John Chipman Kerr VC, 49th Battalion (Edmonton Regiment), 1917

Photograph Information

Title: John Chipman Kerr VC – 1917
Source Link:
Photographer: Unknown
Date: 1917

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John Chipman Kerr VC

In 1912, after working as a lumberjack near Kootenay, British Columbia he bought a homestead in Spirit River, Alberta, where he and his brother farmed until war broke out. Immediately they set out for Edmonton, leaving only a single note tacked to the door of their humble shed. It read: “War is Hell, but what is homesteading?”

He was 29 years old, and a private in the 49th (Edmonton) Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force during the First World War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC. On September 16, 1916, during the Battle of the Somme, Kerr and his unit prepared to ambush German soldiers. As the lead bayonet man, Kerr was 30 metres ahead of his comrades and exchanged fire with enemy troops. The Germans, believing that they had been surrounded, surrendered to Kerr. Sixty-two prisoners were captured and 250 yards of enemy territory was seized. Kerr was injured and lost a finger in the attack, but reported back for active duty before the wound had been fully dressed.

For his actions on that day, Private Kerr was awarded the Victoria Cross.

After the war, Kerr returned to farming, worked in the Turner Valley oil fields and as a forest ranger. He enlisted in the Second World War and transferred to the Royal Canadian Air Force. John Kerr died in Port Moody, British Columbia in February 1963. His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.