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Over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, 96 Canadians received the Victoria Cross, the highest honour a soldier could receive in the Commonwealth.
One of those soldiers was Frederick Tilston, who earned his medal on this day in 1945.
Born on June 11, 1906, Tilston attended an all-boys military school in Toronto and would go on to graduate from both the University of Toronto and the Ontario College of Pharmacy.
Enlisting with the Essex Scottish Regiment in the role of an administrator, he was promoted to acting Major by 1945.
During the Battle of the Rhineland, he volunteered to lead a company in an attack on the Hochwald Forest.
On March 1, he led his company in a 500-yard attack across muddy terrain that had recently had a lot of rain and snow fall on it. He was able to lead his men through the terrain, despite a great deal of weapons fire and having to traverse over barbed-wire.
With shells raining down, he took a slight injury to the head from shell fragments, but was able to destroy an enemy machine gun, single-handed, by throwing a grenade. He then led his men to the second line of resistance of the German army.
Wounded in his hip by this point, he was able to get to his feet and continue the advance, leading his men, as they overran the enemy positions with knives and rifle butts in the close quarters combat.
Tilston then consolidated his company’s position against German counterattacks after taking the position, and made six trips to a neighbouring unit to get more ammunition and grenades.
His company at this point was down to 40 men, or 25 per cent of its usual strength.
Tilston was wounded for a third time and was eventually found unconscious in a shell hole.
He refused medical attention and he organized his men to fight against a possible German counter-attack. He insisted to his men that they should hold the position at all costs.
For his gallantry and determination in battle, he was awarded the Victoria Cross.
Following the war, he joined the War Amps Association and returned to his work as a pharmacist.
He would live in Toronto until he passed away on Sept. 23, 1992.
Due to his reputation and heroics, he received several honours from a variety of organizations.
The Aurora Canadian Legion Branch is named Colonel Fred Tilston VC Legion in his honour. In Aurora, Ontario, St. Andrew’s College gives out the Tilston Awards each year for students in each grade who show courage in the face of adversity.
The De La Salle Cadet Corps named their primary body of cadets Tilston Platoon. There is also a Major F Tilston Armoury and Police Training Centre.