Sergeant (Air Gunner)
No. 1795770, 192 Squadron, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Killed on active service on Thursday 25 May 1944 (aged 21)
Heverlee War Cemetery, Leuven, Vlaams-Brabant, Belgium (Grave 5. C. 5)
Comber and District War Memorial
Second Comber Presbyterian Church
Family grave headstone in Comber Cemetery
James Shields was a son of Alexander (Sandy) and Bridget (Bridie) Shields (nee Flanagan, sometimes Flannigan) of Cullintra, Comber. Alexander Shields worked as a labourer and he and Bridie Flanagan were married on 29 November 1916 in Ballymacarrett Church of Ireland Church (St. Patrick’s), Belfast. Alexander Shields (aged 31) from Dee Street, Belfast was a son of James Shields, a labourer. Bridget Flanagan (aged 21) from Dee Street, Belfast was a daughter of John Flanagan, a farmer.
Sandy and Bridie Shields (nee Flanagan) had at least six children including:
Mary Agnes (born 7 June 1918 in Ballydrain, Comber)
Alexander (Alec, born 15 October 1920 in Ballydrain, Comber)
During the Second World War, Alec Shields served in the Royal Air Force as a Flight Mechanic.
Mary Shields married William Munn and they lived at Castle Espie, Comber.
James Shields was educated at Ballydrain Public Elementary School and after leaving school he worked for Messrs Short and Harland in Belfast.
In 1942 James Shields joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve and he was reported missing in May 1944. He was one of a crew of nine aboard a Handley Page Halifax Mark III aircraft (MZ501) which flew out of RAF Foulsham in Norfolk and crashed at 11.44 pm in Limburg, Netherlands. Only Flying Officer D.B. Gaunt survived the crash and he was taken Prisoner-of-War. Sergeant James Shields (aged 21) was killed and the other seven men who died that night were:
- Pilot Officer Philip Hicken (aged 29) from Langwith, Nottinghamshire
- Flying Officer John Daniel Hurley (aged 22) from London
- Sergeant Philip John Jeffs
- Flight Sergeant Arthur Clarence MacGillivray (aged 22) Royal Canadian Air Force
- Sergeant Ronald Rook (aged 21) from Sheffield
- Pilot Officer Eugene Preston Sabine (aged 26) Royal Canadian Air Force
- Sergeant Claire Douglas Stroud (aged 22) Royal Canadian Air Force
They were all buried south of Limburg at Sint-Truiden (St. Tront) where there was a major Luftwaffe air base and later reinterred in Heverlee War Cemetery.
In November 1944 it was officially confirmed that Sergeant (Air Gunner) James Shields must be presumed to have been killed, and his father, mother, brothers, and sisters placed a Killed on Active Service notice in the 18 November 1944 edition of the County Down Spectator. It contained the verse:
Manly and brave
His young life he gave
Sergeant James Shields (No. 1795770) is commemorated on Comber and District War Memorial; in Second Comber Presbyterian Church and on the family grave headstone in Comber Cemetery.
His father Sandy died on 11 September 1965; his brother Alec died on 18 May 1987 and his mother Bridie died on 20 October 1989.