Never was there a more popular or respected Commanding Officer. It was a common feeling throughout the battalion, that it was entirely due to the good advice and excellent management of our colonel that the casualties of the battalion were kept so low during the earlier part of our tour in the salient, and I don’t think there were any of us but would have gone anywhere with him, as like all good soldiers he never asked a man to do anything he wouldn’t do himself.
(Trooper C. S. Cole to Mrs. Shaw [wife], Jul 1916)
Alfred Ernest Shaw was presumed killed in action defending the front line against a German assault on 3 June 1916. His body was never found. Born in Millbrook, Ontario, on 21 November 1881, he was a former NWMP constable and member of the 3rd Dragoons and Lord Strathcona’s Horse.
Following the court martial and dismissal of Lieutenant Colonel R. H. Ryan, Shaw assumed command of the 6th Canadian Mounted Rifles in October 1915. After the reorganization of the Mounted Rifle regiments, he transferred to the 1st Canadian Mounted Rifles. When the CMR became infantry units, Shaw succeeded Lieutenant Colonel H. I. Stephenson in command on 12 January 1916. Six months later he was lost during the battle of Mont Sorrel.
The 1917 book, The Children’s Story of the War, described his last moments:
In one place Colonel A. E. Shaw rallied eighty Mounted Rifles amidst a jumble of ruined earthworks, and there the Canadians fought until only a handful remained. Of these, only two managed to reach safety.
How The Illustrated War News imagined the attack:
Further Reading: Andrew Godefroy on the letters of Shaw.