Lance Corporal Joseph Shaw


The background of this North Irish Horseman is not known for certain, other than that he was born in Crumlin, Belfast around 1898. He was probably the Joseph Shaw born on 18 June 1898 at 17 Harrybrook Street, Belfast, the first of two children of commercial clerk Francis Shaw and his wife Mary (née Dougan). By the time of the 1911 Census he was living at the home of dairyman John Caruth at Peter's Hill, Belfast, with his ten year-old sister Deborah Christie (Daisy) Shaw, a man named Joe Shaw who may have been his grandfather, and a Mary Shaw, possibly an aunt. What had happened to his parents is not known at present, but Shaw's enlistment papers give his sister as next-of-kin.

Shaw enlisted in the North Irish Horse at Antrim on 26 January 1915 (No.1425). He stated that he was aged 19 (he was in fact 16), and that he worked as a driver.

On 17 November 1915 he embarked for France with F Squadron, which at the time was serving as divisional cavalry to the 33rd Division. On 19 January the following year he was admonished for being ten minutes late for roll call.

In June 1916 F Squadron combined with C Squadron and the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons Service Squadron to form the 2nd North Irish Horse Regiment, serving as corps cavalry to X Corps until September 1917, when the regiment was disbanded and its men transferred to the infantry. Shaw was one of 70 men given the job of conducting the regiment's horses to Egypt, to be handed over for use by mounted units there. They embarked from Marseilles on board HMT Bohemian on 25 August. After a month at Alexandria they returned to France, via Italy. On 5 October 1917 they arrived at the 36th (Ulster) Division Infantry Base Depot at Harfleur for infantry training, and after just a few days were posted to the 9th (Service) Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers – which had been renamed the 9th (North Irish Horse) Battalion – joining it in the field at Ruyaulcourt on 12 October.

Shaw was issued regimental number 41582. On 15 November he was promoted to lance corporal. He probably saw action with the battalion at the Battle of Cambrai in November and December 1917.

On 28 December 1917 Shaw was one of twenty-four former North Irish Horsemen who transferred from the 9th (NIH) Battalion to the Tank Corps (No.304867). Following training at the Tank Corps Depot at Bovington near Wareham, Dorset, on 3 September 1918 he embarked for France, where he was posted to the 14th Battalion with the rank of gunner, joining it in the field three weeks later.

Operating Mark V and  Mark V* tanks, the 14th Battalion had seen a great deal of action during the Advance to Victory offensive. It fought in one more engagement after Shaw joined – on 4 November at the Battle of the Sambre.

Shaw returned to the UK on 6 February 1919 and a month later (9 March) was demobilised and transferred to Class Z, Army Reserve. He was only twenty years old but had been four year in the army, most of it on active service.