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The Fallen of Kirkby

John Tyson Shepherd

John Tyson Shepherd (Photo: Barrow Guardian)
John Tyson Shepherd (Photo: Barrow Guardian)
  • Son of Isaac and Margaret Shepherd of Ghyll Beck, formerly of Head Cragg and Sandside.
  • Lance-Corporal, 200603, 1st Battalion KORLR.
  • Killed in Action 12th April 1917 (Battle of Arras), aged 23, leaving a wife and son.
  • Commemorated on the Arras Memorial (Bay 2), Pas de Calais, France and on the war memorial, Burlington Stone Quarry, Kirkby.

The family

In 1891 Isaac (26) and Margaret Shepherd (née Tyson, 23) were living at 27 Main Street, Millom, where he worked as a ‘general labourer’. They had two daughters, Sarah A. Tyson, 2, and Hannah Shepherd, 7 months. In the next few years they had Mary, then, on the 25th January 1894, John Tyson, followed by another boy, William; Eleanor was born about 1898, by which time the family had moved to Kirkby; still to come were Isaac, Elizabeth, Isabella, Thomas Henry, Margaret and Agnes – 12 children in all. In 1901 Margaret’s widowed mother, Sarah Tyson, described as ‘living on her own means’, was living with them at Head Cragg – no doubt they were glad of the help!

The Shepherd family at Head Cragg. (photo: Robert Todd/History of Kirkby Group)
The Shepherd family at Head Cragg. (photo: Robert Todd/History of Kirkby Group)

It is believed the family made their living from fishing.

John Shepherd was born in January 1894 when the family were still in Millom.
They were at Head Cragg by the end of March 1901, when John would have been 7.

John Shepherd married Elizabeth Ann Tyson in Kendal early in March 1915, perhaps when he was on embarkation leave before his deployment to France. She is believed to have re-married after his death, to John Grigg.

Isaac Shepherd, then of Ghyll Beck, died in 1951, aged 86.

His wife, Margaret, died in 1957 aged 90.

Thomas Henry, John’s brother, died in 1960, aged 55.

All three are buried in St Cuthbert’s Churchyard.

The family headstone reads:

Shepherd, Isaac, of Ghyll Beck ob. 1951 aged 86
Margaret, his wife ob. 1957 aged 90
Children, Eleanor ob. 1912 aged 14
Isabella ob. 1913 aged 10

John Tyson Shepherd’s military service

John Shepherd was 20 and working in Kirkby quarry alongside his father and brother William when war was declared, and he was one of the first Kirkby men to enlist, joining the Territorial Battalion, the 1st / 4th, of his local regiment, the King’s Own Royal Lancasters, before 10th October 1914. He arrived in France as Private, 2712, John T. Shepherd on 3rd May 1915, but by the time of his death in April 1917 he had been transferred to the 1st Battalion and given a new Service Number. Since we don’t know the date on which John Shepherd changed Battalion, we can’t be sure which actions he was involved in. Below are two lists, one for the 1st/4th (the Territorial Battalion), and one for the 1st Battalion – Shepherd would have seen plenty of fighting with either. Certainly he was in the 1st Battalion by the start of the Battle of Arras, and by the time of his death he had been in France over 18 months.

Actions involving 1st/4th Battalion (up to the date of Lance-Corporal Shepherd’s death)
(Courtesy of KORLR website)

  • 4 August 1914: Mobilised at Barrow-in-Furness
  • Winter 1914-1915: Stationed in Southern England
  • 3rd May 1915: Arrived in France. Landed at Boulogne. Joined 154th Infantry Brigade, 51st Infantry Division
  • 15 June 1915: Battle of Festubert
  • 7 January 1916: Joined 164th Infantry Brigade of 55th West Lancashire Division
  • 8 August 1916: (Shepherd wounded?) The Somme: Battle of Guillemont. Attack on Trones Wood
  • 11 September 1916: The Somme: Battle of Ginchy. Attack on Delville Wood
  • 27 September 1916: The Somme: Battle of Flers
  • 28 September 1916: Attack near Mametz
  • 23 December 1916: Raid on Cameroon Trench

Actions involving 1st Battalion (up to the date of Shepherd’s death)

  • 22 April to 25 May 1915: 2nd Battle of Ypres
  • 2 May 1915: Repulse of Gas Attack (Wieltje Farm)
  • 24 May 1915: Repulse of Gas Attack (La Brique)
  • 24-25 May 1915: Battle of Bellewaerde Ridge
  • 12 April 1916: Raid at Rausart
  • 1 July to 18 November 1916: The Somme
  • 1 July 1916: Assault of North of Beaumont Hamel (Serre)
  • 1-13 July 1916: 1st The Somme: Battle of Albert.

Probably it would be at this point, i.e. returning from leave after recovering from a wound, that Lance-Corporal Shepherd was transferred from the 1st/4th to the 1st Battalion.

  • 23 October 1916: Capture of Spectrum Trench
  • 9 April – 4 May 1917: The Battles of Arras (Shepherd killed on 12th April)
  • 9 April 1917: Capture of Fampoux
  • 11 April 1917 to 11 May 1917: Capture of Roeux

In October 1916 the Barrow News reported that Lance-Corporal John Shepherd had been back in Kirkby, spending a few days with his wife and child, having been wounded in the hand and in hospital in England. Since the 1st Battalion were not involved in any battles around that time, it is likely that he was still in the 1st/4th (Territorial Battalion) at the time of his wounding, and was transferred to the 1st Battalion between getting back to the Front and The First Battle of the Scarpe, in which he died.

Andy Moss suspects Shepherd was wounded at Guillemont, near Albert, on 8th August 1916, during part of the Battle of the Somme. The 1st/4th sustained heavy casualties that day in a night attack on German trenches near Trones Wood and the Guillemont Road. 7 officers and 46 other ranks were killed, and 10 officers and 154 other ranks, probably including John Tyson Shepherd, were wounded.

(Coincidently, 60 years later, the nearest town to John Shepherd’s home, Ulverston, was to be twinned with Albert, the nearest town to this battle.)

Guillemont Station after the First Battle of the Scarpe. John Shepherd may well have died near here.
Guillemont Station after the First Battle of the Scarpe. John Shepherd may well have died near here.

The First Battle of the Scarpe, part of the British Arras Offensive, began on 9th May 1917 with an attack on German defensive positions near Arras. The attack was highly successful at first and the British moved forward a record distance for trench warfare, but then the stalemate of the Western Front was resumed; the cost in lives had been 160,000 on the British side, and 125,000 on the German. Among them was 24 year old John Tyson Shepherd of Kirkby-in-Furness, first reported wounded and missing on April 12th, and his parents informed at Ghyll Beck; eventually the Army Council concluded that he must have been killed or died of wounds on that date, but this process took about a year.

In August 1918, John Tyson Shepherd was remembered at the Memorial Service at St Cuthbert’s, alongside Thomas Martin, Richard Townson and Isaac Knight.

Albert at the end of the war.
Albert at the end of the war. The statue of Mary and the infant Jesus still hangs on the Basilica – the legend was that whichever side made it fall would lose the war.
Medal Index Card for John Tyson Shepherd
Medal Index Card for John Tyson Shepherd
Ghyll Beck Farm. The Shepherds were living here at the time of John Shepherd’s death
Ghyll Beck Farm. The Shepherds were living here at the time of John Shepherd’s death
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