A Birks Memorial Bar to DCM Recipient; KIA at Liri Valley
A Birks Memorial Bar to Distinguished Conduct Medal Recipient KIA - Sterling silver, officially engraved (PTE. M.S. DeVRIES, D.C.M. / IR R.C. / DIED IN HIS COUNTRY'S SERVICE / 26 MAY 1944), 14.5 mm x 67 mm, extremely fine. In its presentation card. Footnote: Michael Stanislaus De Vries was born in Holland on April 14, 1913, the son of Rose de Vries, his father having moved to South Africa (but the date is undetermined) and had one brother, Martin De Vries. The mother and boys immigrated to Hope, British Columbia, where his formal education consisted of two years of High School. De Vries was employed as an Oilman (Engineer) with Standard Oil and was a resident of Barrie, Ontario when he enlisted as a Private (B/19518) with the 1st Hussars on May 29, 1941 at Toronto, Ontario, stating that he was Single and that his religion was Jewish Orthodox. His brother, Martin De Vries was serving as a Private (B/22888) with the 48th Highlanders of Canada. Five and a half months later, having finished his training in Canada, he embarked for the United Kingdom on November 9, 1941, for service in Europe, arriving shortly thereafter. While training in the United Kingdom, notes were taken by an interviewer on December 29, 1943. The interviewer's notes stated that De Vries enlisted under the name of O’Halloran, finally declaring his true name on November 2, 1942. De Vries realized he was unsuitable for Armoured Corps work, the interviewer going on to state that "he (De Vries) has been tried in several capacities in the Regiment and was unable to carry out the duties required of him. Realizes his failings in armoured work and has requested a transfer to the Infantry. He has a brother in the 48th Highlanders and wishes to be posted to them if possible." After fifteen and a half months training in the United Kingdom, he embarked for the Italian theatre on February 19, 1944 and was taken on strength two weeks later by The Irish Regiment of Canada, on March 3, 1944 in Italy. B/19518 Private Michael Stanislaus De Vries, "C" Company, Royal Canadian Infantry Corps was granted an Immediate Distinguished Conduct Medal, by General H.R. Alexander, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Allied Combined Mediterranean Force on June 25, 1944, for gallant actions that he took three months after arriving in the Italian theatre, on May 24, 1944, during the Irish Regiment of Canada's advance from the Hitler Line to the Melfa River. The recommendation was initiated by Lieutenant-Colonel R.C. Clark, Commanding Officer, The Irish Regiment of Canada, approved by the 11th Canadian Infantry Brigade on May 25, 1944 and passed forward on June 9th, endorsed by Major-General B.M. Hoffmeister, General Officer Commanding, 5th Canadian Armoured Division on June 10th and passed forward on June 11th, supported by Lieutenant-General E.L.M. Burns, General Officer Commanding, 1 Canadian Corps, approved by General O.W.H Leese, General Commanding, Eighth Army on June 17th and passed forward on June 24th. The announcement appeared in the Supplement to the London Gazette 36679 of Tuesday, August 29, 1944, on Thursday, August 31, 1944, page 4053 and in the Canada Gazette, Issue number 35, Volume 78, dated August 26, 1944, by Overseas Royal Order number 4951, dated August 26, 1944, "In recognition of gallant and distinguished services in Italy.” It was also noted in his announcement that he had been "since killed in action". His citation read: "On the 24th May 1944, while the Regt. Was advancing from the Hitler Line to the Melfa River and was in the area of Objective “2” Pte. DE VRIES went out on foot with Maj. WALLACE of the 8th Cdn. Fd. Regt. R.C.A. in search of an enemy self-propelled gun. While so engaged he came upon an enemy machine gun post, which he kept under observation until at the right moment he moved in and took six prisoners. Seeing that Pte. DE VRIES was alone, five of the enemy tried to escape, at which point he seized their machine gun and opened fire, killing all five. The sixth prisoner remained covered in the corner of the dugout and was subsequently brought in as a prisoner by Pte. DE VRIES. From this prisoner, Pte. DE VRIES learned the location of an enemy Nebel-Werfer position which he found, unaccompanied, later that day. Opening fire, he succeeded in wounding an Officer and two Other Ranks and killing the remaining members of the crew. On the night of 24th May 44, the Btn. Moved up and took up positions directly behind the Westminster Regt. (Motor) at the Melfa River. On his own initiative, Pte. DE VRIES went forward across the Melfa and some three or four miles behind the enemy positions. On returning at first light he reported the far bank clear of infantry in any numbers and that only rear guards of machine guns, snipers and self-propelled guns and tanks would be encountered. He also reported that the enemy was retreating in some disorder and that the main roads to the enemy rear were cluttered with discarded packs and gear. As a result of this information the Btn. was able to move forward at a greater rate than had been planned. The outstanding initiative, superb gallantry and self-sacrificing devotion to duty of this soldier were in keeping with the highest traditions of the service." Two days after his heroics, B/19518 Private Michael Stanislaus De Vries, The Irish Regiment of Canada, RCIC was instantly Killed in Action in the vicinity of Roccasecca, Italy, part of the ongoing action in the Liri Valley, on May 26, 1944, at the age of 41. He is buried in Cassino War Cemetery, Cassino, Italy, Grave Reference: Plot XIII. Row D. Grave 14. The cemetery lies in the Commune of Cassino, Province of Frosinone, 139 kilometres south-east of Rome. It is situated in the valley of the River Liri immediately below the southern spurs of the central Apennines. De Vries is commemorated on page 290 of the Second World War Book of Remembrance and is honoured on page 19 of the memorial book "Canadian Jews in World War II, Part II: Casualties" compiled by David Rome for the Canadian Jewish Congress, published in Montreal, Quebec in 1948.