Frederick George Topham VC

b. 10/08/1917 Toronto, Ontario, Canada. d. 31/05/1974 Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Frederick George Topham (1917-1974) was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on 10th August 1917. He was educated at King George Public School and Runnymede High School.  Prior to his enlistment he was employed in the mines at Kirkland Lake.

Frederick G Topham VC

In March 1945, Corporal Topham was serving as a medical orderly in the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion. At that time, the battalion was part of the 3rd Parachute Brigade of the British Army’s 6th Airborne Division. On the morning of 24th March 1945, parachute and glider-borne troops of the 6th Airborne Division landed on the east bank of the Rhine River, not far from the city of Wesel in Germany. These landings were carried out in support of assault operations begun the night before by the 1st Canadian and 2nd British Armies to cross to the East bank of the river.

After the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion landed just north of Diersfordt Wood, Corporal Topham heard a cry for help from a wounded man who was in the open. Two medical orderlies who went out in succession to treat the wounded man were killed. Immediately afterward and on his own initiative, Topham went forward through intense German fire to assist the casualty. As he treated the wounded man, Topham was himself shot through the nose, but continued to give first aid despite the severe bleeding and pain of his own injury. He was then able to carry the wounded man to shelter through continuous fire. Refusing treatment for his wound, Corporal Topham continued to assist the wounded for two more hours, by which time all casualties had been evacuated to safety. Although he finally consented to have his nose dressed, he refused to be evacuated with the other wounded. Later, alone and again under enemy fire, Topham rescued three soldiers from a burning machine gun carrier that threatened to explode, brought them to safety, and arranged for the evacuation of the two men who survived.

Topham was gazetted for the VC on 3rd August 1945. In November 1945 he laid the cornerstone for Sunnybrook Memorial Hospital in Toronto.  Frederick Topham was sent his Victoria Cross by registered post in 1946. After demobilization he worked at Toronto Hydro. Frederick “Toppy” Topham VC died suddenly on 31st May 1974 at the age of fifty-six and is buried in the Sanctuary Park Cemetery, Etobicoke, Ontario.

For a number of years, the Victoria Cross and campaign medals awarded to Corporal Fred Topham had been on loan to the Canadian War Museum, but, unfortunately, they were mostly kept in storage. When Topham’s widow Mary found out they were not on display, she changed her mind about leaving the medals to the CWM and as a consequence left instructions in her will that the VC medal group be sold for her beneficiaries.

The executors of Mary Topham’s estate had contacted various military museums in Canada to enquire if they would be interested in purchasing the medals but with no success. Eventually, the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion Association, Fred’s Topham’s wartime Battalion, was approached. A small committee, consisting of members of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada and members of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion Association, was formed and a verbal agreement was reached with the executors to purchase the VC for $250,000 at which the medals were evaluated. A meeting was called and the executors stated that $250,000 was too low now that they had received an overseas offer of $319,000. The executors indicated they would prefer the Victoria Cross stay in Canada and an agreement was finally reached that the committee could purchase the medals for $275,000 with the condition attached if more funds were raised, a high of $300,000 would be paid, and if not, a low of $260,000.

A legal agreement was drawn up and fundraising began with promotion of the campaign by newspapers and TV producers. Donations large and small came in from Canadians all across the country; from school children, Legions, serving military, towns and cities, and corporations. The announcement on 15th December 2004 was that $300,000 had been reached. As announced during the fund raising campaign, any surplus funds would go to the expansion of the Airborne Museum at Base Petawawa.

On 24th January 2005 at the Royal Canadian Military Institute in Toronto, a cheque for $300,000 was handed over to the executors of the Mary Topham Estate in exchange for the Victoria Cross. The full medal group was then handed over by Jan de Vries of the 1st CPBA into the care of a representive of the Canadian War Museum who agreed to place the medals in a secure display case to be shown in the CWM and at various locations across Canada.




Section A, Grave 147C


Bill Mullen – Image of Topham VC Grave in Sanctuary Park Cemetery, Etobichoke, Canada.

Thomas Stewart – Images of the Topham VC Medal Group and his beret on display at the Canadian War Museum, Ottawa.