Case study

WW1 Canadian VC recipient Robert Spall

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

Robert Spall
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: Robert Spall

DOB: 5 March 1980

Place of Birth: Ealing, England

Date of Action: 12 to 13 August 1918

Place of Action: Parvillers, France

Rank: Sergeant

Regiment: Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, Canadian Expeditionary Force

Robert Spall was born in Ealing, England on 5 March 1890. He emigrated to Canada at the age of two, to Montreal. In 1915 when working as a customs broker in Winnipeg he joined the 90th Infantry Battalion of the Canadian Expedition Force. He was later transferred to the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry in which he became a sergeant.

Sergeant Spall was awarded his Victoria Cross posthumously for his actions on 12 to 13 August 1917, at Parvillers, France. His citation reads:

For most conspicuous bravery and self-sacrifice when, during an enemy counter-attack, his platoon was isolated. Thereupon Sjt. Spall took a Lewis gun and, standing on the parapet, fired upon the advancing enemy, inflicting very severe casualties. He then came down the trench directing the men into a sap seventy-five yards from the enemy. Picking up another Lewis gun, this gallant N.C.O. again climbed the parapet, and by his fire held up the enemy. It was while holding up the enemy at this point that he was killed. Sjt. Spall deliberately gave his life in order to extricate his platoon from a most difficult situation, and it was owing to his bravery that the platoon was saved.

Sergeant Spall’s final resting place was lost but he is commemorated on the Canadian National Vichy Memorial in Pas de Calais, France.

Published 20 June 2016