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 2008 at the age of 90.
That he managed to live to that age is rather remarkable, given what happened to him during 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 the German battleship Bismarck .
- 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. After the war they settled in Chatham 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 about his experiences. Metcalfe was a Royal Canadian Legion speaker in the “Encounters With Canada” program, addressing grade 12 and 13 students. He also served many years as a Canadian War Museum volunteer guide, offering insight into achievements and sacrifices of Canadian veterans.
He hosted, at his own expense, many groups of veterans and their families in Europe, leading them on visits to First World War battlefields, cemeteries and cenotaphs. In addition to funding two tours to Sicily and Italy, Metcalfe conducted several tours coinciding with D-Day anniversaries. He personally researched the sites prior to conducting the tours, ensuring that next of kin would visit the final resting places of their relatives and comrades.
And now you know the story of the veteran on the $10 bill.