A First World War veteran who was born in Richmond was commemorated on the 100-year anniversary of a battle in which he served with distinction.

Private Walter Leigh Rayfield, born in 1881, was awarded a Victoria Cross, the highest military honour, for performing three acts of bravery during the Second Battle of Arras, which took place between September 2-4 in 1918.

Private Rayfield relocated to Vancouver when he was 10 years old as part of the British Home Children scheme, going on to serve with the Canadian Expeditionary Force. 

Representatives of the Canadian military and the Mayor of Richmond, Cllr Ben Khosa, led the ceremony at the Richmond war memorial. 

Capt. Yvan Shank, Chief of Staff at Canadian Defence Liaison, from the Canadian High Commission, said: “As the World unites to commemorate the centenary of the armistice, it is quite appropriate that we all take a moment to remember all those who have sacrificed everything for the freedoms we have today.

“It is also worth recognizing the heroes who did make it back, and those with distinction and extra ordinary heroism. 

“Finally, it is with great honour for me to represent Canada, the High Commissioner for Canada in London, to join you to commemorate Captain Rayfield’s connections to both Canada and the UK and more significantly, his acts of bravery. 

“These heroes’ strength and courage has left us a legacy to remember forever.”

In his first act of bravery, Private Rayfield rushed ahead of his company to attack a German trench occupied by a large party, bayoneting two of the enemy and taking ten others captive. 

He later located and engaged a German enemy sniper. 

Private Rayfield charged the marksman’s section of trench with such aggression that thirty more enemy soldiers surrendered.

His third act was to leave cover to carry a badly wounded solider to safety through heavy machine gun fire. 

Rayfield was fighting with six other men in the Canadian unit, who also received the Victoria Cross for their bravery during the battle.

The group collectively became known as the ‘Magnificent Seven.’
Cllr Khosa said: “As we mark the centenary of the First World War, and one hundred years to the day of the end of the Battle of Arras, it is only right that we take time to think of Captain Rayfield’s extraordinary acts of bravery to protect his friends and comrades.

“Although he spent most of his life outside of Richmond, I am glad that we are able to commemorate his connection to this borough and honour his service with this commemorative stone."

After the Battle of Arras, Rayfield was promoted to Corporal and in January 1919 he was promoted to acting Sergeant. 
Rayfield was presented the Victoria Cross in 1919 at Buckingham Palace.

On his return to Vancouver, Rayfield worked with veterans and was later appointed deputy governor of Don Jail in 1934. 
He eventually became the Governor of the jail, where he worked until his death in 1949.