Monday, April 23, 2012

War and Politics

If I mention the name Charles Cecil Ingersoll Merritt would you know who I was talking about?  Merritt was an important person who was born in Vancouver on November 10, 1908, the eldest son of Lt. Colonel Cecil Merrit. The elder Merritt was killed at Ypres during the First World War.

At the age of 16, Charles entered the Royal Military College of Canada and graduated with honors. In 1929, he was commissioned into the militia regiment Seaforth Highlanders of Canada but he did put his education to use and read for the bar. In 1932, he became a barrister and practiced law in Vancouver until the outbreak of World War II.

In March of 1942, Merritt took command of the South Saskatchewan Regiment. In August of that year, he led the regiment in the Dieppe raid. Merritt was wounded twice before being taken as a prisoner of war.  For his bravery and leadership, Charles Merritt was awarded the Victoria Cross, our highest military award.

Merritt was a brave man. It was at Green Beach that he made himself a legend. Canada's attempts to take a narrow bridge had been in vain, as the Germans targeted the bridge with machine and mortar fire. Merrit led the next rush over the structure littered with bodies. He waved his steel helmet and shouted "Come on over! There's nothing to it!"

Merritt's audacity took the enemy by surprise and he was able to lead a group of men over the bridge. However, there was a shortage of mortar ammunition and a lack of communications with the destroyers that could have helped with supporting fire so Merritt and his men were unable to make any further advancement.

The South Saskatchewan regiment left 84 dead on Green Beach and 89 more, including a twice-wounded Merritt, were captured by the enemy.

Merritt was sent to a war camp in Bavaria where he and 64 others escaped through a tunnel. Unfortunately, they were captured not long after and following a two week stint in solitary confinement Merritt was transferred to another camp.

When speaking of his time as a prisoner war, Merritt was dismissive. He referred to it as a time of forced idleness and that there was nothing virtuous about it.

After the war, Merritt did what a lot of war heroes do. He went into politics. From 1945 to 1949 he was a Member of Parliament and represented the electoral district of Vancouver - Burrard.

When he returned from Ottawa, Merritt went back into his law practice. He was also appointed honorary Colonel of the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada in 1951.

Merritt died at the age of 91 on July 12, 2000.

The Lt-Col Merritt, V.C., medal set, which consists of the Victoria Cross, the 1939–45 Star, the Defence Medal, the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal with Overseas and Dieppe clasps, the British War Medal 1939–45 with Mentioned in Despatches (MID), the Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953, the Canadian Centennial Medal 1967, the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal 1977, the Canada 125th Anniversary Medal and the Effiency Decoration with Canada Bar, was donated to the Canadian War Museum.
Thanks to Wikipedia for the above information.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

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