Peck and Metcalfe (V.C.’s)
September 2nd, 1918: During the final 100 Days campaign of the First World War, one of the toughest battles fought by the Canadians was the breaking of the Drocourt-Queant line (Wotan Stellung – German name). Seven Victoria crosses were awarded to the Canadians that day including two to members of the 16th Battalion (Canadian Scottish).
48-year-old Lt-Colonel Peck enlisted in the 16th Battalion in 1914 and went on to fight in the Second Battle of Ypres. He assumed command of the battalion in November 1916. The portly Peck was an unlikely looking officer but was reputed for his fearlessness. He earned the Victoria Cross in recognition of the leadership and valour he displayed on September 2, 1918, during the assault on the Drocourt-Queant line. Having braved heavy fire to reconnoitre enemy positions, Peck rallied his heavily damaged group and then led them to success.
Corporal William Henry Metcalfe, an American serving with the 16th Battalion under Peck’s command, earned his Victoria Cross on the same day. Metcalfe calmly guided a tank over exposed bullet-swept ground, directed its fire onto German strongpoints, and thereby saved many of his comrades from withering fire.
The two acts combined to make a rare instance where two men from the same battalion earned a Victoria Cross on the same day. In all, seven Canadians were awarded for their actions on September 2, 1918; they set a record among Commonwealth forces for honours granted for actions carried out on a single day.
To learn more about Lt-Colonel Peck check out the Friends of the Canadian War Museum.
To learn more about Corporal Metcalfe check out the UK Government website.