Albert Edward Shepherd

This biography was written by Victoria Doran who has done an excellent job of bringing to life an interesting man who is not recorded on the Grange Hill War Memorial or on the Hoylake and West Kirby News’s 1922 list, but whose Commonwealth War Grave Commission headstone is visible in St. Bridget’s Church Yard in West Kirby.

ALBERT EDWARD SHEPHERD 

Bert's Grave in St. Bridget's Church Yard in West Kirby

Bert’s Grave in St. Bridget’s Church Yard in West Kirby

When Albert Edward Shepherd’s War Grave marker was first found in St Bridget’s Church Yard, it seemed likely that he was someone who had died in a hospital facility in the area and just happened to be buried there. For what was an Australian Munitions Worker doing in West Kirby? He is not recorded on the Grange Hill War Memorial or any other Memorial in the area.

However thanks to the information held by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the Australian National Archives, and to the efforts of Les Shearer of Tasmania, the truth has been discovered, and ‘Bert’ Shepherd revealed as a man of parts with very real connections to West Kirby. Indeed descendants of some of his siblings still live locally.

Albert Edward Shepherd , known as ‘Bert’ to his family, was born in late 1880 in Toxteth Park, Liverpool, the third son and fifth child of the eight children of James Shepherd (1847 – 1888) and Elizabeth Wilson (1851 – 1931) who survived to adulthood. James was a house painter born in Liverpool, and Elizabeth, born in Birkenhead, was the daughter of a shipwright. They married on 30 October 1869 at St Michael, Toxteth Park. At the 1881 census the family was living at 4 Ouse Street, Toxteth Park.  

Around 1886 the family moved to West Kirby as the youngest child was born there in 1887. The first tragedy of Bert’s life was the death of his father early in 1888. By 1891 his mother was working as a laundress to support her large family, and they were living at Brook Terrace, West Kirby. Bert was, of course, still at school. By 1901 Elizabeth, who was illiterate at the time of her marriage, had moved to Norton Road, West Kirby and was working as a house cleaner. By now, though only the youngest child Rebecca Thereza was still living with her. By 1911 she was entirely alone and again doing laundry work.

Meanwhile Bert and younger brother James moved in with their eldest brother William and his young family at 44 South Road, West Kirby. By 1901 Bert was working as a joiner. On 26 November 1903 Bert married Mary Jane Mackay at St Bridget, West Kirby. Mary Jane was born in Askham, Westmorland, but had been working as a housemaid at 14 Park Road, West Kirby. They had no children of their own, but seem to have adopted a girl born about 1904 in Dublin, who they named Isabel Winifred Shepherd. The second tragedy of Bert’s life was the death of Mary Jane at the beginning of 1908. From then on Bert and Isabel Winifred made their home at 43 Kingsley Street in Birkenhead with the family of his immediately older sister Elizabeth and her husband James Hilton Page.

From his munitions worker records held by Australian National Archives in Melbourne, we know that Bert originally worked as a house joiner, but later went to sea as a ship’s carpenter. Presumably his seafaring was after Mary Jane died.  On 6 December 1911 he arrived in Australia as an immigrant, leaving Isabel Winifred with his sister Elizabeth. Initially he worked as a joiner in the Melbourne area, but by 1914 he had moved to Tasmania as he was on the Electoral Roll there. He mainly worked on building houses, including one for himself.

2

Bert’s Application to Become a Munitions Worker in the United Kingdom

 

In 1916 he remarried Bertha Elizabeth Atkinson (1882 – 1969) who lived in the Launceston area of Tasmania all her life. Their only child Frederick George James Shepherd was born on 28 February 1917. This photo was taken shortly before Bert returned to England under the Australian Munitions Worker scheme, which he applied to join on 27 July 1917. Under this scheme the Australian Government paid his wife 22 shillings per week whilst he was away.

Bert Shepherd with his Wife

Bert Shepherd with his Wife Elizabeth and their son Frederick George James

It is understood that he had already tried to join the armed forces, but was rejected. Determined to make a contribution to the War Effort, he arrived in Liverpool on 2 October 1917.

Initially he was sent to France, but by January 1918, having been hospitalised with a poisoned finger, he applied to work in a ship building yard where his previous experience would be more useful. By 12 February 1918 he was working at Clover & Clayton’s shipyard in Birkenhead as a joiner. On 10 August 1918 he was no longer required at the shipyard. By 9 September 1918 he was once again in employment, this time as one of about 2000 civilians building a Motor Transport Depot at Salthill, Slough, Berkshire under the auspices of the War Office.

From the report of the inquest in the Slough, Eton & Windsor Observer dated 14 December 1918, we know that on the afternoon of 6 December the building collapsed and Bert received a major head injury from which he died on the way to hospital. His brother in law James Hilton Page attended the inquest and arranged for his body to be brought back to West Kirby for burial at St Bridget.

As a postscript, a Lancastrian work colleague James Bernard Conlon promised the dying Bert that he would to go to Tasmania and tell Bertha exactly what happened. Not only did he do so, he married her in 1923.

Notes 
Birth: December 1880 in West Derby, Liverpool
Death: 6 Dec 1918 Motor Transport Depot, Salthill, Slough, Buckinghamshire
Addresses: 4 Ouse Street, Toxteth Park (81); Brook Terrace, West Kirby (91); 44 South Road, West Kirby (01); Bangor, Lilydale, Bass, Tasmania (14); Rosevears, West Tamar, Tasmania (17)
Occupation: Joiner
Unit: Australian Munitions Worker Number: 3451
Medals: none
Commemorated: Australian War Memorial; St Bridget, West Kirby graveyard
Sources: Census: 81, 91, 01; CWGC; PR; newspapers; family; Australian National Archives
 

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6 thoughts on “Albert Edward Shepherd

  1. Hello,

    I am a Senior Researcher in the Department of History & Archaeology at the University of Chester working on a project that focuses on minority experiences in Cheshire during the First World War. I have just been given a link to the biography that Victoria Doran wrote on Albert Edward Shepherd and wondered if you could put me in touch with her?

    I have created a website featuring the research that local community members have done on this topic (www.diversenarratives.com), and would love to put her work on there as well, if she is okay with it. We have one post thus far on Australian Munitions Workers who came to Cheshire during the war, and would love to add her fascinating piece on Shepherd, and any other person she has researched who may fit the scope of the project.

    As West Kirby was in Cheshire during the First World War, this would be a fantastic way to bring it into the project and the commemoration of the centenary.

    Please let me know if this is possible, and thank you for your time,

    Jessica

    • Hello. Thanks for the message. I will ask Victoria to contact you. We will all be glad to help you in any way we can. Your project sounds very interesting. In fact, I am doing a PhD about Wirral in the Great War, so it will be good to talk.

  2. Stephen , Thank you for this brilliant piece of research. I found it only by Googling in response to a query from a fellow MOOC participant! We are both just finishing the 100 stores course out of Monash university in NSW. He lives on the Wirral peninsula and was interested in two members of the AIF buried at West Kirby. I now live in Canada but I have a munitions worker grandmother who worked at Hayes in WWI.

    • Thank you very much Lizbet. I cannot claim credit for this brilliant biography. It was written by my friend Victoria Doran. She has written all the recent biographies and is specialising in the West Kirby people. I am glad you enjoyed it anyway. Keep in touch.

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