The Passing of an Albert County Hero – William Henry (Bill) Balser Sr., March 31, 2019 - 95 Years Old

The Passing of an Albert County Hero – William Henry (Bill) Balser Sr., March 31, 2019 - 95 Years Old

William Henry (Bill) Balser Sr., 95, from Stoney Creek NB, passed away peacefully with family by his side at Lakeview Manor in Riverview NB, on March 31, 2019. 

Raised on the family farm in Albert County, Bill volunteered for military service with the RCAF and served from July 1941 to September 1945.

The Passing of an Albert County Hero – Harold Clifton Reid 1927-2018

The Passing of an Albert County Hero – Harold Clifton Reid 1927-2018

If you pass through Hopewell Cape in the square by the cannons you will see two black granite benches which face the guns looking out over the bay. These were donated to the museum by Harold Clifton Reid. They bear the inscription, “Donated by Harold Reid, World War II (1943-44) and Korean War Veteran (1950-52), Regular reserve (1954 -57).” They grace the square where Harold spent many days playing on the guns as youth. Read more...

The Passing of an Albert County Hero – James “Jim” West, DFC June 27, 1924 – March 4, 2017

James Watson West was born in Hopewell Hill on June 27th, 1924 the son of the late Clifford C. and Mary "May" (Archibald) West. He graduated from Riverside Consolidated School in 1941. He enlisted in Moncton in 1942 with the Royal Canadian Air Force and headed overseas in 1943. He served with the 420 Snowy Owl Squadron. In 1945 he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. He returned home aboard the Ile de France in 1945. 

Jim West was a well known and valuable resource for the museum sharing his love of the history of Albert County. He was involved with the Museum since it's beginning and continued over the years to support and assist in numerous projects.

His Distinguished Flying Cross citation reads: 

Award effective 8 September 1945 as per London Gazette dated 25 September 1945 and AFRO 1768/45 dated 23 November 1945.  Home in Hopewell Hill, New Brunswick; enlisted Moncton, 20 July 1942.  Trained at No.3 ITS (graduated 1 May 1943), No.4 BGS (graduated 13 November 1943) and No.4 AOS (graduated 14 January 1944.  Award sent by registered mail 28 June 1949.  No citation other than "completed...numerous operations against the enemy in the course of which [he has] invariably displayed the utmost fortitude, courage and devotion to duty."  DHist file 181.009 D.1746 (PAC RG.24 Vol.20608) has recommendation dated 19 April 1945 when he had flown 29 sorties (188 hours 50 minutes); recommendation read:

"This man has proven himself a very good, resourceful and efficient bomb aimer.  His tour included the bombing of many heavily defended targets, i.e. Magdeburg, Hanover, Hamburg and Munster.  This man at all times has been a co-operative crew member and has lent his whole-hearted aid to both pilot and navigator."

 Jim flew an amazing total of 37 sorties during the war. The first 29 are as follows: 5 January 1945 - Hanover (6.00) 6 January 1945 - Hanau (7.05) 13 January 1945 - Saarbrucken (7.35) 14 January 1945 - Grevenbroich (6.35) 16 January 1945 - Magdeburg (6.30) 28 January 1945 - Stuttgart (7.00) 1 February 1945 - Mainz (7.05) 2 February 1945 - Wanne Eickel (6.10) 4 February 1945 - Bonn (6.20) 17 February 1945 - Wesel (6.35) 20 February 1945 - Monheim (6.55) 21 February 1945 - Worms (7.35) 23 February 1945 - Essen (6.05) 24 February 1945 - Kamen (6.25) 27 February 1945 - Mainz (7.15) 1 March 1945 - Mannheim (7.00) 2 March 1945 - Cologne (6.00) 5 March 1945 - Chemnitz (9.00) 7 March 1945 - Hemmingstadt (6.30) 8 March 1945 - Hamburg (6.10) 10 March 1945 - Essen (5.55) 13 March 1945 - Wuppertal (5.50) 15 March 1945 - Castrop Rauxel (6.05) 19 March 1945 - Witten (7.20) 21 March 1945 - Rheine (4.40) 24 March 1945 - Gladback (6.00) 25 March 1945 - Munster (5.35) 31 March 1945 - Hamburg (5.45) 4 April 1945 - Harburg Rhenania (5.50)

The HOPEWELL HILL HERO - Albert County's Victoria Cross Winner

Victoria Cross Background:

The Victoria Cross (VC), instituted in 1856 by Queen Victoria, is the Commonwealth’s highest military decoration for valour. It is awarded in recognition of the most exceptional bravery displayed in the presence of the enemy, although in rare instances the decoration has been given to mark other courageous acts.

Since its inception during the Crimean War, the VC has been awarded 1,356 times, 300 of them posthumously. Depending on which of a variety of sources is cited and on the selection criteria applied, somewhere between 94 and 98 Victoria Crosses have been awarded to Canadians or to others serving with the Canadian Forces. A distinctly Canadian version of the medal was introduced in 1993. To date no one has been awarded the Canadian medal.

LCol Cyrus Wesley Peck:

Cyrus Wesley Peck was born in Hopewell Hill, New Brunswick, on April 26, 1871, and was educated at Hopewell Hill Superior School. In June 1887, at the age of 16, he and his family moved to New Westminster, British Columbia, then later to Skeena, BC.

As a young man, he pioneered in the Klondike, and set himself up as a broker in salmon canning, sawmills and towing operations. He was also an elected Unionist Member of Parliament for the Skeena riding. As a member of the militia, Peck was given a captain's commission and attached to the 30th Battalion, with which he sailed to England. In April 1915, he was promoted to major and later transferred to the 16th Battalion, Canadian Scottish. He was wounded in both legs during fighting around the town of Festubert, France, May 21, 1915. In January 1916, he was given command of the regiment.

In addition to the Victoria Cross, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) twice and Mentioned in Dispatches five times. In 1917, while he was overseas, he was elected to the House of Commons as the Member of Parliament for Skeena in British Columbia.

VC Citation: Lieutenant-Colonel Peck was awarded the Victoria Cross for his courageous leadership on September 2, 1918, during the fighting for the Drocourt-Quéant Line, near Cagnicourt in France.

“For most conspicuous bravery and skilful leading when in attack under intense fire. His command quickly captured the first objective, but progress to the further objective was held up by enemy machine-gun fire on his right flank. The situation being critical in the extreme, Colonel Peck pushed forward and made a personal reconnaissance under heavy machine-gun and sniping fire, across a stretch of ground which was heavily swept by fire. Having reconnoitred the position he returned, reorganised his battalion, and, acting upon the knowledge personally gained, pushed them forward and arranged to protect his flanks. He then went out under the most intense artillery and machine gun fire, intercepted the Tanks, gave them the necessary directions, pointing out where they were to make for, and thus pave the way for a Canadian Infantry battalion to push forward. To this battalion he subsequently gave requisite support. His magnificent display of courage and fine qualities of leadership enabled the advance to be continued, although always under heavy artillery and machine-gun fire, and contributed largely to the success of the brigade attack.”

The London Gazette, November 15, 1918

Post War: At the end of the war, Peck returned home to Skeena, and reclaimed his seat in the House of Commons, being active in veterans' rights issues. In 1924, he became a Legislative Member for British Columbia. He later acted as aide-decamp for two of Canada's Governors General. Peck died in Sydney, British Columbia on September 27, 1956.

Gravesite: He is buried in the New Westminster Crematorium in Vancouver, BC.

Medal Location: His Victoria Cross is held at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, Ontario.

Post Script: As the Canadian Corps moved against the Drocourt-Quéant defensive line from 1 to 4 September 1918, six other VCs were awarded to Canadians in addition to that of Lieutenant-Colonel Peck. They were Captain Bellenden Seymour Hutcheson, Sergeant Arthur George Knight, Lance- Corporal William Henry Metcalf and Privates Claude Joseph Patrick Nunney, Walter Leigh Rayfield and John Francis Young.

Peck is reputedly the only Member of Parliament in the British Empire/Commonwealth to have been awarded the Victoria Cross while in office.  

This Article was taken Verbatim from Fact Sheet # 67 Published by: The Friends of the Canadian War Museum and was written by Captain (N) (Ret’d) M. Braham, CD. The original article can be found here.