characterize Sgt. Cairns’ actions as a “superhuman deed”.


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Hugh Cairns - 1918
 

Hugh Cairns was born December 4, 1896 in Ashington, Newcastle-on-Tyne, England, to George H. and Elizabeth Dotes Cairns (nee Donkin). He was the third of eleven children who emigrated with his family to Canada; settling in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in May 1911 at age 14. The Cairns family lived in the Caswell Hill area at 713 29th St. West until 1913, then moved a short distance into a larger home at 832 Avenue G North. He worked as an apprentice plumber and lived with his family until his deployment.

Hugh was an active and highly regarded footballer. In 1913, he led his team, the Christ Church Intermediate Boys Football club, to the championship of the Sunday School League. He also played for the St. Thomas Church team in 1915 when they won the Saskatoon League Championship.
 

Christ Church Intermediate Football Club - click to view larger image
Cairns in 1913 - standing in front of 2nd column from the left.

 



On August 2, 1915 at age 18, Hugh Cairns enlisted with the 65th Battalion.

65th Battalion collar badge

Departing from Canada on June 20, 1916, aboard the S.S. Empress of Britain; the 65th Battalion arrived in Liverpool, England eight days later. On June 30th, Sgt. Cairns was transferred to the 46th Battalion and on 9th of August was on his way to France.
 

S.S. Empress of Britain - 14,500 tons - Canadian Pacific Line
      Sgt. Cairns’ service record lists the
following awards and promotions,
all of which took place in the field:
11.8.17 Awarded 1st Stripe
25.8.17 Awarded DCM
11.11.17 Promoted to Lance Cpl.
1.7.18 Promoted to Cpl.
15.8.18 Promoted to Sergeant
1.11.18 Awarded VC


Alongside the men of the 46th Battalion, Hugh Cairns took part in every engagement fought from August 1916 until his death before Valenciennes in November 1918.

During the first week of June 1917, he received thirteen shrapnel wounds in the back, but soon recovered and returned to his unit less than a fortnight later, and in the process won the Distinguished Conduct Medal for gallantry. Pte. Cairns and the men he led had taken on and captured an enemy gun emplacement at Lens (Vimy Ridge). Subsequently he held up a German advance almost single-handed for 90 minutes while the rest of the platoon retreated to their lines. It was soon after that he was promoted to Lance Corporal.

Sergeant Cairns, had two brothers in the army during the Great War, Henry Cairns and Corporal Albert Cairns; the later having been killed on September 10, 1918, age 23, during the battle of Cambrai. Albert and Hugh were said to have been inseparable, and one of Sgt. Cairns’ comrades recalled that “Hughie said he’d get fifty Germans for that” adding, “I don’t think he ever planned to come back after Abbie got killed.”

Only Cairns’ almost fanatical desire to avenge his brother’s death can explain his actions seven weeks later.

Sgt. Hugh Cairns died thirty-two days short of his 22nd birthday, and now rests in Auberchicourt British Cemetery; 7 km east of Douai, near Nord, France. Albert Cairns is buried at Terlinchun British Cemetery in Pas de Calais.

46th Battalion collar badge - click to view larger image
Hugh Cairns was admired and respected by fellow soldiers and officers of the 46th Battalion. It was said he knew how to use a Lewis rifle better than any other man, was well known as a long distance runner and, as a boxer, had made his mark in the ring.

The 46th Battalion has since come to be known as the Suicide Battalion - losing 1,433 killed and 3,484 wounded - a casualty rate of 91.5 percent - winning 16 battle honours in its 28 months in France.
 
 


Most conspicuous bravery
The heroic deed

¹ It was dark, with occasional splashes of rain, on Halloween night, 1918, when the Canadians moved down from billets in Thiant to the front line for the attack on the French city of Valenciennes. After repeated failures on the part of the imperial troops, the taking of the city was entrusted to the men from Canada, and the task was given to the 4th Division.

The Canadians had advanced down the west side of the Canal l'Escaut early in October, until they had reached a position opposite Valenciennes. The enemy dammed the river lower down and flooded the area around the city. For three weeks the two armies viewed each other across the watery expanse with no other excitement than occasionally sniping at each other. Then the orders came to the Canadians to move back for an attack on the city from the south.

The Dominion troops appreciated the honour implied in the changed orders giving them the task of taking Valenciennes, and to keep the spirits of the men to a higher pitch, word was received the day before the attack that Austria had signed the armistice. Thoughts of the end of the war and home made them eager to make a quick finish of the work at hand.

The men moved to the assembly trenches and took up battle formation under cover of darkness. The 10th Brigade frontage extended from Trith St. Leger, on Canal l'Escault to Famars, the canal forming the left boundary of the area to be attacked, and the Rhonelle river, the right boundary. The 46th Battalion, holding the right sector of the brigade frontage, from La Fontenelle farm to Famars joined with imperial troops across the Rhonelle.




Victoria Cross  - click to view a larger image
Since 1856, 1351 British and colonial soldiers have won the right to wear a medal in the shape of a small Maltese Cross, made of bronze taken from Russian guns captured at Sebastopol during the Crimean War.

The attack opened with a heavy artillery and smoke barrage before dawn. The first wave of infantry went over the top and advanced to its objective, capturing Mount Houy, a steep wooded hill, strongly held, which has proved fatal to several previous attacks. When the leading battalion had reached Aulnoy the 46th Battalion passed through and carried the attack to the final objective, the main railway in Valenciennes. There was hard fighting in Aulnoy and down the two rural streets connecting Aulnoy and Famars with Valenciennes. The streets were closely packed on either side with houses, from which the Boche attacked the passing troops. Small mopping up squads were formed in the Canadian line and these houses cleaned out, the men fighting from house to house down the long street. The number of prisoners taken in this operation was greatly in excess of the attacking force, the 46th Battalion alone taking 800 prisoners with a force of not more than 300 men.

Sgt. Cairns was in charge of a platoon during the advance. About 300 yards north of Aulnoy, when he was advancing down the Famars road, a machine gun opened on his men from a house on the side of the street. The fire was coming from a window upstairs. Sgt. Cairns seized a Lewis gun and rushed into the house. Dashing upstairs in face of fire turned on him, he killed the crew of five and captured the gun. The Canadian line advanced. It swung across the Famars road to the south side where, in front of an old French cemetery, they were held up again by fire from a strongly-held machine gun post.

Again Sgt. Cairns rushed forward alone, firing his gun from the hip as he went. He silenced and captured two enemy guns, killing 12 Germans and taking 18 prisoners. Once more the Canadian line moved on, routing out the Germans from the houses and sending back scores of prisoners.

Western Front - indicating Valenciennes, France
In the outskirts of Valenciennes, in an old brickfield, the advance was again stayed by a battery of field guns firing point blank, and a large number of machine guns. Sgt. Cairns was wounded in the shoulder, but notwithstanding, he led a small party of his men around the position and outflanked it. Working his way to within 75 yards of the guns he took careful aim and killed a large number of the enemy gunners, causing 50 others to surrender. Seven machine guns, four field guns and one trench mortar were captured.

The objective was gained and the line of railway in the city of Valenciennes consolidated. The two front lines of the attacking companies had instructions to push out patrols to ascertain whether or not the enemy were evacuating and to gain other information of military importance. Sgt. Cairns accompanied Lieut. J. P. G. MacLeod; D. S. O., with a small patrol to exploit Marly, a suburb east of Valenciennes. Cairns noticed a considerable number of the enemy in a courtyard surrounded with buildings, and with Lieut. MacLeod, pushed forward to the gate, where they came face to face with about 60 Boche.

The Germans, seeing the Canadian officer and the sergeant with his Lewis gun, threw up their hands when ordered but before they could be disarmed one of them gave the signal that the two men were alone and, as he approached Sgt. Cairns as if to surrender, a German officer drew his pistol and shot Cairns through the stomach. Sgt. Cairns immediately dropped to his knees and fired upon the German officer, killing him instantly. The other Boche then took cover behind boxes and piles of debris and began firing on the two Canadians. In spite of the fact that he had received his fatal wound, Cairns got his gun into action. Again he was wounded in the hand and arm, but bleeding and in great pain he continued to operate his gun. Then another shot blew away the trigger and mangled his hand. Twenty Boche ran forward to overpower him. Seizing his broken gun, he hurled it into the face of the nearest Hun, then staggering to the gate, collapsed unconscious.

In a moment the remainder of the patrol came running to the courtyard and a skirmish took place, during which Lieut. MacLeod dragged away the insensible form of the hero, placing him on a door to use as a stretcher. During this evacuation enemy fire was taken from the flank killing one of the stretcher bearers and wounding Sgt. Cairns yet again. They carried him back to the Canadian line and then to the field hospital where he died the next day.

A spirit of recklessness had animated Sgt. Cairns from the moment of attack that day. His superior officer had suggested he not to go into action; as he had seen a great deal of fighting in all the engagements; but he absolutely refused to be left behind. His brother had been shot at his side a few weeks before and he seemed possessed with the idea of avenging his death. Sgt. Cairns led four skirmishes that day on which more than 50 Germans paid with their lives for the death of his brother.

It had been a day of incredible achievement for the 21-year old Canadian soldier. One of heroic service which won him the last Victoria Cross awarded for actions during World War I. He was buried on the field of honour.
Valenciennes, 01.11.18 - click for larger view of this image
Retreating German Infantry
burn Valenciennes.
 


"A" Company's Report on Valenciennes Operation - November 1st 1918
Extract from 46th Battalion War Diary for November 1918

After the various meetings of all Officers by the Commanding Officer and details of scheme explained, the scheme was carefully gone into with the whole Company and the following points explained.

That "A" Company attack on a two platoon frontage with one platoon in support. Lieut. Johnston with No.1 Platoon on the right and Lieut. Cook with No.2 Platoon on the left and Company Headquarters and Sergt Cairns with No.3 Platoon forming the support wave and that we advance on lines of sections in file at forty paces interval and 100 paces distance, and that the Company advance behind the 44th Battalion with our right flank resting on the main FAMARS-VALENCIENNES road until the cemetery in AULNOY was reached, at which point the Company were to slightly change direction by swinging to the right and crossing the FAMARS-VALENCIENNES road and that they were to get in behind the 44th Battalion's left flank and taking care of all buildings on main road running out of AULNOY.


Western Front - October/November 1918
Click for larger view of this map
The Battalion left present billets in THIANT for jumping off position by 0100 hours November 1st 1918 meeting guides and L.A.R.'s [Lewis Automatic Rifles machine guns] at Railway cutting as set out in orders. From here guides took respective platoons to their positions. Reported to B.H.Q. time 0255 hours that Company was in position.

The barrage opened at 0515 and the whole line moved off in good order. After we had gone about 500 yards we came under heavy machine gun fire from the left, just to the back of MOUNT HOUY and from the top of a building in K.3.c.40.30. I ordered one section of No.1 Platoon to mop up buildings which they did very satisfactorily, killing a large number of Boche and taking nine prisoners. The M.G. on the left still gave us considerable trouble but we got forward with very few casualties as the resistance was overcome during the advance to the sunken road by the leading waves of the 44th Battalion. When within 400 yards of the sunken road we encountered heavy machine gun fire from houses at junction on sunken road and main FAMARS-VALENCIENES road.

At this point the 44th Battalion had some trouble so I ordered No.1 Platoon to assist them overcoming their resistance. They captured some machine guns and many prisoners besides killing a great number. The advance then continued without any check until about 50 yards beyond the sunken road when direct machine gun fire was encountered from the trench and main road behind us. At this particular stage I only had about 20 men under my direct command as Lieut. Johnstone had taken something like 20 men with him who were now merged with "B" Company on the left. Realizing that I had not sufficient men to tackle the area allotted to "A" Company I called upon two sections of "C" Company, one to assist on the right flank and one on the left. The barrage playing here for 15 minutes enabled me to organize for the second stage and upon barrage lifting the line went forward in good order.

click for larger view of this image
A platoon from the 46th Battalion entering the outskirts of
Valenciennes under fire on 1 November 1918.

Opposition was not met with until we got practically in line with the houses at the junction of the roads in E.27.b.70.70. Here they held us up for a few minutes when the left L.A.R. section got their guns into action allowing the right to advance. The Boshe were now retiring down the sunken road to the brickfields and we bought to bear heavy fire from our L.A.R.'s and rifles on them which was very effective. The advance continued without further trouble until we reached the south side of the brickfields. At this point we came under very heavy machine gun fire and there was a fight on for over 20 minutes, when finally I ordered C.S.M. Gibbons, Sergt Cairns and 4 other ranks with 2 L.A.R.'s to outflank them on the right. These men crawled on their hands and knees while we covered them with rapid rifle and machine gun fire, resulting in them getting within 75 yards of the Boshe. The Boshe Officer became a casualty and the whole position fell. We captured 3 field guns, one trench mortar, 7 machine guns and over fifty prisoners and the ground had plenty of dead on it. The advance then continued to the south edge of the factory without much opposition. Here I ordered Sergt Cairns with 8 other ranks and 1 L.A.R. to seize the railway crossing in E.16.c.85.30. I then went over to the right flank to straighten things out as this flank was held up by machine gun fire from the railway in E.23.a.60.20. I found nothing could be done by be as the fire came from the east of the river so I directed them to remain where they were until the situation cleared on the left. I proceeded to the left and met Lieut. Johnstone coming over with 10 O.R's [Ordinary Rifles] and two L.A.R.'s of "A" Company and 20 other ranks of the 44th Battalion he had taken charge of. He was proceeding to rejoin the Company. I ordered Lieut. Johnstone to mop up the factory and established posts on the railroad, while I proceeded to the left to find out how Sergt Cairns had made out. Sergt Cairns had established a post covering all the approaches and was then moving down the railway to connect with Lieut. Johnstone. The situation here was now clear. I once more went to the right to see if the bridgehead could not be taken but found a very limited field of fire and not a satisfactory position to be taken up so retained the position in E.22.b.60.00. The whole line was established by 0900 hours.
 

Lewis Machine Gun
Lewis Automatic Machine Gun

I then notified Lieut. Jones of "C" Company to have patrol report to me at once (as per O.O.181 of Oct.31/18). Lieut. MacLeod reported to me and I gave him the necessary instructions and he moved his party forward at 0920 hours. With him were 1 Sergt, 10 O.R's with L.A.R. They entered the factory just the other side of the railway in E.16.c.90.40.
Lieut. MacLeod left 7 O.R's in the houses while he and Sergt Cairns and 2 O.R's with L.A.R. proceeded to examine factory, Sergt Cairns handling the gun himself. Just as they were crossing the street a Boshe opened on them with an automatic rifle. Sergt Cairns made a run for the swinging door opening into the courtyard shooting his L.A.R. from the hip. Those he did not kill or wound ran down a back street. At this time Lieut. MacLeod and one O.R. entered the courtyard and as they proceeded around the corner they discovered about 50 more Boshe in a passage in a south-easterly end of the yard. Here they ordered them to put up their hands which was done immediately with the exception of one Boshe who retained his rifle. Lieut. MacLeod immediately covered him with his revolver when a Boshe Officer made a motion as if to put the rifle aside at the same time drew his pistol and shot Sergt Cairns through the stomach. Sergt Cairns then opened fire from the hip killing and wounding about 30. The Boshe then saw they must fight for their lives and commenced firing a machine gun from a high brick wall. Sergt Cairns was again hit through the wrist but continued to fire his L.A.R. when he finally got a bullet through his hand nearly taking it off. This bullet also broke the L.A.R. He then threw the L.A.R. in the face of one of the Boshe who were firing at him, knocking him over. He then staggered to the gateway and collapsed. He was being carried back to our line when M.G. fire opened from the left killing one of the carrying party. Lieut. MacLeod then dragged him into our lines and reported to me at 1315 hours what he had done and reported casualties as 1 killed and 1 wounded.

Valenciennes, November 1918
The streets were closely packed on either side with buildings, from which the Germans attacked the passing troops.

At 1800 hours same date two platoons of 50th Battalion came up to reinforce. These consisted of 2 Sergts and 23 O.R's.
At 2100 hours I was relieved by a Company of the 54th Battalion and I reported with Company to THIANT.

In conclusion would say the barrage was splendid though there were a number of shorts during the latter stages of the advance. The smoke barrage was effective and enabled us to get close to the Boshe, and preventing him from knowing our strength which, had he known, would have caused us considerably more trouble and more casualties. The men did all I expected of them and I wish to specially mention the valuable services throughout the entire operation of the following O.R's.

Sergt Cairns
C.S.M. Gibbons
Privates Slack, Dennis, and Windrim
Also Lieut. MacLeod of "C" Company

I consider the work done by the above mentioned greatly assisted in the success in the action of my Company.
Total casualties; - All ranks - 42

R.W. Gyles Capt.
C.C. "A" Company


 

Distinguished Conduct Medal citation
Transcribed from hand-written entry on service record

“Awarded DCM for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to unit in leading a party forwards at a critical moment and supplying covering fire to the flank of an attacking Battalion. With great initiative he recovered two guns which had been left behind [and loaded them] repelling three enemy attacks and successfully covering our subsequent withdrawal. Though wounded he held on until all his ammunition was expended, when he made his way back to our line having done invaluable service and set a very fine example.”



George V Distinguished Conduct Medal
 

Victoria Cross citation

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.”


 
 


Sgt. Hugh Cairns VC DCM memorials and honours


Sgt. Hugh Cairns VC DCM Memorial - Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
The earliest memorial to Hugh Cairns was erected in 1921 by the Saskatoon Football Association in what is now known as Kiwanis Park, near the University Bridge. The statue is of Sgt. Cairns as a footballer. Soccer players in their hundreds joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force and many did not return from the conflict in Europe. Around the base of the statue are the names of the seventy-five Saskatoon soccer players who lost their lives in the Great War.
 


The memorial was dedicated on June 8, 1921 and unveiled by Rev. B.W. Pullinger of Detroit, Michigan. Rev. Pullinger had been the Chaplain of Sgt. Cairns’ regiment in France. Constructed of a 6 foot marble statue carved in Naples, Italy, set upon a 12 foot polished granite base, the Sgt. Hugh Cairns VC DCM Soccer Memorial is reputed to be the only war memorial in the world dedicated to soccer players. It is doubly unique considering that it is found in such a young soccer nation as Canada.
 
click to view larger image
The memorial is used in the logo of the Saskatoon District Soccer Association and a representation appears on the medallions that are awarded each year to individual and team award winners. In addition, each year on 11 November members of the SDSA lay a wreath at the memorial in remembrance of those who have gone before; reminding us that it was in many cases our youth who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

On November 13, 1933 all ranks of the 46th Battalion who lived, fought and died in France and Flanders from 1916 to 1918 were celebrated with the unveiling of a bronze memorial
plaque at the University of Saskatchewan. With seventy soldiers of the famous unit present, the ceremonies in Convocation Hall were officiated by the lieutenant-governor of Saskatchewan Col. H. E. Monroe with Mr. and Mrs. Cairns, the parents of Sgt. Hugh Cairns VC, as honoured guests.
 

On the day preceding the unveiling of the Vimy Memorial of July 25, 1936, the city of Valenciennes renamed a street L'Avenue du Sergent Hugh Cairns. This was the only instance this type of honour was bestowed upon an allied non-commissioned officer by a French city.

In 1960 the city of Saskatoon named a street and a school after him and his regiment renamed their new armoury to honour him.

Hugh Cairns VC Public School - Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
 
 
click to view a larger image




² In November 1977, Sgt. Cairns’ nephew Bill, representing the family, presented the hero's medals in trust to the armoury. Along with the
Victoria Cross, he received the Distinguished Conduct Medal, the French Legion of Honour (presented posthumously by the French government in 1936) and two standard WWI service medals. In addition to Sgt. Cairns’ medals, the Cairns family also presented the armoury with medals won by his brothers, Albert, Henry and Lawrence. The Victoria Cross is now on public display at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, Ontario.


 
In 1995, the provincial government of Saskatchewan developed a program to erect markers at appropriate sites throughout the province in honour of Saskatchewan's six Victoria Cross winners. In August 1995 a plaque was unveiled at what was thought to be the home of Sgt. Hugh Cairns.

Likely mistaken as an unknown Hugh Cairns Jr. in the 1912 and 1913 Saskatoon
Henderson address directories, Sgt. Hugh Cairns was identified as living at 418 10th St. East. – presumably the son of Rev. Hugh Cairns at the same address.

³ Coincidently, yet another Hugh Cairns lived in Saskatoon during this time. Hugh Charles John Cairns was the only child of successful merchant and celebrated sports founder James Frederick Cairns. – J. F. Cairns, for whom Cairns Field is named; his wife Edith, and son Hugh, resided on Spadina Crescent. Tragically the younger Cairns died in a boating accident on Pike Lake, near Saskatoon, in June 1917 at age fourteen.

Nevertheless, t
he 1914, 1915 and 1916 Henderson directories correctly published Hugh Cairns, the plumber, as one of the Cairns boys living at Ave G North. Apparently this was overlooked by bureaucratic planners of the program eighty years later. An imprudence which regrettably caused considerable confusion and dismay to family members and fellow veterans.
 

 
click to view a larger image
 
click to view a larger image
The Cairns family home at
832 Avenue G North, Saskatoon
In February 2005, an ongoing initiative to have the plaque relocated to the correct residence, spearheaded by Mrs. Rowena McLellan of Saskatoon, was successful.

Although the date of the plaque's transference was not set, the Saskatchewan Government Heritage Resource Unit stated that an error may have been made and it is their intention to transplant the marker in its entirety once the ground is sufficiently thawed.

On Tuesday, July 12, 2005 Sgt. Cairns’ plaque was relocated to his home at 832 Avenue G North. This was completed by a civic work crew and purportedly brought about without any public notification, proclamation, nor rededication ceremony.

Ed. – I extend my gracious apologizes to a great Canadian for the inexcusable delay, and thank you to all those who contributed, in any fashion, to getting the job done.
   
Photo courtesy: The Canadian Virtual War Memorial
Plaque mounted between the houses
at number 3 and number 5
L'Avenue du Sergent Hugh Cairns
at Valenciennes.
click to view a larger image
Grave marker of
Sgt. Hugh Cairns VC DCM
at Auberchicourt British Cemetery
Grave Reference: I. A. 8.
Photos of Auberchicourt Cemetery taken during a recent visit by Alain Dubois of Valenciennes can be found here at Alain's personal website.
 


Sgt. Hugh Cairns VC Armoury German artillery weapon


click to view a larger image

ª In front of Sgt. Hugh Cairns VC Armoury sits a well preserved WWI German model L/40 artillery gun on permanent display.

Obtained by the armoury, this weapon was originally presented to the City of Saskatoon by the Government of Canada in 1919.

 
Manufactured by Krupp of Essen in 1917, the L/40 fired a 15cm shell and had a maximum range of 20,451 yards.

In 1917 the German Army was desperately short of artillery of all types. The German Navy on the other hand was not short of surface vessels and a number of large calibre barrels were deemed surplus to requirements by the Navy.

The army took these barrels and mounted them on wheels. This picture shows the complete unit with trails as a separate piece. In this case they are being reattached for firing. Normally when traveling, they were separated into two individual pieces. The Sgt. Hugh Cairns Armoury gun is missing the trails which is as long as the gun itself.

It is unclear whether this weapon system was captured or seized by the Allies when Germany surrendered. A great many captured weapons were sent all across Canada as a thank you for raising Victory Bonds. It is known that the more a community raised, the larger the weapon system it received.
 
 

Other Saskatchewan recipients of the Victoria Cross are:
Sgt. A.H.L. Richardson, Fort Battleford, -
Lord Strathcona's Horse - Wolwespruit, South Africa, 1900
L/Cpl. Michael O'Leary, Fort Battleford, -
1st Battalion - Cuinchy, France, 1915
Lt. Robert Combe, Melville, -
27th Battalion - Acheville, France, 1917
Sgt. Harry Mullin, Moosomin, -
Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry - Passchendaele, Belgium, 1917
Maj. David Currie, Moose Jaw, -
29th Canadian Armoured Reconnaissance Regt. - Battle of Falaise, 1944

 


References, acknowledgments and sites of interest

Frances Morrison Library Local History Room (Saskatoon)
¹ Regina Morning Leader - November 8, 1919 p. 26 - Carolyn Cornell
² Saskatoon Star Phoenix - November 10, 1977 p. 21
³ Joan K. Murray - Corporate Historian, Hbc Heritage Services
ª Col. Larry Wong (retired) - North Saskatchewan Regiment
The Suicide Battalion
- J. McWilliams & J. Steel. 1978
The Men Who Marched Away
- J. Steel. 1989
National Archives of Canada
Library and Archives Canada Biography Online
Canadian Military History News
Victoria Cross Reference (migrated to Wikipedia)
The History of the Victoria Cross
The Saskatoon Heritage Society
Sgt. Hugh Cairns VC DCM Memorial virtual tour
Great Ships The Postcard and Ephemera Collection of Jeff Newman
Alain Dubois-Choulik
Saskatoon and District Soccer Association
Prairie Gold: Sports Heroes from Saskatchewan
Saskatchewan Council for Archives and Archivists
VAC Canada Remembers : Victoria Cross Heroes
Veterans Affairs Canada
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Imperial War Museum
The Saskatchewan Dragoons
Friends of War Memorials
Google search: Canadian War Memorials
A Canadian's Visit to Vimy Ridge
Fallen Heroes - Saskatoon Collegiate Institute
 

Page Published: © 30.11.99 - updated: 10.11.09
Created by Rod Filan in association with
Rosebud's WWI and Early Aviation Image Archive