John Bernard Croak

Service file

John Bernard Croak (1892–1918) was born on May 18, 1892. A Newfoundlander by birth, Croak lived in Nova Scotia and British Columbia as well. He enlisted at Sussex, New Brunswick in August 1915 as a Private in the 55th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. He sailed overseas with his Unit on the SS Corsican, arriving in England on November 9, 1915. He was transferred to France on April 12, 1916 where he served with the 13th Battalion (Royal Highlanders), Canadian Infantry. On August 8, 1918, when the Amiens offensive began, Croak became separated from his platoon. However, he still managed to capture a machine-gun emplacement. Despite being wounded, he rejoined his platoon and led them on a charge that resulted in the capture of three machine guns. However, Croak sustained fatal wounds on the charge, and died on August 8, 1918. He was 26 years old. Croak was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously for his actions at Amiens. (1892–1918) was born on May 18, 1892. A Newfoundlander by birth, Croak lived in Nova Scotia and British Columbia as well. He enlisted at Sussex, New Brunswick in August 1915 as a Private in the 55th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. He sailed overseas with his Unit on the SS Corsican, arriving in England on November 9, 1915. He was transferred to France on April 12, 1916 where he served with the 13th Battalion (Royal Highlanders), Canadian Infantry. On August 8, 1918, when the Amiens offensive began, Croak became separated from his platoon. However, he still managed to capture a machine-gun emplacement. Despite being wounded, he rejoined his platoon and led them on a charge that resulted in the capture of three machine guns. However, Croak sustained fatal wounds on the charge, and died on August 8, 1918. He was 26 years old. Croak was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously for his actions at Amiens.

Service Record Details

   Attestation Paper 1

Date of Birth: May 18, 1892 (Glace Bay, Cape Breton)

Date of Attestation: August 7, 1915 (Sussex, New Brunswick)

Age at Enlistment: 23 years, 2 months old

Height: 5 feet, 5 inches

Weight: Not indicated

Description: Fair complexion, blue eyes, light hair. Roman Catholic.

Home Address: New Aberdeen, Glace Bay, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

Trade: Labourer

Married: No

Next of Kin: Father, Mr. James Croak, Esq. Mother, Mrs. James Croak. Both are living at Box 154, New Aberdeen, Glace Bay, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.

Theatre of War: France

Attestation Paper 2

Casualties / Medical History

  • August 15, 1917 – Croak is admitted sick to No. 51 General Hospital in Étaples, France. He is treated and released 24 days later.
  • August 8, 1918 – Killed in Action (Casualty List #293).

P.M. [Post-Mortem]: Showed dark congested patches in lungs with pus in small tubes, and enlarged spleen. Spinal cord normal throughout. Blood everywhere quite fluid and very dark.”

Interesting Details from the Service Record

  • November 12, 1915 –Croak receives a detention while at Bramshott for “being drunk.”
  • December 30, 1915 – He is disciplined for “being in possession of whisky” and fined six dollars.
  • February 19, 1916 – He receives 21 days’ field punishment “for breaking camp while under Quarantine.”
  • April 9, 1916 – Croak writes in his Military Will: “In the event of my death I give the whole of my property and effects to my mother Mrs. James Croak, New Aberdeen, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.”
  • March 2, 1917 – He receives 10 days’ field punishment for “When on Active Service Procuring & being in possession of liquor during prohibited hours. (2) Improperly dressed. (3) Violently resisting arrest. (4) Not being in possession of identity disc.”
  • August 4, 1917 – He forfeits 1 day’s pay for “When on Active Service Losing by neglect his Iron rations.”
  • September 10, 1917 – He “Forfeits Field Allowance and placed under stoppages of pay at the rate of 50 cents per diem whilst in hospital from 15-8-17 to 6-9-17.”
  • September 1, 1918 – Croak is awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions in battle at Amiens.

The London Gazette

The London Gazette – September 27, 1918, Supplement 30922, Page 11430

“No. 445312 Pte. John Bernard Croak, late Quebec R. For most conspicuous bravery in attack when having become separated from his section he encountered a machine-gun nest, which he bombed and silenced, taking the gun and crew prisoners. Shortly afterwards he was severely wounded, but refused to desist.

Having rejoined his platoon, a very strong point, containing several machine guns, was encountered. Private Croak, however, seeing an opportunity, dashed forward alone and was almost immediately followed by the remainder of the platoon in a brilliant charge. He was the first to arrive at the trench line, into which he led his men, capturing three machine guns and bayonetting or capturing the entire garrison.

The perseverance and valour of this gallant soldier, who was again severely wounded, and died of his wounds, were an inspiring example to all.”

Military Medals, Honours and Awards (1812–1969)

Census Records

1901 Census

At age 11, John Bernard Croak is living with his family in New Aberdeen, Glace Bay, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. His father, James (40), a miner, and his mother, Celia (28), have six children: Pat (15), Maggie (13), Josephine (12), John (11), Mary (6), and James (4). They are Irish Canadians and Roman Catholic. They have three men boarding in their home: William Coolney (22), a miner, Joseph Hearring (45), a miner, John Thomas (35), a carpenter.

1911 Census

At age 17, John Bernard Croak still lives in New Aberdeen with his family. The family had moved to Nova Scotia from Newfoundland in 1900. He is a miner and lives with his parents, James (55) and Cecilia (42), and four siblings: Margaret (20), Josephine (19), Mary (15), and Michael (six). The family are Irish Canadians and members of the Roman Catholic Church. James is a shopkeeper, and two of his sisters are listed as clerks.

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