Christopher Vokes, born in Armagh, Ireland,
on April 13th, 1904; died in Oakville, Ontario,
on March 28th, 1985. Canadian Army Officer.
Chris Vokes addressing the 1st
Canadian Field Regiment in Riccione,
Italy, on November 13th, 1944
by Bickerdyke. Department of National
Defence / National Archives of
The son of a British officer, Chris Vokes
was educated at the Royal Military College
in Kingston, Ontario, from 1921 to 1925.
Upon graduating, he joined the Royal Canadian
Engineers of the Permanent Force. In 1926-1927,
he was a student at McGill University in
Montreal and was awarded a Bachelor's Degree
in Science. He completed his education with
a two-year stay (1934-1935) at the Camberley
Staff College in England.
Starting in 1939, Vokes rapidly rose through
the ranks of the Canadian General Staff.
With the 1st Infantry Division, he served
as Adjutant General, Assistant Quartermaster
General, General Staff Officer, grade 1,
and as Officer Commanding the Princess Patricia's
Canadian Light Infantry. He proved to be
an outstanding operation officer and on
June 24th, 1942, was promoted to Brigadier,
in charge of the 2nd Infantry Brigade.
It was under Vokes that the 2nd Infantry
Brigade landed in Pachino on July 10th,
1943, and started its march through Sicily's
rugged terrain. The Brigade crossed over
to mainland Italy in September 1943. On
November 1st of that year, Vokes was appointed
commander of the 1st Canadian Infantry
Division and promoted to Major-General.
He took part
in the bitter fighting leading to the capture
of Ortona on December 27th, 1943. A few
months later, on May 23rd, 1944, the 1st
Canadian Division, progressing along the
Liri Valley, broke through the Adolf Hitler
Line. Under Vokes' command, the 1st Division
stayed its northwards course and pierced
the Gothic Line on September 3rd, 1944.
On December 1st, 1944, Vokes, was given
command of the 4th Canadian Armoured Division.
He led his troops through the Battle of
the Hochwald, in February-March 1945, then
across the plains of northern Germany to
the final victory. From June 1945 to May
1946, Vokes remained in Europe as General
Officer Commanding the Canadian Army Occupation
Back in Canada, General Vokes was put in
charge of the Canadian Army's Central Command
and later of Western Command. He retired
from the military in 1959 and, in 1985 published
his memoirs, My Story.
"It is a matter of great satisfaction
to me that no troops under my command
ever lost a battle, although there were
some very difficult ones in Sicily, Italy,
Holland and Germany
Also, I shall always regret deeply, very
deeply, there ever had to be casualties.
Casualties cannot be separated from battles.
A commander at any level cannot shirk
unpleasant decisions, whether he be corporal
or general or any rank in between. If
he does shirk such decisions, he is unfit
to command in battle.
The good on the other hand, consists of
memories of the camaraderie, the pride,
the courage, the fighting skills of Canadian
soldiers and, most of all, our discipline
and obedience to the will of Parliament.
I think yet of our Canadian soldier's
peculiar wit and great ability to improvise.
You should know our soldiers were kind
to the children of our enemies, and kind
to those in adversity. And they were,
on the whole, great ambassadors for Canada."
My Story, 1985
Chris Vokes, My Story,
J.L. Granatstein, The Generals,
The Canadian Army's Senior Commanders
in the Second World War, 1993.