Victoria Cross - First World War, 1914-1918
Jean Brillant was born in Assemetquaghan, Quebec, on 15 March 1890. Having previously served with the Canadian Militia, Brillant enlisted in the 189th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) in 1915. Late in 1916, he was assigned to the 22nd Infantry Battalion,CEF. For his conduct during a raid on the night of 27 and 28 May 1918, Brillant received the Military Cross. Lieutenant Brillant was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions during the first two days of the Battle of Amiens. On 8 August 1918, near Méharicourt in France, he rushed and captured a German machine gun that was holding up the advance of the left flank of his company. In this action, he personally killed two of the machine gun’s crew and was himself wounded. Remaining in command, later the same day Brillant led two platoons in a successful attack on enemy positions after his company’s progress was again checked by machine gun fire. Fifteen machine guns and 150 enemy soldiers were captured as a result. While leading this assault, he suffered a second wound. The following day, August 9, Brillant led yet another attack against a German field gun. He was wounded again, this time critically, but managed to advance a further 200 meters before he collapsed from exhaustion and the loss of blood. Lieutenant Brillant died the next day.
“For most conspicuous bravery and outstanding devotion to duty when in charge of a company which he led in attack during two days with absolute fearlessness and extraordinary ability and initiative, the extent of the advance being twelve miles.
On the first day of operations shortly after the attack had begun, his company left flank was held up by an enemy machine-gun. Lt. Brillant rushed and captured the machine-gun, personally killing two of the enemy crew. Whilst doing this, he was wounded, but refused to leave his command.
Later on the same day, his company was held up by heavy machine-gun fire. He reconnoitred the ground personally, organised a party of two platoons and rushed straight for the machine-gun nest. Here 150 enemy and fifteen machine-guns were captured, Lt. Brillant personally killing five of the enemy, and being wounded a second time. He had this wound dressed immediately, and again refused to leave his Company.
Subsequently this gallant officer detected a field gun firing on his men over open sights. He immediately organised and led a ‘rushing’ party towards the gun. After progressing about 600 yards, he was again seriously wounded. In spite of this third wound, he continued to advance for some 200 yards more, when he fell unconscious from exhaustion and loss of blood.
Lt. Brillant’s wonderful example throughout the day inspired his men with an enthusiasm and dash which largely contributed towards the success of the operation.”
(London Gazette, no.30922, 27 September 1918)