Saturday, 5 July 2014

Joseph Beresford Shields 1879-1917

I don't know how these papers came to survive in a Deed Box from Meek, Stubbs & Barnley, solicitors, Middlesbrough.

A small envelope contains a letter from Joe Shields to his mother, his birth certificate and a letter from his mother to Mrs (or Miss) Wilson, his friend.  Joe's letter is dated 17 August 1916 and is sent from B Company, 9th Bedfordshire Regiment, stationed at Sittingbourne, and it's about the food he is looking forward to enjoying on a short leave:

His mother was Emily Julia Shields, née Mullen, and Joe was born in Stockton:

In July 1918 Mrs Shields wrote to a Mrs (or Miss, the title is altered in pencil) Wilson at Leigh-on-Sea, Essex.  The letter was forwarded to the Victoria Naval Hospital, Southend:

Joe has been reported missing, although his mother is still hoping for good news.  Her letter shows no address but one has been written in pencil on the reverse:

Sadly, there was to be no good news.  Joseph was killed in action on 24 May 1918; his grave is at Pozieres Memorial Cemetery.

It seems likely that the Mrs or Miss Wilson to whom Mrs Shields wrote this touching letter is the Miss Elizabeth Ann Wilson named as an executor of his Will.  She kept the boarding house in which he lived in Leigh-on-Sea.

His last address as a civilian (and the address given in the National Probate Calendar) was 19 Southend Southsea Avenue, Leigh-on-Sea.  He was living there at the time of the 1911 Census, which shows that the boardinghouse keeper was Mrs Elizabeth Ann Wilson, aged 46 and born in Boosbeck, Cleveland, and that Joseph was then 31 years old, unmarried and a draughtsman at the Marine Engine Works.

So it seems probable that Mrs Shields is addressing this Elizabeth Ann Wilson when she writes

I always felt my Dear Son had a good friend in you which I can assure you has taken a load off my mind.  I shall always count you as one of my dearest friends always write to me dear it will be such a consolation to me 

If there are any members of Joe's family out there who would like this letter, do please contact me ...

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