Sergeant Valentine Stewart Hitchcock photographed wearing the uniform of the Royal Canadian Garrison Artillery sometime around 1900.
A bookbinder by trade, Valentine Stewart Hitchcock was born in Liverpool, Lancashire, England on 15 October 1874 the son of Valentine and Ellen Hitchcock. Like so many young men of his era, he had followed his father into his chosen trade. The family moved to Canada sometime in the 1880s.
The younger Hitchcock served with the 50th Regiment (militia), the Gordon Highlanders of Canada, and later with the 5th Regiment, Canadian Garrison Artillery. Exactly how long and at what rank he served with the Canadian Gordons is not known but his photograph clearly shows that he had attained the rank of sergeant while serving with the artillery. It appears that he was a member of the militia as early as 1898 when a Corporal V. Hitchcock is mentioned in Canada, Nominal Rolls and Paylists for the Volunteer Militia, 1857-1922 having served in the honour guard that fired a salute during the opening of the Victoria Legislature on 10 February 1898.
Hitchcock attested as a private with the 67th Battalion (Ontario Regiment) Canadian Expeditionary Force on 1 September 1915. Here his birth date is given as 1877 but this was probably a typographical error by the military clerk who typed the forms since all other records make his birth year out as 1874. His service number was 102047.
While overall details of Hitchcock’s service are sketchy, he was cited for the Military Medal in the London Gazette on 27 June 1918. A German mortar round landed in a shell crater that the Canadians had been using as a gun pit and started a fire that threatened to ignite a quantity of Stokes ammunition that was stored there. Private Valentine and two other Canadians, Corporal Wardman and Private Colwill proceeded to remove the Stokes rounds from the pit and prevented its detonation. All three soldiers were cited for the Military Medal. Hitchcock’s citation read in part:
“Pte. Hitchcock rendered valuable assistance in removing ammunition from the recess and in extinguishing the fire, which had ignited the sandbag curtain and framework of the recess. He afterward carried a number of shells that had become hot, to the lip of the crater to cool
off. His coolness and bravery undoubtedly assisted in preventing the destruction of the whole of the ammunition and the guns, with a possible loss of life.”
Hitchcock was additionally entitled to the British War and Victory Medals.
One can find interesting additional details of a man’s military career in rather unexpected places. In the January 1918 edition of The International Bookbinder: Official Journal of the International Brotherhood of North American Bookbinders where the following statement was made: “Brother Valentine Hitchcock, unfortunately, has been wounded during the recent severe fighting in France.”
Valentine's wounding occurred on 2 September 1918 at Drocourt-Queant when he was hit by shrapnel in the right side. He returned to France on 23 December by which time the war was over. In February 1919 he boarded the SS Carmania for the voyage home. He was discharged on 8 March 1919.
Little else regarding Valentine Hitchcock has come to light. He seems to have continued in the bookbinding trade for the rest of his life. In the 1920 city directory for Henderson, Victoria, British Columbia Valentine Hitchcock is show living at 162 Robertson. Also living at the same address was his sister Irene Hitchcock. Valentine Stewart Hitchcock passed away on 16 January 1946 in Victoria, British Columbia.
9 Inches by 7 Inches
(22.7 cm x 17.6 cm)
John Savannah - Photographer
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada