- John Robins
Lieutenant Colonel “Lockie” Fulton CM, DSO, ED Hometown Hero
September 17, 2022 marked a significant day in the history of The Royal Winnipeg Rifles when they honoured their last Commanding Officer of the Second World War, Lieutenant-Colonel Lockhart Ross Fulton. In addition to members of the Regiment, approximately seventy-five people including members of Branch 55, Royal Canadian Legion and the extended Fulton family gathered at the Birtle and District Cemetery to witness the unveiling of the stone that had been emplaced in memory of this gallant and inspirational leader.
Born on the family farm near Birtle in 1917, Lockie, as he was known to his friends, was the fifth in a family of seven children. He began his military career at the age of 16 years when he rode his horse to Brandon and joined the 12th Manitoba Dragoons at the outbreak of the Second World War. He later transferred to the 1st Battalion, Royal Winnipeg Rifles. He also took the time to marry his childhood sweetheart, Nellie Finch.
In August 1941, the Regiment sailed to England where they spent almost three years training. Lockie rose quickly through the ranks. He was promoted Acting Major in February 1944, and appointed Officer Commanding D Company.
On D-Day, 6 June 1944, Lockie, and his 140 troops leapt from their landing craft into three feet of rough sea on the coast of France and, under fire, made their way to dry ground. By cool daring and personal courage, Lockie led his company through intense enemy fire, breached a minefield and overcame the defenders to capture the town of Graye-sur-Mer.
As the lead company for the Battalion, Lockie’s men fought their way several kilometres inland to the town of Cruelly. The following day the battalion pushed on to the village of Putot-en-Bessin where, on June 8, 1944, much larger and more heavily armed German forces overran three companies of the Rifles. Lockie’s company thwarted the attack, however, preserving a key portion of the objective.
Lockie later described the landing on D-Day and the defence of Putot-en-Bessin as the “worst days of the entire war.” For his accomplishments, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order.
In July 1944, Lockie led his company in the assault on Carpiquet Airport. Under a fierce mortar and artillery barrage, his company advanced across an open field sustaining heavy casualties. Eliminating strong enemy resistance, they captured their objective - two of the airport hangars.
At the Leopold Canal in Belgium, Lockie, aged 27, was appointed Commanding Officer of the Battalion. Promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel, he went on to lead the Battalion to a string of hard-fought victories, from the Scheldt Estuary, into Germany, and finally the liberation of Holland.
After the war, Lockie returned to his wife and family to enjoy his life as a grain farmer in Birtle. Highly respected by all, he raised six children, maintained his trademark moustache and contributed to the civic life of the community for which he was made a Member of the Order of Canada. In 2004, the government of France presented Lockie with the Legion of Honour, their highest recognition.
In 2020, his Regiment thought it was high time his memory was honoured. It was decided a marker would be placed at his grave - on one side a brief summary of his exploits; on the other, this famous photo engraved in granite.
On September 17, 2022, members of the Regiment travelled to Birtle where they were met by Mr. Roger Wilson, President of the Birtle Branch 55 of the Royal Canadian Legion. Roger had been of tremendous assistance during the planning stage of the ceremony and had arranged for the Legion to pay for the base stone on which the Fulton stone had been emplaced.
At the cemetery we were given a warm welcome by Birtle’s reeve, Ms. Linda Clark.
Though the skies remained heavily overcast, the rain held off during the ceremony presided over by Major-General (Ret’d) Dennis Tabbernor, CMM, MSM, CD. He began by reading a letter from the local MP, Mr. Dan Mazier, who regretted he could not attend. Mr. Mazier wrote, “The freedom, justice, and peace we enjoy today are attributed to the service and sacrifice of brave veterans like Lockie.”
Mr. Greg Nesbitt, Birtle’s MLA, attended the ceremony and said in part, “What we must not forget, however, is that Lieutenant-Colonel Fulton’s service, sacrifice and survival did not come without indelible consequences to those who supported him here at home. Personal commitment, courage, and strength of character, immortalized in the marker, have created an incredible legacy for his family, the community, and the province,” Mr. Nesbitt continued, “This honour is also a tribute to his wife, Nellie, and his children.”
Ms. Clark called Lockie an “impressive gentleman” who was “well respected” in our community. She said she remembered him as a member of the Birdtail River School Board. “Certainly, he and his wife valued a good education and promoted education, not only to their own children but to other students as well.”
On his return home after the war, Lockie stayed in touch with his old comrades and his Regiment. He gave speeches and participated in battlefield study groups with young officers. Lieutenant-General (Ret’d) Ray Crabbe, CMM, MSC, MSM, CD, recalling his time with Lieutenant-Colonel Fulton, related that Lockie was held in awe by the students as he explained in his own self-effacing way, how battles unfolded, what went right and what went wrong. He recalled how one junior officer had said to him, “I learned more in 3 days with Lieutenant-Colonel Fulton than I did serving for three years in an infantry battalion.”
Abigail Fulton, Lockie’s youngest daughter said, “With the Birtle Cemetery being home to a number of veterans who served in different wars, our father is in good company and would be pleased that this beautiful memorial will honour all. Not forgetting the man he was… he was a most impressive and wonderful father.”
The culmination of the ceremony was the unveiling of the stone by Honorary Lieutenant-Colonel Albert El Tassi, CM, OM and Lockie’s daughter, Abigail. The ceremony included three volleys fired in honour of Lockie and the sounding of Last Post and the Rouse.
Lockie died at the age of 88 in Birtle on 21 October 2005. His Regiment will never forget him.