Roll of Honour
Alexander Campbell Shanks
Alexander Campbell Shanks was born in Airdrie on 29th October 1891. His father, William, was a commercial traveller, and he was alive at the time 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. In Latin, the class list shows he was one of 192 students, and was taught by Professor John S Phillimore. In French he was one of 45 students and was taught by Charles Martin.
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.
His papers show that he was 5 feet 5 and a half inches tall, with a dark complexion, blue eyes and black hair. He had a scar at the left angle of his mouth, and he weighed 130 pounds. 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, as declared by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission records, 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.
He 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.
Comments and Citations
University of Glasgow Registry and Faculty Records
Biography: Biographical and family information contributed by Campbell Shanks, nephew of Alexander Campbell Shanks