The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (1087) Sergeant John Harold Shields, 22nd Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Accession Number AWM2018.1.1.303
Collection type Film
Object type Last Post film
Physical description 16:9
Maker Australian War Memorial
Place made Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Campbell
Date made 30 October 2018
Access Open
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945
Copyright Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
Creative Commons License This item is licensed under CC BY-NC
Copying Provisions Copy provided for personal non-commercial use

The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour is told. Hosted by Craig Barelle, the story for this day was on (1087) Sergeant John Harold Shields, 22nd Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Speech transcript

1087 Sergeant John Harold Shields, 22nd Battalion, AIF
KIA 5 August 1916

Today we remember and pay tribute to Sergeant John Harold Shields.

John Shields was born in 1889, the only son of John and Ellen Shields of Wodonga, Victoria. Little is known of his early life, although he almost certainly grew up in the Albury–Wodonga area where his father ran an auctioneering business. He went on to become a clerk, working for a number of years in the Dalgety and Company offices in nearby Culcairn.

Shields enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in April 1915, becoming the second member of the staff of Dalgety and Co to do so. He underwent a period of training in Australia before leaving for active service overseas with reinforcements to the 22nd Battalion in May 1915. He first went to Egypt to complete his training and was then sent to the Gallipoli Peninsula. He arrived just as the last major allied offensive was dying down at the end of August, and remained there until the evacuation in December.

Private Shields returned to Egypt, where the AIF underwent an extended period of training and reorganisation. Shields – known to his mates as “Bud” – was a committed Christian, and shared a tent with a number of others of a like mind. His mate, Cecil Lane, later recalled “many times in Bud’s tent discussions took place concerning the scriptures”. Lane said that Shields was “an immense tower of strength to his weaker comrades”. Proving to be an able soldier, Shields was promoted to corporal while in Egypt.

In late March 1916 the 22nd Battalion was sent to France to fight on the Western Front. Shortly after arrival, the battalion entered the front line in a quiet sector to gain valuable front-line experience. Their first experience of battle came a few weeks.

On 4 August the 22nd Battalion participated in an operation to capture two strongly held German trenches to the north-east of Pozieres. They succeeded in capturing their objectives in the early hours of the following morning, and began consolidating their new position.

After the battle, Cecil Lane, Bud Shields’ mate, went over to see how he had gone. He was told that Shields, recently promoted to temporary sergeant, was with two other men, one carrying a bag of bombs, when a German shell burst in their midst. They were killed instantly.

Shields had originally been posted as missing after the battle, and his fate took military authorities some months to confirm. In 1927, as the Imperial War Graves Commission was doing its work in recovering remains from the old battlefields, they identified the remains of Sergeant John Shields. He was laid to rest “with every measure of care and reverence” in the Serre Road Cemetery No. 2 on the Somme.

John Shields, the second to enlist, was also the second member of staff of Dalgety and Company to lose their life in the war. The company closed their offices for a day in remembrance, and erected an honour roll with photographs of soldiers who had been killed in action. The local newspaper reported that the photograph of Sergeant Shields “is sufficient to indicate to those who were not acquainted with him the fine type of Australian manhood which he represented”. John Shields was 27 years old.

His name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, among almost 62,000 Australians who died while serving in the First World War.

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Sergeant John Harold Shields, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Meleah Hampton
Historian, Military History Section

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