WILFRED ERNEST SHONE
This biography was written by Victoria Doran.
Ernest Shone was from an agricultural background and worked on the land until he was conscripted.
Newton Methodist Commemorative Window (now in West Kirby Methodist Church)
From census returns we know that Wilfred Ernest Shone was known to his family as Ernest. He was born on 16 October 1887 at Irby and was the 3rd son and 5th child of Ralph Arthur Shone (1856-1936) and Emma Hughes (1856-1924), with a younger sister and brother surviving infancy as well.
His father was born in Woodbank near Shotwick, one of the middle children of the 13 offspring of John Shone (1814-???) and Elizabeth Crump (1823-???). Elizabeth also had an older illegitimate son. John Shone came from Sealand, Flintshire, Wales, was illiterate and worked mainly as an agricultural labourer, though he eventually farmed 3 acres and then became a hay and straw dealer. Even though not all the children were living at home at the same time, life must have been a constant struggle to get by. The family remained in the Woodbank, Shotwick and Great Saughall area. Elizabeth Crump’s mother, Margaret Brookfield (1792-1862), came from Wem, Shropshire and her father, Samuel Crump (1792-1851), from somewhere around the Cheshire / Flintshire border. The Crumps lived in the Woodbank area from at least the 1820s and Samuel was another agricultural labourer.
Ralph moved further east in Wirral to work at Ledsham and Little Stanney before marrying Emma Hughes on 10 October 1877 at Stoak. The Hughes family had lived at Backford Cross for 4 generations from at least 1806, working as agricultural labourers. Backford Cross is in the parish of Backford, but 2 km to the north of the village, where nowadays the A41 meets the A5117 at a roundabout. It will have been a quiet backwater in the 19th century.
Emma’s father, Thomas Hughes (1835-1902) moved his family to Thurstaston by 1881, where he went up in the world to farm 45 acres. Emma was the eldest of his family of 6 with his wife Jane Maddock (1834-1901). Jane was born in Liverpool, but the Maddock family actually came from Shotwick, so both sides of Ernest’s family would have known of each other for several generations.
After their marriage, Ralph and Emma also moved to North Wirral, having successive children in Thurstaston and Seacombe before settling at Irby Heath. Until 1911 Ralph was an agricultural labourer, and then became a jobbing gardener. At the 1911 census Emma and Ralph were living apart. Emma was recorded as head of household at Woodbank, Newton with just her youngest son, Frederick Thomas Shone (1892-1972) with her, whilst Ralph was at Irby Heath with just his very recently married second daughter Amelia Bertha (1880-1954) as his housekeeper (and her husband was in Thurstaston on his father’s farm). However it may just be that they were in the middle of a house move as Woodbank, Newton became their home from then on.
In 1911 Ernest was a market gardener on his own account, living at Larton Hey, Frankby with his brother Albert Walker Maddock Shone (1884-1966), a saddler, and unmarried sisters Clara Jane (1878-1952) and Florence Elizabeth (1890-1979). His eldest brother, William Arthur Shone (1882-1956) had first worked for his maternal grandfather, Thomas Hughes at Thurstaston (1901) and subsequently for Thomas’ son Herbert Hughes in 1911.
On 19 January 1916 Ernest was working as a farm labourer for Mr Totty of Grange when he attested for military service under the new conscription laws. He was just under 5ft 3 inches tall but sturdily built. Had he enlisted in late 1914 he would have been put in a Bantam Battalion as he was less than the normally required height. He was mobilised on 25 April 1916 as Private 36860 in the 14th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment.
Cheshire Regiment cap badge
The 14th Cheshires were a training battalion based at Prees Heath, Shropshire. On 31 August 1916 Ernest landed in France and went to a base depot to be assigned to duties. On 7 September he became Private 31042 of the 8th Battalion (Prince of Wales Volunteers), South Lancashire Regiment.
South Lancashire Regiment cap badge
He will have joined his battalion at Abbeville in northern France where they were recuperating following losses at the Battle of Pozières. They were part of the 75th Brigade of the 25th Division. They then moved to a sector of the front line south of the river Ancre. The successful Battle of Ancre Heights took place in very wet conditions during October. At the end of October 1916 they moved via the Doullens area to Bailleul in the Somme Departement of France to rest. At the beginning of 1917 they moved to the relatively quiet stretch of the front line known to the troops as ‘Plug Street’. This was Ploegsteert Wood in the Ypres Salient in Belgium. They were still there when Ernest was unfortunate to be killed, as it was ‘a quiet day on the Western Front’ in that place on that day. The date was 13 April 1917 and Ernest was 29 years old.
Ernest’s entry in the Book of Remembrance
This Book of Remembrance entry is one of the few that are incorrect. It is 86 miles from where he is buried to Arras! The family were possibly confused because the Battle of Arras started only 4 days before Ernest was killed, and they would not have known where he was.
Ernest was buried at St Quentin Cabaret Military Cemetery, near Heuvellande in Belgium.
He is also commemorated at the family grave at St Bartholomew’s, Thurstaston graveyard.
It is not known when the family, or Ernest, became Methodists as many Church of England records exist for them.
The parts of his military record completed after his death reveal anything but happy relations with his family. When he attested he gave his father’s name as next of kin, and that is what is held by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. However his personal effects and his war gratuity and unpaid pay were sent to Mrs Mary Booth of Hinderton Cottage, Grange. Mrs Mary Booth was born Mary Maddock and was a first cousin of Ernest’s mother. Clearly at some stage he had left his family and nominated Mary as his ‘next of kin’.
In 1923 his brother Albert wrote to try to find out why his medals had not been sent to his father. It is not entirely clear whether they had gone to Mary Booth, nor whether she sent them to Ernest’s parents eventually. However it was Ralph Shone who stipulated that Ernest’s grave should carry the words ‘There are angels hovering around’.
Albert who was in business as proprietor of Shone Bros. garage business in Upton, was conscripted and served as a Corporal in the Army Service Corps, never serving overseas, so, to his indignation, receiving no medals nor compensation for the adverse effect on his business.
Brother Fred served in the Royal Naval Division of the Royal Marines from December 1917 (presumably also conscripted) and was wounded 3 times, though the details are unknown.
Oldest brother William does not seem to have served in the war, but did his bit by continuing to work the land and produce food.
Oldest sister Clara Jane married one Cyrus Stuckey Davies shortly after the war broke out. It is not known whether he served but he died in 1932 at the young age of 45, so probably he did and suffered ill health as a consequence. She continued to live at Larton Hey with her daughter, and seems to have carried on the market garden.
Birth: 16 Oct 1887 at Irby
Death: 13 Apr 1917 near Heuvellande, Belgium; killed in action
Addresses: Irby (91); Irby Heath (01); Larton Hey, Frankby (11); Hinderton Cottage, Grange, West Kirby (17)
Occupations: market gardener, farm labourer
Units: 14th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment; 8th Battalion (Prince of Wales Volunteers), South Lancashire Regiment
Numbers and Rank: 36860, 31042; Private
Medals: Victory & British War
Buried & Commemorated: St Quentin Cabaret Military Cemetery, Heuvellande, Belgium; Grange Hill War Memorial, West Kirby; St Bartholomew, Thurstaston graveyard; West Kirby Methodist Church, Frankby War Memorial
Sources: CWGC, SR, MC, Census: 91, 01, 11, BR, PR, RSE, Probate, F, NM