john george pattison v.c.
September 08,1875 - June 03,1917
For the six-minute Extended Version of the above video, please click here.
John George Pattison was one of four soldiers to earn the Victoria Cross at the Battle of Vimy Ridge April 9 and 10, 1917. On April 10, the 50th Battalion - which had been held in reserve on April 9 - was ordered forward to capture the last remaining German stronghold on Vimy Ridge. The attack was stopped by a German machine gun—but John Pattison refused to be stopped and charged.
You are about to watch the story of John Pattison; a man small in stature but courageous of heart; an ordinary man and caring father who went to war to protect his son and became a hero, earning our Nation’s highest award: the Victoria Cross. Pattison also received an Alberta Motion Picture Industry award for best educational video of 2012.
"For most conspicuous bravery in attack,"
-Victoria Cross citation for Private John George Pattison, London Gazette, no. 30215
Pattison, like many early Canadians, was an immigrant from Great Britain - Woolwich, England, to be exact, part of Greater London today. Arriving in Calgary in 1906, he was married with four children when he enlisted with the Canadian army on March 6, 1916, at the age of 40, making him one of the oldest recruits allowed to serve on the front lines. Serving with the 50th Infantry Battalion of the Alberta Regiment, Private Pattison never let his years hinder his performance - if anything, it only made him a better soldier.
Private Pattison's historic moment came on April 10, 1917, the day after the Canadian army attacked and took the hitherto impenetrable Vimy Ridge.It was important that the army continued to move forward and take advantage of the momentum gained by the previous day's accomplishments - onward, as it were. However, the advance of Pattison's section was being held up by a German machine gun, which was inflicting heavy casualties. Recognizing the importance of removing the deadly obstacle, Pattison selflessly rushed forward, jumping from shell-hole to shell-hole across the field until he was within 30 metres of the machine gun position. Despite the crack of bullets flying around him, he remained unscathed as he hurled grenade after grenade into the machine gun nest, temporarily pausing the machine gun fire. Taking advantage of his, he rushed the remaining 30 metres to the machine gun, overcoming the five surviving Germans and capturing the position.
We will never know the source of Pattison's courage and bravery - perhaps his younger comrades reminded him of his own children - but it suffices to say that Canada's outstanding performance at Vimy Ridge may well have turned out differently were it not for Pattison. For his efforts, Pattison was awarded the highest honour a Canadian soldier could receive: the Victoria Cross.
The Victoria Cross - note "FOR VALOUR". The recipient's name would be inscribed on rear of the upper bar containing the laurel leaves.
Sadly, Pattison likely never saw the award, the citation for which was only posted on August 2nd, 1917. Private Pattison was lost in action on June 3rd, just seven weeks after his Vimy Ridge exploit. While attacking a German-held generator near Lens, France, an artillery shell exploded near Pattison - a piece of shrapnel struck him and, despite the best First Aid efforts of his comrades, he perished shortly after.
Pattison is buried in the La Chaudiere Military Cemetary, three kilometres south of Lens. In his honour, the Pattison Bridge in Calgary and the Mount Pattison peak in Jasper National Park have been named after him.
For the full citation of Pattison's Victoria Cross, please see the official Government of Canada's Directorate of History and Heritage entry.
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VALOUR CANADA wishes to acknowledge The Poppy Fund, Calgary Foundation and Veterans Affairs Canada for their generous funding of MONUMENTAL CANADIANS.