Oil painting LCol WR Marshall, 48th Officers Mess

Lt Col William Renwick Marshall, DSO

Commanding Officer 15th Battalion (48th Highlanders)

1915-1916

William Renwick Marshall, the son of William and Isabella Marshall was born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada on 20 Mar 1875. He graduated from Upper Canada College in Toronto  and was already a long serving veteran office when the First World War began in 1914. Marshall had served for 21 years in the Canadian Militia first as an Lieutenant in the 13th Royal Regiment from Hamilton and later as a Captain on the HQ staff of the Military District 2 responsible for the training of cadet officers. He had also served two years in South Africa during the Boer War as a Captain with the Royal Canadian Regiment and the Canadian Mounted Rifles earning two bars to the Queen’s South Africa Medal.  In his civilian career, Marshall was the assistant manager of the Royal Distillery In Hamilton.

When war was declared in August 1914, he joined the 48th Highlanders draft to the 1st Canadian Contingent that was assembling at Long Branch near Toronto and subsequently on arrival in Valcartier, Quebec in October, he attested into the 15th Battalion (48th Highlanders) CEF as a Major in the position of Deputy Commanding Officer.  The Battalion arrived in France from the UK in February 1915 and following a period of front line familiarization, moved with the entire 1st Canadian Division into the Ypres salient where they were heavily involved in the 2nd battle of Ypres 22-26 April.

For his actions and valour during the gas attack on 23-24 April 1915 in which the Canadians – in particular the 15th Battalion that was at the apex of the Allied position – suffered heavy casualties holding the salient against the heavy German assault, Major Marshall was awarded the Distinguished Service Order. Immediately following the battle he was appointed Commanding Officer and began the task of rebuilding his shattered Battalion.  LCol Marshall led the Battalion in the fierce fighting at Festubert in May and Hill 60 the following year before he was killed in action on 19 May 1916. Physically fit, always at the Front and possessing a commanding presence, Marshall was revered by all ranks of the 15th and highly respected throughout the Canadian Contingent.  He was buried with full military honours  at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery and the Battalion that he had rebuilt and led after 2nd Ypres went on to serve with distinction in every major engagement in which the Canadian Corps took part throughout the war winning 21 Battle Honours for its actions.

NOK: Brother of Mrs. C. W. Wolfkill, of 4488, St. Catherine St. West, Montreal

Awards

Date

Award
Citation
23/24 April 1915
Distinguished Service Order (DSO)

2nd Battle of Ypres, Belgium –
During the 2nd Battle of Ypres in April 1915 Major Marshall commanded the 15th Battalion’s advance Headquarters. During the course of the battle he maintained the Battalion’s line despite the chaos that rained with the discharge of Chlorine gas by the Germans. At one point in the battle during the night of 23-24th Major Marshall grabbed a box of ammunition and ignoring shell-fire crossed the open to the men manning the front trenches to maintain the rate of fire. Having maintained the line all night Major Marshall and his men were finally relieved by reinforcements towards noon.

NA
Unit
15th Bn (WW 1)
Service number
NA
Date of attestation
22-Sep-1914
Date Taken on Strength
22-Sep-1914
Fate
Killed in action
Date of death
19-May-1916
Cemetery or memorial name
LIJSSENTHOEK MILITARY CEMETERY
Grave or panel reference
V. A. 39.
Cemetery or memorial country
Belgium
Where killed or wounded
Ypres, Belgium
Age on date of death
45
Cause of death
Killed in action by sniper while traversing trenches in front line
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