The Veteran on the Ten Dollar Bill - Fact Checking
It's one of those enduring bits of internet flotsam. Posted and reposted, it survives on blogs, websites and message boards. Even now, it may be in your facebook feed.
It has one thing in common with many copy-and-paste bits of electronic detritus, it doesn't hold up to scrutiny. Then why does it survive? It does so because it reads nicely, evokes favourable emotions, portends to inform and leave you wanting to share your new "knowledge" with others. And it survives because so few people question the things they read, especially when they might trust the surce the see if appear from.
The item I speak of is "The Veteran on the Ten Dollar Bill" and it can be found all over the net.
The Veteran on the Ten-Dollar Bill
If you have a Canadian $10 bill, look at the back right side of the bill. You will see a veteran standing at attention near the Ottawa war memorial. His name is Robert Metcalfe and he died last month at the age of 90. That he managed to live to that age is rather remarkable, given what happened in the Second World War. Born in England, he was one of the 400,000 members of the British Expeditionary Force sent to the mainland where they found themselves facing the new German warfare technique - the Blitzkrieg. He was treating a wounded comrade when he was hit in the legs by shrapnel. En route to hospital, his ambulance came under fire from a German tank, which then miraculously ceased fire. Evacuated from Dunkirk on HMS Grenade, two of the sister ships with them were sunk. Recovered, he was sent to allied campaigns in north Africa and Italy. En route his ship was chased by the German battleship Bismarck. In North Africa he served under General Montgomery against the Desert Fox, Rommel.
Sent into the Italian campaign, he met his future wife, a lieutenant and physiotherapist in a Canadian hospital. They were married one morning by the mayor of the Italian town, and again in the afternoon by a British padre. After the war they settled in Chatham where he went into politics and became the warden (chairman) of the county. At the age of 80 he wrote a book about his experiences and on his retirement he and his wife moved to Ottawa. One day out of the blue he received a call from a government official asking him to go downtown for a photo op. He wasn't told what the photo was for or why they chose him. "He had no idea he would be on the bill," his daughter said. And now you know the rest of the story of the veteran on the $10 bill.
But what If It's Not True?
Some time ago, I was forwarded a copy of "The Veteran on the Ten Dollar Bill". The item just seemed a little too neat and I started to check a few facts that were presented:
1.Let's start with the real Robert Metcalfe. Mr. Metcalf's name has probably been used in the above piece of drivel because it provides one more recognizable element. If someone searches for him by name, he is easily found on the net. Once you wade through the many copies of the Ten-Dollar Bill text, you find that he was a real person and a real veteran. That, to many, would be enough for them to accept the remainder as sound.
My name is Robert Metcalfe. I'm a war bridegroom who came over here in 1948 with my Canadian-born wife. Most of my military service, I served with the Green Howards [Alexandra, Princess of Wales's Own] Yorkshire Regiment. I joined on the 4th of December, 1935.
The first contact I had with the war was in 1939. We mobilized on the 23rd of August. I went to France with the Reconnaissance party of my regiment on the 19th of January 1940. My first battle was the Battle on Vimy Ridge. We battled with Rommel. Rommel commanded the 7th Panther Division. We fought for two days on the Ridge. He drove us off there and then we went north into Belgium. We made contact with the enemy at Ypres at Menin Gate. I was a company commander by this time and the captain. And I received my orders for the defence of Ypres underneath the famous archway of Menin Gate.
See the presented transcript at the Memory Project to see where Metcalfe's real story overlaps and diverges from the Ten-Dollar Bill text. Read the rest at the link.
2.The British Expeditionary Force in France did not total 400,000 men, but all of the Allies involved in the battle did---The Battle of Dunkirk.
3.The HMS Grenade itself was sunk during the evacuation at Dunkirk, and one of her sister ships was also sunk, the Grafton (they were among a total of 9 British and French destroyers sunk)---HMS Grenade at uboat.net and The Dunkirk Evacuation.
5.In the text, Metcalfe is described as a member of the British Expeditionary Force, which does make me wonder why the anonymous government official wouldn't have found a Canadian veteran for this supposed photo/art opportunity.
6.If the veteran wrote a book on his experiences, it is very unusual that the original reporter never mentions the book's title. Metcalfe did write a book, titled No time for dreams: A soldier's six-year journey through WW II (1997).
It's too bad this story doesn't "check out," because it does evoke all of the emotions we are supposed to feel at reading such a heart-warming tale. (Of course, that's the key to its survival.) It's just too bad that it's such a poor fabrication that does this to us. It would, however, be nice to know who the veteran on the bill really is (if a real person was even used as a model), and what his own story might be. Then again, who was the model for the peacekeeper? Or the artist?
It's too bad that Robert Metcalfe's name has been entwined with this artificial piece of internet fiction. Unfortunately, it remains a fact of human nature that it will probably continue to be shared as the likelihood of enough people checking the facts to stop its spread remains low.