Victoria Cross - First World War, 1914-1918
Raphael Louis Zengel
Raphael Louis Zengel was born on 11 November 1894 in Faribault, United States. While he was still very young, he and his mother moved from the United States to a homestead in Saskatchewan. Zengel enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) in December 1914. He served overseas with the 5th Infantry Battalion, CEF, taking part in several raids on German trenches. For his role in one of these raids, near Passchendaele in Belgium in 1917, Zengel received the Military Medal.
On 9 August 1918, Sergeant Zengel was leading his platoon forward during the second day of the massive Allied offensive against the German lines around Amiens, in France. When he noticed a gap on the flank of his platoon and an enemy machine gun firing on the advancing Canadians at close range, he quickly decided to deal with the machine gun position himself. Rushing 200 metres ahead of his platoon, Zengel charged the German emplacement, killing two of the machine gun’s crew and compelling the rest to flee. Later that day, when the progress of the 5th Battalion was blocked by heavy machine gun fire, he demonstrated great tactical skill in directing the fire of his platoon to eliminate the enemy resistance. Sergeant Zengel’s courage, leadership and disregard for his own safety inspired his men, and were important factors in enabling the advance to continue. For his conduct on this day, he was awarded the Victoria Cross. Zengel died in Vancouver, British Columbia on 27 February 1977.
“For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty when protecting the battalion right flank. He was leading his platoon gallantly forward to the attack, but had not gone far when he realised that a gap had occurred on his flank, and than an enemy machine gun was firing at close range into the advancing line. Grasping the situation, he rushed forward some 200 yards ahead of the platoon, tacked the machine-gun emplacement, killed the officer and operator of the gun, and dispersed the crew. By his boldness and prompt action he undoubtedly saved the lives of many of his comrades.
Later, when the battalion was held up by very heavy machine-gun fire, he displayed much tactical skill and directed his fire with destructive results. Shortly afterwards he was rendered unconscious for a few minutes by an enemy shell, but on recovering consciousness he at once continued to direct harassing fire on the enemy.
Sjt. Zengel’s work throughout the attack was excellent, and his utter disregard for personal safety, and the confidence he inspired in all ranks, greatly assisted in bringing the attack to a successful end.”
(London Gazette, no.30922, 27 September 1918)