Sheppard, John Meharry (No. 18/70)

Sheppard, John Meharry (John) (served as Shepherd, John)

Rifleman

No. 18/70, 13th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles, then

11th/13th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles, then

22nd Entrenching Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles

Died of wounds on Friday 29 March 1918 (aged 21)

No known grave

Commemorated:

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Pozieres Memorial, France (Panel 74 to 76)

Newtownards and District War Memorial

Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) Roll of Honour 1914 – 1919 for

Greenwell Street Presbyterian Church Newtownards

BIOGRAPHY

In some records his surname is spelt Shepherd (CWGC Debt of Honour) and in others Shepperd (Church Memorial).

John Meharry Sheppard was born in Newtownards and he was a son of Robert and Jane Sheppard (nee Meharry, sometimes McHarry) who were married on 6 April 1885 in St Anne’s Church of Ireland Church Belfast.  Robert Sheppard (aged 23) from Anne Street, Newtownards was a son of Robert Sheppard, a farmer.  Jane Meharry (aged 23) from Donegall Street, Belfast was a daughter of John Meharry, a labourer.

The Sheppard family lived at 52 Wallace’s Street No. 2, Newtownards.

Robert Sheppard worked as a bleacher (bleach-works labourer) and he and Jane had eight children including:

William (born around 1885/1886)

Margaret (Maggie, born around 1886/1887; married Hugh McMillan 22 February 1916 in Ballyblack Presbyterian Church)

Robert (born around 1888/1889)

Susan(ne) (born around 1893/1894)

John Meharry (born around 1896/1897)

James Hutchinson (born 28 April 1900 in Wallace’s Street, Newtownards)

James was baptised in Greenwell Street Presbyterian Church Newtownards.

Prior to the outbreak of the Great War John Sheppard worked as a shoe-maker.  He enlisted in Belfast and on 15 May 1915 he joined the 18th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles.  He was transferred to the 13th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles (1st County Down Volunteers) and went to the Front on 8 December 1915.  He served in 108th Brigade of the 36th (Ulster) Division.

Rifleman John Sheppard was granted a ten-day period of home leave in August 1917 and in November 1917 the 11th and 13th Battalions Royal Irish Rifles were amalgamated.  When they were disbanded in February 1918 John was posted to the 22nd Entrenching Battalion.

Rifleman John Sheppard (No. 18/70) died of wounds on 29 March 1918 and about a month later the circumstances surrounding his death emerged when John’s father received a communication from Mrs A.E. Mygind who was Honorary Secretary of the Copenhagen Bureau of the British Red Cross Society in Denmark.  John had been fatally wounded in action and as he lay dying he was found by a group of German soldiers.  His last thoughts were of home.

Dated 30 April 1918, the letter from Mrs Mygind said:

‘We have today received from the German Red Cross in Frankfurt the enclosed letter, to be forwarded to you at the request of a dying English soldier found by the Germans on the high road near Peronne.  It was his last wish that his letter and photograph should be forwarded to you.  We sincerely hope that these may be of some comfort to you in your grief.’

When John Sheppard died, two of his brothers were on active service and his parents placed a For King and Country notice in the Newtownards Chronicle.  So too did his sister Maggie and her husband Hugh McMillan who lived at 54 Wallace’s Street, Newtownards.  The notice placed by his parents contained the verse:

His cheery, sunny countenance shall ne’r from memory fade,

Nor yet will ever we forget the sacrifice he made.

And when we sit and mourn for him we seem to hear him say,

Keep up your hearts, we’ll meet again, on that eternal day.

The notice placed by Maggie and Hugh contained the verse:

We did not clasp your hand, Dear John.

Your face we did not see.

We were not there to say good-bye;

But we’ll remember thee.

The notice placed by his parents in March 1919 contained the verse:

They say he sleeps somewhere in France,

Bot oh! How hard to take it in;

But God knows all about our dear one,

So we will hope and trust in Him.

Do not ask us if we miss him –

There is such a vacant place,

Can we e’er forget his footsteps

Or his dear familiar face?

The notice placed by Maggie and Hugh in March 1919 contained the verse:

Years may pass, dear brother,

But your face will never fade,

For we love you still as dearly

Though you’re in an unknown grave.

Rifleman John Meharry Sheppard (No. 18/70) has no known grave and he is commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial in France; on Newtownards and District War Memorial and in the PCI Roll of Honour for Greenwell Street Presbyterian Church Newtownards.