NAUGHTON– A bronze monument commemorating Charles Henry Byce, Canada’s most highly-decorated Indigenous soldier of the Second World War, will be unveiled on September 17, 2016 in the Northern Ontario Town of Chapleau, Ontario, where Byce was born in 1916.
The bronze and granite monument created by Sudbury, Ontario, sculptor Tyler Fauvelle, will feature symbols of Byce’s Moose Cree heritage, and will be located on the grounds of Chapleau’s Royal Canadian Legion, where the unveiling celebration will take place. The Ontario Native Education Counselling Association has been working in collaboration with the Chapleau Cree First Nation, the Royal Canadian Legion, and the Town of Chapleau. It has received partial funding from the Department of Canadian Heritage.
“Not many Canadians know Byce’s astonishing story,” said Roger Chum, President of ONECA. “We want people to know that a young man from a small town, who suffered the residential school system because of his Cree heritage, became Canada’s most highly-decorated Indigenous hero of World War II. We hope his bravery and service will inspire Canadians of all ages, especially Indigenous youth, to aspire and create their own positive journeys.”
Byce, who served with the Lake Superior Regiment (Motor) – now the Lake Superior Scottish Regiment – was awarded the British Military Medal (MM) for leadership and bravery in the Netherlands, on the night of January 20, 1945. Just a few weeks later, he earned the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) for extreme bravery in the Hochwald Forest sector, during fierce fighting to advance into Germany. The citation for the DCM honours his courage and fighting spirit, and reads, in part: “His gallant stand, without adequate weapons and with a bare handful of men against hopeless odds will remain, for all time, an outstanding example to all ranks of the regiment.”
Only a handful of Canadians have ever received both a DCM and MM. Remarkably, Charlie Byce’s father, Henry (Harry) Byce, was one of them. A WW I hero, Harry Byce received a DCM, as well as the Médaille Militaire, the French equivalent to the MM. A father and son, each receiving a DCM and MM across two world wars, is unique in Canadian history.