Case study

WW1 Canadian VC recipient James Edward Tait

The story of Canadian First World War Victoria Cross recipient James Edward Tait.

James Edward Tait
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: James Edward Tait

DOB: 27 May 1888

Place of Birth: Maxwelltown, Scotland

Date of Action: 8 to 11 August 1918

Place of Action: Amiens, France

Rank: Lieutenant

Regiment: 78th Infantry Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force.

James Edward Tait was born in Maxwelltown (Dumfries), in Scotland on 27 May 1888, and later emigrated to Canada where he worked as a civil engineer. Tait enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, and was commissioned as an officer. He received the Military Cross for his conduct on 9 April 1917 during the battle for Vimy Ridge, France.

Lieutenant Tait was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously for his actions while serving with the 78th Battalion during the first four days of the Battle of Amiens, France, 8 to 11 August. His citation reads:

For most conspicuous bravery and initiative in attack. The advance having been checked by intense machine-gun fire, Lt. Tait rallied his company and led it forward with consummate skill and dash under a hail of bullets. A concealed machine-gun, however, continued to cause many casualties. Taking a rifle and bayonet, Lt. Tait dashed forward alone and killed the enemy gunner. Inspired by his example his men rushed the position, capturing twelve machine-guns and twenty prisoners. His valorous action cleared the way for his battalion to advance. Later when the enemy counter-attacked our positions under intense artillery bombardment, this gallant officer displayed outstanding courage and leadership, and though mortally wounded by a shell, continued to direct and aid his men until his death.

Lieutenant Tait died on 11 August 1918, and was buried at Fouquescourt British Cemetery.

Published 20 June 2016