Frederick George Topham, V.C.
Was born in Toronto on August 10, 1917. He was educated at King George Public School and Runnymede High School. Prior to his enlistment in the Canadian Army, he worked as a hard-rock miner at the Wright Hargreaves mine at Kirkland Lake.
volunteered for Army Service as a medical orderly on August 3, 1942, and
subsequently served in Canada, the United States, Britain and Europe. During
the final stages of the Second World War, Topham's unit, the 1st Canadian
Parachute Battalion, was attached to the 6th British Airborne Division.
Following the successful invasion of Europe by Allied forces in June 1944, the
German Army was relentlessly attacked and by March 1945 had been pushed east to
the Rhine River. It was in the Allied assault on the Rhine that "Toppy" performed a series of rescue operations that earned him the Victoria
March 23, 1945, Allied forces under the command of Field Marshall Bernard
Montgomery launched a massive assault that carried them across the Rhine and
further into German territory.
following morning, Operation "Varsity" dropped thousands of Allied
airborne troops into Germany on the east side of the Rhine.
The following morning, Operation "Varsity" dropped thousands of Allied airborne troops into Germany on the east side of the Rhine.
of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion jumped from their aircraft just before
ten o'clock on the morning of March 24 and landed in scattered groups just north
of Diersfordt Wood (near Wesel, Germany). The initial fighting was fierce, with
most of the battalion encountering heavy fire from machine-guns and snipers.
Despite sustaining a number of casualties, the unit had cleared its main
objectives within two hours of landing. Fighting continued throughout the day.
Corporal Fred Topham was treating casualties sustained during the drop, he
witnessed the death by enemy fire of two medical orderlies from the 224th Field
Ambulance who were trying to assist a wounded paratrooper. Acting instinctively,
Topham immediately ran and administered to the wounded soldier in the open
field, then carried him "through a hail of bullets" to a protected
wooded area. Despite receiving a severe face wound and enduring considerable
pain, Topham continued to evacuate the drop zone until it was cleared of
wounded. He rejected any suggestion that he himself be evacuated from the
battlefield. After receiving treatment for the wound to his nose and cheek, he
asked to be allowed to return to the fray.
his way back from the medical station, Topham encountered an armoured
machine-gun carrier that, having been hit by enemy shelling, was on fire and in
imminent danger of exploding from its own ammunition store. According to
eyewitnesses, Topham rushed to the carrier and, unaided, lifted the three
wounded occupants free. One man died almost at once, but Topham carried the
other two to safety and dressed their wounds. For the rest of that afternoon,
Topham continued to tend the wounded.
his demonstrated courage throughout the day, "Toppy" Topham was
recommended for the Victoria Cross, the highest award for valour in the British
Commonwealth, which King George V approved on August 2, 1945. According to the Canada
Gazette of August
2, 1945, Topham was awarded the medal in recognition of “sustained gallantry
of the highest order. For six hours, most of the time in great pain, he
performed a series of acts of outstanding bravery and his magnificent and
selfless courage inspired all those who witnessed it.”
Topham's heroism was acknowledged publicly with a parade and civic reception in Toronto on August 8, 1945; one hundred members of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion served as a guard of honour. After the war, Topham took little part in military affairs. On November 10, 1945 he laid the cornerstone of the new Sunnybrook Memorial Hospital for Veterans and then returned to civilian life with a very short stay with the Toronto Police Department and finally as an employee of Toronto Hydro.
George "Toppy" Topham, V.C., died suddenly on May 31, 1974, at the age
of fifty-six following an electrical accident.
Frederick G. Topham's Grave Marker.
He is buried at Sanctuary Park Cemetery
Etobicoke, Ontario, Canada.
A Plaque erected in honour of "Toppy".
Located in the City of Toronto at the rear of the former Etobicoke City Hall,
on the SE corner of The West Mall and Burnhamthorpe Road.