Digby County na­tive to be hon­oured in Bel­gium

Stephen Ernest Shortliffe was born and raised in Freeport, died dur­ing Sec­ond Bat­tle of Pass­chen­daele


A na­tive of Freeport, Digby County, who died dur­ing the Sec­ond Bat­tle of Pass­chen­daele in the First World War will be hon­oured at a cer­e­mony Nov. 10 in Bel­gium.

Lance-Cpl. Stephen Ernest Shortliffe is one of three sol­diers who will be hon­oured as part of the an­nual cer­e­mony or­ga­nized by the Me­mo­rial Mu­seum Pass­chen­daele 1917.

The cer­e­mony will in­clude the read­ing of a trib­ute writ­ten by Ed­ward Ross, who wrote a book about Shortliffe – his great un­cle – ti­tled Bul­lets, Bombs and Bay­o­nets. The trib­ute will be read by a soldier sta­tioned at Supreme Head­quar­ters Al­lied Pow­ers Europe, the head­quar­ters of NATO’s Al­lied Com­mand Op­er­a­tions.

The cer­e­mony hon­ours three sol­diers an­nu­ally. Ross found out just re­cently that his great un­cle was among those to be rec­og­nized this year. (A Bel­gian soldier and a German will be hon­oured this year as well.)

Dig­ni­taries and of­fi­cials will gather at the Pass­chen­daele Cana­dian Me­mo­rial at Crest Farm over­look­ing the vil­lage of Pass­chen­daele (now spelled Passendale) as the sun goes down at 6 p.m. Bel­gian time.

A large pho­to­graph of Shortliffe will be placed on the me­mo­rial.

Near the end of the cer­e­mony, a plaque will be un­veiled with the names of the nine Cana­dian sol­diers who re­ceived the Vic­to­ria Cross for the Bat­tle of Pass­chen­daele.

Born in Freeport in 1892 to Isaac and Sophia Shortliffe, Stephen Ernest Shortliffe re­set­tled in a small town north of Win­nipeg in 1912 and be­gan work­ing for the Bank of Hamil­ton (later to be­come part of the Bank of Com­merce).

Be­tween 1912 and May 1916 he was a mem­ber of the 79th Cameron High­landers of Canada Mili­tia Reg­i­ment. In May 1916 he took the train to Win­nipeg and en­listed in the 179th Cana­dian In­fantry Bat­tal­ion (Cameron High­landers of Canada) and in Oc­to­ber was de­ployed to Europe. He par­tic­i­pated in a number of com­bat mis­sions in 1917, in­clud­ing Vimy Ridge.

On Oct. 21, 1917, his bat­tal­ion ar­rived in Ypres in prepa­ra­tion for the Sec­ond Bat­tle of Pass­chen­daele.

On the morn­ing of Oct. 26, 1917, Shortliffe and his com­rades spear­headed the as­sault against the en­emy on Belle­vue Spur. Some­time dur­ing that day, he was struck by an ar­tillery shell and killed. His body has never been found.

On Oct. 26, the first day of a three-stage, 16-day bat­tle, 102 Cameron High­landers died. Eighty-four of those killed never had their bod­ies re­cov­ered. Shortliffe has no known grave, there­fore his name is in­scribed on Menin Gate Me­mo­rial to the miss­ing in Ieper (Ypres), Bel­gium.

Ed­ward Ross, a Digby na­tive liv­ing in On­tario, said he be­gan his book on Shortliffe in 2010, a year af­ter he re­tired. The book started as a small project for fam­ily and friends, he said, but it grew into some­thing big­ger and more com­pli­cated.

“It was sup­posed to be a short story on a great un­cle who I had only known from an oval photo por­trait on the wall of my grand­par­ents’ home in Lit­tle River when I was about six or seven years old,” Ross said. “The im­age of that picture resur­faced in my mind af­ter I re­tired and I be­came mo­ti­vated to learn all I could about this young soldier and record his story in writ­ten form. I spent three years re­search­ing, two weeks of which was spent in France and Bel­gium in 2012. My pub­lisher con­vinced me af­ter read­ing my first man­u­script draft to take it com­mer­cial, which I ul­ti­mately did.”

Bul­lets, Bombs, and Bay­o­nets was pub­lished Aug. 27, 2016, and launched Oct. 26, 2016, the an­niver­sary date of the Bat­tle of Pass­chen­daele and of Shortliffe’s death.

On Oct 26, 2017, the as­so­ciate deputy min­is­ter of Vet­er­ans Af­fairs hon­oured Ross’s work with a spe­cial com­mem­o­ra­tive medal­lion. This past spring Bul­lets, Bombs, and Bay­o­nets made the short­list of five au­thors for a lit­er­ary award.


Lance-Cpl. Stephen Ernest Shortliffe was born in Freeport in 1892, re­set­tled in Man­i­toba in 1912. He was 24 when he was killed in the Sec­ond Bat­tle of Pass­chen­daele.

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