Albert John Shepherd
SERVICE NUMBER 4878
Link to Service Record: http://discoveringanzacs.naa.gov.au/browse/records/366084/1
Albert John Shepherd was a member of a Gundungurra family who lived at The Gully, Katoomba.
He may not have even known this, as he was removed from his mother, Minnie Shepherd, at the age of five by the State Children’s Relief Department and fostered out to families in the Hunter Valley, Alexander and Mary Josephine Milligan of Newcastle being the final and permanent family for Albert.
No official records have been found concerning Minnie Shepherd but it is believed that she was the daughter of Eva, daughter of Coorambulang (later Charley) ,and Mary Anne Quodebon, born c. 1848. Eva married William Henry Shepherd, a farmer, who lived in the Burragorang Valley. Minnie is believed to have been born in 1878. Albert was her second son born in 1897 and fostered out in 1902.
So it was in Newcastle that Albert enlisted with the AIF on the 31st August, 1915, as part of the 2nd Battalion. He left Australia on the 8th March, 1916 on the troop ship, The Caledonian, making his way to the war in France as part of the 54th Battalion. He was eighteen years of age.
Albert took part in the Battle of Fleurbaix at Fromelles, in what has been described as ‘the bloodiest battle of the war’. He was then reported ‘Missing in Action on 21st of July, 1916. Albert’s unit were then informed that he had been taken by the Germans as a prisoner-of-war and sent to the infamous prisoner of war camp at Schneidemuhl, originally a large Polish town before it was taken over by Germany. The Germans had expected to win the war quickly and were not ready for the number of prisoners who they initially took. Conditions were consequently very difficult, particularly with long hours of labour, the cold and poor quality food.
The Schneidemuhl Prisoner of War camp where Albert was held.
At Armistice, Albert was repatriated to England arriving on the 4th December, 1918 and spent a period of time there in hospital and also at the Bulford Camp in Wiltshire. He was returned to Australia on the Beltana and discharged on the 12th October, 1919. He was awarded the Star, the British War Medal and Victory Badges.
As next of kin, Albert’s Service Record shows that Mrs. Milligan was informed when Albert went ‘missing’ and also when he was reported a prisoner of war. She was later informed of his repatriation to England.
The Service Record also reveals Albert had to apply for a duplicate badge and discharge certificate in 1954 as his originals had been lost in a fire. He claimed for Repatriation Benefits in 1964.
When Albert returned to Newcastle on his return to Australia he was met by the Mayor, Alderman J. Dixon and members of the Welcome Home Committee at Newcastle Station and escorted home to his residence in Wilton Street. An article about his war service and welcome home appeared in the Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate on the 23rd of July, 1919. He returned to his work as a labourer and linesman.
Both Len Murphy (L) and Gary Rule are descendants honouring their Shepherd forebears, and participated in the ceremony and wreath laying at the Katoomba RSL, Anzac Day, 2016. (Photo: Blue Mountains Gazette)