Frederick George Topham

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Frederick George Topham
File:Frederick George Topham VC.jpg
Born (1917-08-10)10 August 1917
Toronto, Ontario
Died 31 May 1974(1974-05-31) (aged 56)
Toronto, Ontario
Buried at Sanctuary Park Cemetery, Etobicoke, Canada
Allegiance Canada
Service/branch Canadian Army
Years of service 1942 - 1945
Rank Corporal
Unit 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion
Battles/wars World War II

Frederick George Topham, VC (August 10, 1917 – May 31, 1974) was a Canadian recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.


Born in York Township, Topham was educated here at King George Public School and Runnymede High School (now Runnymede Collegiate Institute) before working in the mines at Kirkland Lake. He enlisted on August 3, 1942, and served at home and abroad as a medical orderly. On March 24, 1945, while serving with the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, he defied heavy enemy fire to treat casualties sustained in a parachute drop east of the Rhine, near Wesel. Rejecting treatment for his own severe face wound, he continued to rescue the injured for two hours. While returning to his company, he saved three occupants of a burning carrier which was in danger of exploding. For these exceptional deeds, Topham was awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest decoration for valour in the British Commonwealth.[1]


He was 27 years old, and a corporal (medical orderly) in the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, Canadian Army during the Second World War when the following deeds took place for which he was awarded the VC:

Department of National Defence, Ottawa. 3rd August, 1945.


The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the award of the VICTORIA CROSS to: —

No. B.39039 Corporal Frederick George TOPHAM, 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion.

On 24th March, 1945, Corporal Topham, a medical orderly, parachuted with his Battalion on to a strongly defended area east of the Rhine. At about 1100 hours, whilst treating casualties sustained in the drop, a cry for help came from a wounded man in the open. Two medical orderlies from a field ambulance went out to this man in succession but both were killed as they knelt beside the casualty.

Without, hesitation and on his own initiative, Corporal Topham went forward through intense fire to replace the orderlies who had been killed before his eyes. As he worked on the wounded man, he was himself shot through the nose. In spite of severe bleeding and intense pain, he never faltered in his task. Having completed immediate first aid, he carried the wounded man steadily and slowly back through continuous fire to the shelter of a wood.

During the next two hours Corporal Topham refused all offers of medical help for his own wound. He worked most devotedly throughout this period to bring in wounded, showing complete disregard for the heavy and accurate enemy fire. It was only when all casualties had been cleared that he consented to his own wound being treated.

His immediate evacuation was ordered, but he interceded so earnestly on his own behalf that he was eventually allowed to return to duty.

On his way back to his company he came across a carrier, which had received a direct hit. Enemy mortar bombs were still dropping around, the carrier itself was burning fiercely and its own mortar ammunition was exploding. An experienced officer on the spot had warned all not to approach the carrier.

Corporal Topham, however, immediately went out alone in spite of the blasting ammunition and enemy fire, and rescued the three occupants of the carrier. He brought these men back across the open and although one died almost immediately afterwards, he arranged for the evacuation of the other two, who undoubtedly owe their lives to him.

This N.C.O. showed sustained gallantry of the highest order. For six hours, most of the time in great pain, he performed a series of acts of outstanding bravery and his magnificent and selfless courage inspired all those who witnessed it.[2]


Topham's heroism was acknowledged publicly with a parade and civic reception in Toronto on August 8, 1945; one hundred members of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion served as a guard of honour. After the war, Topham took little part in military affairs. On November 10, 1945 he laid the cornerstone of the new Sunnybrook Memorial Hospital for Veterans. Topham served briefly as a Constable with the Toronto Police Department before moving onto a career with Toronto Hydro.

Topham died on May 31, 1974 from a heart attack, died in the Borough of York and is buried at Sanctuary Park Cemetery, Etobicoke, Canada.


Topham's medals were on loan to the Canadian War Museum, but were not permanently on display. His widow declared in her will that the medals should be sold.

The Corporal Fred Topham, VC Fundraising Project was formed by members of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion Association and The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada to retain the medal in Canada.[3] Topham's medals were eventually acquired from his family for $300,000 after a large fundraising campaign. On March 24, 2005, on the 60th anniversary of Corporal Topham's VC action, the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion Association presented Topham's medals to the museum at the Citadel in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where they will be on permanent display.[4]

Topham's grave, October 1995.

The Ontario Heritage Foundation, erected a plaque at the Etobicoke Civic Centre in 1980 commemorating Corporal Frederick Topham, V.C. (1917–74). There is also an Ontario Heritage Plaque erected outside Runnymede College Institute.


  1. "Frederick George Topham memorial". National Defence Canada. 2008-04-16. Retrieved 22 May 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. The London Gazette: no. 37205. p. 3965. 31 July 1945. Retrieved 24 March 2009.
  4. [ Fred Topham's Victoria Cross Donated to the museum at the Citadel in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Canadian National War Museum in Ottawa

See also

External links