A TEN DOLLAR REMEMBRANCE DAY COMING UP – Remembering Robert Metcalfe – October 30, 2010 – Cornwall Ontario

Cornwall ON – If you look at the back right-hand side of a Canadian $10 bill, you will see an old veteran standing at attention near the Ottawa war memorial. His name is Robert Metcalfe and he died last month at the age of 90.

That he managed to live to that age is rather remarkable, given what happened in the Second World War. Born in England , he was one of the 400,000 members of the British Expeditionary Force sent to the mainland where they found themselves facing the new German warfare technique – the Blitzkrieg.

He was treating a wounded comrade when he was hit in the legs by shrapnel.

En route to hospital, his ambulance came under fire from a German tank, which then miraculously ceased fire. Evacuated from Dunkirk on HMS Grenade, two of the sister ships with them were sunk.

Recovered, he was sent to allied campaigns in North Africa and Italy . En route his ship was chased by the German battleship Bismarck .

In North Africa he served under General Montgomery against the Desert Fox, Rommel.

Sent into the Italian campaign, he met his future wife, a lieutenant and physiotherapist in a Canadian hospital. They were married in the morning by the mayor of the Italian town, and again in the afternoon by a British padre.

After the war they settled in Chatham, Ontario where he went into politics and became the warden (chairman) of the county and on his retirement he and his wife moved to Ottawa . At the age of 80 he wrote a book about his experiences.

One day out of the blue he received a call from a government official asking him to go downtown for a photo op. He wasn’t told what the photo was for or why they chose him. ‘He had no idea he would be on the bill,’ his daughter said.

And now you know the story of the old veteran on the $10 bill.

Syljack Cornwall Transit Schnitzels


  1. A fitting and lasting tribute to a great and honorable man. Lest We Forget.

  2. We need more stories like this. Stories about Canadian heroes who quietly and competently do their job without any fan fare or expectations of glory.

  3. The Bismark did not likely chase anyone. It never broke out. When it tried it was embattled, damaged, chased and sunk.
    Although this man’s experiences are not diminished, it is unfortunate that sentiment and exageration creep into a story that stands on its own, and is all the more incredible, because it was so common for an entire generation caught up in that terrible time.

  4. The Bismarck most definitely broke out, accompanied by the Prinz Eugen. It’s most notable victory was the sinking of the British battleship HMS Hood, in the Denmark Strait, between Iceland and Greenland. The ship was damaged, however, and was finally sunk by the Royal Navy when it was attempting to reach France for repairs.
    The Bismarck’s mission, however, was to disrupt convoy activity across the Atlantic.

  5. Its Bismarck, and she was a nasty threat, hence why she was so embattled so quickly upon her first and only mission she went on. Did she chase this ship, who knows, there’s a lot of history about her, but her life was very short lived and it could be possible it was another ship, even the Prinz Eugen who was accompanying her. What a beast of a ship, though could have been a structural issue with her sinking, had that not have happened, who knows what she could have done! It took on so much damage it’s amazing she didn’t go down faster, but she certainly took down a couple huge targets, most notably the HMS Hood, which was the biggest flagship of the Royal Navy.

    That being said, this is a fitting tribute, this is the reason why flags fly at half mast, and also a reason for what buildings and rooms should be named after! (take note Kilger)

  6. Mr Komerowsky
    Dad is a hige fan of that ship, the Bismark. I spoke with him on this and he agrees it is possible that the ship was chased, however not if they went south from England. The Bismark patrolled the North Atlantic region.

    Sorry unless I misread what was written,

  7. There is scholarly literature for those with the time, and although the internet is always a little suspect, here are two credible offerings to hold anyone until they can get to a library.


    There is no historical account of the Bismark chasing or engaging anyone except it’s attackers, and while it staggered damaged, the winner, out of an enemy gauntlet it was shortly sunk as it ran to port for repairs — hardly a breakout.


    But this isn’t exactly about history, it is about romanticising war. And before the sentimental platitudes and romantic tellings of tales begin with the approach of Remembrance day …think for a moment on the meaning of “Lest we forget”.

    From the Rudyard Kipling poem “Recessional”, it is a caution against forgetting that empire is ephemeral, and military conquest contrary to the beliefs and ideals we espouse.

    It is not the “We will remember” knockoff that undermines that warning and reducess our contemplation of war to a tear or two at the cenotaph once a year. Remembering lives lost in service to our national interest, serves to remind us of the cost of our way of life, and one hopes, tempers our military adventures, but I suspect that it also confers glory in a way inappropriate to the memory of those we have lost.

    Rudyard Kipling who was for the most part, a poster boy for empire, military might and a bit of a jingoist, oddly enough also wrote these words, “If any question why we died/ Tell them, because our fathers lied.”

  8. The battleships Bismarck and Prinz Eugen came out across the sea and turned south between Iceland and Greenland. They were spotted and the Hood became a casualty. They continued south until Bismarck hung a left turn heading for Brest, France. The Prinz Eugen continued south and turned on a heading of ENE and made it to Brest. Unfortunately the Bismarck was overwhelmed by torpedoes by aircraft from the aircraft carrier Ark Royal. From the map she was south of England approximately due west of Brest when she went down. Bismarck weighed 50,000 tons and was the biggest warship of that time.

  9. A few joined out of love of country
    A few joined for employment
    A few joined joined because it was the right thing to do
    I am proud of each of them, and am thankful no matter the reason.

  10. Read the article at http://www.rclajax.com/JulAug05-25-28.pdf
    which fills in some of the details. I’m dismayed how reporters are all picking up the “spam email” that’s been going around about the $10 CAD bill. It just doesn’t tell you that the original was written in APRIL of 2005 when Robert Metcalfe died. I wish reporters would research a little deeper than the first 5 items on Google! Oh, and the more detailed account tells you that he started out from England on that sea voyage and was, indeed, in the North Atlantic when his ship was chased by the Bismarck. Metcalfe’s ship then went round the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa to get to the middle east where he went on to serve in Operation Desert Fox.

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