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Who was the first Canadian soldier to have earned the Victoria Cross during the Second World War?

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Company Sergeant-Major John Osborn (2 January 1899 - 19 December 1941) was the first Canadian soldier in the Second World War to have earned the Victoria Cross. It was at Hong Kong on the morning of 19 December 1941, that while leading part of a company of the Winnipeg Grenadiers, he captured a hill at bayonet point and held it for three hours until the position became untenable. As part of a small group providing covering for a withdrawal, he single-handed engaged the enemy and was exposed to heavy enemy fire. Enemy grenades were thrown which he picked up and threw back and when one landed where it was impossible to return in time, he threw himself upon it and was instantly killed. The qualities of his heroism and self-sacrifice were not known until after the war and in 1946 he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. As shown in the photograph, a memorial was dedicated to him on 19 December 1991 at the Deer Lodge Centre, Winnipeg - where it was first established in 1916 as a military convalescent hospital for returning First World War soldiers and seven decades later, it became the largest rehabilitation and long term care facility in Manitoba where Veterans continue being treated within the greater community of patients and residents.

On this day, 19 December 2019, we commemorate the 78th anniversary of Company Sergeant-Major John Osborn's acts of heroism and mark the 28th anniversary of the memorial dedicated to him at the Deer Lodge Centre, Winnipeg, Manitoba.

André M. Levesque

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