Case study

WW1 Canadian VC recipient Robert Edward Cruickshank

The story of Canadian First World War Victoria Cross recipient Robert Cruickshank.

Robert Edward Cruickshank
Credit: © IWM (detail of VC 281)

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: Robert Edward Cruickshank

DOB: 17 June 1988

Place of Birth: Winnipeg, Canada

Date of Action: 1 May 1918

Place of Action: Jordan River, Palestine

Rank: Private

Regiment: London Scottish

Robert Cruickshank was born on 17 June 1888 in Winnipeg, Canada, but moved to England with his family when young. He worked as a salesman but, upon the outbreak of the First World War, he volunteered initially for the Royal Flying Corps before transferring to the London Scottish Regiment of the British Army. He was wounded during the Battle of the Somme and was later sent to the Middle East.

Private Cruickshank was awarded his Victoria Cross for his bravery on 1 May 1918 at the River Jordan in Palestine when he volunteered to take a message to headquarters after his platoon came under heavy fire. His citation states:

The platoon to which Private Cruickshank belonged came under very heavy rifle and machine-gun fire at short range and was led down a steep bank into a wadi, most of the men being hit before they reached the bottom. Immediately after reaching the bottom of the wadi the officer in command was shot dead, and the sergeant who then took over command sent a runner back to Company Headquarters asking for support, but was mortally wounded almost immediately after; the corporal having in the meantime been killed, the only remaining N.C.O. (a lance-corporal), believing the first messenger to have been killed, called for a volunteer to take a second message back. Private Cruickshank immediately responded and rushed up the slope, but was hit and rolled back into the wadi bottom. He again rose and rushed up the slope, but, being again wounded, rolled back into the wadi. After his wounds had been dressed he rushed a third time up the slope and again fell badly wounded. Being now unable to stand he rolled himself back amid a hail of bullets. His wounds were now of such a nature as to preclude him making any further attempt and he lay all day in a dangerous position, being sniped at and again wounded where he lay. He displayed the utmost valour and endurance, and was cheerful and uncomplaining throughout.

Private Cruickshank returned to England a hero, married and resumed work in the field of sales. In the Second World War, he served in the Home Guard. He died in 1961 in England.

Published 20 June 2016