Captain O’Kelly’s Victoria Cross: A Northwestern Ontario Connection

By Captain George J. Romick, OStJ, CD2

Captain Christopher Patrick John O’Kelly, VC, MC, was born in Winnipeg in 1895. He won his Victoria Cross (“For Valour’) at the battle of Passchendaele, Belgium in 1917. Though Winnipeg may claim him as its native son, Northwestern Ontario has a reason to share in a part of that acclaim. O’Kelly’s connection to this region is significant. He served in a unit, the 52nd Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) which was raised in Port Arthur. His Victoria Cross (VC) and Military Cross (MC) make him the most remembered and honoured of the men of the 52nd. Demobilized in Port Arthur in 1919, he spent time after the war prospecting in the Red Lake region, where he met an untimely death on Lac Seul in 1922. Memorials in his name can be found in Red Lake and on Goose Island, as well as in Port Arthur. This is the story of Captain O’Kelly’s war.
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The Official Regimental History

The following is a brief summary of the Regiment’s history, from its inception to today.

The Regiment originated in response to the Louis Riel Rebellion in western Canada in early 1885. The people of Port Arthur and Fort William, eager to lend a hand in the conflict, prompted a banker, Mr. Samuel W. Ray of Port Arthur, to send a telegram to Ottawa, asking for permission to form a militia unit. The Minister of Militia responded as follows:
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A Brief History

The Regiment was raised 30 Apr 1885 and designated The Provisional Battalion of Rifles at Port Arthur, Ontario.

It was redesignated the 96th District of Algoma Battalion of Rifles 29 Apr 1887.

On 3 Jul 1904 is was renamed the 96th Lake Superior Regiment and redesignated The Lake Superior Regiment 15 Mar 1920.

26 Jan 1943 it became The Lake Superior Regiment (Motor) and on 29 Jun 1949 it was granted approval to become “Scottish”, being called The Lake Superior Scottish Regiment (Motor),

and 11 Apr 1958 it adopted its present title, The Lake Superior Scottish Regiment. During World War I it sent drafts of over 400 soldiers each to the 8th and 28th Battalions, CEF, raised the 52nd, 94th, and 141st Battalions, the latter two being reinforcement Battalions for “The Fighting 52nd”.

The Lake Superior Scottish Regiment perpetuates the following Regiments:

The Provisional Battalion of Rifles
96th District of Algoma Battalion of Rifles
96th Algoma Rifles
96th The Lake Superior Regiment
52nd, 94th and 141st Battaions, CEF
The Lake Superior Regiment (Motor)


Zijpe Day [5th November]

The LSR(M) and the British Columbia Regiment (Duke of Connaught’s Own) (RCAC) were the only Canadian land based units to score a naval victory during the Second World War. On November 5, 1944, the units sank a number of German ships in the port of Zijpe. The units sank three German ships and destroyed a fourth. The ships were reportedly destroyers, one of which was damaged by mortar fire – one legend suggests a mortar round fired by the infantry made its way down the smokestack of one of the ships. The ship’s bell from one of the sunken vessels was recovered, and is located in the Officer’s Mess of The British Columbia Regiment (Duke of Connaught’s Own) (RCAC).

Zijpe Harbour after the attack by the Lake Superiors and the British Columbia Regiment (Photo Credit- DND)
Zijpe Harbour after the attack by the Lake Superiors and the British Columbia Regiment (Photo Credit- DND)

Zijpe  is a municipality in the Netherlands, in the province of North Holland.

The municipality of Zijpe consists of the following cities, towns, villages and/or districts: Burgerbrug, Burgervlotbrug, Callantsoog, Groote Keeten, Oudesluis, Petten, Schagerbrug, Sint Maartensbrug, Sint Maartensvlotbrug, ‘t Zand.

[via Wikipedia]

Sgt. Charles Byce DCM, MM

Charles Byce, shown at age 24, was the only member of his regiment – the Lake Superior Regiment – to earn both the Distinguished Conduct Medal and the Military Medal. He displayed fearless leadership in winning both gallantry awards. (Charles Byce)

Considering his father’s overseas exploits, one would think fate had chosen Charles Henry Byce to be a military hero. His mother, Louisa Saylors, a Cree from Moose Factory, Ontario, had married Henry Byce, a non-Native from Westmeath. When Charles was born in 1917 in Chapleau, the First World War was still raging, and his father was fighting in Europe, meriting two decorations for valour: the DCM plus France’s Medaille militaire. Two decades later, 23-year-old Charles Byce joined the Lake Superior Regiment (Motor) – the “Lake Sups” – and began a remarkable journey, practically tracing his father’s path. When it was over, Byce had become the only man in his regiment to earn both the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) and the Military Medal (MM).63

Byce earned his first decoration for valour – the MM – in the Netherlands in January 1945. By that time, the Allies had established themselves in France and Belgium and, in another month, would launch an offensive for a final push over the Rhine into Germany.

Before dawn on January 21, Acting Corporal Byce and 23 other Lake Sups set off in row-boats to cross the Maas River. Their mission was to sneak behind enemy lines and bring back German prisoners so information on enemy units could be gathered. Byce headed a five-man team charged with providing cover for the reconnaissance group.

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