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The Fallen of Kirkby

Lewthwaite Shaw

Lewthwaite Shaw’s is the only war grave in St Cuthbert’s Churchyard. (Photo courtesy Andy Moss).
Lewthwaite Shaw’s is the only war grave in St Cuthbert’s Churchyard. (Photo courtesy Andy Moss).
  • Son of James and Sarah Jane Shaw of Head Cragg.
  • Private, 204226, 1st/4th Battalion, King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment. Transferred to the Labour Corps (Home Service) after being wounded in the chest.
  • Died of wounds, Cambridge Street Military Hospital, Barrow,
    27th July 1919, aged 37.
  • Buried in the only war grave in St Cuthbert’s Churchyard.
  • Also commemorated on the Burlington Stone war memorial.

Lewthwaite Shaw was the youngest of James and Sarah Shaw’s five children, and followed his father into the quarry when he left school. By the time he was 19 his father had died and his mother had married again, his step-father being George Casson, also a slate quarry man.

By 1901 all the siblings apart from Lewthwaite had left home. In the 1911 census Lewthwaite, still single and living with his mother and step father, is recorded as working in the shipyard in Barrow as an ‘iron moulder’. His last civilian job was working as a labourer for Mr Hugh James of Marsh Side.

(Sarah Shaw’s other children, all with James Shaw, were: Eleanor, Jane, George and William. Both parents and all five children were born in Kirkby. James Shaw died in 1891 aged 54 and is buried in St Cuthbert’s Churchyard.)

His medal record cards show Lewthwaite Shaw’s date of enlistment as 5th October 1914, and his arrival in France as May 3rd 1915. The Battalion War Diary records that on 31st July 1916 the 4th Bn KORLR suffered casualties in the trenches near Trones Wood and Guillemont: four men were killed and 12 wounded, one of whom was Lewthwaite Shaw. His wounding was referred to in the Barrow News of 10 October 1916:

Private L. Shaw, of the King’s Own R.L. Regt., has been at home this week with his parents at Head Cragg. Private Shaw was wounded in the back and side in the beginning of August, and has been in hospital, but is now convalescent.

There is some confusion over Lewthwaite Shaw’s status at the time of his death: he is not listed in Soldiers Died in the Great War, and he had been discharged from the Army at the time of his death, yet he had a war pension and a war grave and his headstone bears the badge of the King’s Own Royal Lancaster regiment. In fact you were eligible for a Commonwealth War Graves Commission grave up to 31st August 1921, if your cause of death was the war. Private Shaw’s discharge record refers to shrapnel wounds, to his tuberculosis, and that he was blind in the left eye. He was also deaf in the left ear and had a discharge from it.

When declared unfit for military service, Shaw was transferred to the Labour Corps and posted to the 548th Agricultural Company at Melton Constable in Norfolk, where he worked on the land. In February 1919, now working at Prees Heath in Shropshire, Lewthwaite Shaw was admitted to hospital with the influenza that killed so many just after the First World War. On 27th July, now back in Barrow at the military hospital in Cambridge Street, Private Shaw died of tuberculosis.

Since Private Shaw was discharged from the Army as unfit, he was entitled to the Silver War Badge and certificate. This silver badge, introduced in September 1916 for officers and men discharged from the forces due to sickness or injury caused by war service, was inscribed ‘For King and Empire; Services Rendered’ which caused it to be known colloquially as ”The Services Rendered Badge”. More than a million Silver War Badges were issued for service in the First World War.

Lewthwaite Shaw’s death at the early age of 37 was well covered by the local papers. The Barrow Guardian reported on 2nd August 1919:

DEATH OF MR. L. SHAW.- The death took place on Sunday, at the Military Hospital in Barrow, of Mr. Lewthwaite Shaw, formerly of the King’s Own R.L.R. Deceased joined up in 1914, and went to France in 1915, where he saw much fighting. He was severely wounded in 1916, and was brought to a hospital in Glasgow. He, however, never regained his usual health, and was kept in England, principally working on farms, until he was released early in the new year. He was of a jovial nature, and was the life and soul of his comrades in the trenches – which was much needed during the early days of the war. The funeral took place on Wednesday, in the St. Cuthbert’s Churchyard, Kirkby, and was attended by a large number of relatives and friends. Beautiful wreaths were sent by the Discharged Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Association, the Kirkby Cricket Club, Mother and Step-father, members of the family, and others. The Rev. Canon James (of Worcester), who is in residence at the vicarage during the next six weeks, officiated, and the hymn, “Thy will be done,” was sung in the Church. The bearers were Corpl. W. Shepherd and Messrs. James Sawrey, Arthur Burns, and Edward Rigg (D.S.S.A.), who were in uniform, and the coffin was covered with the Union Jack.

And the Barrow News of the same day recorded:

FUNERAL OF KIRKBY SOLDIER.- The remains of Lewthwaite Shaw, aged 37 years, were interred at St. Cuthbert’s Churchyard on Wednesday last, the service being impressively conducted by the Rev. Canon James. The deceased man joined the 4th King’s Own in 1914, and had seen much active service, his death being the result of shrapnel wounds. His body, the coffin being covered with the Union Jack, was carried to the grave by naval and military men, viz., Privates E. Rigg, J. H. Sawrey, Wm. Shepherd, and J. Burns. Many friends attended to pay a last tribute of respect, including a number of discharged soldiers and sailors, who also sent a most beautiful wreath, also a wreath from Kirkby Cricket Club, of which deceased was a prominent member, and wreaths from other friends. Much sympathy is extended to his mother and family circle.

Private Lewthwaite Shaw had been through a lot in his war: in the 4th Bn KORLR he must have seen action at Festubert, Guillemont, Ginchy and Flers before his wounding caused him to be sent home. It is likely that he served with William Sykes from Kirkby and Bell and Greenhow from the quarry, until they were all killed in June 1915.

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