War Museum teams up with soldier’s great-granddaughter to buy Victoria Cross

A rare medal awarded to a Canadian soldier for extreme bravery at the Battle of Passchendaele in 1917 will be staying in Canada thanks to the Canadian War Museum — and the soldier’s great-granddaughter.

Cpl. Colin Barron’s Victoria Cross was sold Tuesday by an auction house for $420,000, almost a century after Barron crept behind enemy lines at Passchendaele to take out several machine-gun nests.

Some feared the medal — sold by Barron’s grandson in Toronto about 30 years ago to support himself and his only daughter, Lesley Barron Kerr — would be bought by a foreign collector.

But the Canadian War Museum has confirmed that it successfully purchased the medal with help from Kerr, who donated an undisclosed amount of money to make sure it stayed in Canada.

“It was a huge sense of relief,” Kerr said in an interview on Tuesday after learning of the purchase.

“My first choice, of course, was for me to have it, though I would still display it at the war museum. But it’s a very close second, so I’m happy. And it stayed in Canada, so it is accessible to me and my kids.”

Barron was one of nine Canadians to receive a Victoria Cross for actions at Passchendaele, which has gone down in history as one of the bloodiest and most controversial battles of the First World War.

On Nov. 6, 1917, the 24-year-old, who was born in Scotland but moved to Canada in 1910, managed to sneak behind the German lines and take out several machine-guns that had been holding up the Canadian attack.

The citation for Barron’s Victoria Cross would later credit his actions with having “produced far-reaching results and enabled the advance to be continued.”

He died at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto in 1958.

This isn’t the first Victoria Cross that the Canadian War Museum has tried to buy this year; it bid unsuccessfully in August for the cross awarded to Maj. David Currie during the Second World War.

But Mark O’Neill, head of the federal Crown corporation that runs the war museum, said acquiring Barron’s Victoria Cross on the 100th anniversary of Passchendaele was especially meaningful.

“This medal is a testament to one soldier’s courage and a symbol of the service and sacrifice of all Canadian soldiers who fought on the Western Front a century ago,” O’Neill added in a statement.

The Canadian War Museum now owns 37 Victoria Crosses, including five of the nine awarded for actions at Passchendaele.

While Kerr’s involvement in the bidding adds a personal element to the story, it almost didn’t happen.

Kerr had lost track of the medal when her father sold it to a collector after Kerr’s mother left and was looking for it when she learned from a report last month by The Canadian Press that it was going on sale.

But when she realized the asking price was out of her reach, she decided to team up with the museum to make sure that her great-grandfather’s medal remained on Canadian soil.

“I emailed them at first asking if they were interested in bidding and if we could work together to secure the medal,” Kerr, who owns a successful karate business in the Toronto area, said in an interview on Tuesday.

“And then weeks go by and there was no response, so I wasn’t sure if they were planning on bidding at all.”

It was only last Friday that the museum, which normally doesn’t reveal whether it plans to bid in auctions for Canadian military medals and other paraphernalia, finally responded.

Kerr said she plans to bring her family to Ottawa in the coming days to see her great-grandfather’s Victoria Cross — and perhaps hold it.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives for an announcement at a news conference in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Inquiry into oil and gas foes to deliver report next year: Kenney

CALGARY — An inquiry into who is funding environmental opposition to the… Continue reading

Whatever snow may possibly fall in Red Deer on the weekend will melt when it hits the warm ground, says meteorologist Kyle Fougere with Environment and Climate Change Canada. (File photo by ADVOCATE staff)
Weather expected to get warmer next week in Red Deer

It’s going to be a cold weekend, according to Environment Canada. Saturday… Continue reading

Retired city manager Craig Curtis will argue for keeping the Molly Banister Drive right-of-way at Tuesday's public hearing. He warns of future gridlock if the extension is removed by city council. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
Former Red Deer city manager warns killing the Molly Banister Drive extension is ‘a terrible mistake’

Craig Curtis will argue for keeping the road alignment at next week’s public hearing

Alberta has 3,651 active cases of COVID-19. (File photo)
432 new COVID cases sets another record Friday

Central zone holds steady at 126 active cases

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
VIDEO: One day until B.C. voters go to the polls in snap election defined by pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to call an election comes more than a year ahead of schedule and during a pandemic

Alice Kolisnyk, deputy director of the Red Deer Food Bank, says the agency expects an increase in demand as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Every new subscription to the Red Deer Advocate includes a $50 donation to the food bank. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Support the food bank with a subscription to the Red Deer Advocate

The community’s most vulnerable members are always in need of a hand,… Continue reading

Canada's Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada's top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Canada’s top physician painted a bleak picture Saturday of the toll the… Continue reading

Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020. Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole is naming his shadow cabinet, including his predecessor Andrew Scheer as the party's infrastructure critic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
O’Toole tells Alberta UCP AGM Liberals were “late and confused” on COVID response

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole says Alberta has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic… Continue reading

Indigenous fishermen carry lobster traps in Saulnierville, N.S. on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS /Andrew Vaughan
Federal representative hopes to ease tensions in Nova Scotia lobster dispute

HALIFAX — The man tasked with lowering the temperature in a heated… Continue reading

A voter places her absentee ballot in the ballot box, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, at Merrill Auditorium in Portland, Maine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Robert F. Bukaty
American voters living in Canada increasingly being counted in presidential race

The largest number of Canadian-based American voters cast their ballots in New York and California

This photo provided by Air Force Reserve shows a sky view of Hurricane Epsilon taken by Air Force Reserve hurricane hunter team over the Atlantic Ocean taken Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020.   Epsilon’s maximum sustained winds have dropped slightly as it prepares to sideswipe Bermuda on a path over the Atlantic Ocean.  The National Hurricane Center says it should come close enough Thursday, Oct. 22, evening to merit a tropical storm warning for the island.  (Air Force Reserve via AP)
Hurricane Epsilon expected to remain offshore but will push waves at Atlantic Canada

Epsilon is not expected to have any real impact on land

A composite image of three photographs shows BC NDP Leader John Horgan, left, in Coquitlam, B.C., on Sept. 25, 2020; BC Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau, centre, in Victoria on Sept. 24, 2020; and BC Liberal Party Leader Andrew Wilkinson Pitt Meadows, B.C., on Sept. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck, Chad Hipolito
British Columbia votes in snap election called during COVID-19 pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan called the snap election one year before the fixed voting date

Nunavut's provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, on Tuesday June 30, 2020. The annual report from Nunavut's representative for children and youth says "complacency and a lack of accountability" in the territory's public service means basic information about young people needing services isn’t tracked. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Nunavut’s young people ‘should be expecting more’ from government services: advocate

‘The majority of information we requested is not tracked or was not provided by departments’

Most Read