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
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.