Soldiers of Valour Road

Soldiers of Valour Road

Canada Post released this year’s Remembrance Day stamp, Valour Road, October 21, 2021. It honours 3 Victoria Cross winners – Lionel (Leo) Clarke, VC (1892-1916), Robert Shankland, VC, DCM (1887-1968) and Frederick William Hall, VC (1885-1915). 

The Soldiers of Valour Road single stamp with 3 head profiles

The Soldiers of Valour Road

64 Canadians won the VC in World War One, with three from Pine Road, Winnipeg, Manitoba. In 1925, Winnipeg renamed Pine Street to Valour Road, with sole survivor Robert Shankland in attendance.  The street still carries this name. 

Canada at War

If you are unfamiliar with Canada’s role in WW1, this site might help you out – Canada and the First World War. It offers an approachable, broad view of both World War One and Canada’s participation.  The Canadian Encyclopedia’s First World War Timeline also offers an excellent section on the war. Doubtful there was any community in Canada untouched by the war. The population of Canada in 1914 was 3.5 million people. Out of that population, 650,000 men and women served. 66,000 were killed and 172,000 wounded. 

A few fast stamp facts:

The 2nd Battle of Ypres, April 22 to May 25, 2015, was the first major battle Canadians participated in. It was during this fight that Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae wrote his famous poem In Flanders Fields after a friend, Lt. Alexis Helmer, was killed.  McCrae appeared on a Canadian stamp October 15, 1968. Imre von Mosdossy was the designer. 

The 1917 Battle of Vimy Ridge is considered a turning point in how Canadians saw themselves and Canada. The Vimy Memorial, in France, has appeared twice on Canadian stamps. The first was Oct. 15,1968, the same year the McCrae was released. Harvey Thomas Prosser designed the stamp, and  Yves Baril and Gordon Mash shared engraving duties. 

The second time, was a joint 2 stamp set released April 8, 2017 on the 100th anniversary of the battle. Canadian artist Susan Scott designed the Canadian stamp, and French illustrator/engraver Sarah Bougault designed the French stamp. 

However, the Vimy Memorial first appeared on stamps in 1936. France issued 2 to celebrate the memorial’s unveiling. Henry Cheffer designed and engraved the pair. They were in circulation for a short period of time starting the day of the unveiling  July 26 and withdrawn September 23,1936.  To accompany the stamps, France also issued 20 postal stationery postcards based on the photographs of the monument by French modernist Andrè Vigneau and engraved (photogravure ) by E Desfossés-Néogravure.   

The Memorial Chamber, where the First and Second World War Books of Remembrance are kept, was featured on a 1938 stamp. Herman Herbert Schwartz designed the stamp, with Joseph Keller the engraving.

The National War Memorial, dedicated in 1939 to WW1 dead, was featured on a May 15,1939 stamp. Schwarz and Keller teamed up again to create this stamp. The Memorial appeared again, on a souvenir sheet, Oct. 19, 2009, to commemorate the end of WW1. Lionel Gadoury, Michael Wandelmaier of Context Creative designed the stamp with Lowe-Martin responsible for the engraving work.

 There are other war memorial or military stamps from Canada Post (and it predecessors), but that would be a lengthy essay in itself best left for another day.

Lionel (Leo) Clarke, VC (1892-1916), 2nd Canadian Infantry Battalion

Photo of  Clark Valour Road soldier

Corporal Leo Clark, image courtesy Archives Canada

Leo Clarke was born in Waterdown, Ontario, 1892 and moved to Pine Street, Winnipeg in 1903. After leaving school, Clarke began working with the Canadian National Railway as a surveyor.

Clarke enlisted February 25, 1915 at the age of 22. Originally with the 27th Battalion he transferred to the 2nd (Eastern Ontario Regiment) Battalion, soon after arriving in England. He wanted to serve along side his brother Charles who was with 2nd Battalion. Leo was fatally wounded when an artillery shell exploded near his position in the Regina Trench and buried alive. His brother Charles managed to dig him out of the mud and debris, but Leo died in hospital October 19, 2016.  

He won the VC September 9, 1916, during the Battle of Flers-Courcette. 

Leo Clarke, VC | The Canadian Encyclopedia

“No. 73132 Private (Acting Corporal) Leo. Clarke, Can. Inf.: For most conspicuous bravery. He was detailed with his section of bombers to clear the continuation of a newly captured trench and cover the construction of a “block.” After most of his party had become casualties, he was building a “block” when about twenty of the enemy with two officers counter-attacked. He boldly advanced against them, emptied his revolver and afterwards two enemy rifles which he picked up in the trench. One of the officers then attacked him with the bayonet wounding him in the leg, but he shot him dead. The enemy then ran away, pursued by Acting Corporal Clarke, who shot four more and captured a fifth. Later he was ordered to the dressing station, but returned next day to duty.” The London Gazette – October 26, 1916, Supplement 29802

Excerpt from Leo Clarke's service record

Excerpt from Leo Clarke’s service record detailing his death & awarding of Victoria Cross

The Soldiers of Valour Road Leo Clark FDC

FDC for Leo Clarke

His Victoria Cross was donated, by his family to the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa in 2010.  

Robert Shankland, VC, DCM (1887-1968), 43rd Canadian Infantry Battalion

Robert Shankland Valour Road Soldier

Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Shanklank

Born in Ayrshire, Scotland, Shankland moved to Pine Street, Winnipeg in 1910 where he worked as a clerk for a local creamery. He enlisted December 21, 1914, aged 27, and joined the 43rd Battalion (Cameron Highlanders).  He shipped to England in June, 1915 and became an officer in 1917, when he received a battlefield commission. 

His VC was won for actions at Passchendaele, Belgium, October 26, 1917.

Shankland was the only survivor of the “Pine Street Boys”. In 1925, he attended the ceremony that changed Pine St’s name to Valour Road. 

After returning home, Shankland remained in the Cameron’s militia unit until he moved to Victoria, BC. While living there, he joined the Canadian Scottish Regiment. With the start of WW2, Shankland returned to Winnipeg and rejoined the Cameron’s for active duty.  He serve in England as commandant  of the  Canadian Army Detention Barracks. He served until the end of the war and returned to British Columbia, and settled in Vancouver. 

Robert Shankland, VC | The Canadian Encyclopedia

“For conspicuous gallantry in volunteering to lead a party of stretcher-bearers, under very heavy shell fire, and bringing in some wounded and partially buried men. His courage and devotion were most marked.”  The London Gazette—Supplement 29713, Page 8248, August 18, 1916

Excerpt from Shankland's service record

The Soldiers of Valour Road

Robert Shankland FDC

Shankland’s Victoria Cross was purchased at auction by the Canadian War Museum in 2009. 

Frederick William Hall, VC (1885-1915), 8th Canadian Infantry Battalion

Sgt.-Major F.W. Hall

Sgt.-Major Frederick William Hall, image courtesy Archives Canada

Born in Kilkenny, Ireland, Hall emigrated to Canada in 1913 and settled in Winnipeg where he found work as a shipping clerk. Before coming to Canada, he served 12 years with the Scottish Rifles. He joined the 79th Cameron Highlanders militia shortly after moving to Pine Street. 

With the outbreak of WW1, Hall joined the 8th Battalion of Winnipeg, at the age of 29 on September 26, 1914. He sailed for England  less than a month later, October 3, 1914 and was killed during the 2nd Battle of Ypres on  April 24, 1915, while trying to save wounded soldiers. His body was never recovered.  

Hall received his Victoria Cross for his actions at Ypres the day he was killed. 

Fred Hall, VC | The Canadian Encyclopedia

“No. 1539 Colour-Sergeant Frederick William Hall, 8th Canadian Battalion. On 24th April, 1915, in the neighbourhood of Ypres, when a wounded man who was lying some 15 yards from the trench called for help, Company Sergeant-Major Hall endeavoured to reach him in the face of a very heavy enfilade fire which was being poured in by the enemy. The first attempt failed, and a Non-commissioned Officer and private soldier who were attempting to give assistance were both wounded. Company Sergeant-Major Hall then made a second most gallant attempt, and was in the act of lifting up the wounded man to bring him in when he fell mortally wounded in the head.” The London Gazette—June 22, 1915, Supplement 29202, Page 6115

Excerpt from FW Hall's service record

The Soldiers of Valour Road FDC Frederick William Hall

FDC for Frederick William Hall

Hall’s Victoria Cross was acquired by the Canadian War Museum in 2012. 

Booklets by Canada Post

As well as the single stamp and a FDCs for each soldier, Canada Post also issued a booklet of 10, a souvenir sheet and a framed edition of the sheet.  

Valour Road booklet cover Valour Road Booklet Valour road booklet back Valour Road Booklet The Soldiers of Valour Road framed sheet

 The set was designed by Soapbox Design, using Richard Nalli-Petta supplying the artwork. The backside of the FDCs includes a brief description of the actions that led to each medal. The covers will expand to a large size so you can easily read the details.

The Soldiers of Valour Road FDC backside The Soldiers of Valour Road FDC back The Soldiers of Valour Road FDC back

Although there is a cancel for the FDCs, I couldn’t source a decent scan of one.  If you happen to have a good one, and would like to share it, drop a note in the comments below. 

Last year’s Remembrance Day stamps took a different approach to the day. They featured the artwork of Mary Riter Hamilton, a Canadian artist who documented the devastation left behind when WW1 ended. You can see the issues here:  New Mary Riter Hamilton stamp – Oct 28, 2020 | Bitter Grounds Magazine

If you’d like to see more Canadian stamps, check out all the issues for 2021 here Awesome 2021 Canadian stamps

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