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Which Canadian Second World War hero from Latchford, Ontario was awarded the Victoria Cross postumously in 1945?

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Sergeant Aubrey Cosens, V.C. (21 May 1921 – 26 February 1945) is the son of First World War veteran Charles E. Cosens and Yvonne Cosens, of Latchord, Ontario. His parents moved to Porquis Junction, near Iroquois Falls, when he was two years old and was educated in the Porquis Junction School. He left school in 1938 to work with his father on the Temiskaming and Northern Ontario Railway as a section hand. At the outbreak of the Second World War he attempted to join the Royal Canadian Air Force but his application was rejected. In 1940 he went to Hamilton, Ontario and enrolled in The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (Princess Louise's). He served with them in Canada, in Jamaica on garrison duty from September 1941 to May 1943, and embarked for Great Britain in July 1943. He transferred to the Queen's Own Rifles of Canada in the summer of 1944 and was soon promoted from corporal to sergeant. Sergeant Cosens was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross for his "outstanding gallantry, initiative and determined leadership" in action at Moonshof in Holland on 25-26 February 1945. He is one of only 16 Canadians who were bestowed the Victoria Cross during the Second World War. His citation is published in the London Gazette of 18 May 1945: "In Holland, on the night 25/26th February, 1945 the 1st Battalion The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada attacked the hamlet of Mooshof. Sergeant Cosens' platoon, with tanks in support, had as their objective enemy strong-points in three farm-buildings. They were twice beaten back and were then fiercely counterattacked. Their casualties were heavy, including the platoon commander killed. Sergeant Cosens assumed command of the few survivors of the platoon, and placed them so as to give him covering fire while he crossed open ground to the one remaining tank and directed its fire. After a further counter-attack had been repulsed, Sergeant Cosens ordered the tank to attack the three farm-buildings, the remaining men of his platoon following in close support. He himself entered the three buildings in turn, alone, and killed or captured all the occupants. Immediately afterwards he was shot by a sniper, and died almost instantly. His outstanding gallantry, initiative and determined leadership resulted in the capture of a position which was vital to the success of the future operations of the Brigade." As shown in the photograph, the 24-year old Sergeant Cosens is buried in Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery, Nijmegen, the Netherlands. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission maintains the cemetery which contains 2,610 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War, and nine war graves from other nationalities.

Sergeant Cosens is well remembered within his community in Ontario and overseas. In July 1945, the Temagami Navigation Company immediately renamed the Motor-launch 'Sea Duck' to 'Aubrey Cosens VC' in his honour. In 1986, the Royal Canadian Legion persuaded the government of Ontario to name Latchford's bridge – its primary link to all of Northern Ontario – as the 'Sgt. Aubrey Cosens VC Memorial Bridge'. Originally constructed in 1960 and rebuilt in 2005, it is the town's hallmark and has a cairn and a Veterans' park alongside. The Ontario Heritage Trust also erected a commemorative plaque near Porquis Junction. The Canadian Armed Forces recognized him by having one of the main buildings at the 4th Canadian Division Training Centre (formerly called the Land Force Central Area Training Centre) in Meaford, Ontario named after him. A plaque was also unveiled in the village of Mooshof in May 2005 to mark Sergeant Cosen's heroism.

On this day, 26 February 2022, we commemorate the 77th anniversary of the death of Sergeant Aubrey Cosens, V.C.

André M. Levesque

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