Private, 1/5th Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment
Military Service Numbers 1446, and 203453 from March 1917
Born June 1896 in Scarborough, North Yorkshire
Killed in Action 9 October 1917 at Poelcappele, during the Third Battle of Ypres
Remembered with Honour on the Tyne Cot Memorial
Edward Shepherd was born in Scarborough in the parish of St Martin’s Church, in June 1896. His parents, Fred and Mary, had 5 sons and 3 daughters, and Edward was the eldest son. Fred was a Coachman and in 1911 the family were living at Low Hall Cottages, Scalby, at the entrance to Low Hall, the home built by John W Rowntree of the well-known Quaker family of York chocolate makers and social reformers. There are stables next to Low Hall Cottages and it is likely that Fred Shepherd was Coachman to the Rowntree family.
The 1911 Census describes Edward as a gardener. His military records have survived, though are among the ‘burnt records’ which were badly damaged during the Blitz in the Second World War. They reveal Edward joined the Territorial Army in Scarborough when he was 17 years old, on 9 April 1913. He was only 5ft 3½ inches tall with a 34 inch chest. Edward originally joined 4th Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment. Along with all other men in Territorial units he was embodied for active service on 5 August 1914 and he transferred to 2/5 Battalion Yorkshire Regiment. On 1st May while at Gainsborough in Lincolnshire Edward was reported for the offence of being “Unshaven on Parade” by a Sgt. Bowden and awarded the punishment of 3 days C.B. (Confined to Barracks) where he would have had to spend his time doing ‘fatigues’: a series of inspections and tedious, menial tasks.
Edward sailed on the ‘Golden Eagle’ from Folkestone to Boulogne on 7 July 1916. He was posted to 4th Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment and attached to 148th (3rd West Riding Brigade) Trench Mortar Battery from 18 August 1916. He would have taken part in the fighting on The Somme. In January 1917 he had an inflammatory injury to his hand which was eventually treated at hospital in Etaples but he was back with the Trench Mortar Battery on 28 March. Edward received a shrapnel wound to his upper arm in early May and from 21 May – 6 July 1917 he was in hospital in the UK, travelling there on the Hospital Ship St Denis. He was then at a convalescent hospital in Eastbourne until 14 August but returned to the front via the 34th Infantry Base Depot at Etaples on 12 September and was posted to 1/5th Battalion York and Lancs. All Territorial soldiers received new six digit service numbers from February 1917: Edward’s was 203453 On 28th September he rejoined 148th Brigade, 49th Division, and was killed in action during what has become known as the Battle of Poelcapelle: one of the eight battles comprising the Third Battle of Ypres. This was an attack to secure the 2 spurs leading up to the Passchendale Ridge.
The weather conditions were atrocious and the fighting conditions conformed to the classic imagery of Western Front trench warfare in which the dominant elements of mud and rain generated a degree of misery for participants which is almost impossible to describe.
On the evening of 8 October assault troops, severely hampered by the heavy going and drenching cold rain, laboured to their starting lines on the eight mile attack frontage. At zero-hour, 5.20am the following morning, exhausted and under strength British and Australian units attacked in atrocious conditions behind a ragged and inaccurate barrage. At the centre of the attack Brigades of the 66th and 49th Divisions met ferocious machine-gun fire from the undestroyed German pillboxes and shell hole defences on the forward slopes. 49th Division attackers, having floundered through the morass of the flooded Ravebeek, were additionally impeded by belts of barbed-wire and forward movement halted at 9.30am.
Edward Shepherd, together with Corporal Reginald Coultas of Scalby, advanced up the slope to Bellevue under machine gun fire from Wolf Copse. Both were among the heavy casualties the battalion suffered. Edward was posted missing on 9 October and on 19 November that the Officer Commanding the Corps of Grave Registration confirmed that Edward had died of wounds on or shortly after 9 October and had been buried. His grave was one of the many that was later lost, and he is remembered on one of the panels at the Tyne Cot Memorial.