In a rainstorm that was reminiscent of the somber mood, Princess Anne unveiled a bronze plaque at Arlington National Cemetery on Thursday, 6 November, honouring five Americans who were awarded the Victoria Cross during the “Great War”.
On the eve of the Second World War, King George VI was in Washington to rally American support against Nazi Germany by celebrating veterans of World War I. As the first reigning British monarch to visit the United States, he an his wife, the then-Queen Elizabeth, were received with great honor. During his visit, he met with many veterans of WWI, the first being an American physician, Bellenden Seymour Hutcheson, who wore his Victoria Cross he had earned in 1918. 75 years after King George VI’s visit, his Granddaughter returned to pay tribute to him and four others.
The ceremony was part of Britain’s commemoration of the centennial of World War I, and was followed by Princess Anne laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns.
The Victoria Cross was introduced by Queen Victoria on January 29, 1856, and British embassy’s Defence Attache Buster Howes said “Great Britain’s most powerful and vivid symbol of courage displayed in war is the Victoria Cross; awarded for valour in the face of the enemy.”
The plaque honored four known Americans and one Unknown Soldier who each fought with Canadian forces during World War I.
Sgt. Raphael Louis Zengel, a native of Minnesota who earned his Victoria Cross in battle near Warvillers, France, in 1918.
Sgt. George Mullin, who was born in Portland, Oregon, but moved to Canada as a child. He was cited for gallantry at the Battle of Passchendaele, Belgium, in 1917.
Lance Cpl. William Henry Metcalf, born in Maine, was cited for gallantry in combat near Arras, France, in 1918.
CPT Bellenden Seymour Hutcheson, born in Mount Carmel, Illinois who joined the Canadian Army Medical Corps and was honoured for his conduct on September 2, 1918 in a battle near Cagnicourt, France.
CPT Hutchenson sympathized with the Allied cause and, wanting to gain surgical experience, he renounced his American citizenship and joined the Canadian Army Medical Corps. His citation reads “Without hesitation and with utter disregard of personal safety he remained on the field until every wounded man had been attended to…He dressed the wounds of a seriously wounded officer under terrific machine-gun and shell fire, and, with the assistance of prisoners and of his own men, succeeded in evacuating him to safety. Immediately afterwards he rushed forward, in full view of the enemy, under heavy machine-gun and rifle fire, to tend to a wounded sergeant, and, having placed him in a shell hole, dressed his wounds.”
CPT Hutchenson survived the war and returned to the United States where he reclaimed his American citizenship. He passed away in 1954 at the age of 70.