For sale: A Cowichan Valley hero’s homestead on the market

If ever you’ve wanted to own a Cowichan Valley home with history – real history – here’s your chance.

745 Wharncliffe Rd. is for sale. It’s an older home, with four bedrooms and two bathrooms on two stories on a quarter-acre treed lot (although two large trees were just brought down). A tarp on the roof clearly shows that it’s in need of repair so it’s on the market as is where is.

What makes 745 Wharncliffe historically significant? It’s the former childhood home of Maj. Charles Hoey, Cowichan’s sole winner of a Victoria Cross, the Commonwealth’s highest award for bravery, in either world war. Hoey’s was one of only 100 awarded among the millions of service men and women who served in the Commonwealth armed forces during the Second World War.

His is a name that lives on locally thanks to his fellow Burma Campaign veterans who, for decades now, have commemorated Hoey and all their fallen comrades whose struggle against the Japanese has been overshadowed by the European campaigns.

Besides Charles Hoey, VC Park, that strip of grass and trees beside the train station, there’s a memorial on the Cowichan River and, until recently, there was Charles Hoey, VC School.

Hoey had previously earned the Military Medal at Maungdaw, Burma [now Myanmar] in July 1943 for "his complete disregard for his personal safety," as his citation tells us, and for his remaining "completely imperturbable in face of all difficulties and dangers. His personal example was an inspiration to all his men and contributed to a great extent to the success of the operation. The force succeeded in hitting at least 22 Japanese for certain. The majority of these were killed. Owing to the skillful handling of his force, Major Hoey only sustained three casualties, of other ranks, wounded. Major Hoey’s determination, courage and skill during the whole of the operation were beyond praise."

Born March 29, 1914 in Duncan, B.C., the older son of Ferguson and Mary Rudyard Hoey, young Charles attended Duncan Grammar School and Duncan High School. Determined from childhood to be a soldier, he enlisted in the West Kent Regiment of the British Army in 1933 and, after winning a cadetship to the Royal Military College at Sandhurst, he graduated in December 1936.

After a brief visit home he joined the 2nd Battalion, the Lincolnshire Regiment [now the Royal Lincolnshires] then transferred to the 1st Battalion of the same regiment which was stationed in India. In 1942 he accompanied the 1st Battalion to Burma to fight the Japanese against whom he earned his MM in July ’43.

On Feb. 16, 1944, to quote The Canadian Virtual War Memorial, "Major Hoey’s company formed a part of a force which was ordered to capture a position [near the Ngakyedauk Pass, Arakan] at all costs. After a night march through enemy-held territory, the force was met at the foot of the position by heavy machine-gun fire.

"Major Hoey personally led his company under heavy machinegun fire and rifle fire right up to the objective.

"Although wounded at least twice in the leg and head, he seized a Bren gun from one of his men and firing from the hip, led his company on to the objective. In spite of his wounds the company had difficulty keeping up with him, and Major Hoey reached the enemy strong post first, where he killed all the occupants before being mortally wounded.

"Major Hoey’s outstanding gallantry and leadership, his total disregard of personal safety and his grim determination to reach the objective resulted in the capture of this vital position." Charles Hoey, 29, is the Cowichan Valley’s sole Victoria Cross holder in either world war. He’s buried in the Taukkyan War Cemetery outside Yangon (formerly Rangoon), Burma (Myanmar). His Victoria Cross is on display at the Sabraon Barrack in Lincoln, England and the altar rail in the Lincoln Cathedral is in his memory and that of Capt. J. Brunt, VC, MC.

His was not the only tragedy for the Hoey family. While serving with the Royal Canadian Scottish Regiment, RCIC, seven weeks after D-Day and just four months after Charles’s death, younger brother Lieut. Trevor Ferguson Hoey was killed in France. Both Hoeys are listed on the Duncan Cenotaph and on the Cenotaph at St. Peter’s Church, Quamichan.

Each August, ever fewer members of the Burma Star Association hold a memorial service and the Burma Star cairn in Cowichan River Provincial Park, Charles’s favourite fishing hole, and in Duncan.

Here’s hoping that 745 Wharncliffe Rd. finds a new owner who will repair and maintain it as their home and in recognition of both Hoey brothers, Charles and Trevor, who gave their all to their country.