Ernest Henry Aldwinckle

“About four years [after my father died], I was still known as a war orphan.”

Remembrance Day for Canadians is about patriotism. Together, on that day, we remember those who defended Canada and mourn those who died for the country. But for Margaret Shortliffe, who, as a baby, lost her father in the war, the day of commemoration has made her feel lonely and not proud at all.

“I always hated that day,” Shortliffe, ninety-seven, said from her home in Victoria, British Columbia. “About four years [after my father died], I was still known as a war orphan.”

Living in her grandfather’s house along with her mother, Shortliffe certainly never felt like an orphan.

“There were two of us [in school] that were dragged out every November the 11th to read the names of the veterans…I remember my mother was always in tears and everybody was sad.” Shortliffe said she has never loved Remembrance Day because she had to read her own father’s name off a cenotaph and accept the pity of those who watched.

Ernest Henry Aldwinckle, Shortliffe’s father, moved to Lacombe, Alberta from London, England and enlisted on October 24, 1916. He served in the 3rd Battalion with the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) at age twenty-eight. He went overseas in spring 1917, leaving behind his wife Annah and their baby Margaret, who was less than one year old.

“My mother and I went to Montreal to say goodbye to him. My [maternal] grandfather said he wished [his daughter] wouldn’t go there because she‘d only get pregnant. When my mother told me this story, she said she wished she had—she wanted another child to remember her husband by.”

It was someone else’s memory that prompted Aldwinckle to enlist.

“Upon learning that his brother had been killed at the Battle of the Somme, and noting that the request for Canadian volunteers was not going well, my father felt the need to enlist,” Shortliffe wrote in a letter.

He was killed at the Western front in the Battle of Passchendaele on October 30, 1917, at age twenty-nine.

Rather than forgetting about a father she could barely remember, Shortliffe devoted time to knowing him through the people who once surrounded him.

“I loved his sister, Dora,” said Shortliffe. “First of all, she was very pretty and that impressed me at age six or seven, and she didn’t seem to think I was a nuisance. She told me about all the things she kept in her room and she used to take me into the garden and they had a beautiful teahouse made of very young limbs of trees,” she remembered. “I loved her dearly.”

And because her mother was reluctant to talk about Aldwinckle, Shortliffe obtained records to learn about him for herself.

“I wrote to the government and asked if I could have any comments about him or any medals he won and they sent me a very nice, I guess a kind of certificate.”

The searching Shortliffe did for her father led her to create her own memory of him.

“I was quite pleased with how my father looked because he was six feet tall and slim and handsome, at least I thought he was handsome. His picture is on my bedroom wall; it’s a great picture,” she said. “I always thought my father was something special.”

Do you have an ancestor who served in the Great War? Submit their story and it could be included on this Great War Album website.