Of Ukranian heritage, Filip Konowal was born in Kutkivtsi, Ukraine on 25 March 1887, and came to Canada about 1913. Having been trained as a bayonet instructor, he enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force in 1915, served with the 47th Infantry Battalion, and eventually was promoted to the rank of corporal. Corporal Konowal earned the Victoria Cross for his actions from 22 to 24 August 1917 while leading his section in overcoming German resistance on Hill 70, near Lens in France. During these operations, Konowal himself killed at least 16 of the enemy. Arriving at one of his battalion’s objectives, he realized that a machine gun was holding up the right flank of the Canadian attack. Konowal assaulted the German position, killed the crew of the machine gun, and returned with the gun. The next day he attacked another machine gun emplacement, and killed three of the enemy before destroying the position and the gun with explosives. Corporal Konowal then continued his advance until he was severely wounded. When he had recovered, Konowal was for a time assigned to the Military Attaché at the Russian Embassy in London, England, before enrolling as a sergeant with the Canadian Siberian Expeditionary Force. He died in Ottawa, Ontario on 3 June 1959.
“For most conspicuous bravery and leadership when in charge of a section in attack. His section had the difficult task of mopping up cellars, craters and machine-gun emplacements. Under his able direction all resistance was overcome successfully, and heavy casualties inflicted on the enemy. In one cellar he himself bayonetted three enemy and attacked single-handed seven others in a crater, killing them all.
On reaching the objective, a machine-gun was holding up the right flank, causing many casualties. Cpl. Konowal rushed forward and entered the emplacement, killed the crew, and brought the gun back to our lines.
The next day he again attacked single-handed another machine-gun emplacement, killed three of the crew, and destroyed the gun and emplacement with explosives.
This non-commissioned officer alone killed at least sixteen of the enemy, and during the two days’ actual fighting carried on continuously his good work until severely wounded.”
(London Gazette, no.30400, 26 November 1917)
(images and write up from the Department of National Defence and the GGFG)