The Voice of the Marilyn Adams Genealogical Research Centre

Victoria Cross Library

One of the most prestigious military libraries, the “Victoria Cross Library”, was transferred to the Marilyn Adams Genealogical Research Centre (MAGRC) from Britain in February, 2011. The repository of the books of the Victoria Cross Library represents the first time the collection has ever left British soil. National Defence Minister Peter MacKay was at the MAGRC in Ameliasburgh along with MP Daryl Kramp to complete the transfer.

“The Victoria Cross Library: The Facts Behind the Men Behind the Medals” was compiled by UK historian Tom Johnson and contains 1,356 books, “some very small and others very large.”

The Victoria Cross was first awarded in 1856 and is the highest military decoration which is — or has been — awarded for valour “in the face of the enemy” to members of the Armed Forces of various Commonwealth countries, and previous British Empire territories. It has been awarded to 1,359 people, most recently to Corp. Benjamin Roberts-Smith of Australia on Jan. 23, 2011.

MacKay and Kramp were joined at the transfer ceremony by 8 Wing Commander Col. Dave Cochrane and a host of other dignitaries, including descendants from four recipients of the Victoria Cross.

Walter Rutherford and his wife Dorothy were on hand to accept a binder filled with the biography of Lieut. Charles Smith Rutherford, Walter’s uncle.

Rutherford was awarded the Victoria Cross after single handedly capturing 80 Germans — without so much as firing a shot.

While fighting in France in 1918 before the end of the First World War, Rutherford, while on patrol ahead of his men, came across 45 German soldiers. After they informed him he was their prisoner, he told them that in fact, they were completely surrounded and must surrender — which they did. He subsequently did the same to 35 more German soldiers, allowing his troops to continue their advance.

“My uncle lived to be 97 and he was such a quiet and unassuming man,” said Walter Rutherford. “Of course we are very proud of him but I think the biggest thing of it all — is we have all heard the horrors of war and he managed to do this without firing a single shot, no injuries and no death.”

Rutherford said he has visited the Ameliasburgh facility from his Colborne home and his family is extremely pleased the library is now housed there.

“It’s so close to us now and we will be able to just drive here and go through the material,” said Rutherford.

MacKay said he was also thrilled the material is now available on Canadian soil.

“I’m told that today marks the very first time that the records of 1,358 recipients of the Victoria Cross, the highest decoration of the Commonwealth and arguably the most recognized award for valour, will be available in our country,” he said. “How appropriate the first Canadian recipients of this important historic collection have family members with us today, whose extraordinary bravery earned them this incredible honour.”

No Canadian has been awarded the Victoria Cross since the end of the Second World War, but there are 94 Canadian recipients of the medal.

We are indebted to the efforts of Bev and Ian Reilly who facilitated this transfer.
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