John Shaw (1874-1917)

This page is part of a project by David Verguson to research the lives of those who appear on war memorials and rolls of honour in the Lindley area.

According to research by David Verguson, John Shaw also used the alias Joe Radcliffe.


Joe Radcliffe, who is remembered on the Zion Chapel memorial, has proved impossible to track down with certainty. Margaret Stansfield, in her exceptional work of research, Huddersfield's Roll of Honour 1914-1922, says only this:

Born Thornton Lodge 3.1.1874. Educated Oakes Council School. Employed as a plumber. Married. Enlisted at the outbreak of war. Killed in action, 6.6.1917 ... ROH Lindley Zion Wesleyan Chapel.

Interestingly, no Service Number or regiment is given. Nor are the names of Joe's parents or wife recorded. Presumably none of this was included in the information returned to the Borough authorities when the Roll was being prepared, or included in the Examiner report of his death.

Joe's Medal Roll Index Card and the Medal and Award Rolls give the same date of death as Ms Stansfield and show that he served in theRoyal Garrison Artillery, 16th Heavy Battery and give the Service Number of 43243.

On searching the Commonwealth War Graves Commission records, it is apparent that no Gunner Joe Radcliffe died on the day given in the medal records. However, returning to the C.W.G.C. records and searching under the Date of Death shows that Corporal J. Shaw, with the same number as Joe Radcliffe, serving in the same unit and dying on the same day, was buried at the Westhof Farm Cemetery, in Belgium.

J. Shaw has no Medal Roll Index Card, which is most unusual. Margaret Stansfield identifies this John Shaw as living in Huddersfield — with Joe Radcliffe's Service Number and unit and dying on the day other records show Joe Radcliffe died. She offers as little information on John Shaw as she does on Joe Radcliffe. She gives no local Roll of Honour or memorial.

It has been possible to find Joe's baptism: 1 March 1874 at the St. Thomas's church, with father David, a farmer, and mother Jane living in Thornton Lodge.

It has also been possible to find Joe Radcliffe in the 1901 census: he was living as a boarded with Joe Pilling, a cloth finisher and Socialist Party member, and his wife Mary, a couple about the same age as him, in a three roomed house on Quarmby Road. He worked as a plumber. He gave his age as 27.

In the house next door lived James Dyson — another Socialist — and his wife Sarah and their family, including Sarah's brother Allen Lawton. The Dyson's had been at the same address since at least 1891. At that time 1891, Mrs Dyson's widowed mother Sarah Lawton, lived with them, along with her family of three grown children — including sixteen-year-old Annie who worked as a weaver. The four-roomed house must have been very crowded indeed.

The Lawton family's stay with the Dawson's must have over-lapped with the Pilling's moving into the house next-door and taking twenty-seven-year-old Joe Radcliffe in as a lodger. And this must be how Joe met Annie, who was of a similar age.

Joe Radcliffe and Annie Lawton married at Holy Trinity Church on Trinity Street, on 9 April 1906. Annie gave her address as Cross Lane, Marsh. Joe still lived in Quarmby. Both could sign their names. James Dyson, Annie's sister's husband, was one of the witnesses.

In the register, Joe gives his father's name as David and that he had been a farmer and was by then, like Ann's father Richard, deceased.

It is here that we lose track of Joe. He has proved impossible to find on the 1911 Census. Annie may be the Annie Radcliffe, aged 36, married and working as a weaver, who has had no children and lives in three rooms at 67 Church Street, Paddock. No one else is recorded at the address and the details match what we know about Joe's wife. He may have been elsewhere on the night of the census.

Joe's inclusion on the Roll of Honour of the Zion Chapel on Lidget Street suggests he was a member of the congregation or had been a pupil at the Sunday School. Stansfield says he attended Oakes Council School.

Stansfield also says Joe enlisted at the outbreak of war. His Medal Roll Index Card says he arrived in France on 9 July 1915, almost exactly two years before he was killed.

The Register of Soldiers' Effects[1] is only recently available (autumn 2015). This gives details for John Shaw and says he had an alias, Joe Radcliffe. It names his widow, Annie, as the sole beneficiary. The value of the bonus suggests a relatively long period of service.

It seems, without doubt, that Joe Radcliffe and John Shaw are the same man.

The list of Soldiers who Died in the Great War — on which Joe Radcliffe is not listed — says that John Shaw was born in Sowood and enlisted in Warrington. Why someone should go as far as Warrington to join the army when there are local centres is curious. It has not been possible to find John Shaw in any other records.

The Westhof Farm Cemetery where J Shaw is buried lies 13.5 kms south of Ypres and contains memorials to 132 Commonwealth soldiers and the graves of five German soldiers.

Joe Radcliffe is remembered only on the Zion Chapel Memorial and this and his church marriage entry suggests that Radcliffe was his real name. John Shaw on the other hand, has no local memorial.

Widowed, Annie must have sort work: on 1 April 1920 she married Alfred Dyson — a wire drawer, probably at Sykes's — at the High Street Chapel in Huddersfield, and described herself as a "house keeper". One of the witnesses on this occasion was Mabeth Dyson, her niece, whose house she and her family had shared over twenty years earlier.

Huddersfield's Roll of Honour: 1914-1922

The following extract is from Huddersfield's Roll of Honour: 1914-1922 (2014) by J. Margaret Stansfield:

SHAW, JOHN. Corporal. No 43243. 16th Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery. Born Sowood near Halifax. Lived Huddersfield. Killed in action, 6.6.1917. Buried WESTHOF FARM CEMETERY, BELGIUM. Grave location:- Plot 1, Row B, Grave 6.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission


Notes and References

  1. Which deals not with personal belongings of those killed but with the distribution of monies due — e.g. war bonus payments — to next of kin.