Private Alonzo J. Sampson was one of but a handful of Calgary
Highlanders decorated for service above and beyond the normal
course of their duties in the Second World War. His Mention in
Despatches was published in the London Gazette on 4 April 1946.
It is believed this recognition was for retrieving wounded
soldiers while under fire during the Northwest Europe campaign.
Private Sampson enlisted in the Canadian Army on 13 October 1942
at Number 6 District Depot in Sydney, Nova Scotia. He was given
Regimental Number F32491, which is consistent with the block of
numbers allocated to No. 6 District Depot. He listed his birth
date as 2 April 1923, though in actuality he was born a year
later. During World War Two, 18 year olds were required to stay
in Canada and so Private Sampson, presumably eager to see action,
subtracted a year from his birth date.
photo in possession of the family shows Private Sampson wearing
the headdress of the Cape Breton Highlanders, which was one of the
units stationed in Military District 6. He likely proceeded
overseas as an infantry reinforcement, and was sent to the Calgary
Highlanders. Late in the war, the Regiment accepted
reinforcements from across Canada and were no longer an
exclusively western Canadian outfit.
is no record of Private Sampson having been wounded in action, and
he survived the war. He was discharged on 3 December 1945.
was often the case, the publication of his award took several
months, and on 4 April 1946 - some four months after he left the
service - his award was gazetted and notification sent to his
family that he had been Mentioned in Despatches, and that a King's
Certificate would be forwarded. On 26 Mar 1947, nearly a year
later, the certificate had still not materialized and Private
Sampson's mother wrote a letter to the Department of National
Defence to enquire about the Certificate.
family did receive the certificate in the end, and it is
reproduced above. Below are two photos of Private Sampson, at
left in the headdress of the Cape Breton Highlanders, and at right
wearing the tam o'shanter and regimental cap badge of The Calgary
Notes on Mentions in Despatches
Mentions in Despatches were a traditional method of
recognizing either bravery or devotion to service, and in
centuries past, commanders in the field would write messages
to the Monarch or to their superiors in government, to
advise them of the conduct of military campaigns. These
messages were known as "despatches," and being mentioned in
one indicated that an officer or soldier had performed a
By the end of the First World War, the Mention in
Despatches had evolved into a method of recognizing these
notable acts; actual "Despatches" were no longer written,
but the officer or soldier so noted had his name gazetted,
and was permitted to wear a bronze oak leaf device on his
uniform, usually on the Victory Medal ribbon.
By the time of the Second World War, this method of
recognition was still in place. However, as the war went
on, Mentions in Despatches could be given out for a variety
of reasons. If a soldier was nominated for a medal, but
higher authority felt that the deeds he performed were not
up to the standards expected for that medal, he might be
granted a Mention in Despatches instead. Other situations
arose where "periodic awards" were granted on a quota
basis. Commanders would then put forward names of soldiers
they felt worthy (again, perhaps those soldiers refused
bravery medals from earlier dates may have been considered
for Mentions in Despatches in this manner).
At war's end, a cut-off date was put in place for
awards, and many units polled their field officers for names
of deserving recipients. For this reason, there are often no
accompanying citations for Mentions in Despatches. Any
soldier so Mentioned was permitted to wear a bronze oak leaf
on the ribbon of his 1939-45 War Medal.
Photos and information courtesy his
son, Brian Sampson