A FAMILY FREINDLY NEIGHBOURHOOD
Corporal Frederick George Topham V.C
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Topham Park has a rich and distinguished history our neighbourhood was named in honour of ...
Corporal Frederick George Topham V.C
At 11 a.m. on March 24, 1945, troops of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion were taking part in Operation Varsity, the airborne landings near Wesel on the east bank of the Rhine. Twenty-three Canadians were killed, 40 wounded and two taken prisoner. Among the injured was Corporal Frederick George Topham, a medical orderly who was shot in the nose. Though bleeding profusely and in excruciating pain, he kept tending the wounded under savage enemy fire for six hours, an action that earned him the (V.C.)
Almost immediately after he had parachuted onto German soil he heard a desperate cry from a wounded Canadian paratrooper stranded out in the open and dangerously exposed to enemy fire. Two medical orderlies had rushed to the mans assistance but as they knelt down beside him they were killed by German machine-gunners. Without hesitation and on his own initiative, Corporal Topham went forward through intense gunfire to replace the orderlies who had been killed before his eyes. As he worked on the wounded man he was shot through the nose, states the citation.
After completing immediate first aid, Topham carried the man from the field through the fierce nemy fire to the shelter of a wood. During the next two hours he refused all medical help and, disregarding heavy and accurate German fire, continued to bring in casualties from the field. Only after all the wounded had been cleared would he consent to have his bleeding nose treated. He was then told he could evacuate, but he insisted on returning to his post.
While on his way back to join his company he came across a gun carrier that had received a direct hit. Enemy mortar shells were bursting all around and the vehicle was on fire with its mortar ammunition exploding. All three of the crew were wounded and in grave danger. Despite orders to stay clear, Topham ran on alone to rescue the occupants despite the risk of flame and detonating ammunition. He managed to bring all three men to safety, though one died later of his injuries.
The citation to Tophams VC reads: This NCO showed sustained gallantry in the highest order. For six hours, most of the time in great pain, he performed a series of acts of outstanding bravery and his magnificent and selfless courage inspired all those who witnessed it.
Topham was born in Toronto on Aug. 10, 1917. He was educated at King George Public School and Runnymede High School. Before becoming a paratrooper he worked as a hard-rock miner with the Wright Hargreaves Mine at Kirkland Lake, Ont.
In 1944, by which time the Canadian Army casualties were far greater than had been anticipated the call went out for medical orderlies and Topham was one of the first to step forward and volunteer. Shortly after the war tens of thousands of Torontonians lined Bay Street to give him a heros welcome home in an open-car procession that ended at city hall.
On Nov. 10, he laid the cornerstone for Sunnybrook Memorial Hospital. At the same time the County of York presented him with a government annuity to provide him with $100 a month after he turned 50. Topham took a job as an emergency trouble shooter with the Toronto Electric Hydro System. He died suddenly on May 31,1974. At his wifes request, his funeral was private. In 1980, a provincial plaque in Tophams honour was unveiled at the Etobicoke Civic Centre.
The Dieppe raid on Aug. 19, 1942, marked the second time the Canadian Army had gone into action in WW II and like the Battle of Hong Kong, it was a fiasco. Of the 4,963 Canadians who embarked for the operation only 2,210 returned to England, and many of these were wounded. Nine hundred and seven were killed and many more were taken prisoner.
Nevertheless, the raid yielded two VCs. They were Charles Cecil Merritt, a Vancouver lawyer and John Weir Foote, a clergyman from Madoc, Ont. Foote was the only member of the Canadian Armys Chaplain Service to receive the medal. Both men were taken prisoner.
Born in Vancouver on Nov. 10, 1908, Merritt was educated at Lord Roberts School in Vancouver and the University School in Victoria. After graduating from the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont., he became a lawyer in his native city. Prior to the outbreak of war he held a commission in the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada. In 1942, he was transferred to the South Saskatchewan Regt. as commanding officer.
Foote was born on May 5, 1904, and took his education at the University of Western Ontario in London and at Queens University in Kingston. He graduated in theology from the Montreal Presbyterian College at McGill University. He was ordained a minister and served congregations at Fort Coulonge, Que., and Port Hope, Ont. In December 1939, he joined the Canadian Chaplain Service and went overseas with the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry RHLI.
On the day of the raid, the South Saskatchewan Regt. landed at Pourville, just west of the port of Dieppe. The units advance had to be made across a bridge spanning the Scie River. Wide and xposed, the bridge was being swept with enemy mortar, machine-gun and artillery fire. The first groups of men to try and cross it were mowed down. In fact, the bridge became littered with Canadian dead.
When Merritt arrived on the scene he took off his helmet, wiped his forehead and asked. Whats the hold up? He was told it was a hot spot, impossible to get across. Merritt ran forward, waved his helmet and shouted, Come on over! There is nothing to worry about here. Four times he led his men across. In describing the action that earned Merritt the VC, Canadian war correspondent Wally Reyburn wrote: As I watched him lead his men over that thundering barrage. I felt a quiver run up and down my spine. I had never seen anything like it.
Merritt led an attack on four enemy pillboxes that were holding up the regiments advance. Heassaulted one of them by throwing hand grenades into it. And although he was wounded twice he continued to direct the regiments operations. At one point, while organizing a withdrawal, he silenced a German sniper with his Bren gun. Merritt then took up a position to cover the evacuation until he was forced to surrender, but only after the last boats had left the beach.
When Foote learned that a military operation was in the offing, he asked to be included. But the RHLI commanding officer vetoed the request. Foote told him he was going to go anyway and that all the CO could do was arrest him for disobeying an order afterwards. The colonel relented and assigned him to the regimental aid post as a stretcher bearer.
The RHLI was one of the units assigned to the main assault on the beach at Dieppe. Touching down at 5:20 a.m., one of its companies was all but wiped out by German machine-gun fire. The survivors made for the protection of the sea wall, but even there fire rained down on the men from the west headland. As the battle raged on, Foote assisted the medical officer in administering to the wounded. During an eight-hour period he carried more than 30 wounded to the aid post, all the while under relentless enemy fire.
When the time came to evacuate, Foote helped carry the wounded into the landing craft. His boots became wet and heavy and so he took them off, a decision he would later regret. Finally, he boarded one of the last boats to leave the beach. Uncharacteristically for a padre, he grabbed a Bren gun and fired in frustration as a rearguard action against the Germans. He then changed his mind because he had noticed there were many more Canadians left on the beach. He coolly jumped overboard and swam ashore to surrender. He decided that those in his regiment who were about to become prisoners of war would need his servicescomfort and bove all, hopemore than those returning to England.
That night he and his fellow officers were taken to a church and locked up. I spent the night on the churchs stone floor, he recalled, and although I was worn out, I rolled a lot on the floor.
Merritt was taken to a POW camp in Bavaria where he became senior officer of the escape committee. He escaped himself, but his freedom was short-lived. He was recaptured and remained a prisoner until liberated in the spring of 1945.
Foote was forced to march without boots along the cinders of railway tracks and over rugged terrain to a prison camp. Fellow prisoners recalled him giving up officer privileges in prison to be with the rank and file. During his time as a prisoner, he kept his congregation busy organizing three bands with instruments received from Canada and an accordion given to him by a German guard. Of his captors he said: They put up with an awful lot from us, more than we would have put up with them if the situations had been reversed.
After the war, Foote became a member of provincial parliament, representing Durham County in Ontario. He made his home in Cobourg and later became minister of reform institutions. He was also an illustrious member of the Legion. In nearby Grafton, they named a Legion branch after him. Foote died May 2, 1988, just three days shy of his 84th birthday. He was buried in Cobourgs Union Cemetery. Among the dignitaries attending the funeral was the last surviving WW I Canadian VC recipient, Charles Rutherford.
Merritt was elected Conservative MP for Vancouver-Burrard. In 1949 after losing his seathe returned to practising law in Vancouver. He also became commanding officer of his old reserve unit, the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada. Merritt was an honorary president for 30 years and life member of the Legions Mount Pleasant Branch in Vancouver and he held the Meritorious Service Medal. He was also for 10 years a trustee of the Vancouver Poppy Fund and chairman of the local Last Post Fund.?He died at the age of 91 in Vancouver on July 12, 2000.
Courtesy of: legion magazine.com
Topham Park was an apple orchard until 1944, when the crown purchased this property for War Veterans housing. The Topham Park neighbourhood was developed by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) between 1944 and 1946. The streets were given military names like 'Warvet' and 'Valor'. Some streets were named after military men. For example, 'Merritt' is named after Lieutenant Colonel Cecil Merritt, Canada's second Victoria Cross winner.
In the early days, Topham Park was known as "Sunshine Valley". This name was attributed to the local bus driver named 'Mac' who used to holler "All out for Sunshine Valley" when making his stop in this neighbourhood. Original residents recall that "Sunshine Valley" was an appropriate name as there were many children in the neighbourhood and it was a very happy place to live. Also, the sun shinned down brightly on the homes as there were few shade trees around at that time. The present day neighbourhood is named after the local park which in turn was named after Corporal Frederick George Topham, who was also a Victoria Cross (V.C.) recipient in World War II and once lived in this quiet East York neighbourhood.
Homes in Topham Park
When you first come upon Topham Park you quickly sense the pride of ownership that is painted on the face of every home in this East York neighbourhood. This is a tightly knit community of only a few hundred homes situated on quaint boulevards and pretty culs-de-sac. Its the type of East York neighbourhood where children have chosen to return as adults to raise their own families.
Topham Park's former 'War Veterans' houses are located in the centre of this neighbourhood between Selwyn and Squires Avenues from St. Clair Avenue north to Tiago Avenue. These houses were built between 1944 and 1946 and are easily distinguished by their bright frame siding, and pretty front porches that look out over manicured lawns. Many of these houses have undergone significant upgrades and improvements since they were built. The renovations that have taken place have been careful to preserve the integrity and charm of these wartime houses.
The streets on the periphery of the neighbourhood include sturdy brick bungalows, and detached one-and-a-half-storey and two-storey houses. These homes were built mostly in the late 1940's.
Topham Park residents can easily walk to the O'Connor Drive and St. Clair Avenue intersection, which features a major grocery store and a cluster of smaller shops, restaurants, banks and medical (walk-in clinic) and professional offices. Additional convenience-type stores catering to everyday household needs are located along St. Clair Avenue E and O'Onnor Drive. Schedules and Maps Website
Topham Park, located in the centre of this East York neighbourhood features a baseball diamond that is the home field for men's, ladies' and children's softball leagues (Website)
This park also has two tennis courts, a clubhouse, and children's playground. In the wintertime, Topham Park has an outdoor natural ice rink that is used for pleasure skating and hockey. Recreational programs for the public are also held at Selwyn School located at 1 Selwyn Avenue (Map)
MPP Arthur Potts (Beaches-East York)
Councillor Janet Davis (Ward 31 Beaches-East York)
Please note that the schools listed below have very definite enrollment boundaries. Prior to buying or renting , you should phone the school you are interested in enrolling your child, in order to confirm that they will accept children from the address you are considering moving to.
* Selwyn Elementary School, 1 Selwyn Avenue, (416) 396-2455 Website
* Victoria Park Elementary School, 145 Tiago Ave., (416) 396-2475 Website
* Gordon A. Brown Middle School, 2800 St. Clair Ave. E., (416) 396-2440 Website