Port Alice Resident, Frank Byce, is the descendant of two Aboriginal war heros.
His father, Charles Henry Byce, a Moose Cree from Chapleau Ontario, was Canada’s most decorated World War II aboriginal soldier. He won the Distinguished Conduct Medal and the Military Medal which were presented to him by King George VI at Buckingham Palace on July 13th, 1945. His grandfather, Henry Charles Byce, a Metis from West Meath, Ontario, won the same two awards in World War I.
Only 161 Canadians were awarded with a DCM in World War II. Charlie Byce was one of only nine Canadians who won both the DCM and the MM. Charlie and Henry Byce are Canada’s most decorated father and son in history.
A commendation signed by Field Marshal, Bernard Montgomery, Commander of the Commonwealth Armies, cited Charlie Byce for the Victoria Cross. His award was then down-graded to the DCM, possibly because of a policy that allowed no more than one recipient of the VC per regiment. Some survivors of his regiment believe he was denied the honour simply because of his Indigenous heritage. A proposal to award Charlie Byce the Victoria Cross posthumously is under consideration in Ottawa.
Charlie Byce earned his MM during a mission to capture prisoners in the Netherlands. When his group of 24 men took boats over the Maas River and landed, they came under fire from three directions. After determining the source of one assault, Byce charged into a barrage of bullets and dispersed a dugout with a grenade. He then crawled up to a second dugout, threatening the occupant. Even though the soldier shot at him twice, Byce leaped on top of him and took him prisoner. Byce then advanced on the third dugout and ordered the soldiers inside to surrender. When they continued to fire, Byce retaliated with a grenade…thus neutralizing all three enemy attacks virtually single-handedly.
Charlie Byce earned his DCM six weeks later. After all officers had been killed near Hochwald Forest, he was promoted to acting sergeant. Among his many acts of bravery, he coolly knocked out a tank that had aimed its machine gun fire directly at him, then killed the crew as they evacuated. After finding a vantage point in a house, he discovered it full of Germans and, with the help of a single companion, eradicated them. While his troops were withdrawing, he took up a position as a lone sniper: he took out 18 more Germans and saved the lives of over a dozen of his comrades. His DCM citation effusively asserts that “the magnificent courage and fighting spirit displayed by this NCO when faced with almost insuperable odds are beyond all praise. His gallant stand, without adequate weapons and a bare handful of men against hopeless odds will remain, for all time, an outstanding example to all ranks of the Regiment.”
Henry Charles Byce won his DCM in Amiens in 1918 while being held up by a machine gun nest. Although wounded, he rushed the post, captured machine guns, killed resistors with bayonets and helped his regiment capture 31 prisoners. Both father and son seemed fearless and amazingly “bullet proof.”
Despite his honours, Charlie Byce found it difficult to find work after the war. He eventually became employed as a welder in a pulp mill.
Charlie Byce had been a victim of residential schools where he had to share one towel with six other children and one tub of bathwater with dozens of other boys. When his grandmother came to pick him up from the school one Christmas, he was unable to walk because his feet were frozen. His boots had been stolen and no one bothered to replace them.
– Debra Lynn article