Corporal Frederick (Fred) George Topham, V.C.
Cpl. Topham was born on August 10, 1917, in Toronto, Ontario. While growing up there, he attended several local schools such as King George Public School and Runnymede High School. When Topham first got into the workforce he tried several different types of employment such as hard-rock miner, rubber worker at Goodyear and as well as at a saw company. He was residing at 631 Beresford Avenue in Toronto when he first enlisted with the 48th Highlanders. His service with the 48th was very short-lived, lasting only 30 days before he moved on to the Army Service Corps as a Medical Orderly. He was strong and athletic and it was recommended he join the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion.
Topham completed his Parachute Course at Fort Benning, Georgia U.S.A. on March 12, 1943 and embarked shortly after to the UK on July 24, 1943 to be taken on strength with the Battalion. For the next several months, Cpl Topham would train in preparation for the invasion of Normandy. As June 6, 1944 approached, Cpl Topham became ill and was unable to jump with the Battalion so he ended up travelling to Normandy by ship to join the Battalion for the D-day invasion. He was fortunate enough to depart from Normandy with the Battalion back in England unscathed to prepare for the next operation.
Cpl Topham parachuted during a daring day time jump on Operation Varsity on March 24, 1945 where he was met with a fierce firefight and wounded. He served in France, Belgium, Holland and Germany. It was during Operation Varsity where Topham won the highest gallantry award bestowed by the British Empire, the Victoria Cross, which made him the only member of the Battalion and the 6th Airborne Division to receive such an honour. After the war, Topham briefly served with the Toronto Police Service before changing careers to Toronto Hydro, where he worked until his untimely death on May 31, 1974. If you wish to visit this Canadian war hero, he is resting at the Sanctuary Park Cemetery, 1570 Royal York Road, Etobicoke, Ontario M9P 3C4. Section A, Lot 147C.
Below is the citation to Cpl Topham the day he won the Victoria Cross.
B-39039 Cpl. Frederick George TOPHAM, V.C.
On 24th, March, 1945, Corporal Topham, a Medical orderly, parachuted with his battalion onto a strongly defended area east of the Rhine. At about 11:00 hours, whilst treating casualties sustained in the drop, a cry for help came from a wounded man in the open. Two medical orderlies from a field ambulance went out to this man in succession but both were killed as they knelt beside the casualty.
Without hesitation and on his own initiative Corporal Topham went forward through intense fire to replace the orderlies who had been killed before his eyes. As he worked on the wounded man, he was himself shot through his nose. In spite of severe bleeding and intense pain he never faltered in his task. Having completed immediate first aid, he carried the wounded man steadily and slowly back through continuous fire to the shelter of the woods.
During the next two hours, Corporal Topham refused all offers of medical help for his own wound. He worked most devotedly throughout this period to bring in wounded, showing complete disregard for the heavy and accurate enemy fire. It was only when all casualties had been cleared that he consented to his own wound being treated.
His immediate evacuation was ordered, but he interceded so earnestly on his own behalf that he was eventually allowed to return to duty.
On his way back to his company he came across a carrier, which had received a direct hit. Enemy mortar bombs were still dropping around, the carrier itself was burring fiercely and its own mortars ammunition was exploding, an experienced officer on the spot had warned all not to approach the carrier.
Corporal Topham, however, immediately went out alone in spite of the blasting ammunition and enemy fire and rescued the three occupants of the carrier. He brought these men back across the open and although one died almost immediately afterwards, he arranged for the evacuation of the other two, who undoubtedly owe their lives to him.
This non-commissioned officer showed sustained gallantry of the highest order, for six hours most of the time in great pain. He performed a series of acts of outstanding bravery and his magnificent and selfless courage inspired all those who witnessed it.
Browning Hi-Power 9mm Pistol
You can see in one of the photos Cpl Topham carrying a semi-automatic pistol tucked in his beltline that is tethered to a lanyard in order not to lose it. The Browning Hi-Power 9mm pistol on display below would be that same model he carried overseas. This semi-automatic pistol was durable, introducing high capacity magazines holding 13 rounds, allowing for faster reloading than the traditional revolver. The maximum effective range in the hands of a skilled shooter would be 50 yards.