Five Times a Normal Toonies Worth – Thank a Veteran This Week

"Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."

Winston Churchill

Remembrance Day always has a strong connection for me because of my families involvement in serving in both of the major world wars. Even with conflicts of today, I think many of us find it hard to really understand what soldiers at those times, or even now go through. A colleague sent me a story about one particular veteran that perhaps everyone in Canada connects to, because he is on the back on the current $10 bill.

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 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 where he went into politics and became the warden (chairman) of the county and on his retirement he and his wife moved to Canada and settled in Ottawa.

During the past 45 years, he helped raise thousands of dollars on behalf of the Gurkha Welfare Appeal. These funds provide pensions, welfare, recreation and medical centres to the veterans of Nepal.

For the past 10 years, Metcalfe was Royal Canadian Legion speaker in the "Encounters With Canada" program, addressing grade 12 and 13 students. He also served many years as a Canadian War Museum volunteer guide, offering insight into achievements and sacrifices of Canadian Veterans.

In 1996, Metcalfe was awarded a life membership in the Royal Canadian Legion in recognition of his commitment to veterans and support of the RCL.

He hosted, at his own expense, many groups of veterans and their families in Europe, leading them on visits to First World War battlefields, cemeteries and cenotaphs. In addition to funding two tours to Sicily and Italy, Metcalfe conducted several tours coinciding with D-Day anniversaries. He personally researched the sites prior to conducting the tours, ensuring that next of kin would visit the final resting places of their relatives and comrades.

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.
As you go about your life and business this week, be mindful that it was the selfless approach of thousands of Robert Metcalfes that gives you the ability to earn those $10's and the freedom to spend them how you wish.

4 thoughts on “Five Times a Normal Toonies Worth – Thank a Veteran This Week”

  1. Hi Paul,
    Thanks for giving Remembrance Day/ Veterans Day the attention it deserves! I love hearing the stories from the Greatest Generation.
    My brother has just left for a year in Afghanistan in the US Army so it is a family affair here too!

  2. Thanks for letting us know story behind 10$ bill and of Robert Metcalfe. Our personal, professional and national identities are as strong as we know our histories. Thanks again for reminding and making our connection with our history stronger.

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