Alfred John Shout was born in Wellington, New Zealand on 7 August 1881. As an eighteen year old during the Boer War, he enlisted in the Border Horse in Cape Colony on 17 February 1900. He was Mentioned in Despatches for recovering a wounded soldier while under heavy fire at Thabaksberg on 29 January 1901. In March he was promoted to sergeant. During his service in South Africa he was wounded in the chest but made a full recovery.
He returned home briefly following his discharge from the Border Horse in May 1901 but returned to South Africa, becoming a sergeant in the Cape Colonial Forces. He married Australian-born Rose Howe in Cape Town in 1905. Their daughter, Florence Agnes Maud, was born soon afterwards.
The Shouts emigrated to Sydney in 1907, where Alfred was employed as a carpenter at Resch's Brewery. He joined 29 Infantry Regiment soon after emigrating and obtained a commission on 16 June 1914. Enlisting with the AIF on 27 August 1914 as a second lieutenant with 1 Battalion, he embarked for the Middle East on 18 October.
Shout was promoted to lieutenant on 1 February 1915 during the training period in Egypt. His battalion landed at Gallipoli on 25 April and Lieutenant Shout immediately displayed the leadership and bravery that came to characterise his service on the peninsula. He and his company managed to advance and assist in holding the left flank of the feature 'Baby 700' throughout the day of 25 April but a determined Turkish advance forced their retirement at 4.30 pm.
The first days on Gallipoli were disastrous for 1 Battalion. Over four days the battalion suffered 366 casualties and were scattered throughout the Australian front. Indicative of the esteem to which Shout was held, even at this early stage in the fighting, is the following account:
'He was the bravest of many brave men that revealed themselves that day', recalled Private Bethel, 'I saw him first on the Tuesday morning after the landing. There were only two officers left, Lieutenants Shout and Harrison, and our position was desperate. The gallantry of both was remarkable, but Lieutenant Shout was a hero. Wounded himself several times, he kept picking up wounded men and carrying them out of the firing line. I saw him carry fully a dozen men away. Then another bullet struck him in the arm, and it fell useless by his side. Still he would not go to the rear.'
Following a month of recuperation on a hospital ship, Shout rejoined his battalion on 26 May. For his actions two days after the landing, Shout was awarded the Military Cross. The recommendation for the award reads:
'On Tuesday, 27th April, on the left flank, Lieut. Shout was most conspicuous in carrying out reconnaissances, organizing men, and leading them under very heavy fire at a very critical stage. In order to direct the fire of his men, Lieut. Shout was compelled to leave cover and locate the enemy, who were firing heavily. He made several trips along the line to confer with Captain Concannon. Later the enemy came so close that a bayonet charge was necessary and when the party emerged from the bush they came under a heavy machine gun and rifle fire. During the whole of the time Lieut. Shout was constantly exposing himself in supervising the line and continued until wounded.'
On 29 July he was promoted to captain. His contribution during the first months of the fighting was further recognised with a Mention in Despatches in early August. A few days later the battalion was thrown into the Battle for Lone Pine. It was during the fighting on 9 August that Shout was mortally wounded in the action for which he was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross.
In the fourteen weeks that Shout was on Gallipoli he attained an almost legendary reputation among his peers. Between 25 April and his death three days after his 33rd birthday, he had won a Victoria Cross and a Military Cross as well as a Mention in Despatches, becoming Australia's most decorated soldier on the peninsula.