National Treasure #58: Charles Merritt

In honour of Veterans’ Week,
this week’s national treasures are all veterans.
The previous post was from WWI;  this post is from WWII.

Charles Cecil Ingersoll Merritt was the son of a Canadian soldier killed at Ypres in WWI.  Charles graduated from the Royal Military College of Canada with honours. A lawyer in Vancouver, he was mobilized when war broke out.  Eventually, he was given command of the South Saskatchewan Regiment, leading them into the mess that was the Dieppe raid.

The Dieppe Raid was one of the most devastating and bloody chapters in Canadian military history. Of the 4,963 Canadians who embarked from England for the operation, only 2,210 returned, and many of them were wounded. Casualties totalled 3,367, including 916 dead and 1,946 prisoners of war. – Veterans Affairs Canada website

Charles was wounded twice in the fighting that day.

 “To this commanding officer’s personal daring
the success of his unit’s operations
and the safe re-embarkation of a large portion of it
were chiefly due.”
– Citation for award of the Victoria Cross

Unfortunately, he did not himself safely re-embark; along with eight other officers he was taken prisoner.  He participated in an escape attempt, but was recaptured and given 18 days in solitary.

Not that he made a big deal about any of it.

He remarked after being freed: “My war lasted six hours. There are plenty of Canadians who went all the way from the landings in Sicily to the very end.” He was dismissive of his time as a prisoner of war with the words: “It was an enforced idleness. It cannot be translated into virtue.”

 

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2 Comments

Filed under Through Canada

2 Responses to National Treasure #58: Charles Merritt

  1. JimTaylor

    Quote: He was dismissive of his time as a prisoner of war with the words: “It was an enforced idleness. It cannot be translated into virtue.”
    Good for him. Today, he would hire a ghostwriter and turn it into a book, which might get made into a movie (probably by Mel Gibson) which would turn into a TV series….
    The lust for fame is too much with us.
    Jim T

    • Isabel Gibson

      Jim – In that vein, I know some retired military folk (not the Big Guy, in this case) who object to breathless commentators using “war hero” to describe everyone who died in combat. They are, apparently, better described as “war dead.” A war hero is someone who did something extraordinary in combat.