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.