b. 26/04/1871 Hopewell Hill, New Brunswick, Canada. d. 27/09/1956 Vancouver, BC, Canada.
Cyrus Wesley Peck (1871-1956) was born in Hopewell Hill, New Brunswick, Canada on 26th April 1871, and was educated in the local public schools. On 27th June 1887, when Cy was 16, his family moved to New Westminster, British Columbia, so that his father could work in the lumber business in the Frazer River port city. At the same time, Cyrus took up military training and sailed for England, hoping to join the British Army. However, he changed his mind and volunteered for service in South Africa, but his application was rejected. Returning to Canada, he went to the Klondike and eventually worked in business in Prince Rupert, British Columbia as a salmon canner. Later, he was elected Unionist MP for Skeena.
Cyrus married Katie Chapman in March 1914, and in time, they had three sons: Horace, Edward and Douglas. Cy had been a member of the militia and joined the CEF in 1914 in Victoria, when he was already 43, and was made a Captain in the 30th Battalion on 1st November. He gave his occupation as a broker. He left for France on 23rd February 1915, and was promoted to Temporary Major two months later, on April 25th when he arrived in France. He was transferred to the 16th Battalion and promoted to Major. A few days later he was wounded in the leg in Festubert and on May 23rd was invalided to England on the hospital ship St Patrick. On 5th July he returned to the 16th Battalion and became its commander a year later in November during the Battle of the Somme.
On 6th January 1917, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. In mid 1917 he was invalided back to England again, this time suffering from gastritis. In the same year, during his absence, he was re-elected to the Canadian House of Commons in what was called the Khaki Election. He returned to France on June 7th to rejoin the Battalion, and his DSO was published in the Birthday Honours List of June 4th.
On 10th January 1918 he assumed temporary command of the Canadian 3rd Infantry Brigade until 15th January, but on 23rd January he was a patient in 4th Canadian Field Ambulance for a few days, and then again between 15th February and 15th March 1918. He then spent eight days in a Canadain Casualty Clearing Station.
On 2nd September 1918, his command quickly captured the first objective, but progress to the further objective was held up by enemy machine-gun fire on his right flank. The situation being critical in the extreme, Colonel Peck pushed forward and made a personal reconnaissance under heavy machine-gun and sniping fire, across a stretch of ground which was heavily swept by fire. Having reconnoitred the position he returned, reorganised his battalion, and, acting upon the knowledge personally gained; pushed them forward and arranged to protect his flanks. He then went out under the most intense artillery and machine-gun fire, intercepted the Tanks, gave them the necessary directions, pointing out where they were to make for, and thus pave the way for a Canadian Infantry battalion to push forward. To this battalion he subsequently gave requisite support.
For this action, he would be awarded the VC. A month later, on 4th October, he was gassed and hospitalised for ten days. He was mentioned in despatches on October 12th, and by January 5th 1919, he was back in England. He received his VC at York Cottage, Sandringham from King George V on 26th January 1919, a few days after the Bar to his DSO was gazetted. In February, he returned to Canada where he attended to business in the House of Commons. He was demobilized in Ottawa in June 1919.
Peck, whose nickname in the Great War, was MacPeck, had been mentioned in despatches five times. In November 1921 he was transferred to the Reserve of Officers with the rank of Colonel. In the same year, he commanded the Canadian rifle shooting team at Bisley. In 1920 he was made commanding officer of the newly formed Canadian Scottish Regiment after the amalgamation of the 88th and 50th Battalions. After being defeated in the 1921 elections, he went to the British Columbia legislature in 1924 as a member for the islands, when he lived on Vancouver Island for a time. In 1928 he was re-elected as Conservative.
In 1929 he attended the VC Dinner at the House of Lords, and was appointed aide-de-camp to two Governor-Generals, Lords Byng and Tweedsmuir, and in 1936 he was appointed to membership to the Canadian Pensions Commission, a position he held for 5 years. In 1956, on his 85th birthday, a group of the Canadian Scottish Regiment paid their respects before he travelled to London for the VC Centenary in Hyde Park in June. In his last years, he lived at Hopewell, Sidney, and Vancouver, and he died in hospital on 27th September 1956, having suffered a heart attack nine days earlier. He was cremated, with half his ashes interred at Fraser Cemetery in the family plot, and half scattered off the Prince Rupert Sound. In 1987, two of his sons presented his medals to the Canadian Scottish Regiment. In 1993, they were moved to the Canadian War Museum, Ottawa in a ceremony held on the 75th anniversary of his action.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: CANADIAN WAR MUSEUM, OTTAWA, CANADA.
BURIAL PLACE: FRASER CEMETERY, NEW WESTMINSTER, VANCOUVER, CANADA.
UPPER FRASER SECTION, GRAVE 24.
Bill Mullen – Image of Peck VC’s grave in Fraser Cemetery, Vancouver.
Canadian War Museum – Images of the Peck VC Medal Group and VC Medal.