Alva Elmer Metcalfe MC

Regimental number: 
Unit at enlistment: 
31st Battalion
Volunteered or conscripted: 
Survived the war: 
Date of death: 
November 8th, 1917
Menin Road South Military Cemetery - Ypres, Belgium - III.G.7.
Awards or decorations: 
Military Cross
Commemorated at: 
B.C.I. High School Memorial Plaque, Central Methodist Memorial Plaque Calgary, Alberta, University of Alberta Memorial Plaque
Birth country: 
Birth county: 
Birth city: 
Brantford Township
Address at enlistment: 
Calgary, Alberta
Next of kin address: 
Athabasca, AB
Trade or calling: 
University of Alberta
Religious denominations: 
Marital status: 
Age at enlistment: 
Gallantry medals: 

Letters and documents

London Gazette: 30204
Date: July 26, 1917
Honour or Award: Military Cross
Authority: R.O. 3583. Burstall, June 19, 1917
Alva Elmer Metcalfe (Lieutenant)
Unit: 31st Battalion

Details: For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in bombing and capturing an enemy trench. He then made a very daring reconnaissance to re-establish his communications, crossing 300 yards of open ground under heavy fire in broad daylight. He continually showed great courage and coolness throughout the day, greatly inspiring all ranks by his example.

BX August 7, 1917

Military Cross for Brant Boy – Lieutenant Alva Elmer Metcalfe Rose from Private by Valiant Work

Lieutenant Alva Elmer Metcalfe a brother of Mrs. Thomas E. Patterson, 34 Ontario Street, who won his commission at the Somme battle, has recently been presented with the Military Cross by the King.

He crossed 300 yards of open ground in broad daylight under a heavy fire. He is a Brant County boy, being son of the late Dilbert Metcalfe, of Hartley. He went to the collegiate here but enlisted at Edmonton in the 31st Battalion.

He was severely wounded in November, 1915 but has been in France for 14 months since without serious wounds.

He is sending home some souvenirs taken the last time the Canadian boys “went over” at Fresnoy. He arrived in France July 11 after two weeks leave.

BX May 9, 1918

Received Medal

Mrs. Thomas E. Patterson of this city yesterday received the Military Cross won by her brother, Lieutenant Alva Elmer Metcalfe, who was killed in action. The presentation took place at Toronto, the Duke of Devonshire presiding at the function.

Circumstances of Casualty: Died of Wounds in the Field, Belgium.
Location of Unit at Time of Casualty: Attack South of Passchendaele.

BX November 13, 1917

Lieutenant Alva Elmer Metcalfe Died of Wounds

Lieutenant Alva Elmer Metcalfe is reported to have died of wounds. He won the Military Cross and rose from the ranks having enlisted as a private at Edmonton. He won the promotion on the field. Mrs. T.E. Paterson, 34 Ontario Street, is a sister.

Calgary Herald December 22, 1917

Letters Tell of Brave Death of Lieutenant Alva E. Metcalfe – Former Alberta Officer Killed in Performance of Duty at the Front

Killed by a bomb dropped from a German aeroplane while he slept, was the fate of Lieut. Alva Elmer Metcalfe the gallant young Alberta officer who won the Military Cross for crossing 300 yards of open ground in broad daylight during the fighting at the Somme. He went overseas as a private and won his commission and decoration on the field.

He was reported killed in action over a month ago, and the commanding officer of the unit with which he was serving, and also the chaplain have written to his sister, Mrs. T.E. Patterson of Brantford, Ontario. Lieut. Metcalfe was a student at the University of Alberta in Edmonton and also attended the Normal school in Calgary. Lieut. McNally, mentioned in the chaplain’s letter, was a chum of the deceased when they attended the university.

The Letters

The following are the letters received from the officers:

November 16, 1917
In the field, France

Dear Mrs. Patterson,

It is with sincere sorrow that I write to confirm the announcement which you doubtless received some days ago informing you of the death of your brother, Lieut. A.E. Metcalfe, who was killed in action on Nov. 8, 1917.

He had been in the line with the attack and when all the officers in one company became casualties he had voluntarily taken on the duties and maintained his position and that of the company, in the face of heavy shelling. This was on Nov. 6 and on the night of Nov. 7-8 the battalion came out of the front line and were in camp in the forward areas. During the night of Nov. 7-8 enemy aircraft came over and dropped bombs on our camp, and one fell close beside the tent in which your brother was resting, and he was instantly killed.

He was in every respect a fine young man and an excellent officer and soldier.

His brother officers and men under his command, indeed the entire battalion, feel deeply his loss and extend heartfelt sympathy to yourself and any other members of the family.

It may help you to bear our sorrow less acutely to know that he conscientiously performed his duties that his work was highly appreciated and that he died a hero’s death.

He received a proper burial and his last resting place is marked and registered, but you will doubtless receive notice as to this through the regular official channels.

Believe me, yours most sincerely,

C.D. McPherson,
Commanding, Alberta Battalion

From His Chaplain

Dear Madam,

You will have received official information before you receive this letter of the death of your brother, Lieut. A.E. Metcalfe.

I write to express my sympathies and those of all the officers and men of this battalion. We deeply regret his loss. He was killed instantly about 4 a.m., Thursday the 8th of this month.

A German aeroplane flew over our lines and dropped bombs, one dropped very close to the tent where your brother and two other officers were sleeping. Two were killed, the third escaped. Your brother was killed instantly and would suffer no pain. We all were very fond of him, and it is a great grief to us. He and I and another officer shared a room for nearly all the month of September and we got to know each other very well indeed, and had a lovely time together.

Now I am about to return to Canada to take charge of New St. Paul’s parish, Woodstock, Ont. Your brother knew of this and came to talk to me about it several times. He did not want me to go into the last battle for fear that I might get killed or wounded, and he made me promise to go to Brantford and see you at the first opportunity. He seemed to insist that I should do so, and a day or so before he was killed he wrote out your address on a piece of paper and a reminder of my promise. I enclose the slip to you.

I buried the remains in Menin Square Cemetery and have arranged to have a wooden cross erected. In conjunction with Pte. McNally, a brother of the other officer who was killed, bearing his name, rank and date of death. I shall try to secure a photograph of the grave if you so desire. May God bless him and give him eternal rest for our Savior’s sake. He has given his life in the cause of righteousness and the right of the world to live at liberty and in peace. I shall redeem my promise as early as possible.

Yours very sincerely,

Edward Appleyard, Chaplain

BX January 6, 1916

Canadian Troops In Trenches Have Cheerful Spirit – Interesting Letters From Pte. Alva Elmer Metcalfe An Old Brant County Boy – Quiet In West – Mining Constituted Chief Work of Canadians Up to Time He Was Wounded – Canada’s Boys Are Well Looked After While on Service

Two interesting letters have been received by relatives from Private Alva Elmer Metcalfe, who is in hospital in England. He is well known here having attended the Brantford Collegiate and gone west to teach. He enlisted from Edmonton (Alberta University). He was wounded on November 17, in the thigh and the first official message was “seriously ill from gunshot wound in thigh.”A Cheerful Letter

December 6, 1915

“D” Ward
26th General Hospital
B.E.F., France

Dear Sis and All,

I’m a bit stronger now than when I scribbled you the last few lines. I’ll soon be in shape to make the journey back to England. Where I’ll be sent Heaven only knows, but the above address will get me anyway. My leg is doing nicely and by the middle of January, or the end in any case, I should be an able bodied warrior again. It was rather unfortunate about that telegram, Sis. I didn’t know one had been sent until I got Tom’s reply. I know it would cause you a lot of unnecessary worry. It seems when one is wounded the authorities always wire to one’s “next of kin.”  This is why you were notified. I have always given the name “Mrs. T.E. Pat,” whenever my next of kin was required. See what an honor you have had done to you all along. The officials looking down our regimental sheets see Mrs. T.E. P, as Pte. Metcalfe’s next of kin and they say “She must be some person of note.”  It breaks my heart to have to be here on my back, Sis, day after day. I never had any long sickness before you know, and I guess I am a bit of a baby in the matter. Still I have a great consolation in knowing that I’m going to get back with my own regiment as soon as I’m well. Ordinarily when one is wounded, after 30 days’ absence he is struck off the strength of his battalion and when he recovers he is sent to what we call the 9th Reserve Battalion at Shorncliffe. From here drafts of reinforcements are made up for all the Canadian regiments at the front. One is apt to be sent anywhere and it would only be a mere chance if he got back with his old battalion. The night I got wounded, though, our Brigadier-General came to see me at the Field Ambulance Hospital, before I left the front. He asked me if there was anything he could do for me, “Aye!” says I “you can get me back with our lads when I’m well gain,”  “I’ll do that,” says he, “you just write me when your leg is better and I’ll get you back.”  Oh, you don’t know what this means to me Sis. One does make friends at the front in a way that you cannot understand. The men alongside you seem more than brothers and one grows so attached to them, one feels he can never live without them. It seems one of the few redeeming features about war that inspires that close fellowship and mutual understanding among the men. I’m still with the scouts. There are only a few of us, but the chaps alongside me were lads of sterling quality – the kind that you can trust through thick and thin. It means worlds to me to know that I’ll get back with the same boys.

Please don’t think that I’m trying to make out that I like the fighting. No I don’t. I wish the blooming war would end tomorrow. But wishing won’t end it, and while it continues we may as well make the best of it. In this respect, the Canucks have won a name for themselves for cheerfulness at the front. They certainly are a happy bunch and it does one’s heart good to hear them laugh and sing in the midst of the most trying hardships.

I had a letter written to you in my report book, when I was wounded. I guess it is still there; a lot of nonsense I had told you. If I can find it when I go back I’ll send it on to you. I thought at one time I was going to get home to see you Sis, to recuperate. But it seems no such good luck!  If my nerves were shattered and I needed a long rest I could alright. Unfortunately though, my nerves are O.K. and as soon as this hole in my leg heals up I’ll be as well as ever.

Yours sincerely,
Alva E. Metcalfe

Taken To England

December 12, 1915
Manor House Hospital
Folkestone, Eng.

Dear Bro. and All,

This is Sunday morning again. I have had my leg attended to, and my little morning chat with the other wounded lads around me, and now I think I’ll busy myself with my correspondence till dinner time. Tommie is first up on the list, so here beginneth a few lines to the highly respected and much revered Capt. Patterson.

I must thank you for those clippings from the paper you sent me. Twas very kind of you indeed to take all that trouble. Had I been in the trenches when I received them I should have found them very helpful, but unfortunately I got “plunked” by a German shell, which landed me back here in the hospital where I get the very latest news every morning. Hence there is no need of you sending me further clippings till I get back to the front again.

No, Tom, I don’t know that there is anything you can do for me. I appreciate your kindly intentions, but on the whole Canada looks after her boys at the front pretty well. Our clothing and equipment in general are considerably better than that of the English soldiers. When in the trenches the lads appreciate getting parcels of cake and dainties of different kinds to break the monotony of bacon, corned beef, bread and cheese. But you’re altogether too far away for me to ask for anything of that kind.

I am back again in England at Folkestone, near Shorncliffe. We crossed from Calais to Dover three days ago, took the train from Dover to Folkestone, then the ambulance up here to the hospital. When they took me out of the latter the chap carrying the head of my stretcher spoke. I thought the voice sounded familiar and looking up, who should I find but one of our medical students from the University of Alberta. Wasn’t that a coincidence?

My leg is getting on nicely. I guess by Christmas time I’ll be able to be up.

I left things very quiet on the western front. In fact they have been comparatively so ever since our division went to France. Mining operations are being carried out constantly and the artillery of either side gets busy nearly every day. We made feint attacks to draw the enemy’s reinforcements when the big Loos drive was on to the south of us. Beyond this, life in the trenches has dealt leniently with us. There is the usual sniping, bombing and shelling, more or less going on all the time, but one soon gets used to this. I shouldn’t say “all the time,” either, because I have seen moments of almost absolute stillness along the line. Everything seems to predict a quiet winter on our front. All are looking forward to a livelier time in the spring. Fritz is still going strong and shows no more signs of slackening than he did a year ago.

Sincerely yours,
Alva E. Metcalfe

BX November 25, 1915

Private Alva Elmer Metcalfe on Casualty List – Harley Young Man is Suffering from Wounds Received at Front

In the casualty list issued this morning is the name of Pte. Elmer Metcalfe, 31st Battalion, of Harley, Brant County reported wounded. In Harley the injured man has a sister living. His father is dead, but his step-mother, a sister and brother are living in the west. Word was received a couple of days ago at Harley that “Alva,” as he was known there, had been wounded. He enlisted in Calgary where he was teaching school, to put himself through college.