Shields, William John
No. 3129613, 1st Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers
Killed in action on Saturday 18 April 1942 (aged 27)
No known grave
Rangoon Memorial, Myanmar (Face 11)
Newtownards and District War Memorial
Newtownards Parish Church of Ireland Church (St. Mark’s)
Family grave headstone in Movilla Cemetery Newtownards
Cousin of Gunner William McBlain (No. 1472262)
William John Shields was born on 24 December 1914 in Church Terrace, Newtownards and he was the elder son of William John and Jane Shields (nee Hyles) who were married on 11 July 1914 in Newtownards Registrar’s Office. William John Shields, a labourer from 42 Movilla Street, Newtownards was a son of William Shields, a labourer. Jane Hyles, from 42 Movilla Street, Newtownards was a daughter of John Hyles, a labourer.
Later the Shields family lived at 12 Georges Street, Newtownards.
During the First World War William John Shields Senior served with the 2nd Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles and he was held as a Prisoner-of-War in Germany for four years.
William John Shields Junior was a member of Greenwell Street LOL No. 1948 in Newtownards.
During the Second World War William John Shields Junior served with the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (and before that, according to Press reports, the Royal Air Force) and in the 17 October 1942 edition of the Newtownards Chronicle it was reported that he was missing in action. Then, in the 8 September 1945 edition of the same newspaper, it was reported that he was still missing. The report indicated that he had 13 years of service to his credit and that he had served in India, China, and Burma. His younger, brother Stewart Shields, was serving with the Royal Irish Fusiliers in Burma.
In the 2 March 1946 edition of the Newtownards Chronicle under the headline Ards Soldier’s Death Presumed After Four Years it was reported that Fusilier William John Shields must be presumed to have been killed in action. This report indicated that on the night of 18/19 April 1942 the 1st Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers was engaged in fierce fighting in Burma and when roll was called many men, including Fusilier Shields, were missing. Since then, there had been no news of his fate and now, some four years later, he must be presumed to be dead.
Family members placed Killed on Active Service notices in the same edition of that newspaper and then Our Heroes – In Memoriam notices in the 20 April edition. These included one from his sister Lizzie and brother-in-law Sandy Smyth and their children Bill and Jean Smyth of 5 Zion Place, Newtownards. These family notices included the verses:
Come to My Heavenly Garden,
And see in perfect bloom,
The flower you loved so dearly,
And thought I plucked too soon,
Then you will know the reason
Though you will not know it today,
Why in his early manhood
I took your boy away.
Why should we weep when a darling one rests,
In the bosom of Jesus supreme;
In the mansions of glory prepared for the blest,
For death is no more than a dream.
Then why should our tears run down,
And our hearts be sorely riven;
For another Gem in the Saviour’s crown,
And another soul in Heaven.
Fusilier William John Shields (No. 3129613) is commemorated on the Rangoon Memorial; on Newtownards and District War Memorial; in Newtownards Parish Church of Ireland Church (St. Mark’s) and on the family grave headstone in Movilla Cemetery.
His father, William John Shields Senoir, died on 26 August 1955 (aged 66) and his sister Margaret died on 10 November 1979.
Fusilier William John Shields’s cousin, Gunner William McBlain (No. 1472262), was killed in action on 11 September 1943.