Case study

WW1 Canadian VC recipient Christopher Patrick John O'Kelly

The story of Canadian First World War Victoria Cross recipient Christopher Patrick John O'Kelly.

Christopher Patrick John O'Kelly
Credit: National Defence Canada

70 men from Canada received the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest award for gallantry, during the First World War. As part of the Centenary Commemorations the people of the United Kingdom marked their gratitude to those courageous men by presenting a bronze memorial plaque to their home country engraved with their names. The plaque is now displayed at the British High Commission Ottawa. This archive tells their stories.

Name: Christopher Patrick John O’Kelly

DOB: 18 November 1895

Place of Birth: Winnipeg

Date of Action: 26 October 1917

Place of Action: Bellevue Spur, Passchendaele, Belgium

Rank: Acting Captain

Regiment: 52nd Infantry Battalion

Christopher Patrick John O’Kelly was born in Winnipeg, Canada on 18 November 1985. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant when he enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force in 1916. Whilst serving with the 52nd Infantry Battalion, he received the Military Cross. He was 21 when on 26 October 1917, as Acting Captain he led his company of the 52nd Battalion against German positions on Belle Vue Spur, Passchendaele. His citation reads:

For most conspicuous bravery in an action in which he led his company with extraordinary skill and determination. After the original attack had failed and two companies of his unit had launched a new attack, Capt. O’Kelly advanced his command over 1,000 yards under heavy fire without any artillery barrage, took the enemy positions on the crest of the hill by storm, and then personally organised and led a series of attacks against ‘Pill-boxes,’ his company alone capturing six of them with 100 prisoners and 10 machine guns. Later on in the afternoon, under the leadership of this gallant officer, his company repelled a strong counter-attack, taking more prisoners, and subsequently during the night captured a hostile raiding party consisting of one officer, 10 men and a machine gun. The whole of these achievements were chiefly due to the magnificent courage, daring and ability of Capt. O’Kelly.

Captain O’Kelly returned to Canada but in 1922 he drowned in a storm on Lake Seul, near Kenora, in Ontario.

Published 20 June 2016