Warrant Officer Class 1 Bill Shirley, MBE, ED was born, raised, and educated in Lethbridge, Alberta. Following school he worked in his Dad’s store. In 1925 he joined the Non-Permanent Active Militia as a member of the 20th Field Battery, Royal Canadian Artillery. This Battery was part of 18th Field Artillery Brigade located at Lethbridge. By the end of the 1930’s he had become the 20th Battery’s Sergeant Major (Warrant Officer Class II).
In September 1939 Bill volunteered for active service several days before Canada declared War on Germany. He had the distinction of being the first person to sign up for active duty in Military District Number 13 (which was responsible for the Army in Alberta). As such his unit’s regimental number was “M8”, the first seven regimental numbers being reserved for officers. Shortly after mobilization the 20th Field Battery in November 1939 was reorganized into the 20th Anti-Tank Battery and became part of the 2nd Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery. The Battery left Lethbridge in May 1940 and after several months of training in Shilo, Manitoba, the Battery departed for overseas as part of the 2nd Canadian Division. While serving in England Bill Shirley was promoted to Warrant Officer Class 1 and appointed Regimental Sergeant Major of the 2nd Anti-Tank Regiment RCA. He served with the Regiment in England, France, and Germany. This wartime service in such a key position resulted in his being appointed as a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (more commonly known as the “MBE”) for dedicated, prestigious service.
Bill Shirley after the war worked in Lethbridge for a period as a jail guard and then with Sick’s Breweries Ltd and later Molson Breweries, Canada in charge of the bottle depot. He also continued to serve in the militia as the Regimental Sergeant Major of the 18th Field Regiment RCA until the late 1950’s. He and his wife Vera had three daughters – Jane, Linda, and Diane. Bill passed away on 28 August 1974.