No. 18748, ‘B’ Company, 13th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles
Killed in action on Monday 14 February 1916 (aged 20)
Mesnil Ridge Cemetery, France (Grave I. 6)
Newtownards and District War Memorial
Ballyblack Presbyterian Church
Family grave headstone in Ballyblack Presbyterian Churchyard
Hugh Shanks was born at 2.35 pm on 6 January 1896 at 74 Sunnyside Row, Wishaw in Scotland and he was the second son of George and Eleanor (Helen) Shanks (nee Smyth, sometimes Smith) who were married on 1 January 1890 in Ballyblack Presbyterian Church. George Shanks was a furnace-man from Motherwell, Glasgow and he was a son of George Shanks, a labourer. Eleanor Smyth from Ballyblack was a daughter of Hugh Smyth, a weaver.
When the Shanks family lived in John Street, Newtownards, George Shanks worked as a carter.
When the Shanks family lived in the townland of Loughries, Newtownards, George Shanks worked as a farmer and he and Eleanor had six children:
Sarah (born around 1891 in Scotland)
George (born 3 July 1893 in John Street, Newtownards)
Hugh (born 6 January 1896 at 74 Sunnyside Row, Wishaw, Scotland)
William (born around 1898/1899 in Scotland)
Margaret (Maggie, born 1902 in Wishaw, Scotland; married John McCammond; died 11 December 1931)
David John (born 10 March 1905 in Loughries)
George was baptised in Ballyblack Presbyterian Church; Margaret and David John were baptised in Greenwell Street Presbyterian Church Newtownards.
Prior to the outbreak of the Great War Hugh Shanks was a member of the Ballyblack contingent of the Ulster Volunteer Force which was connected with the 2nd Battalion of the North Down Regiment. Hugh’s father George was a Section Sergeant in the same UVF Company. Hugh enlisted in Newtownards in September 1914 and served with the 13th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles in 108th Brigade of the 36th (Ulster) Division. In early February, the Division moved into the front-line north of the River Ancre and on 14 February 1916 there was very heavy enemy shelling during the day. Rifleman Hugh Shanks was killed when a German shell exploded close to him in the trenches. At 6.00 pm that evening Colonel WH Savage conducted his funeral.
Rifleman Samuel Robinson (No. 13/18686) from Newtownards was seriously injured in the same explosion and Samuel died at home four years later, on 14 March 1920.
Hugh’s Testament, which he always carried with him, was returned to his family through the Rev Dr Wright, Newtownards. The Testament was perforated in four places and a piece of the shell that killed him was embedded in the book.
After Hugh died, his family placed a notice in the 26 February 1916 edition of the Newtownards Chronicle and it contained the verse:
Short and sudden was the call,
Not thinking death so near;
No words of comfort could he leave
To those he loved so dear
At rest – all battles o’er
The weary marching done
Brave to the last, to his God he passed,
And the victor’s crown has won.
On the Sunday after news of Hugh’s death was received, the members of Ballyblack Presbyterian Church passed a resolution of sympathy to his family.
Hugh’s elder sister Sarah was married to John Reid and they lived in Chicago. Each year after Hugh died they, and other family members, placed Our Heroes – In Memoriam notices in the Newtownards Chronicle. In addition to the family memorial notices there was always one from Driver Edward McBride, who was also on active service.
Such notices in 1917 included the verses:
One year has passed since that sad day,
When one we love was called away;
His memory is as dear today
As at the hour he passed away.
It is not the tears at the moment shed
That tell how beloved is the soul that has fled,
But the tears through many a long night wept,
And the sad remembrance so fondly kept.
One long and dreary year has passed
Since this great sorrow fell;
The shock that we received that day
We still remember well.
His warfare o’er, his battle fought,
His victory won, though dearly bought;
His fresh young life could not be saved,
He slumbers now somewhere in a hero’s grave.
Such notices in 1918 included the verses:
Dear is the place where our loved one is laid,
Dear is his memory that never shall fade;
He lies beside his comrades, beneath a foreign soil,
Where no tears of a mother can on his grave drop;
But his name is written in letters of gold
In the hearts he left behind.
He was too good for this earth,
Too kind to stay;
So the angels came and bore
Our darling Hugh away.
You are not forgotten,
Nor will you ever be;
As long as life and memory last
We will always think of thee.
Duty called and he was there,
To do his bit and take his share;
His heart was good, his spirit brave,
His resting place a soldier’s grave.
Such notices in 1919 included the verses:
Though in the grave he calmly sleeps,
His spirit shines above;
Safe and secure our Saviour keeps
The one we dearly loved.
We shall know his voice in the Lamb’s new song,
His step in the streets of gold,
And the same sweet smile on his loving face
As he wore in the days of old.
Sleep on dear brother, your troubles are over,
Your duty on earth is done,
You fought for Liberty and Honour,
And the prize of Life you won.
It pleased the Lord to take him home,
And in His sight appear.
I often think of days gone by,
When we were all together;
A shadow o’er our life is cast,
A dear friend gone forever.
Rifleman Hugh Shanks (No. 18748) was 20 when he died and he was buried in Mesnil Ridge Cemetery, France.
Rifleman Hugh Shanks (No. 18748 is commemorated on Newtownards and District War Memorial and in Ballyblack Presbyterian Church. He is also commemorated on the family grave headstone in Ballyblack Presbyterian Churchyard:
Erected by Margaret Shanks, in loving memory of her husband George Shanks, who died 5th April 1896, aged 84 years.
Also her daughter, who died 24thFebruary 1913.
Also the above Margaret Shanks, who died 25th January 1915.
Also Hugh, beloved son of George Shanks, killed in action in France, 14thFebruary 1916.
Also Margaret, second and dearly loved daughter of George and Eleanor Shanks and dearly loved wife of John McCammond, who died 11thDecember 1931, aged 28 years.
Also the above named George Shanks, who died 23rdDecember 1939, aged 71 years.
Also his wife Eleanor P Shanks, who died 19thMay 1954, aged 91 years.
Also Hugh Shanks, son of the above Hugh Shanks who died 15th Nov 1966 aged 50 years.