July 31, 2022. Most of the time Pieter is involved in a search for photos and family of WW1 or WW2 soldiers, a task that requires a great deal of research and luck. Sometimes, however, the opposite happens, and he’s asked to find family and a soldier for a photo that has been ‘orphaned’ for one reason or another.
For a veteran, it can be difficult to ignore a photo that has been discarded or placed for sale in an auction or secondhand shop. That’s exactly what happened when veteran Mario Henry, Sgt At Arms at the Borden-Carleton Legion, visited a pre-auction preview recently and spotted a photo of what looked to be a WW1 soldier.
….Photo of a WW1 soldier placed for auction…
It was in an antique frame and was most likely a black and white photo that had been colourized with watercolour and framed, suggesting that at one time this was a treasured piece in someone’s home.
….The back of the photo identified the soldier and his family….
A quick glance at the back of the photo had identifying information, which helped to uncover a soldier’s military service. The information on the back stated: “Lloyd Shortliff, son of Emma (Dunbar) Shortliffe and Charles Shortliffe. Sisters Minerva and Gertrude (Mrs Joseph Foster). He was missing in action September 17, 1916 in France.”
….Who was Lloyd Shortliff?….
Mario contacted Pieter, who soon determined that the photo was of Lloyd Clifford SHORTLIFF, born April 12, 1891 in Barton, Digby, Nova Scotia, son of Charles Henry and Emma (nee Dunbar) Shortliff.
A farmer before enlisting in Sussex, New Brunswick on September 20, 1915 with the 64th Battalion, Lloyd left Halifax, Nova Scotia aboard the SS Adriatic on March 31, 1916, arriving in Liverpool, England on April 9, 1916.
On June 24, 1916 he was transferred to the 12th Battalion and sent to Shornecliffe Army Camp for further training. (See https://www.saltwoodkent.co.uk/the-canadian-at-shorncliffe-during-)
…Lloyd was sent to the front…..
A few days later, on June 28, 1916, he was transferred to the 24th Battalion (Victoria Rifles of Canada) and sent to Belgium on July 12, 1916. The Regiment was part of the Canadian Corps manning the Western Front.
On August 28, 1916 the Regiment marched to Eperlecques, France for training on the new Lee-Enfield rifles, where they also trained in manoeuvres in preparation for what the troops would experience in the Battle of the Somme. (See map at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Map_of_the_Battle_of_the_Somme,_1916.svg)
On September 4, 1916, the Regiment went to Argues, France, and took a train to Conteville, before moving on towards Hérissart, and then to Albert, France, where the Regiment arrived on September 10, 1916 and were set up in tents.
The Somme front was near the village of Courcelette. Training began for an attack on the Sugar Refinery near Courcelette, which began on September 15, 1916. By the next day, Battalion Headquarters was set up in a trench by the Sugar Refinery, in preparation for further attacks against the Germans. (See https://www.warmuseum.ca/firstworldwar/history/battles-and-fighting/land-battles/courcelette/)
Lloyd lost his life on September 17, 1916. Unfortunately his body was never recovered and he is listed on the Canadian National Vimy Memorial.
….Could the photo be saved?….
Knowing that Lloyd Shortliff was listed on the Vimy Memorial was like waving a red flag at a bull for veterans Pieter and Mario. Pieter has a special affinity for Vimy after we’d been there in 2017 to honour two soldiers from the Island that Pieter had researched. (See https://onthewarmemorialtrail.com/2017/09/19/visiting-the-canadian-national-vimy-memorial/)
The photo couldn’t be resigned to the dustbin of history! The value was in the antique frame, not the photo, and both men believed someone would buy the frame and discard the photo.
Mario contacted the auctioneer and asked if the seller would pull the picture out of the auction, pending further investigation. The seller refused.
That seemed to be that ….. until Mario contacted Pieter to say that he had attended the auction and bought the picture. Pieter went back to his research, to learn how Lloyd lost his life and to find his family.
….How did Lloyd Shortliff lose his life?…
Pieter wanted to know how Lloyd lost his life and why he was listed on the Vimy Memorial, since he didn’t die during the Battle of Vimy Ridge, which was in April 1917.
According to the war diary for the 24th Battalion for September 17, 1916, “… at 12:30 pm, orders were received from the Brigade that the Battalion, less one Company, were to attack the German front line, with our Right resting on the Baupame Road, and our Left with the 22nd Battalion in the vicinity of the Quarries. The attack commenced at 5 pm…..”
The soldiers of ‘D’ Company, on the extreme right, “…were unable to reach their objective, many of them killed before they got over the parapet, and the men who did advance were held up in the German wire and shot down…”
‘A’ Company was in the centre, and “…obtained their objective, but after severe fighting, the enemy bombed them out, working through from his main line…”
By the time the fight was over, 9 officers and 330 other ranks of the 24th Battalion were dead, wounded, or missing and presumed dead, among them Lloyd Shortliff. As his body was never recovered it appears he was among the soldiers who were bombed.
…Pieter found the family of Lloyd Shortliff….
Pieter’s research next focused on Lloyd’s descendants, and led to family member Trent Whittaker, whose grandmother was Gertrude Foster, Lloyd’s sister. After explaining about the picture that Mario had rescued, he was surprised to learn that it was Trent who had put the photo in a garage sale as part of the clear out of a 200 plus year old farmhouse. The family had a photo of Lloyd and the one put in the garage sale was a duplicate. Several ‘pickers’ had bought the goods and that was the last he saw of the picture.
This is a story many will find familiar. Relatives die and families are left with an accumulation of ‘stuff’ that can become overwhelming. In the purge, photos, letters, diaries, and other memorabilia can get discarded.
…. Lloyd is remembered on the Barton War Memorial…
Lloyd Shortliff was bombed to smithereens in France, his remains never recovered, but he is listed on the Vimy Memorial in France, and Pieter discovered that he is also listed on the war memorial in Barton, Nova Scotia: https://nshdpi.ca/is/digbyco/bartonwarm.html. The Legion in Weymouth, Nova Scotia has expressed an interest in the picture after learning of its existence.
Sandra Lent of the Weymouth Legion visited the memorial and explained that it was “…located in Barton, at the head of a cemetery. There are no other markings, such as the name of the cemetery, although it is well tended, and the pillar shaped monument is helpful for identification. It is located a short distance north of the Barton post office, on the same side of the highway...”
Thank you to Mario Henry for saving the photo which gave us a chance to tell Lloyd Shortliff’s story. Thank you as well to Sandra Lent for taking the photos of the Barton War Memorial. If you have a story to tell, please let Pieter know. You can email him at email@example.com, comment on the blog, or send a tweet to @researchmemori1.
….. More stories of ‘orphan’ soldier photos and artifacts …
- Wildred Octave Joseph GIROUX: https://onthewarmemorialtrail.com/2022/06/02/on-the-war-memorial-trail-the-search-for-wilfred-giroux/
- Sgt. ROSS: https://onthewarmemorialtrail.com/2019/03/09/the-mystery-chest-of-sgt-ross/
…Want to follow our research?….
Daria’s book ‘No Soldier Buried Overseas Should Ever Be Forgotten‘ is available in print and e-book formats. For more information see https://nosoldierforgotten.com/
Upcoming Author Talk: Thursday, August 11, 2022 – Victoria-By-The-Sea, Prince Edward Island, part of the ‘Our Island Talks’ series, and hosted by Victoria Playhouse and Victoria Historical Association. Time: 2:00 pm.
You are also invited to subscribe to our YouTube Channel: On The War Memorial Trail With Pieter Valkenburg: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJ591TyjSheOR-Cb_Gs_5Kw.
© Daria Valkenburg