b. 11/01/1897 Royston, Barnsley, Yorkshire. d. 23/10/1966 Royston, Barnsley, Yorkshire.
Albert Edward Shepherd was born in Royston, Near Barnsley in Yorkshire on the 11th January 1897, the son of Noah and Laura Shepherd. Noah Shepherd was originally from Shropshire and a miner by trade, who moved to South Yorkshire to find work in the coal fields ending up at Royston where he met Laura Darwin who was from Hoyland Common. The couple married in 1896 and went on to have 6 children born between 1897 and 1908 in and around Royston. Shepherd attended Royston West Riding School, leaving school aged around 14 or 15 and following his father down the mines at New Monckton Colliery, where he was a pony driver. Laura Shepherd had passed away on the 7th November 1911, leaving Noah, a widower to bring up his children in Royston.
He enlisted in the Army aged just 17, on the day war broke out and joined one of the Kitchener battalions, the 12th (Service) Battalion King’s Royal Rifle Corps and landed at Boulogne on the 21st July 1915. He was promoted to the rank of Lance Corporal on the 28th August 1916, and became Acting Corporal one month later on the 28th September 1916. Shepherd took part in the fighting on The Somme in 1916 and later in the Passchendaele campaign of 1917. At some point he was seriously wounded in the arm and was gassed on two separate occasions and later qualified for a Silver War Badge and an Army Pension.
Prior to the war, Shepherd had been an avid amateur boxer and runner and his running served him in good stead as it was while a company runner that he was awarded the VC.
On the 20th November 1917 at Villers Plouich, when his company was held up by a machine gun at point-blank range, Private Shepherd volunteered to rush the gun and although ordered not to, ran forward and threw a Mills bomb killing two gunners and capturing the gun. The company, continuing its advance, came under heavy fire again, this time firing across the line of advance. When the last officer and NCO had become casualties, Private Shepherd took command of the company, ordered the men to lie down. He then went back some 70 yards to get the help of a tank which was used to give cover to their advance.
After the details of his heroics were published in the London Gazette of the 13th February 1918, Shepherd returned home prior to the presentation of the medal which was due on the 9th March. He had sent a message ahead beforehand asking his father to try and keep news of his return quiet but the news had already got out and he was met at the railway station by a large crowd of well-wishers. The village was decorated with flags and bunting and the Royston Subscription Band led the procession from the train station to the Palace Picture House, where Shepherd was met by the Chairman of the council, the local Vicar and several other dignitaries who presented him with a gold watch and chain and the Primitive Methodist Chapel gave him a bible.
The following day, Barnsley gave the ex-miner an official welcome and Shepherd was carried on the shoulders of a relay of admirers the four miles from Royston to Barnsley. Again the procession was led by the local brass band and finished in Peel Square, where Shepherd was met by the Deputy Mayor on the steps of the Chronicle Building where there were speeches from his former employers, the Army and the local Council. Shepherd was then presented to the large crowds in the square from a window on the upper floor of the building before being carried shoulder high again, through the crowded street.
He was promoted to Lance Corporal on the 28th August 1918 and then to Corporal a month later, and finished his service with the Army on the 2nd January 1919, when he was discharged and he returned home to Royston. He went back to the colliery as a caretaker and on the 17th February 1919, he married Miss Rosezillah Tillman. In early 1920 he heard that he had been awarded the French Medaille Militaire, followed a few months later in January 1921, with the news that he had also been awarded the Croix de Guerre.
In June of 1920 he attended the VC Garden Party at Buckingham Palace where recipients of the VC assembled at Wellington Barracks and marched to the Palace via Birdcage Walk, where they were inspected and presented to the King and Queen. Unfortunately Shepherd’s personal life suffered tragedy when Rosezillah Shepherd died in September 1925, but just over a year later on the 6th November 1926, he married for the second time, this time to Gladys Maud Lees, and had by now joined the Corps of Commissionaires. Nine years after attending the VC Garden Party he was a guest at the Prince of Wales’ House of Lords’ dinner on 9th November 1929.
Shepherd retired in 1945 and the following year attended the Victory Parade in London and VC dinner at the Dorchester on the evening. He was a regular attendee at VC & GC Association functions, one of which was the Hyde Park VC Centenary Review in June 1956 and the review of the Corps of Commissionaires in May three years later.
Shepherd passed away at his home in Oakwood Crescent, Royston on the 2nd October 1966, aged 69, and was given a full military funeral at St John the Baptist Church, Royston. The Union Flag was draped across his coffin with the VC and Croix de Guerre medals being laid on top. His cortege as it made its way into the church was given a guard of honour by the Army and members of the Royal British Legion and The Last Post and Reveille were played at his graveside by a Corporal from the Royal Greenjackets.
In 1968 his second wife, Gladys presented his Victoria Cross, 1914 – 15 Star, British War Medal ( 1914-20 ), Victory Medal ( 1914-19 ), King George VI Coronation Medal ( 1937 ), Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal ( 1953 ), Croix de Guerre ( France ) and Medaille Militaire ( France ) to the Royal Greenjackets at Winchester, where they are still held.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: ROYAL GREEN JACKETS MUSEUM, WINCHESTER, HAMPSHIRE
BURIAL PLACE: ROYSTON CEMETERY, ROYSTON, BARNSLEY, YORKSHIRE.
Albert Shepherd's medals including his VC on display at the Royal Green Jackets Museum, Winchester, Hampshire.
(Picture - Thomas Stewart).
Royston War Memorial, Barnsley
Courtesy of Paul Reed