Jean Baptiste Arthur Brillant
|Born||15 March 1890|
Assemetquagan (Routhierville), Quebec
|Died||10 August 1918 (aged 28)|
Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery, Fouilloy
|Service/||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Years of service||1916 - 1918|
|Unit||22nd Battalion, CEF|
|Battles/wars||First World War †|
Jean Baptiste Arthur Brillant VC MC (15 March 1890 – 10 August 1918) was a Canadian recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.
World War I
Brillant volunteered for service with the 89th (Temiscouata and Rimouski) Regiment (from 1920 the Fusiliers du St-Laurent) and held the rank of lieutenant. In 1916, eager to join the Canadian Expeditionary Force, he declared 13 years' service with this unit. On 20 March 1916 Brillant left his job as a telegrapher. After about six months’ training in Valcartier, he embarked for England with the 189th on 27 September 1916; on disembarking at Liverpool on 6 October, he was assigned to the 69th Infantry Battalion. He left for France on 27 October and joined the 22e Battalion (Canadien Francais) at Bully-Grenay.
During the night of 27/28 May 1918, in the vicinity of Boiry-Becquerelle, Brillant was called to lead a group of volunteers to help silence an outpost defended by about 50 men. Troops charged the enemy position, cut through the barbed wire protecting it, and took it. He was injured in the attack, yet captured enemy soldiers who had "valuable information". Remaining in action that day despite his wounds, Brillant would be awarded the Military Cross on 16 September 1918.
For most conspicuous bravery and outstanding devotion to duty when in charge of a company which he led in attack during two days with absolute fearlessness and extraordinary ability and initiative, the extent of the advance being twelve miles. On the first day of operations shortly after the attack had begun, his company's left flank was held up by an enemy machine gun. Lt. Brillant rushed and captured the machine-gun, personally killing two of the enemy crew. Whilst doing this, he was wounded but refused to leave his command. Later on the same day, his company was held up by heavy machine-gun fire. He reconnoitred the ground personally, organised a party of two platoons and rushed straight for the machine-gun nest. Here 150 enemy and fifteen machine-guns were captured. Lt. Brillant personally killing five of the enemy, and being wounded a second time. He had this wound dressed immediately, and again refused to leave his company. Subsequently this gallant officer detected a field gun firing on his men over open sights. He immediately organised and led a "rushing" party towards the gun. After progressing about 600 yards, he was again seriously wounded. In spite of this third wound, he continued to advance for some 200 yards more, when he fell unconscious from exhaustion and loss of blood. Lt. Brillant's wonderful example throughout the day inspired his men with an enthusiasm and dash which largely contributed towards the success of the operations.
Brillant is buried at Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery, Fouilloy, France located 15 km (9 miles) east of Amiens. (Plot VIa, Row B, Grave 20). The gravestone bears the inscription: FILS DE JOSEPH BRILLANT ENROLE VOLONTAIREMENT A RIMOUSKI, PROVINCE DE QUEBEC TOMBE GLORIEUSEMENT SUR LE SOL DE SES AIEUX BON SANG NE PEUT MENTIR. His medals are held at the Royal 22e Regiment Museum in Quebec City.