Case study

WW1 Canadian VC recipient William Johnstone Milne

The story of Canadian First World War Victoria Cross recipient William Johnstone Milne.

William Johnstone Milne
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: William Johnstone Milne

DOB: 21 December 1892

Place of Birth: Cambusnethan, Scotland

Date of Action: 9 April 1917

Place of Action: Vimy Ridge, France

Rank: Private

Regiment: 16th Infantry Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force

William Johnstone Milne was born in Cambusnethan Scotland, on 21 December 1892 but emigrated in 1910 to Canada where he worked as a farmer. He enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force in Saskatchewan in 1915.

Private Milne was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on 9 April 1917 at Vimy Ridge, where Milne’s 16th Infantry Battalion was part of the successful Canadian attack on German positions. His citation explains further:

For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty in attack.On approaching the first objective, Pte. Milne observed an enemy machine gun firing on our advancing troops. Crawling on hands and knees, he succeeded in reaching the gun, killing the crew with bombs, and capturing the gun. On the line re-forming, he again located a machine gun in the support line, and stalking the second gun as he had done the first, he succeeded in putting the crew out of action and capturing the gun. His wonderful bravery and resource on these two occasions undoubtedly saved the lives of many of his comrades. Pte. Milne was killed shortly after capturing the second gun.

Private Milne’s body was never found, but he is commemorated on the Vimy Memorial in France.

Published 20 June 2016