Two memorial crosses belonging to Vancouver-born Second World War naval hero Lieut. David Allison Killam are for sale on eBay.
The small crosses, that were issued to Killam’s widow and mother after he drowned on July 2, 1944, were spotted by Ontario-based Dave Thomson. Thomson spends his spare time reuniting families with military medals, work for which he has received a commendation from the Department of Veteran’s Affairs.
“There’s a lot of naval interest in B.C., so I hope either family appear out of the woodwork or a naval museum picks them up,” said Thomson, who has helped return the medals of close to 250 Canadian veterans to families or communities.
Killam was born in Vancouver on Nov. 8, 1917, to Lawrence and Edith Killam of Shaughnessy — one of four children — and was married to Elizabeth Killam.
According to a press clipping that comes with the medals, Killam received the Distinguished Service Cross in early June 1940 for his actions during the evacuation of British forces from the shores Dunkirk, France.
“He won his DSC in Dunkirk for his valour in attempting three times to land a tiny power boat on the fire-swept beach to take off British officers,” the report states.
“His boat was finally overturned by near direct shell hits. Twice he swam back to the destroyer for another small boat, but the third time there were none left.”
Four years later, almost to the day, Killam was back off the coast of France, but this time further south near Le Havre as part of the D-Day invasion force commanding a torpedo boat.
The press report states: “In the early darkness of D-Day, the flotilla of four torpedo boats spotted a pack of German R-boats heading toward the convoy route off Le Havre and quickly gave chase, driving them away after 20 minutes exchange of gunfire. The following night the experience was repeated except that on this occasion it was destroyers that were met and chased away.”
For this, Killam and his crew were congratulated by Rear Admiral Philip Vian, commander of British naval forces.
A month later, and again off the coast of Le Havre, Killam’s torpedo boat struck a mine and sank. All 17 crew were blown off the ship and six were rescued.
Killam survived the explosion, and was heard shouting to rescuers in the misty conditions: “Carry on, don’t worry about me.”
He was 26 and had a nine-month-old son at the time of his death. Elizabeth later remarried.
Killam, who served in the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve, was only able to get back to Vancouver once during his time at war, in January 1943.