William Henry Metcalf VC MM*

b. 29/01/1894 Waite, Maine, USA. d. 08/08/1968 South Portland, Maine, USA.

William Henry Metcalf (1894-1968) was born 29th January 1894 at Talmadge, Maine, son of Henry and Theresa (Varnum) Metcalf, who were born at Waite, Maine, and Princeton, Maine, respectively. His paternal grandparents were Amos and Margaret (Eagles) Metcalf of Nova Scotia, who emigrated to northern Washington County, Maine. His maternal grandparents were Leonard Eaton Varnum and Susan Maria (Hill) Varnum, who were born at St. James, New Brunswick, and Topsfield, Maine, respectively.

William H Metcalf

While “Bill” was fishing on the Miramichi in New Brunswick in 1914, news came of the break out of hostilities that would lead to World War I.  He tried twice to join the Canadian forces but was not yet 21 and needed the permission of his mother, who would not sign.  The third time he “increased” his age and got in.  

When his mother found out, she raised the roof.  When his ship landed in England, the American Ambassador was waiting at the dock and went down the line of men looking for one William Henry Metcalf.  When he found a man by that name, he confronted him but the soldier said he was from St. David Parish, New Brunswick, not the particular Metcalf the Ambassador was looking for.  The commander interjected hopefully that he knew there were a lot of Metcalfs in St. David Parish.   The Ambassador withdrew. Metcalf received the Military Medal in 1916 for his part in the fighting during the Battle of the Somme.

Lance-Corporal Metcalf earned the Victoria Cross on 2 September 1918 near Cagnicourt in France during the Second Battle of Arras. On that day, the right flank of an attack by his battalion on a German trench was being held up by heavy resistance. Having assessed the situation, Metcalf hurried forward under intense machine gun fire to contact a tank passing to his left. Using a signal flag, he walked in front of the tank and directed it along the length of the enemy trench. As the tank fired down into the German trench, the machine gun positions were eliminated and heavy casualties inflicted on the enemy defenders. Though he was wounded in this action, Lance-Corporal Metcalf continued to advance until he was ordered out of the firing line to have his wound treated.

William Metcalf survived the First World War and returned to his native Maine and worked as a motor mechanic for the rest of his life. William Henry Metcalf married a English nurse Dorothy Holland and brought her home to Maine.  They had four children together. He died on 8th August 1968 in South Portland and was buried in the Bayside Cemetery, Eastport. At his funeral his casket was covered with the Union Flag of Great Britain and among those in attendance were more than forty members of the Royal Canadian Legion.

The Royal Canadian Legion have now replaced the headstone over William Metcalf’s grave to reflect more his award of the Victoria Cross. A service of rededication took place at the Bayside Cemetery on Sunday, 14th October 2012, to commemorate the name of William Metcalf VC MM & Bar.

In November 1998 the Canadian Scottish Regiment Museum held an exhibition of the Regiment’s Victoria Crosses, loaned to the museum by the Canadian War Museum and families of holders. Following an invitation by the museum’s curator, the son and grandson of William Metcalf journeyed from Maine, and spent a week in the city during the period of the exhibition. Stanley Metcalf, William’s son, was so impressed with the exhibition he decided to present his father’s Victoria Cross medal group, along with his scrapbook and other associated items to the Canadian Scottish Museum for permanent safekeeping.





Bill Mullen – Image of the Metcalf VC Grave at Bay Side Cemetery, Eastport, Maine, USA.