Corporal 16954 Elijah Edward Shirley

Shirley Elijah 96 342x600Shirley Elijah 96 500

Killed in Action Salonika on Monday, 21st August 1916, age 23.
Buried in Grave F. 1232. at Karasouli Military Cemetery, Greece.

9th Bn., Gloucestershire Regiment. 78th Brigade of 26th Division.
Formerly 14825 Royal Berkshire Regiment.

husband of Mrs Shirley of 30 Slater St., Great Bridge, Tipton, Stafffs.
Born: Great Bridge, Enlisted: West Bromwich, Resident: Great Bridge.

First landed France & Flanders, 20th September 1915.
Medal entitlement: 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives did not survive.

Commemorated on the St. Peter's, Greets Green Memorial.
Commemorated here because identified as Tipton on 'Soldiers Died in the Great War'.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/623859/

Genealogical Data

Birth of Elijah Edward Shirley registered March quarter 1893 in West Bromwich.

1901 Census
9 Brickhouse Lane, Greets Green, West Bromwich, Staffs.
Mary Anne Shirley (40, Widow, born Birmingham), and her 4 children: Rob (15, Grocer's Assistant, born West Bromwich), George (13, Gas Tube Mounter,born West Bromwich), Elijah (8, born West Bromwich) and Florence M. (2, born West Bromwich).

1911 Census
30 Slater Street, Great Bridge, Tipton, Staffs.
Richard Langford (52, Tube Springer, born West Bromwich), his wife Mary Anne (50, born Birmingham), and his 3 step-children: George Thomas (23, Tram Motorman, born West Bromwich), Elijah (18, Tram Conductor, born West Bromwich) and Florence May (12, School, born West Bromwich).

Marriage of Elijah E. Shirley and Nelly Maybury registered September quarter 1911 in West Bromwich. They had a daughter, Gwendoline M. E., whose birth was registered in December quarter 1911 in West Bromwich, and a son, George E., whose birth was registered in March quarter 1915 in West Bromwich. Nelly re-married in April quarter 1920 in Sheffield to Samuel James Maybury, she had one further child, Joyce Maybury, whose birth was registered in September quarter 1921 in Sheffield.

Personal Data

After Elijah's death, his outstanding army pay and allowances amounted to £6/5/6d (6 pounds, 5 shillings and 6 pence); this was paid to his widow, Nellie, in March 1917. His War Gratuity was £10/0/0d (10 pounds exactly), this was also paid to his widow in September 1919. The value of the War Gratuity suggests that Elijah had enlisted in approximately August 1914.

Elijah's widow, Nellie, was awarded a pension of £1/4/2d (1 pound, 4 shillings and 2 pence) per week from 16th April 1917. This would have ceased on her re-marriage in 1920 but would have been compensated by a re-marriage lump sum. Unusually, Elijah's mother Mrs Mary Ann Longford, was also granted a pension - a Dependant's Pension - as her second husband had died in 1913. Her pension was initially 12/6d (12 shillings and 6 pence) per week from 20th August 1918, but reduced to 5/6d (5 shillings and 6 pence) per week from 30th March 1920.

Action resulting in his death

Elijah enlisted with the 9th Gloucesters, who were attached to the 26th Division, one of Lord Kitchener's New Army Divisions. They arrived in France in September 1915, but in November were transferred to Salonika where they remained for the remainder of the war.

In Salonika the Division was involved in the Battle of Horseshoe Hill from the 10th to 18th August 1916. Shortly after this, on 21st August, Elijah was leading a patrol beyond the British front line when they came across a stronger enemy patrol. Corporal Shirley was killed in the ensuing exchange, and although his body was not immediately recovered, he was later buried in Karasouli Military Cemetery, Greece.

Newspaper Cuttings

Tipton Herald 7th October 1916
Mrs H. Shirley, 30 Slater Street, Great Bridge, has received information that her husband, Corporal E.E. Shirley of the Gloucestershire Regiment, was posted as missing after the engagement on the 21st-22nd August, and it is feared that he has died. He is 24 years of age, and before the war was a driver for the Birmingham and Midland Joint Committee. With his brother Signaller George Thomas Shirley, of the Royal Berks Regiment, he enlisted on September 7th 1914, and was first of all out to France, but afterwards transferred to Salonica.

The story of Corporal Shirley's death is graphically told in the following letters from officers, to his widow.
The Major wrote: "My Company has just returned from holding an advance post in our line, and I am very sorry to have to tell you that your husband when out on patrol with six other men did not return, and I am afraid there is no doubt that he was killed. The rest of the patrol returned, not wounded, having advanced right on top of an enemy patrol in the dark. Your husband was seen to have fallen when leading the men, and at the same time calling upon the enemy to surrender. Two of the men who went out with him went to him again, and even in the dark, are quite certain he was past help. We tried to send a party out to him again later that night, but owing to heavy artillery fire, this was impossible.
The whole Company are very grieved at losing him, but very proud at the way he did his duty, and both our GOC (General Officer Commanding) and Commanding Officer told me how satisfied they were with his work. May I be allowed to condole with you in your great loss. He has served under me for the last eighteen months and I feel it will be very hard to replace him. He was always most anxious to do his duty, and if he had been spared he would have been most valuable to me."

A Second-Lieutenant also wrote: "I deeply regret having to inform you that your husband has been missing since August 28th. Corporal Shirley and six of his men very pluckily volunteered to go out on patrol to the enemy's position, and unfortunately the patrol came into contact with a party stronger than themselves, who opened fire on them, with the result that your husband was undoubtedly killed, having been hit either with a rifle bullet or a hand grenade. The remainder of the patrol returned safely, and reported that Corporal Shirley was dead before they left the enemy's position. I, as his platoon officer, and all the men of the platoon, offer you our deepest sympathy in your loss, and are proud of the way in which Corporal Shirley lost his life. His last words to the party were ordering them to open rapid fire on the enemy, and by this means they were driven back. I should like you to know that we all greatly admired the way in which the incident was carried out, and our only regret is that we have lost one of our finest NCOs, and a most cheerful, efficient and keen soldier in your husband. The officers, NCOs and men of this company wish me to convey to you their deepest sympathy with you in your trouble."

An official of the Birmingham and Midland Tramway Joint Committee wrote to Mrs Shirley: "I am very sorry indeed to hear the sad news about your husband, more sorry than I can find words to express. May I offer you my deepest sympathy in your bereavement. Whilst your husband worked under me, I always regarded him as one of my best men, and was looking forward to the time - which I hoped would not be long - when I should be able to welcome him home again. It may be some consolation to you to know that he was well liked by all the staff and his fellow workmen, and I think I can say the same as regards the travelling public."

Midlands Chronicle 22nd December 1916
Mrs Shirley of 50 Slater Street, Great Bridge, Tipton, has just been received official intimation that her husband, Corporal E. E. Shirley, of the Gloucestershire Regiment, who was reported missing on August 21st last, is now reported to have been killed in action on that date.

The Captain commanding the Company to which her late husband belonged, writing to Mrs Shirley, says: “Your husband was killed on patrol on the night of August 21st-22nd. His body was found and brought down the hill, and buried in the little cemetery out here with others who have given heir lives for their country. Your husband died doing his duty and no man can do more. Patrolling is always dangerous work, and you can be sure he died like the brave soldier that he was. I cannot tell you how grieved I was to hear he had been killed. I was on the hill the night your husband was killed.

In another letter the Captain sent Mrs Shirley a photograph of the grave of her late husband. He mentions that the grave is a bare deserted spot, but it is a corner that “is forever England”.

Sergt. H. Coles, who wrote to Mrs Shirley on November 5th said: “I can honestly say that your husband received as good a funeral as anyone would wish for. Unfortunately, we were too far away to attend it ourselves, but I have been past since and the grave is done up nicely and a nice cross put over it. Your husband was respected by all who knew him. Please accept the sympathy of all his chums and my own regret in your great loss”. He signs himself “Ted’s closest chum”.

A private in Corporal Shirley’s Company also wrote: “It is quite true that your husband’s body was brought in by the Scotch. As you were informed by the Major, it was while out on patrol he met with his death. After his men ascertained he was dead they had to return as the spot was a very dangerous one. It is really a wonder that there not more casualties. Before we had consolidated our position we were relieved by another battalion. Maybe if any party had been sent while we were there it would have meant at least more casualties, maybe more lives. Instructions were left for his body to be fetched in as soon as possible. The spot where he was buried is well known to me. I happened to see the cross which has been placed on his grave, at out headquarters, the night before it was sent up. You will be pleased to learn that the grave has been well looked after, turfed, banked, etc. I have enquired of troops that were up on the time of the burial, and find it was a military funeral.

Corporal Shirley, who was 24 years of age, was a driver for the Birmingham and Midland Tramway Joint Committee before he enlisted on September 7th 1914. He was sent to France, and afterwards transferred to Salonica.