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9/1967 Private William Hugh (Hugh) Shannon – Otago Infantry Regiment
 
William Hugh Shannon was born in Marton on 14th March 1896[i] the younger of two sons born to Hugh Graham (Graham) and Margaret (Maggie) Welford Shannon. William was called Hugh by his family.
Hugh Graham Shannon was the eldest child of George Vance & Emily Shannon. George was an astute businessman who with his partner had established a series of drapery stores in; Wellington, Auckland, Christchurch and Napier.
 
In 1881 George Vance Shannon became a director in the newly established private Manawatu and Wellington Railway Company. The M & W Railway Company was formed to establish a rail link between Wellington and Palmerston North.
The route was opened in 1886 and proved to be a very profitable venture. The new line open large areas of land in the lower North Island and four settlements along the line were named after John Plimmer, William Levin, George Shannon and James Linton.
 
Plimmerton became a favourite beach destination for families from Wellington and Palmerston North and was known
as the ‘Brighton of the South.’ Two of the M & W directors; John Plimmer and George Shannon established beach houses. John Plimmer built at the northern end of Steyne Avenue and George Shannon at the southern end of Shrewsbury Terrace with frontage on the main Plimmerton Beach.
 
In 1901 G V Shannon purchased the lease of 800 acres of land in Karehana Bay
where the family farmed sheep and milked a small herd of cows. The milk was
supplied to the residents in the local area. G V’s eldest son Graham Hugh Shannon
took up management of the farm.
 
 
 
Maggie with her two boys Hugh seated first left c 1901
 
 
 
It is possible that the family lived at the Shannon Beach house or may have visited
it during holidays as Hugh is listed, in 1904, as enrolled when Plimmerton Public
School opened in September that year.[ii]
 
Hugh like his older brother spent time at the Shannon Farm in Karehana Bay,
Plimmerton. The farm which was stocked with sheep and a herd of milking cows
had been managed by Hugh’s father up until his death in 1912 but Hugh and his older brother managed the property
up until the start of World War One.
 
 
 
 
 
C 1915 Shannon's Cows walk along Karehana Bay beach after milking.
 
 
 
The photo was taken at the start of Airlie Road from the front of Captain Bilton's house, Betty Bilton stands in front of the gate.
 
 
 
 
 
On the 23rd October 1915 Hugh entered camp, his papers indicate he was a self employed farmer and because of his riding ability he was posted to the 9th Reinforcements of the Otago Mounted Rifles. While Hugh’s preference would have been for the Wellington Mounted Rifles once a unit had enough men allotted men were then placed in to units short of their quota. Hugh’s date of birth has been entered as 1895 which made him over 20, the then lower limit for enlisting.
 
With basic training completed men and horses were loaded on transports and on the 8th January 1916 the 9th Reinforcements sailed for overseas service. Hugh wrote to his brother shortly after leaving Wellington and mentioned being able to see Plimmerton and also the farm house around in Karehana Bay. The letter also mention sea sickness and the ban on smoking on board ending;
 
‘ . . . . Have you, Ken had any more bust ups wish I was there to have one, no beer
now, tell Ken to enlist, it is the life, but
I love those cows and chickens & free life.
Well I must get off at the slope hoping you are well, & you keep free, take my word
 
I remain
Your affectionate brother
Hugh’
 
Later while transiting up to Red Sea towards Suez Hugh wrote a letter to his Uncle Trevor and reflected on soon being in action.[iii]
 
‘ . . . . Well Trevor I had what you may call a hell of a job the other day, had to grind all
of the bayonets of our squadron, very tiring job, made me feel funny all over, but still
I made a good job of my own have got it like a razor guess, if I manage to get it into a
Turks or Germans little ??  it will make him squirm some, I am hoping I will never have
to use it though ha ha  . . .’
 
Trooper Shannon arrived in Egypt on the 12th February 1916 and with
others from the Otago Mounted Rifles were then sent to Ismailia Camp.
By February 1916 the need was for infantry and the focus was on the
Western Front. Trooper Shannon was transferred as a Private to the
14th Company, 2nd Battalion of the Otago Infantry Regiment.
 
 
9/1967 Private William Hugh Shannon - 14th Company, 2nd Battalion,
Otago Infantry Regiment - c 1916 possibly in Egypt.
 
 
 
Private Shannon left Egypt in April 1916 for France where on arrival he
was hospitalised with mumps. After recovering Private Shannon rejoined
his unit in the front lines at Armentieres but after a month again was
hospitalise with tonsillitis then with adenoids and bronchitis but he was
fit enough to be with his unit during the build up to the Battle of the
Somme.
 
Private Shannon’s files note that he suffered serious contusions to his
back on the 19th August 1916 and he was sent from the front to hospital.
In a letter written from ‘Somewhere in France’ on the 19th October 1916
to his Aunt May in Ireland he noted that[iv]
 
‘. . . . .I am down at the base, but will be going up to the front any day now, I am not at all keen
as the weather isn’t to good getting cold too. I suppose you saw by the papers where the NZ
took point advance at the Somme, we lost a good many men but of course we must accept it,
we can’t take positions & lose not men. It was an awful sight to see the wounded & dead myself,
dead lying about I didn’t last long myself I got blown up with a shell, it just sent me silly for a few
hours, I was sent out of it, of course I didn’t object . . . . ‘
 
Private Shannon was with his unit again in December 1916 when he again was hospitalised with mumps. It would be a month before he was fit again and able to return to his unit.
 
 
On the 14th July 1917 Private Shannon was granted two week leave and as his grandfather originated from Antrim, Ireland and still had family in the area it was at Aunt May’s where he spent his leave.
 
 
 
 
1917 Hugh Shannon on leave in Ireland
 
 
 
The impact of 12 months in the trenches on the Western Front show
on the face of a much older looking man.
 
 
 
Private Shannon returned but on the 8th October 1917 was again evacuated this time from the effects of a mustard gas shell. It may have been fortunate as the 2nd Battalion of the Otago Infantry  were the lead elements on the 12th October 1917 at the Battle of Passchendael. On this opening day of the battle New Zealand lost 845 men with another 2700 wounded. Two hundred and sixty of those killed in action were from the Otago Infantry Regiment.
 
Following treatment Private Shannon again returned to his unit and it
was following the German Spring Offensive in 1918 that he suffered a
final wound.
 
Private Shannon was again in trenches on the Somme Battlefield when on the 26th May 1918 he was shot. The wound in his left arm resulted in him being evacuated to England and the No 1 NZ General Hospital, Brockenhurst. Private
Shannon remained in Brockenhurst for three months
before being transfer to the New Zealand convalescent
hospital. It was during Private Shannon’s recovery that
he was granted leave and sent a request to his
Grandfather in New Zealand for money.
 
 
 
The first of two telegraph reuests for money.
 
GV Shannon sent the money, not an inconsiderable
sum, to his grandson.
 
 
 
On the 8th January 1919 Private Shannon returned to
New Zealand where in April 1919 he was assessed, by a
medical panel at Trentham, as medically unfit, as a
result of wounds received, and was finally discharged
from the army on the 4th July 1919.
 
While physical wounds will heal it was the mental
condition of Hugh that concerned the family. In a letter
to written in August 1919 from Wellington’s Bowen
Hospital to his grandfather[v]      
 
 
Bowen St Hospital             
August 11th 1919
 
My dear Grandpa,
 
Just a few lines to let you knowhow I am, well I am still in bed & sometimes
I feel fairly good in the afternoons as a rulebut in the mornings I am far from fit,
as my head worries me a good deal, they tell me it is ‘nerves’but of course they
wouldn’t tell me much but,Vance will get full particulars when he comes down
& he will be able to let you know all known. Thetreatment I am getting is massage
etc with drugs, so ought to get fit in no time, my wordI hope I do as am fairly sick
of being like this, its twelve months I have been bad now, so its time I was showing
some sort of improvement isn’t it.
I was talking to Vance last night aboutthose ponies, I will break them in whenI come
up, it won’t do them much harm not being handled as I was only mountingthem when
I came away, so they won’t really hurt.
Aunt Annie has been in several times to see me also Arthur they both seem well etc &
Jack Walker   was also up to-day for a few minutes, was telling me he hadlost 300 hoggets
out of 1500 it’s a terrible percentage, worm, or some such thing he said Vance’s were
alright so far so that is good.
So Paddy got a second at Palmerston after all, fantastic, Eileen will be very pleased with
herself I suppose.
Well Grandpa I am afraid I haven’t any news
At present so will have to say good bye
Hoping you are still keeping well.
 
I remain
Your loving grandson
Hugh
 
Hugh was suffering from Shell Shock and remained in hospital through to 1920
when he returned to his mother’s house in Marton.
 
On the 2nd June 1920 Hugh married Mavis Eileen Pillans. The marriage was tinge with sadness as Hugh’s beloved Grandpa died two days later.
 
Hugh died seven weeks after his marriage. His death on the 30th July 1920 was recorded officially recorded as exhaustion as a result of Hodgkin’s disease. The New Zealand Army accepted that the death was a result of war service and he was placed on the official Roll of Honour.
 
The usual Commemorative Plaque and Scroll were sent to his widow.
Hugh is buried in the Upper Tutaenui Cemetery, Marton.
 
 
Hugh's grave in the Upper Tutaenui Cemetery, Marton.
 
 
 
 
Notes:
Bust Up appears to be a term for a drinking session.
Jack Walker was a neighbouring farmer at Plimmerton
 
References:
Seventy Five Years (1904-1979) Plimmerton School and it Environment.
Archway Archives New Zealand – Military Files: 9/1967 Private William Hugh Shannon
Shannon Archive Material – Palmerston North City Library
NZ BDM Online
Paperspast Online
 
Photos
Maggie with Vance and Hugh Shannon – Shannon family
Shannon’s Cows at Karehana Bay – Private collection
9/1967 Private William Hugh Shannon – Shannon family
Hugh Shannon on leave in Ireland – Shannon family
Telegram – Shannon Archives Palmerston North City Library
William Hugh Shannon’s Grave – Nzwargraves.org.nz
 
[i] NZDBM Births William Hugh Shannon 1896/16414
[ii] Enrolled ex-pupils from 1904 – 1929 Plimmerton School
[iii] Letter 1st February 1916 on Troopship Manganui to his Uncle Trevor in Marton.
[iv] Letter 19th October 1916 from Somewhere in France to Aunt May
[v] Letter 11th August 1919 from Bowen Hospital to G V Shannon (Grandfather)
 
 
C1915 Shannon's Cows - Karehana Bay