Lieutenant Colonel Billy Marshall, D.S.O. †
15th (48th Highlanders) Battalion
The list of honors for the second battle of Ypres was out and my name had been omitted.
I was pleased, however, to see that Major Marshall, my second in command whom I had recommended for “mention in dispatches,” had received a D.S.O. He was a professional soldier and this meant much more to him than it did to me. He was later to fall in the front line trenches the victim of a German sniper. A great athlete, a splendid soldier, a universal favorite, Canada and the Empire could ill spare such a man. His solicitude for his men was such that I have known him to give his clothing to some ailing private. He was one of the bravest, truest and kindest of Canadians.
(J.A. Currie, The Red Watch, 1916, )
William Renwick Marshall was an amateur athlete and Boer War veteran with over twenty years’ service in the militia. Born in Hamilton on 20 March 1875, he played cricket while a student at Upper Canada College and toured the United States and Britain with the Canadian Zingari between the 1890s to the 1910s. He fought bravely at the second battle of Ypres and shortly thereafter assumed command of the 15th Battalion.
According to his superior, Lieutenant Colonel John A. Currie, at Second Ypres, “Marshall had a rifle and bayonet and knew how to use them.” Currie and Marshall were among the only 15th Battalion officers to emerge unhurt from the battle. Due to allegations that Currie had behaved cowardly and hid in his dugout, he was sacked and replaced by Marshall who by contrast won the D.S.O.
Just under one year later, an enemy sniper killed Marshall while he inspected the front lines on 16 May 1916. In his last message home, he wrote, “Trying time just now and it seems a long war.” The battalion was stunned by the death of their commander, who had survived the desperate Second Battle of Ypres only to be shot in the head on an ordinary trench tour.
Second-in-command, Major C. E. Bent, formerly of the 17th Battalion, assumed command.
Digitized Service File (LAC):