Filip Konowal (1887-1959) was a Ukrainian itinerant labourer who was awarded the Victoria Cross in 1917 while serving with the Canadian Expeditionary Force. He was one of a large number of seasonal labourers from the Russian Empire who worked in Canadian lumber camps, farms and factories at the start of the twentieth century. In July 1915 he enlisted with the 47th Battalion in Ottawa, and was sent to England the following June. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for single-handedly clearing a series of underground bunkers and machine gun positions during the battle for Hill 70. He was seriously wounded during the battle and was evacuated to Britain for medical care. Konowal went on to serve in many capacities until the end of the war, including with the Canadian Forestry Crops and the Siberian Expeditionary Force He was honourably discharged in July 1919. Twenty years later, at the opening of the National War Memorial in May 1939, he was presented to King George VI as a war hero. He subsequently made a modest living as a caretaker on Parliament Hill. He died in 1959 at the Veterans' Pavilion of the Civic Hospital in Ottawa and is buried in the city's Notre Dame Cemetery. In recent years, Konowal has been commemorated as an example of the wartime service of Ukrainian-Canadians.
Service Record Details
Date of Birth: March 25, 1887 (Podolsky, Russia)
Date of Attestation: July 12, 1915
Age at Enlistment: 27 years, 11 months
Height: 5 feet, 6 1/2 inches
Weight: 165 pounds
Description: Medium complexion, brown eyes, brown hair. Greek Catholic. Smallpox scar on face.
Home Address: P.O. Box 122, Ottawa, Ontario
Married: Yes--Mrs. Anna Konowal, living in Podolsky, Guberny, Ukraine, Russia.
Details of Family: Father, Meron Konowal. Mother deceased. Daughter, Maria (age 7 in 1916).
Next of Kin: Wife (Anna Konowal)
Branch of Service: Infantry
Theatre of War: Britain, France, Siberia
Casualties / Medical History
- February 15, 1916 – Konowal is hospitalized for eight days for an injury to his eye. He recovers completely. (Page 40)
- September 15, 1916 – He is treated for a cut on his hand that he received in the field. (Page 25)
- February 18-28, 1917 – He is evacuated for "complicated diarrhea" and suspected dysentery. (Page 26)
- August 21, 1917 – He is admitted to the 6th Casualty Clearing Station for gunshot wounds to his face and neck. (Page 13)
- June 25, 1919 – His medical examination upon leaving the service indicates that he has "Some paralysis of facial muscles on left side as result of bullet wound at Lens Aug 21, 1917. Little finger left hand partly crippled as result of shrapnel wound at Ypres. Says that he has occasional attacks of fluttering of heart and [?] pain on exertion but no [?] can be made out at present time." (Page 35)
- June 25, 1919 – A dental history sheet indicates that he requires dentures after having seven teeth extracted, including four molars in his left jaw. (Page 45)
Interesting Details from the Service Record
- July 12, 1915 – A note on one of his pay sheets indicates that his marriage was verified by the consulate in Petrograd. This was done to complete the requirements for assigning some of his pay and his separation allowance to his wife. (Page 56)
- July 22, 1916 – In his military will, which is handwritten, he leaves his entire estate to his wife Anna. (Page 43)
- November 26, 1917 – He is awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery and leadership in battle. (LG 30400) (Page 3)
- October 11, 1918 – He sails overseas from Vancouver aboard the Empress of Japan. (Page 29)
- February 15, 1965 – A document provides a long list of notable details from his wartime service. In August 1917, for example, he was transferred to the Canadian Forestry Corps. In December 1917 he "proceeded on command for duty" with the military attaché at the Russian Embassy in London. In October 1918 he was appointed Acting Sergeant; he then sailed to Siberia, disembarking at Vladivostok. He was on command in Omsk, Russia, from March to June 1919, after which he returned to Canada. He was honourably discharged on July 4, 1919, due to demobilization. (Pages 2-3)
- Undated – On the cover of his service file is a note that he died on June 3, 1959. (Page 1)
The London Gazette
The London Gazette—November 26, 1917, Supplement 30400, Page 12329
"For most conspicuous bravery and leadership when in charge of a section in attack. His section had the difficult task of mopping up cellars, craters and machine gun emplacements. Under his able direction all resistance was overcome successfully, and heavy casualties inflicted on the enemy. In one cellar he himself bayonetted three enemy and attacked single-handed [sic] seven others in a crater, killing them all.
On reaching the objective, a machine-gun was holding up the right flank, causing many casualties. Cpl. Konowal rushed forward and entered the emplacement, killed the crew, and brought the gun back to our lines.
The next day he again attacked single-handed [sic] another machine-gun emplacement, killed three of the crew, and destroyed the gun and emplacement with explosives.
This non-commissioned officer alone killed at least sixteen of the enemy, and during the two days' actual fighting, carried on continuously his good work until severely wounded."
Military Medals Honours and Awards