COMPANY SERGEANT MAJOR JOHN ALFRED SHAW (MM and Bar)
Born in Liverpool about 1895 John Alfred Shaw was the son of James Shaw (who worked on the railways) and Annie Elizabeth Shaw. In 1901 the family were living in Crewe where James Shaw was working as a railway traffic clerk. John had three siblings, all born in Liverpool, Annie Shaw (b. about 1887, Reginald Shaw (b. about 1899 and William Shaw (b. about 1888). By at least 1913 the family had moved back to Liverpool and in the early 1920's were living at 84, Brookdale Rd., Wavertree.
In April 1913 John Shaw enlisted in Liverpool as No 1408 (he was later renumbered 240179) in the 6th Battalion King's (Liverpool) Regt [Liverpool Rifles] - this was a Territorial Force Battalion the precursor of the modern Territorial Army. He was mobilised at the outbreak of the war and crossed to France with his Battalion on 24 February 1915. He was wounded in action on 14 March 1915 when he received a gun shot wound to his shoulder; he returned to duty on 18 April after treatment in a Base Hospital. He was wounded again on 25 Sptember 1916 this time he was shot in the right arm, returning to duty five days later. By December 1916, when he had reached the rank of Sergeant, John had been awarded the Military medal for bravery in the field although the details of the award are not known. He went on to be awarded a Bar to the Military medal which was awarded for his actions on the night of 30 June 1917 when his Battalion was in the trenches near Potijze.
The following is a description from the Battalion Diary as to what happened that night. 'Battalion in trenches. Quieter all round. At night 2nd Lieutenant FG Cowman with Sgt J Shaw and 36 other ranks left our lines at 1am for a raid on enemy trenches. Zero hour for Artillery etc. 1:15am. Immediately upon leaving our trench and while still passing through our wire party was met by a shower of bombs, wounding 2nd Lieutenant Cowman and several other ranks. Sgt Shaw took command. Reformed the men and advanced to White Cottage. Here the party was again bombed and owing to casualties had toretire. Enemy reported in some strength in No Man's Land. Casualties 2nd Lieutenant FG Cowman wounded. 14 other ranks wounded'.
It is rare for a citation for Military Medal citations to have survived however the original citation for the award of John Shaw's bar is one that has. It reads 'For gallantry and devotion to duty. On the night of 30 June/1 July 1917 a party left our lines in order to raid the enemy's trenches near Wieltje. They were passing through our wire when they were bombed and fired on by the enemy who were in 'No Man's Land'. The officer in command, 2nd Lieutenant Cowman was wounded almost immediately and Sgt Shaw rushed forward to lead the party to the point of assembly. He succeeded in bringing them to this point and was reorganising the men where the parties had got mixed, when they were again attacked by the enemy, causing us a number of casualties, Sgt Shaw also being wounded. At this moment our barrage opened, and our men still led by Sgt Shaw closed up to it, the Germans meanwhile reteating. When the barrage was lifted they rushed on but once again they were met by bombs and owing to their reduced strength were obliged to retire, just when they had reached the German wire which was reported by him as good except for the gap made by our artillery. Only a night or so before Sgt Shaw went out close to the German wire, and on his report it was decided to cut another path through it. This NCO's services are invaluable in the front line, where he carries out all duties in the most reliable and cheerful manner'.
Once again John Shaw had displayed a keen sense of leadership and bravery in the face of the enemy. He was killed in action, barely seven weeks later when the 6th King's, in force, attacked the enemy trenches - in all 63 officers and men of the Battalion lost their lives that day. John Shaw has no known grave and is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial in Belgium.