Captain Ed Shuttleworth’s Recollections (1969)


One of the challenges about researching the men of the 18th Battalion is that the information on hand, though very valuable, in the form of their individual service records at the Library and Archives Canada gives a snap shot of that person’s war experience. This is more of a “photograph” of time. Each page is a snapshot that can become a simple, mechanistic panorama of a man’s service and life. The pages in the service record offer distinct bureaucratic notations of their vital statistics and medical conditions. It does not flesh out the nature of the man. We know their trade but, in many cases, have no indication what came before and after their service.

It is a brief and incomplete recognition of a person. It is not enough.

From time-to-time we are privileged to glimpse into this stark panorama and see more. The black and white photograph we see become tinted with aspects of colour, or personality, desires, regrets, and actions that are motivated by basic human needs and emotions.

In this post we get to see more of one such man.

Captain E.H. Shuttleworth

One December 4, 2005 I was “introduced” to Edgar Howell Shuttleworth. He was mentioned on page 165 of the book, Duty Nobly Done: The Official History of the Essex and Kent Scottish Regiment. At that point he became an entry in a database from which a search at the LAC was carried out and he began to take shape. He was a 26-year old manufacturer with 8-years of experience with the militia. As an officer his attestation papers (before the LAC digitized the service records) his physical characteristics were unknown. Later, with digitization, he was a tall 5’10.5 inches and weight 150 pounds. He had a tattoo on his left forearm and right bicep. His service with the Battalion could be determined now, with any promotions, leaves, and other details that would normally be notated.

Later, research would discover he was highly active in the Vimy Legion at London, Ontario and several photographs during the war and post-war allowed a face to be placed to the man. A wonderful Memory from the 18th Battalion Association at the end of the 1970s established this man’s reputation solidly. Captain Shuttleworth was to serve with the Battalion upon its inception in October 1914 until June 1916. His time there as an officer left a strong impression of the men who served with and under him. When “other ranks” offer high praise to an officer it is to be noted that this officer had qualities that endeared him to his men.

Later, a reader, a relation to this man, reached out and offered more information about Captain Shuttleworth. It was established why people referred him to “Dick” which fleshed out the man and added more colour to the panorama of his life.

The Panorama Firms Up

There are limitations to what can be related. The panorama will never be complete. Some parts of it will remain in black and white, some parts blank, and other in colour with some relief and detail.

Now we can add to that panorama with Edgar Howell Shuttleworth’s reminisces from an interview done by his relative, Peter Moogk, in 1969. These have been forwarded and are reproduced below without embellishment or editing. After this document an analysis of the memories in relation to Captain Shuttleworth’s service in a personal and unit context will help readers to place some of the information in relief to the backdrop of this man’s life and the men of the 18th Battalion.

The Reminiscences

Captain Ed Shuttleworth’s recollections of the First World War, recorded at London in 1969. 

The 18th Battalion trained in London in the winter of 1914-15, entraining for overseas April 15th, 1915.  [My wife] Florence, who was expecting a child, was with her parents in Kingston, Ontario.  On April 14th [our son] James Edgar, known as “Ted,” was born.  I took an earlier train to Kingston, saw my wife and child, and then boarded the troop train as it passed through eight hours later.  The troop train made a straight run to Halifax and to the ship Grampian.  Two hours later we were at sea.

Then followed training in England up to September 15th, 1915, when the whole 2nd Division of Canadians left for France.  The 18th Battalion, being the leading battalion, took the first ship out.  There were some 20 or 30 ships lined up along the Folkstone Quay.  Midway in the English Channel a British torpedo boat loomed out of the darkness and crashed into the crowded transport, striking the paddle wheel box.  This saved us from a disaster as the hull was not damaged.  Eventually, the ship with 1,100 troops aboard was towed into [the French port of] Boulogne.

Thence followed a forced march up country to the Ypres sector to relieve imperial troops who were to fight the abortive battle of Loos.  Then followed the winter months of misery in the trenches.  Christmas Day in the front line was an experience.  Casualties and sickness had reduced this splendid battalion to half strength.  My company commander, Major Charles E. Sale, was killed January 1/11 [indistinct here] and I took over.

One happy event occurred when we were back In Divisional Reserve.  I spotted my cousin Reg Howell[i] in an open field, shaving.  Reg was with a Western [Canadian] outfit and, as usual, I fell under the spell of this amazing soldier of fortune.  Reg, slight of build, soft spoken and handsome, wore the ribbons and honours that many generals might envy.  Not content with [serving in] the South African War, Reg stayed on in Africa through the Zulu wars.  Then he might be in Mexico with or against Pancho Villa.  Thence [he went] to Bow Park [farm near Brantford co-owned by his uncle Joe Shuttleworth].  Often he let me ride his horse “Zulu” – a trust he seldom bestowed.  Then, in France, as soldiers, our ways parted. I never saw Reg again. 

In early Spring came ten days of leave to England. Uncle Joe, Aunt Annie, [their daughter] Mary, Uncle George [Shuttleworth], Aunt Lizzie and [their daughter] Beatrice with Aunt Hattie were on the Isle of Wight.  Soon we were joined by Ross Belton, [my wife] Florence’s brother, now in the uniform of an artillery gunner.  Who could have been kinder than these dear people!

Then back to Voormezeele [In the Ypres Salient, to live in] a beautiful dugout with ten feet of ruined bricks and timbers on top!   And a welcome within [from his comrades].  Then comes spring and the joy of sitting in the sunshine, picking lice out of your shirt.  But the war persists, comes Sanctuary Wood, where the new Canadian Third Division learned the bloody lessons of war.  My company was down to 80 men and two officers.[ii] 

But when [we were] relieved, I was tired out and sent to England.  Once a piece of shrapnel burned a hole in my coat and once a bullet struck a boot heel – but no nice “Blighty” [wound] nor dreadful wound.  Duty in England seemed secure for awhile.  I sent for Florence and the baby.  This was a mistake, but many officers were bringing wives over and I knew if I returned to France, I would never see them again.  So we passed the winter in England and returned to Canada the following May on the great trooper, the Olympic.

[After the war I went] back to the [Shuttleworth family’s] hat factory. It was hard to adjust to menial tasks under my father and [older] brother Hugh.  After an unhappy interval of ten or fifteen years, a sun helmet made for the Chicago Fair came on the market.  This had little favour with my brother who considered it a trash item [not suitable to mix” with the high grade straw and Panama hats with the Shuttleworth name.  So I sold out [my interest] in the old family business and copied the Chicago product, avoiding patents and costly capital outlay.  I started in the cellar with an old hand press and it took two years to get a saleable product. 

Then, in 1939, the Second World War broke out.  The army adopted our sun helmets for Canada.  I probably made a quarter of a million [helmets].  With a limited profit and, later re-negotiation, no fortune was made but it did leave an established factory.  [Ed went on to describe the creation of branch plants in New Zealand and the United States and his retirement from the business at the age of 70.]

  • Peter N. Moogk

Note: Ed had served as a militiaman for eight years before the war in the London Fusiliers or Seventh Regiment. 


First Paragraph: The Journey to War

Marriage Certificate of Edgar Howell and Florence Shuttleworth.

105-years later we would be amazed at the mobility of people during this time. The railways criss-crossed Ontario with passenger and freight routes going to villages, towns, and cities. Captain E.H. Shuttleworth, perhaps with his standing as an officer, had the opportunity to visit his wife Florence in Kingston. He was newly married, having had the nuptials at Kingston on May 24, 1914. His son, being born one-day prior to the Battalion’s departure for England and war, was more than enough motivation for Shuttleworth to request permission to take an earlier train to visit with his new-born son and his wife. There was a good chance that he had not seen her since the beginning of his involvement with the 18th as it was formed in late October 1914. There are examples of officers taking passes during the weekends, but these appear to be 2-day visits, essentially travelling in the evening of a Friday and returning late Saturday night or early Sunday morning. It may have been difficult to do this with the distance between London and Kingston.

Grand Trunk Railway Map (1887) giving some idea of the network of railways servicing Ontario and Quebec.

One note of interest, in one of the Memories written in the late 1970’s makes no mention of the troop train stopping at Kingston. It does note that the first stop of the train was in Montreal for an engine change. Perhaps the train did not stop at Kingston, and this leaves one imagining Captain Shuttleworth sprinting down the station platform to board the train. There had to be some coordination between the parties involved to ensure the Battalion did not leave one of its founding officers behind. The officers of the Battalion, along with the men of his platoon and company would probably be aware of this situation and some of the details around it.

The Battalion did not make, however, “a straight run to Halifax,” as the Battalion detrained at Moncton, New Brunswick, and Truro, Nova Scotia for exercise and fresh air. The memory relates:

“About the third day out we were told to get cleaned up as were going to get off at the next town and go for a march. We did at a place called Moncton, N.B. We marched up the main street, made a right hand turn and came back on a lesser main street. The people were friendly but not overly-excited as other Battalions had likely done the same. About two days later, we repeated and got off at a place called Truro. This must have been a mill town as there was a lot of young women around. While a short over weight Town Official stood by the Colonel reading a speech of welcome, most of the fellows were flirting with the young girls who were standing nearby. They were very friendly and after we had our little march, many of the natives were at the Station all waving goodbye as we pulled out.”

We now know another aspect of this soldier’s experience during the war and the importance he attached to his new family. It was, to some degree, fate that brought his son into the world one-day prior to his departure to England. This event gives us a conception of how communication, be it information by telegraph, or by travel by train, was accomplished over 100-years ago. Even by today’s standards, Captain Shuttleworth was well advised as to the medical condition of his wife and the progress of her pregnancy and labour so that he, along with others, could coordinate a timely, though short visit to his wife and newborn child.

One can imagine the nervous expectation of this young man, this newly minted father, as he traveled by train to his family and then his anticipation waiting track side at a station or depot for the train to arrive so he could embark and reconnect with his men and unit. Was his father-in-law present, standing with pride beside his son-in-law, in the uniform of the King, going away to do his duty for King and Country? The brevity of the memory does not allow for an accurate picture, but it does open an insight into an important part of this man’s life.

Second and Third Paragraphs: West Sandling for Training

One wonders what Shuttleworth and the men of the 18th thought of the training they received in England once they ware able to compare it to the realities at the front, it was mostly likely better than that experienced in Canada by the Battalion. New ideas and techniques of were learned, as well as entrenching at Tolsford Hill.

Captain Shuttleworth gives an idea of the activity at Folkestone, a major transshipment port of personnel and material during the war, with the “20 or 30 ships lined up along the Folkestone Quay,” giving some sense of the logistical framework required to transport an entire division of approximately 20,000 men across the Channel. His recollection adds some more detail to one of the notable events during the Battalion’s transit to the Continent when one of the troop transports containing the men of the 18th, a paddle wheeled ship, was struck by a Royal Naval vessel.[iii] All the other descriptions that attempt to designate the vessel have called it a destroyer. Shuttleworth, quite specifically, identifies it as a torpedo boat.

The outcome of this incident resulted in approximately 9 men of the Battalion jumping aboard this vessel and they were reunited with the Battalion later.

The next paragraph shares some details of note.

The 18th Battalion was serving in the Ypres sector being active in this sector at the end of September 1915. There are notes in the War Diary and other personal accounts that express the terrible conditions of the Battalion’s service during this time. Due to the cold, wet weather, and the low water table in this area, the conditions were a battle unto itself. The men could not keep warm and dry and this situation quickly led to many men being ill and transferring for medical treatment. The Battalion also suffered some of its first war casualties, with the death of Major Sale being a prominent event for the Battalion. He was one of the first officers of the Battalion to be killed and Shuttleworth’s company commander. Thus, his death, probably led to the assignment of Captain Shuttleworth as his replacement.

Shuttleworth notes that “casualties and sickness had reduced this splendid battalion to half strength.” Of those that died in the months of September to December 1915, inclusive, the number of men killed in action or died of wounds was 27. As the Battalion was close to a full complement of men when it embarked to the Continent (approximately 1,050 men of all ranks) the effective strength of the Battalion due to illness would be 500 men, by his estimate.[iv]

This is born out by the service records of many of the “Originals” of the 18th Battalion. From a cursory analysis, by the end of May 1916 there were a larger proportion of “wastage” comprised of the original members of the Battalion. The physical and mental stress of the environment was especially telling on the men older than 30-years old and the heavy physical labour and exposure to situations that would lead to accidents and injury were guaranteed to affect the men of the Battalion. Another factor that contributed to the loss of men were those that were transferred to other units. Examples exist where men were transferred to units in the rear, such as the Canadian Army Medical Corp or other administrative or training posts. The service records do not state the rational or reasons for many of these transfers, but one possible explanation is that these men would be of better service in that capacity than at the front.

Fourth and Fifth Paragraph: Family

Family ties were important to the men fighting in the war. As they were overseas, the British born men may have had family in the British Isles, Canada, and other parts of the Empire. The Canadian born soldiers had relatives in Canada, but, as their heritage for most of the men was derived from family from the British Isles, they may have had more extensive familial relations then those in Canada.

Other Family members that served in the Imperial Forces would be a poignant reminder of their homes and loved ones. The men and women serving with the CEF would know the comparative risks their kin were exposed to through their type of service.

Captain Shuttleworth was able to have such an encounter with his cousin, Reginald Howell, and he describes this man’s physical and martial attributes.

On April 30, 1916, Captain Shuttleworth left for 10-days of leave to England. As he relates going to the Isle of Wight where he is re-united with his family, including his brother-in-law Ros Belton who was serving as a gunner.

We have a photograph from that leave showing Captain Shuttleworth standing beside is brother-in-law.

Sixth Paragraph: Return to Fighting

The cost of war is measured in so many ways. Captain Shuttleworth was to pay, as every combatant did, for their service.

Upon return to his unit on May 10, 1916. During the intervening 10-days of leave, of which, at least, two of those days would have been comprised of travel the following occurred at the Battalion:

The Battalion was at a rest camp at Reninghelst, Belgium. On the date of Shuttleworth’s departure the Battalion had to “stand to” in response to a German gas attack. It participated in a Church Parade with Lt.-General Alderson attending. This billet was relatively safe as it had an established presence with the YMCA. They had established a refreshment room and a concert hall in order to address the soldiers’ needs for rest, relaxation, food, drink, and entertainment.

The Battalion was to stay there until May 4, 1916. During its stay it experienced the usual routine of a battalion in the rear. It held bath and clothing parades and supplied work fatigues comprising of up to 400 men to go into the front line to help with “general works and improvements.” It then moved to “D” Camp where, along with the normal transfer of soldiers to and from hospital and the transfer of personnel for training and reassignment, the Battalion had another Church Parade with another General officer attending, Brig.-General Rennie.

On May 9, 1916, the Battalion’s rest and relative safety came to an end as it moved into Brigade Reserve near St. Eloi.

The cost in soldiers continued as the following soldiers died during the time Captain Shuttleworth was on leave:

Morgan, Herbert: Service no. 53075 – This soldier took ill and was transferred to No. 5 Canadian Field Ambulance on March 11, 1916. His medical condition improved, and he was returned to the Battalion on April 14, 1916. On May 1, 1916 he was to die of heart failure and is buried at Reninghelst New Military Cemetery.

Leveridge, Frank Ernest: Service no. 412258 – This man joined the Battalion on April 7, 1916 and was wounded not 3-days later. His wounds to arm and shoulder were stabilized at No. 17 Casualty Clearing Station where they transferred him to No. 4 General Hospital where he would succumb to his wounds on May 5, 1916.

Jones, Harry: Service no. 54028 – Another “Original”, as Morgan was, Private Jones died of wounds on the same day he sustained them. He was transferred to No. 6 Canadian Field Ambulance where his wounds led to his demise. His service records do not shed much light as to the nature and circumstances of his wounds.

Boutilier, Norman Winfred: Service no. 488677 – This soldier died on May 10, 1916. This native of Nova Scotia arrived at the Battalion on April 4, 1916, only to perish one-month later. Regrettably, there are no details regarding the nature of his service or death.

Dudley, William Howard: Service no. 404827 – This soldier joined the Battalion on March 19, 1916, and was wounded severely by a GSW to the chest on April 4, 1916. He arrived the next day at St. Johns Ambulance Base Hospital and did not recover from his wounds, dying at 10:15 AM on May 10, 1916.

Of these soldiers we will never know the men Shuttleworth knew. Looking at his popularity in the unit one can safely surmise that if a man was in his company, he was aware, if not knew, of him. He may have found out of the deaths of Morgan and Jones, originals of the 18th Battalion, like him, with a heavy heart and one wonders how the men coped with the constant stream of loss during the war. One could not be inured to it completely.

After 9-months of active service Captain Shuttleworth, on his own admission, “was tired out” and was reassigned to duty in England and assigned to the Command Depot as of June 16, 1916, where he served until he was stuck of strength for return to Canada effective May 3, 1917.

Of note in his reminiscence is a certain feeling that fate would deal him a deadly blow. He felt that he needed to see his wife and child again, as, if he were to return to active combat duty, he “would never see them again.” There is a stark recognition that he felt so strongly about this feeling that he shared it verbally 52-years later with another person.

Post War

Captain Shuttleworth was to serve in Canada until his demobilization on June 15, 1919 from the 1st Battalion Canadian Garrison Regiment. From there he returned to London and, as he relates, worked in his family’s business, J.R. Shuttleworth & Sons Limited, Hat Manufacturers.

As he states in his reminiscences, he worked there for a bit over a decade and his entrepreneurial spirit and need for independence to investigate the viability of a new product and venture led him to create his own company, E.H. Shuttleworth Moulded Products that met with success, being adopted by the Canadian Army in World War 2 and being used after that war by Canadian Army Cadets. Some were also sold in the retail market.

Concluding Comments

Being able to read and analyze this document illuminates, in words, the experiences of one man. This reminisces is all too brief and only offers some of the detail and nuance of the memories of this one man. They are incomplete, but there offer a tantalizing look into the life of Captain Shuttleworth and his experiences. They bring to life the portrait of a man who took the time to visit his wife, albeit a brief visit, who bore him his son. We see how the importance of family is sustained during the war with his happenstance visit with Howell and the organized getaway to the Isle of Wight with extended family.

There is the pathos of his war weariness, tired from the exposure to combat and marginal living conditions, he is thankfully released from the exposure to combat and death. One gets a sense of regret on his part and his expression of frustration after the war working at something that appears to have little meaning to him. Shuttleworth forges forward with his own idea and develops a product that meets with some modicum of success.

Perhaps this document gives us a sense of him that was attractive to his men. He seems to naturally be self-deprecating about his abilities but in a previous post he showed his aggressiveness in combat and ability to innovate during an exercise to dominate opposing forces during an exercise at London, Ontario. This earned the ire of his superior officers, but probably endeared him to his men. This close identification with his men made the loss of each one probably difficult to bear, while maintaining the dignity, decorum, and ability to lead men in the field.

It was this, and other qualities, that Captain Shuttleworth expressed toward his men that helped him be remembered so fondly.

This document helps explain a portion of what made the man, and without this we would know so extraordinarily little. Now we know more, and the panorama is firming up. Still with blank areas, but less than before.

­­­With special thanks for the contributions of Peter Moogk.

[i] Reginald Baskerville Howell, Lieutenant. Attested as a private with the reg. no. of 2878 with the Lord Strathcona’s Horse. Per email from Peter Moogk, he was the son of Alice Grace Shuttleworth. He attempted to join the Canadian Contingent going to South Africa and was rejected as being too young. He stowed away on a ship and arrived in South Africa and joined a unit there. Obtaining a land grant after the war, he moved to the Peace River area and then left for California, leaving a wife and son behind.

[ii] Normal complement of a Canadian battalion company was between 200-250 men.

[iii] As there are many classes of vessels used by the British Navy during World War 1 and the author has not been able to make a definitive identification of the vessel involved in this incident, knowing that it may have been a smaller vessel of a different type may lead to discovering the vessel involved.

[iv] This number has not been verified. The number could indicate that the Battalion had half it complement made up of original men from the April 1915 nominal roll, with replacements since the Battalions arrival in Belgium in September 1915 keeping the total number of effectives higher than stated in the document.

2 thoughts on “Captain Ed Shuttleworth’s Recollections (1969)

Add yours

  1. A very interesting read. I often wonder about my own grandfather, who I believe was a Major in WWI (Paymaster corps) but retired after WWII a private. Obviously something went awry between the ends of these two wars.

    My aunt said he lost everything in the Great Depression and became an alcoholic after that — so that was the likely underlying cause. But I do wonder the specifics of his downfall even within the Canadian Army. Did he not do his job? Did he insult someone? Getting busted down to private sounds like fairly severe punishment, just short of being dishonourably discharged. Who knows, I suppose.

    Captain Shuttleworth’s recollections definitely tell us a bit more about life back in those days over 100 years ago. Thanks for all of the research on this!

  2. Eric, you have gathered so much new and fascinating material on the 18th Battalion. Have you thought of publishing a history of this unit, drawing on this material? I have read comparable histories, such as one about Alberta’s 10th Battalion, that are good and informative accounts.

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