Major Harold SHAW

Lancashire Fusiliers
1st Battalion
Service Number:
Date of Death:
4 June 1915 - Killed in Action
Cemetery / Memorial:
Memorial Reference:
Panel 58
Egypt Medal
Kings South Africa Medal (2 clasps)

Personal History:

Harold was born in the September quarter 1875, the son of Henry J.P., D.L., and Maria (née Burton) Shaw. In 1881 (Census RG 11/3454) they lived at Corbar Villa, Buxton, and Harold had two older brothers, Arthur Pilkington [see Footnote below] and William Pilkington, and three younger siblings, Dona, Leonard and Mary. In 1891 (Census RG 12/2197) Harold was a Scholar at Repton School, Derby, whilst the rest of the family had moved to 'Whitehall', Fernilee, Buxton (Census RG 12/2781).

By 1911 Harold was already a Captain in the Lancashire Fusiliers and stationed at Wellington Barracks, Bolton Road, Bury, Lancashire. (Census RG 14/23471). He was not married at that time. Probate Records, after his death in 1915, show that Harold left £9858 3s 5d (£9858.15) to his brother Arthur and his wife, Mary Anna, - later resworn to £7932 4s 5d. [These have relative values of £689,300 and £554,600 respectively today - 2014.]

Military History:
Harold received a Commission in the Lancashire Fusiliers in 1896 and was Gazetted Captain in 1900 and Major in May 1915. He served in India, Egypt (Egyptian Medal with clasp), Gibraltar, Malta, Crete, South Africa Kings South Africa Medal (2 clasps). He was present at Omdurman, Tugela River and Relief of Ladysmith. He was a good sportsman, with polo being his best event.

In August 1914 Harold was with the Battalion in Karachi. They were ordered to return to England, landing on 2nd January 1915 and moved to Nuneaton where they were attached to 86th Brigade, 29th Division. On the 16th March 1915 they sailed from Avonmouth on board the Alaunia for Egypt, arriving on the16th. Battalion strength was 26 Officers and 932 other ranks.

The War Diary for early April records exercises involving landing from ships and unloading of ammunition and stores. Harry and the Battalion sailed on board the Caledonia for Lemnos on the 8th April, and arrived at Mudros two days later. Then on to Tenedos arriving on the 24th. They then transhipped from Caledonia to Euryalus and Implacable ("D" Company) and on to Gallipoli, arriving on the 25th April 1915.

At dawn on 25 April the 1st Battalion, The Lancashire Fusiliers, part of the British 29th Division landed
on "W Beach", to the west of Cape Helles the southernmost tip of the Gallipoli Peninsula [see Map
right]. The Turks waited until the Fusiliers were almost ashore then opened fire. The men transferred
to boats (six per company) and moved off towards "W" Beach, Helles. They came under fire and all
but two boats had to be abandoned. Captain Harold Robert Clayton (later killed in action on the 28th
June) wrote about the landing in a letter:

"They let us off a lot, thank God, as they did not fire until the boats began to ground, and the rifles
and machine guns poured into us as we got out of the boats and made for the sandy shore.
There was tremendously strong barbed wire where my boat landed."

As the Battalion landed they found that their rifles were out of action from water and sand so it became impossible to return fire. Captain Clayton attempted to cut the wire, which he noted was "by now a thick mass of men, the majority of whom never moved again."
Harold also wrote of the landing:
"As soon as I felt the boat touch, I dashed over the side into three feet of water and rushed for the barbed wire entanglement on the beach; it must have been only three feet high or so, and three bays, because I got over it amidst a perfect storm of lead and made for cover, sand dunes on the other side, and made for cover."

Despite heavy losses the Fusiliers kept a toehold on the beach and eventually advanced up both sides of the cliff driving the defending Turks out of their trenches. The men moved forward through the enemy wire, "C" Company advancing on Hill 114; "D" Company landed below Hill 114 and soon cleared the enemy from the top; "A" and "B" Companies attacked and captured trenches and redoubt on Hill 138.  Later that morning other units were diverted to "W" Beach to reinforce the troops who were advancing on their inland objectives.

The gallantry of 1st Lancashire Fusiliers during its storming of "W" Beach was recognised by General Sir lan Hamilton in his official despatch of 20th May 1915:

"The landing at W had been entrusted to the 1st Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers (Major Bishop) and it was to the complete lack of the senses of danger or of fear of this daring battalion that we owed our astonishing success .. . the Fusiliers literally hurled themselves ashore and, fired at from right, left and centre, commenced hacking their way through the wire. A long line of men was at once mown down as by the scythe, but the remainder were not to be denied."

Six Victoria Crosses were eventually awarded for this action and W Beach was renamed Lancashire Landing in honour of the Battalion that had captured it. Five of the VC winners have no known grave and are commemorated on the Helles Memorial. (See: Footnote below) After roll call the Battalion strength was returned as 11 officers and 399 other ranks. [The CWGC records show 169 Officers and men killed in action on the 25th April 1915 - all but 4 have no known grave and are commemorated on the Helles Memorial.]

The Battalion was not done yet for April, However, for on the 28th the First Battle of Krithia began and the advanced to take Fir Tree Wood with little loss.

Harold wrote describing the "W" beach landing in a letter dated 25 April 1915:
"On the right of me on the cliff was a line of Turks in a trench taking pot shots at us, ditto on the left. I looked back. There was one soldier between me and the wire, and a whole line in a row on the edge of the sands. The sea behind them was absolutely crimson, and you could hear the groans through the rattle of musketry. A few were firing. I signalled to them to advance. I shouted to the soldier behind to signal, but he shouted back, "I am shot through the chest." I then perceived they were all hit. I took a rifle from one of the men with me and started in at the men on the cliff on my right, but could only fire slowly, as I had to get the bolt open with my foot - it was clogged with sand. About this time Maunsell [Captain Thomas Bowyer-Lane Maunsell] was shot dead next to me. Our men now began to scale the cliffs from the boats on the outer flanks, and I need only add it was a capital sight. They carried the trenches at the top at the point of the bayonet; there was some desperate work up there."
... quoted in Rev. O. Creighton, With the Twenty Ninth Division in Gallipoli: A Chaplain's Experiences, pp. 62-63.

Harold's description was part of a letter written to his brother a few days after the landing and six weeks before his death. His letter went on: "I hate even thinking about the scene of carnage, but, to oblige you, I will unburden myself for the last time whilst I have the chance."

During May 1915 the Battalion moved back to second line positions at Pink House on the 4th, with a strength of 250 all ranks. The following day they moved into front line trenches between the East Krithia road and Krithia Nullah, in preparation for the Second Battle of Krithia. They attacked at 11.00 a.m. on the 6th reaching a position east of Fire Tree Wood. They later retired to support line before resuming positions on "Y" Beach on the13th May, then back into front line at Gurkha Bluff on the 19th.

After briefly being relieved and retiring to "Y" Beach on the 27th May, Harold's Battalion moved back to Gurkha Bluff on the 1st June. The Third Battle of Krithia began on the 4th June with a British bombardment which was recorded as falling short and causing high casualties, including their machine gun section which was put out of action. "A" and "B" Companies attacked in the centre on Gully Spur at 12.00 (noon) with heavy casualties from rifle and machine gun fire. Most men were hit while climbing the parapet and few got forward not more than a few yards. "D" and "B" Companies followed and were also swept by fire. The casualties for this Battle were 14 Officers and 500 other ranks. Major Harold Shaw was one of those killed in action on the 4th June.

The 'Buxton Advertiser', 15th October 1915, reported that after his death his former Commanding Officer wrote to his brother:
"i always looked upon your brother as the best Officer in the Regiment, a fine disciplinarian, an interesting and thorough instructor. He served in my company in the 2nd Battalion and at Khartoum, and at the Tugela (Colenso) fighting, he always exposed himself, regardless of the risks."

His current C.O. added:
"As regards his bravery, he led the Company he had trained so well, through all the hard fighting from the landing on 4th June. Never flurried in action, always resourceful, to him belonged in no small measure the name the Battalion earned in the early fighting ... When killed he was walking about wounded under ghastly fire by the Turkish trenches, encouraging the remnants of his Company."

Another Officer wrote, and also included specific details of Harold's service in Gallipoli:
"I was wounded in the same charge that your brother was in, two of our Companies being attached to the 1st Lancashire Fusiliers. Your brother was the first person to jump out of our trenches and call our men out to the attack. Not being able to get through the barbed wire we were forced to lie down and wait for it to be cut. The next thing I remember is seeing your brother stand up and shoot at somebody in the Turkish trench. I saw him fall down and at almost the same time was wounded myself .. I expect you know that your brother was wounded in the landing, but not wanting to leave the Battalion, managed to stick it."

Major Harold Shaw was one of 216 Officers and men of his Battalion killed on the 4th June 1915, and like 180 of his comrades he has no known grave and is commemorated on the HELLES MEMORIAL.


Footnote 1:
· Arthur Pilkington Shaw was the father of Sub-Lieutenant Henry Staveley Pilkington SHAW, R.N. - killed in action on board H.M.S. Opal,
   on 20 January 1918. i.e. Harry was Henry's uncle.

Footnote 2:
The panels on the Helles Memorial are made from Hopton Wood Stone, quarried in the Peak district in Derbyshire. It is a stone chosen for its purity and hardness and favoured by architects and stone masons for centuries. Some of Britain's most famous buildings used Hopton Wood stone. It was chosen by the IWGC (now CWGC) as one of the primary sources of stone for its panels, memorials and headstones, and shipped tens of thousands of tons of stones all over the world in the aftermath of WWI for the cemeteries, including Gallipoli.

The following members of the Battalion were awarded the Victoria Cross - Captain (later Major) Cuthbert Bromley (k.i.a. 13 August 1915),


· 'The Buxton Advertiser' - 15th October 1915
· I am grateful to Keith Edmonds for the photo of Major Shaw's name on the Helles Memorial
· "With the Twenty Ninth Division in Gallipoli" Rev. O. Creighton (Naval and Military Press) ISBN: 9781845740924
· "British Regiments at Gallipoli" - Ray Westlake [ISBN 085052511X] p. 52-3
· "Gallipoli" - Peter Hart (Oxford University Press, USA, 3 Oct 2011) [ISBN 0199836868] p. 134
· IWM Photography Section - Cat. No. HU 126388

Link to CWGC Record
The British Memorial at Helles
King's South Africa medal
Egypt Medal
Major Shaw's name on the Helles Memorial
At the time this photo was taken The Helles Memorial was about to undergo restoration work
the War Diary for the 1st Battalion - April 1915
about these awards
Harold's Death Plaque and Commemorative Scroll were sold at Auction in November 2007