Issue: July 2024
Uniacke Newsletter Logo
Next deadline: August 26


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 in 2015 at the age of 90.

The fact 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 German battleships.

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. She was Lt. Helen Margaretta Porter who served with the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps (1943- 46). 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 (No Time For Dreams - A Soldier's Six Year Journey Through WW2) 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.