Walter Leigh “Curt” Rayfield, VC

Section 7, Lot 4196
Prospect Cemetery

Walter Leigh Rayfield, VC, who died in Toronto on February 19, 1949, was a recipient of the Victoria Cross. The most coveted and rare of all valour awards, the Victoria Cross was founded by Queen Victoria at the close of the Crimean campaign in 1854. It is described as a Maltese cross, made of gun metal with a Royal Crest in the centre and underneath it an escroll bearing the inscription “For Valour”. It is awarded, irrespective of rank, to members of any branch of Her Majesty’s services, either in the British Forces or those of any Commonwealth realm, dominion, colony or dependency, the Mercantile Marine, nurses or staffs of hospitals, or to civilians of either sex while serving in either regular or temporary capacity during naval, military, or air force operations. It is awarded only “for most conspicuous bravery or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy.”  For additional conduct or similar bravery, a Bar is added. The ribbon was formerly red for the Army and blue for the Navy, but it is now red (a dull crimson) for all services. The first Victoria Cross was awarded on January 29, 1856 to a 20-year-old Irishman in the Royal Navy named Charles Lucas who, when a bomb landed on his ship, threw it overboard thus saving the lives of his fellow crew members. As of 1993, a total of 1,351 Victoria Crosses have been awarded in 136 years — 94 of them to Canadians. Curt Rayfield was a private in the Seventh (British Columbia) Battalion when he won the Victoria Cross in 1918. It was not a single valorous act, but a series of brave actions for which he was awarded the Cross. In September of 1918, when his company attacked a heavily-manned trench east of Arras, Rayfield dashed ahead, bayoneted two of the enemy and took ten prisoners. In a later incident, he downed an enemy sniper who had been killing his fellow Canadians, then rushed the trench in which the sniper had hidden, so unnerving the Germans that 30 of them surrendered to him. Sometime later, responding to the cries of a wounded soldier, Rayfield dodged heavy machine-gun fire to pull his comrade to safety. Captain Rayfield was governor of the Don Jail when he died in 1949.