No. 329143, 7th Battalion, Black Watch (Royal Highlanders)
Killed in action on Thursday 8 February 1945 (aged 34)
Jonkerbos War Cemetery, Gelderland, Netherlands (Grave 14. G. 3)
The death of Lieutenant Owen Shanks MM was reported in the 24 February 1945 edition of the County Down Spectator under the headline Bangor Officer Killed. His mother was living at 73 Clandeboye Road, Bangor, and his wife was living in Edinburgh.
Owen Shanks was born on 5 November 1910 at 57 McTier Street, Belfast and he was a son of Joseph and Mary Ann Shanks (nee Hamilton) who were married on 3 April 1899 in Trinity Church of Ireland Church, Belfast. Joseph Shanks, a labourer from Belfast was a son of William Shanks, a labourer. Mary Ann Hamilton from Belfast was a daughter of John Hamilton, a labourer.
Joseph Shanks served in both the South African and First World Wars. Joseph and Mary Ann Shanks had at least ten children:
Jeanie (born 8 July 1898 at 13 Forster Street, Belfast)
Martha (born 20 September 1900 at 30 Montrose Street, Belfast)
William John (born 23 January 1903 at 35 Urney Street, Belfast)
Elizabeth (born 28 January 1905 at 48 Malcolm Lane, Belfast)
James Cowan (born 18 May 1906 at 54 Kenbaan Street, Belfast)
Mary Ann (born 18 June 1908 at 85 Saunders Street, Belfast)
Owen (born 5 November 1910 at 57 McTier Street, Belfast)
Letitia (born 22 December 1912 at 20 Convention Street, Belfast)
George (born 14 February 1915 at 50 Saunders Street, Belfast while his father was in the Army)
Margaret (born 15 September 1918 at 74 Saunders Street, Belfast)
Owen’s sister Martha died on 15 September 1923 (aged 23), his father Joseph died on 6 December 1933 (aged 64) and his mother Mary Ann died on 10 April 1954 (aged 76). They were buried in Dundonald Cemetery (Grave E2. 94).
Owen Shanks joined the Army on 17 September 1927 and during the Second World War he served with the 7th Battalion Black Watch. His marriage to Grace Darling Clazie, who was a daughter of Henry Clazie, was registered in 1943 in Lasswade, Midlothian, Scotland.
Acting Company Sergeant Major Owen Shanks made his will on 9 May 1944 and in it he named his mother Mary Ann, then living at 73 Clandeboye Road, Bangor, as his Executor. He left his estate to his wife Darling who was then living at Hillview, Edgefield Road, Loanhead, Midlothian.
The 7th Battalion Black Watch landed in Normandy in early June 1944 and was heavily involved in the actions leading to the breakout from Caen and the Falaise Gap. Later that year the Battalion took part in the heavy fighting in the low-lying country astride the River Maas in Holland. On 24 July 1944 Sergeant Owen Shanks was granted an Immediate Emergency Commission from the ranks as Second Lieutenant and later he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant. He was awarded the Military Medal and the announcement was made in the 19 October 1944 Supplement to the London Gazette. In the bitter weather of January 1945, the 7th Battalion was employed in operations to stem the last German offensive into the Ardennes, and after that, the Battalion fought on the Dutch-German border in the Battle of Reichswald Forest which commenced on 8 February 1945.
Lieutenant Owen Shanks MM (No. 329143) was killed in action on 8 February 1945 and was buried in Jonkerbos War Cemetery. There is an inscription on his CWGC headstone:
UNTIL THE DAY BREAK
His widow, Darling Shanks, died in 2000.