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

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 is on pace to administer more than 300,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses per week, according to the provincial government. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
One million COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in Alberta

Alberta hit a milestone in the fight against COVID-19 this week. As… Continue reading

(Government of Canada)
Liberal MP caught stark naked during House of Commons video conference

William Amos, in Quebec, appeared on the screens of his fellow members of Parliament completely naked

Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre’s expansion project is still a high priority, says Alberta Infrastructure Minister Prasad Panda. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Interior work will start this year on Red Deer hospital project, says infrastructure minister

‘We are committed. This is a top priority,’ says Presad Panda

Even with recent restrictions due to rising COVID-19 variant case levels, about 95 per cent of businesses are open in Alberta, said Premier Jason Kenney. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Consistent pandemic policy has helped Alberta, premier says

Alberta fatality rate lower than Canadian average

Lethbridge Police Chief Shahin Mehdizadeh speaks during a news conference in Lethbridge, Alta., on Wednesday, March 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/David Rossiter
‘Right path:’ Lethbridge police release improvement plan in wake of controversies

‘Right path:’ Lethbridge police release improvement plan in wake of controversies

People play on the rocks on a calm Lake Ontario near Humber Bay during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on April 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Canadian emissions to make up outsized portion of what climate can bear: study

Canadian emissions to make up outsized portion of what climate can bear: study

In this Monday, Feb. 1, 2021 file photo, emissions from a coal-fired power plant are silhouetted against the setting sun in Independence, Mo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Charlie Riedel
Canadian emissions to make up outsized portion of what climate can bear: study

Canadian emissions to make up outsized portion of what climate can bear: study

People wear face masks as they walk in a park in Montreal, Sunday, April 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Premier Francois Legault softens rules for outdoor mask use following criticism

Premier Francois Legault softens rules for outdoor mask use following criticism

A empty classroom is pictured at Eric Hamber Secondary school in Vancouver, B.C. Monday, March 23, 2020. The Alberta government says schools in Calgary will move to at-home learning starting Monday for students in grades 7 to 12.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
‘Operational pressures:’ Calgary schools shift to at-home learning for grades 7 to 12

‘Operational pressures:’ Calgary schools shift to at-home learning for grades 7 to 12

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference during the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on April 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Italian-Canadians to get formal apology for treatment during Second World War

Italian-Canadians to get formal apology for treatment during Second World War

Heartfelt messages are left on a table as people come out to mark International Overdose Awareness Day during a mass group naloxone training seminar at Centennial Square in Victoria, B.C., on Saturday August 31, 2019. nbsp;When British Columbia's provincial health officer declared an emergency into the overdose crisis five years ago, he said it was because those who died deserved more of a response. Since then, Dr. Perry Kendall says roughly 7,000 died unnecessarily. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
7,000 more overdose deaths since B.C. declared public health emergency in 2016

7,000 more overdose deaths since B.C. declared public health emergency in 2016

A vial of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine dose is shown at a facility in Milton, Ont., on March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
Ontario sees vaccine supply issues, Ottawa keeps AstraZeneca on the market

Ontario sees vaccine supply issues, Ottawa keeps AstraZeneca on the market

Most Read