Cross of Valour
Dave Jenkinson is a professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba and the author of the “Portraits” section of Emergency Librarian.
In 1972, Canada created its own series of awards for bravery. Since that time, the Cross of Valour, which is the nation’s highest decoration for heroism and is given only for acts of the most conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme peril, has been awarded to just three women and eleven men. Four of the awards were made posthumously. Melady recreates each of the 11 incidents between 1969 and 1984 for which the Cross of Valour has been awarded.
The author’s research included visiting, where possible, the sites of the acts of bravery and interviewing those involved. The results of his work are generally quite readable, though some of the incidents, such as the 1969 engine room explosion aboard the Canadian destroyer Kootenay, were so complex that the events are difficult to follow in the relatively brief chapters. Black-and-white photographs of the heroes and heroines plus photos of the places, vehicles, or participants involved in the episodes attest that these are truly stories of fact, not fiction.
The calls to courage took place in six of Canada’s provinces, in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and in the air. Those who responded ranged in age from nineteen to sixty-three. Some heroes were in occupations which were intrinsically dangerous. Bob Teather, an RCMP diver, rescued two trapped fishermen from a capsized troller which was in peril of sinking. Gaston Langelier was the assistant director of security at the Laval Maximum Security Institution when a group of inmates staged a bloody jail break in 1978.
Other individuals were ordinary until circumstances made them extraordinary. A hijacker was talked out of destroying a passenger-loaded Air Canada plane by Mary Dohey, the flight attendant. Three years later, Jean Swedberg died while saving the lives of a dozen people when a deliberately-set fire destroyed a hotel in Merritt, B.C. Thomas Hynes, 19, rescued his eight-year-old cousin Keith from an ice-covered pond in Newfoundland but drowned himself. These true stories of Canadian heroism should find a ready readership among preteens and teens as well as some adults.