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Author Topic: Rest in Peace LCol CCI Merritt, VC
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posted 14 July 2021 01:35     Profile for madorosh   Author's Homepage   Email madorosh     Send New Private Message     Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote
Charles Cecil Ingersoll Merritt, VC has passed away at the age of 91. He won the supreme award at Dieppe, leading his troops in the attack, personally crossing a fireswept bridge and assualting enemy strongpoints, and then organizing the defence of the beach until captured.

He is survived by Ernest Alva Smith, VC - Canada's last surviving VC winner.

Posts: 43 | From: Calgary, AB | Registered: Jun 2000
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posted 18 July 2021 11:13     Profile for bossi   Email bossi     Send New Private Message     Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote
The most detailed obits have been in the British newspapers.
Here's one from the Telegraph, which even mentions this Highlander's prowess at shinny (supporting my pet theory that hockey, also known as war on ice, should be the official sport of the Canadian Army):

The Daily Telegraph
Tuesday 18 Jul 2021
Issue number 45127


Lt-Col Cecil Merritt, VC

LIEUTENANT-COLONEL CECIL MERRITT, who has died aged 91, won the first VC awarded to a Canadian in the Second World War for gallantry and inspired leadership during the disastrous raid on Dieppe in 1942.

He landed with the South Saskatchewan Regiment at Pourville, west of the main port, in the half-light of early morning on August 19 1942. Their objective was to seize a beach-head and capture the high ground between Pourville and Dieppe. Landing in one wave, they were at first virtually unopposed, but heavy firing broke out as they scaled the sea wall and advanced into Pourville.

The intention had been to land astride the river Scie which there flows into the Channel. Unfortunately, the effect of surprise was nullified when the Navy landed the entire unit west of the river. This meant that those companies whose task was to capture the high ground to the east had first to cross the Scie by a bridge which was under heavy fire from their objective. Soon it was carpeted with dead and the advance came to a halt.

Seeing the situation, Merritt took off his helmet, walked on to the bridge and shouted: "Come on, these Germans can't hit a thing - let's go!" Apparently oblivious to the enemy fire, he strolled across waving his helmet to encourage his men forward. In small groups they raced over the bridge while others swam the river and made for the enemy-held heights.

The opposition was heavy, and with increasing casualties among leaders, progress was slow. Merritt himself led several successful attacks on the well-sited pill boxes from which the enemy covered the open hillside. But without artillery the heavily fortified main positions could not be breached.

After one attempt, Merritt carried a wounded officer back through machine gun fire to relative safety. Shortly after 9 am, orders for withdrawal were received from the Force Commander. Casualties were heavy as they pulled back to the beach, where Merritt organised a rearguard to cover the evacuation of the Canadian 6th Brigade.

The official history records that throughout the day Merritt was "in the forefront of the bitter struggle around Pourville, exposing himself recklessly and displaying an energy almost incredible". Thanks to Merritt, the greater part of two battalions was successfully re-embarked, though many of the men were wounded. But Merritt's group could not be brought off.

It held out until ammunition was running low and there was no chance of evacuation or of doing further damage to the enemy. At 1.30 pm, disdaining to raise a white flag, Merritt sent a German prisoner to invite the enemy to come forward and take the surrender. Subsequently, Merritt himself did not prove a tractable prisoner. Soon after capture, his exhausted men were ordered to form up by their guards.

As they resentfully slouched to obey, Merritt intervened with a roar of "As you were!" He called their sergeant-major to him and in blistering terms told him that never, under any circumstances, would he tolerate sloppiness on parade. In an instant, CSM "Dinty" Moore became the familiar terror of the parade ground, and the men, finding their faltering military pride and a new sense of defiance to the enemy, formed up as if on an Aldershot square.

Merritt's attitude to his captors soon resulted in his being sent to the harsh camp for habitual escapers in Colditz. In 1945, as the Allied advance drew near, it was feared that the Germans would kill the inmates. Merritt took part in planning a break-out in which the prisoners would form a fighting unit under his command.

Its company commanders included such stalwarts as Captain C H Upham, the New Zealand double VC. There was said to have been some disappointment among them when the arrival of an Allied column denied them their last opportunity to strike at their captors. After the war, Merritt was mentioned in despatches for his leadership while a prisoner of war.

Charles Cecil Ingersoll Merritt was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, on November 10 1908, the son of Major Cecil Merritt, who died in the Great War at Ypres. Charles was educated at University School, Victoria, and at the Royal Military College, Kingston, Ontario. After graduation in 1929, he studied law with a Vancouver firm and was called to the Bar of British Columbia in 1932.

In the meantime, he had joined the militia and was commissioned in the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada. On mobilisation in 1939, he was promoted major and in December sailed for England. In the next two years he held a variety of staff and regimental appointments and attended the War Staff Course at Camberley in June 1941. From GSO2 of the 3rd Canadian Division, in March 1942, he was promoted to command the South Saskatchewan Regiment.

Two months later, they moved to the Isle of Wight to train for the Dieppe raid. On his return to Canada in 1945, he stood for Parliament as a Conservative and won the Vancouver-Burrard constituency. He did not much enjoy the life of a backbench opposition MP and gladly returned to his legal practice after the Liberals were re-elected in 1949.

Once more, he joined the militia to command the Seaforth and he became a valued rugger player for the Meraloma Club. Brother officers still speak with awe of his skill at "shinny", a kind of hockey. Merritt married, in 1937, Grace Graham, the daughter of Jamieson Bone of Belleville, Ontario; they had two sons and a daughter

Posts: 222 | From: Toronto, Ontario, Canada | Registered: Jun 2000

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