Private John George Pattison V.C.

"For most conspicuous bravery in attack... his valour and initiative undoubtedly saved the situation..."
Victoria Cross citation for Pte. Pattison, London Gazette (no. 30215)

Pattison, like many early Canadians, was an immigrant from Great Britain. Arriving in Calgary in 1906, he was married with four children when he enlisted in the Canadian Army on March 6, 1916. He was 40 years old, which made him one of the oldest recruits allowed to serve on the front lines. Serving with the 50th Infantry Battalion of the Alberta Regiment, Private Pattison never let his age negatively affect his performance. If anything, it made him a better soldier. 

The Victoria Cross.
Private John G. Pattison, VC.

Private Pattison’s historic moment came on April 10, 1917, the day after the Canadians successfully attacked Vimy Ridge. It was important that the army continued to move forward and take advantage of the momentum gained by the previous day’s accomplishments. However, the advance of Pattison’s section was being held up by a German machine gun on Hill 145 that was causing heavy casualties. Recognizing the importance of removing the deadly obstacle, Pattison selflessly rushed forward, jumping from shell-hole to shell-hole across the field until he was within 30 metres of the machine gun position. Despite the bullets flying past him, he hurled grenade after grenade into the machine gun nest, temporarily pausing the machine gun fire. Taking advantage of this, he rushed the remaining 30 metres to the machine gun, killed the five surviving Germans inside, captured the machine gun and prevented it from attacking the Canadians. For his efforts, Pattison was awarded the highest honour a Canadian soldier could receive: the Victoria Cross.

John G. Pattison, V.C.

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Sadly, Pattison likely never saw the award. Private Pattison was lost in action on June 3rd, just seven weeks after the battle at Vimy Ridge. While attacking a German-held generator near Lens, France, an artillery shell exploded near Pattison. A piece of shrapnel struck him and, despite the best First Aid efforts of his comrades, he passed away shortly thereafter.

Pattison's grave at La Chaudiere Military Cemetery.
In Memory of Pattision (Winnipeg Evening Tribune).
Pattison's attestation paper (front).
Pattison's attestation paper (back).

Pattison is buried in the La Chaudiere Military Cemetery, three kilometres south of Lens. In his honour, the Pattison Bridge in Calgary and the Mount Pattison peak in Jasper National Park bear his name.

Three Other Victoria Crosses at Vimy

Four Canadians were awarded a Victoria Cross for their actions during the 4-day battle.

During the few hours immediately following the initial attack at 05:30 on April 9th, the following three Canadians were identified as having acted gallantly and with valour “in the face of the enemy”:

◊      Pte. William Milne

Private Milne destroyed 2 machine gun nests that had previously been exacting a heavy toll on his countrymen.

◊      Sgt. Ellis Sifton

Sergeant Sifton attacked, took out, and then held a different machine gun nest.

◊      Maj. Thain MacDowell

Major MacDowell destroyed 2 machine gun nests, entered a tunnel in one, and then took prisoner 77 German soldiers who had been sheltering underground.

The Daily Mail newspaper, April 10, 1917 (LAC M#3666452).

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Guns Blazing Quiz

Offensives and Attacks. Positive and Negative Factors. Victoria Crosses Awarded.

The Road to Vimy Ridge

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