b. 07/10/1881 Richmond, Surrey. d. 19/02/1949 Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Walter Leigh Rayfield (1881-1949) was born at Richmond-on-Thames, England on October 7th, 1881. He emigrated to Canada sometime prior to World War One and was living in Vancouver, B.C. at the outbreak of war. He was rejected twice on medical grounds while trying to enlist and he finally moved to Los Angeles, California where he was accepted by the British Recruiting Office. He was assigned to the 7th Battalion, C.E.F. (1st British Columbia Regiment) and went overseas.
Rayfield was awarded the Victoria Cross for three acts of bravery while he was serving near Cagnicourt in France between 2nd and 4th September 1918. On the first occasion, Rayfield rushed ahead of his company to attack a German trench, bayoneting two of the enemy and taking ten others captive. Later, he located and engaged a German sniper, finally charging the marksman’s section of trench so aggressively that thirty more enemy soldiers surrendered. Rayfield’s third courageous act was to leave cover and carry a badly wounded comrade to safety through heavy machine gun fire. As well as receiving the Victoria Cross, he was made a member of the Royal Order of the Crown of Belgium by the Belgian government.
On his return to Canada he tried several jobs including farming before moving to Toronto. The press had given him the nickname “Canada’s Sergeant York.” He joined the Queens York Rangers and was given the rank of lieutenant and he served as Sergeant at Arms at the Ontario Legislature. In 1934 he was appointed Deputy Governor of the Don Jail and he was then given the position of Governor which he fulfilled until his death in 1949.
Walter died on 19th February 1949 in Toronto, Ontario and was buried in Prospect Cemetery. His medals including the VC, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, King George VI Coronation Medal 1937 and Royal Order of the Crown of Belgium are held by the Canadian War Museum, Ottawa.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: CANADIAN WAR MUSEUM, OTTAWA, CANADA.
BURIAL PLACE: PROSPECT CEMETERY, TORONTO, ONTARIO, CANADA.
SECTION 7, GRAVE 4196
Canadian War Museum – Images of the Rayfield VC Medal Group and VC medal.
Bill Mullen – Image of the Rayfield VC Grave.