Sergeant Aubrey Cosens, VC was born in Latchford, Ontario, on the 21st of May 1921, the son of a First World War Veteran Charles E. Cosens and Yvonne Cosens. Shortly after his birth his family moved to Porquis Junction, near Iroquois Falls, Ontario and he was educated in the Porquis Junction School. He left school in 1938 to work with his father on the railway as a section hand.
He left Porquis Junction in 1939 to join the Royal Canadian Air Force but his application was rejected. Finally, in 1940, he went to Hamilton, Ontario, and was accepted by the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada (Hamilton) Regiment. He served with them in Canada, Jamaica and England; then transferred to the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada in the summer of 1944 and was soon promoted from corporal to sergeant.
Sergeant Cosens was 23 years of age when he died and is buried in Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery (VIII. H. 2.), Nijmegan, The Netherlands where a plaque was erected in his memory. On Aug. 29, 1969, a provincial plaque was erected in his memory on Highway 11 near Porquis Junction. A now retired tourist steamer on Lake Temagami was named after him as is the Latchford branch of The Royal Canadian Legion.
The question of naming a bridge in his honour was resolved when 2,500 delegates from the Legion’s Ontario Command persuaded the Ontario government to change its mind. In 1986, prominent signs were installed at both ends of the Sgt. Aubrey Cosens VC Memorial Bridge.
London Gazette, May 22nd, 1945 Sources: Veterans Affairs Canada Citation Page
“In Holland on the night of 25th-26th February 1945, the 1st Battalion, The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada launched an attack on the hamlet of Mooshof, to capture ground which was considered essential for the development of future operations.
Sergeant Cosens’ platoon, with two tanks in support, attacked enemy strong points in three farm buildings, but were twice beaten back by fanatical enemy resistance and then fiercely counter-attacked, during which time the platoon suffered heavy casualties and the platoon commander was killed.
Sergeant Cosens at once assumed command of the only other four survivors of his platoon, whom he placed in a position to give him covering fire, while he himself ran across open ground under heavy mortar and shell fire to the one remaining tank, where, regardless of the danger, he took up an exposed place in front of the turret and directed his fire.
After a further enemy counter-attack had been repulsed, Sergeant Cosens ordered the tank to attack the farm buildings, while the four survivors of his platoon followed in close support. After the tank had rammed the first building he entered it alone, killing several of the defenders and taking the rest prisoner.
Single-handed he then entered the second and third buildings, and personally killed or captured all the occupants, although under intense machine-gun and small arms fire.
Just after the successful reduction of these important enemy strong points, Sergeant Cosens was shot through the head by an enemy sniper and died almost instantly.
The outstanding gallantry, initiative and determined leadership of this brave N.C.O., who himself killed at least 20 of the enemy and took an equal number of prisoners, resulted in the capture of a position which was vital to the success of the future operations of the Brigade.”
The Regiment’s “Toughest Scrap” February 26, 1945 Actions on and around the 26 February, 1945 for which Sergeant Aubrey Cosens was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. Researched and written by former Queen’s Own Rifleman, Colonel (retired) William C. Ball.