A member of the ‘Magnificent Seven’
A civic ceremony was held recently in Claude Nunney’s British hometown to commemorate Glengarry County’s only Victoria Cross winner.
The event took place at Alexandra Park in Hastings, on September 2 – exactly 100 years after Pte. Nunney was seriously wounded while fighting along the German-held Drocourt-Quéant Line near Arras, France. It was during this battle that Pte. Nunney – who died of his wounds just over two weeks later – performed the repeated acts of heroism that earned him the VC, posthumously, three months later.
According to the Dec. 14, 1918 edition of the London Gazette, Pte. Nunney was cited for the Victoria Cross “for most conspicuous bravery during the operations against the Drocourt-Quéant Line on September 1 and 2, 1918.”
The extract explains that “on September 1, when his battalion was in the vicinity of Vis-en-Artois, preparatory to the advance, the enemy laid down a heavy barrage and counter-attacked.”
Pte. Nunney, who was at company headquarters at the time of the counterattack, “immediately on his own initiative proceeded through the barrage to the company outpost lines, going from post to post and encouraging the men by his own fearless example. The enemy was repulsed and a critical situation was saved.” The following day, Pte. Nunney’s “dash continually placed him in advance of his companions, and his fearless example undoubtedly helped greatly to carry the company forward to its objectives.”
Born in St. Leonards-on-Sea, Hastings, Sussex in July 1892, Claude Joseph Patrick Nunney came to Canada in 1905 as a British Home Child. After spending a brief time at St. George's distribution home (orphanage) in Ottawa, he was placed with Mrs. Donald Roy McDonald of Pine Hill (North Lancaster) who adopted the youngster, provided him with a loving and nurturing home, and sent him to school.
Following Mrs. McDonald’s death in 1912, young Claude continued working on area farms before leaving Glengarry to travel across the country. He led the life of an itinerant labourer before heeding the call of ‘ King and Country’ and enlisting with the Canadian Army in 1915. The only Canadian soldier of the First World War to be awarded the Victoria Cross, Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) and the Military Medal (MM), Claude Nunney also had another claim to fame.
He was one of the so-called ‘Magnificent Seven’ Canadian servicemen who earned the Victoria Cross for their actions across the 30-km-long Drocourt-Quéant Line on Sept. 2, 1918.