Letter by Lieut.-Col. C.B. Topp, 42nd Cdn. Inf. Bn. regarding recommendation of Victoria Cross for Lieut. Milton F. Gregg.


Ottawa, February 22nd, 1936.

Col. A.F. Duguid, D.S.O., R.C.A.,
Director, Historical Section,
Dept. of National Defence,
Ottawa, Ont.

Dear Colonel Duguid;

With regard to your enquiry as to my connection with The R.C.R. before Cambrai during the operations at the end of September 1918, I may say that I think the following is an accurate statement -

On the night of September 27th, 1918, the 42ND Battalion moved to an assembly position behind a railway embankment just east of Bourlon Wood in support of operations against the Marcoing Line being carried out by the P.P.C.L.I. and The R.C.R. on the early morning of the 28th. Soon after daybreak on the 28th I was ordered to make a reconnaissance of the forward area for the information of the 42ND. I went forward and was approaching the headquarters of the R.C.R. which was located in a dugout on the side of a sunken road, when a direct hit was made on the dugout partially demolishing it. Colonel Willetts was quite severely wounded in the leg; Capt. McRae, the Adjutant, was killed and there were a number of other casualties among the headquarters' details, though so far as I can recollect Colonel Willetts and Capt. McRae were the only officers there at the time. Colonel Willetts was, I think, actually in the dugout and Capt. McRae was standing just outside the door. I was about 25 yards away at the time. I had one runner with me and we immediately did what we could to assist the casualties, locating a few R.C.R. other ranks in a nearby trench into which we moved Colonel Willetts. I then examined the telephone in the headquarters' dugout and found it intact. I made a connection with Brigade headquarters and spoke to general Clarke, informing him of what had taken place. General Clarke ordered me to take command of The R.C.R. forthwith and to keep him informed of the situation.

I at once established a new headquarters in a deep dugout somewhat further forward; had such records as I could find in the demolished headquarters' dugout removed and spent and extremely busy day thereafter during which I personally covered the whole of the R.C.R. frontage, did such reorganization work as I could, reported the situation and disposition of the Battalion to Brigade, arranged that any officers at the transport line should report for duty at once, and otherwise looked after matters in the usual way. The only officers I can remember now who gave me practical assistance at the time were Lieut. M.F. Gregg and Lieut. Isbester. Lieut. Wurtelle was also engaged, but with his platoon had reached a point far in advance of the remainder of the Battalion and I did not see him at all.

The first officer to arrive from the transport line was, I think, Capt. C.L. Wood who, I understood, was the senior surviving officer of The R.C.R. then available. I appointed him as second i/c with Lieut. Isbester as Adjutant. This, so far as I can recollect, would be about 3 o'clock in the afternoon of the 28th. By dark the situation was well in hand and everything was quiet. I returned to the headquarters' dugout after making an inspection of the line early in the evening and about midnight turned in for some rest. I was wakened about 3 A.M. and was told that Colonel Ewing wanted to see me in the trench outside. I went up and Colonel Ewing told me that The 42ND had been ordered to attack at 8 A.M. to the left of The R.C.R. position; that he was extremely worried, having not seen the ground and having no opportunity whatsoever of locating routes to the assembly position. No one, he said, seemed able to guide the Battalion and he concluded with the request - "For God's sake come along with us. We're in a hell of a jam". There was a good deal of shelling going on; The 42ND had already suffered some casualties from this and little cover was available. I immediately picked up my equipment, instructed Capt. Wood to take over command of The R.C.R., to report to the Brigade that I had rejoined The 42ND and I immediately left The R.C.R. headquarters with my own Unit.

I became a casualty myself while participating in the attack by The 42ND at 8.30 on the morning of the 29th.

While in command of The R.C.R. I sent a number of reports to Brigade headquarters in writing, signed requisitions and so on, but am quite sure that there would be no official record of this matter unless some of the reports bearing my signature as Acting O.C., R.C.R., can be turned up. The only specific item I remember is a recommendation for the award of the V.C. to Lieut, M.F. Gregg. This I wrote some days later from a base hospital. I probably signed it Major, 42ND Battalion, although undoubtedly the report itself would state that during the period mentioned I was in command of The R.C.R.

Yours sincerely,

(Signed) C.B. Topp,