PROFILE OF SERVICE: PRIVATE SHANKS

Tuesday, June 29, 1915

Billets – Outtersteene

The Battalion War Diarist wrote for this day: “Left this place by Companies at 2:30 and arrived in Nouveau Monde about 4 o’clock p.m.” [1]


THIS DAY IN RMR HISTORY:  The Battalion history explains that “On June 29th the Battalion paraded at 2:30 p.m. and marched three miles to near Steenwerck.”   [2]

In yesterday’s posting we read how the City of Toronto insured each soldier from Toronto for one thousand dollars payable in the event of their death.  In a newspaper clipping of the period, two of the soldiers mentioned were members of the 14th Battalion (RMR).  Here is a brief biographical sketch of the first of these men, another sketch will be posted tomorrow.

PRIVATE ALEXANDER CAMPBELL SHANKS, No. 25760PRIVATE ALEXANDER CAMPBELL SHANKS, No. 25760Alexander Campbell Shanks was born in Airdrie on 29th October 189, son of William Shanks of Rutherglen. Alexander matriculated at the University of Glasgow, aged 19, to study for an MA. In his first year, 1911-1912, he was enrolled in the Ordinary classes of Latin and French. …The degree exam results show that he passed both subjects first time. He did not, however, return to the University. Clearly this was not because of academic failure, and we can only speculate. His sister recalled that he once had a job as an assistant purser on one of the liners which went to Canada and he may have found life there more exciting than in Glasgow.

Alexander was quick to volunteer when war broke out. On 21st September 1914 he signed up at Valcartier, Quebec, for the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force. He gave his occupation as lumberman, and was unmarried. On 4th October 1914, he embarked from Quebec on the SS Andania bound for the UK, where he was stationed at Larkhill in Wiltshire for some time before being sent to France.

Alexander Campbell Shanks was killed in action on 21st April 1915, aged just twenty-three. Some Army sources placed his death as occurring between 21st and 27th April, an uncertainty that testifies to the confusion at the battlefront during the 2nd Battle of Ypres. The war diary states that the battalion was subjected to heavy sniping whilst in the trenches near to St. Julien. The first gas attack of the war occurred on 22nd April 1915, the day after the battalion had been relieved at the front.

Alexander is commemorated at the Menin Gate and also on the war memorial at Rutherglen. He had two brothers, John and William, who also served in France. John was killed in action on 20th September 1918. William came back from the war, alone of the brothers.

[1]   War Diary, 14th Canadian Battalion, The Royal Montreal Regiment, June 29, 1915.  Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa http://data2.collectionscanada.ca/e/e044/e001089755.jpg
[2]   R.C. Featherstonhaugh, The Royal Montreal Regiment 14th Battalion C.E.F. 1914-1925, Montreal, The Gazette Printing Co., Ltd., 1927, pg. 63
[3]   http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/memorials/canadian-virtual-war-memorial/detail/1595921
[4]   Based on: “The University of Glasgow Story”  http://www.universitystory.gla.ac.uk/ww1-biography/?id=2413

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