No. 2894 Lowman Shaw
Lowman Shaw was born in Preston, Victoria in March 1891. Both he and his younger brother, Alfred Shaw, volunteered for service during World War I and are remembered on the Werribee RSL commemoration board.
Prior to joining up, Lowman Shaw worked as a labourer on the family farm at Werribee called Melview, with his mother and father, Miriam and John Shaw.
He enlisted on 6 June 1915 and was assigned to the 57th Infantry Battalion, AIF. Private Shaw left Melbourne on 10 September bound for Egypt. During training, he was reassigned to the 58th Battalion and in June 1916 left Egypt for France, disembarking at Marseilles on June 23.
In addition to training during its stay in Egypt, the battalion was charged with the defence of the Suez Canal against possible attacks from the Turks. They served variously at positions called Ferry Post, Hogs Back and the charmingly named Little Wallow.
Once they landed in France, the Battalion boarded trains and headed north, travelling a thousand kilometres to Steenbecque in the Pas de Calais region, just 60 kilometres from Dunkirk on the Channel coast.
The Battalion found itself in action virtually straight away as the Western Front erupted with the launch of the Somme offensive on 1 July 1916.
On 19 July 1916, Private Shaw was wounded near Morebecque, around three kilometres north-east of Steenbecque. According to the 58th Battalion’s war diary, the battalion’s position faced a heavy artillery bombardment followed by a raid on its trenches by German soldiers. In the action, 42 Australians were killed, 103 wounded and five posted as missing.
Following the action, Private Shaw was withdrawn from the front suffering from shell shock. He was treated in France and barely a month later was back in service with his battalion.
He served with the 58th Battalion until March 1917 when he was transferred to the 15th Australian Machine Gun Company. The company was attached to the 5th Australian Division, at that point of the war serving in and around Gueudecourt in the heart of the Somme. In April and May, the Division was in action at Bullecourt; by late September at Polygon Wood in Belgium.
Presumably, Private Shaw would have been part of these battles. Bullecourt was an unmitigated disaster and Polygon Wood an apparent success, as long as you were not one of the 5,731 Australians from the 4th and 5th Australian Divisions killed or wounded during the assault.
Towards the end of 1917, Private Shaw became part of the 5th Australian Machine Gun Battalion that was being formed at that time. Previously, machine gun companies supported infantry battalions on almost a local level. The new machine gun battalion was an amalgamation of those units and with it, the focusing of their considerable firepower.
They were equipped the Vickers medium machine gun which had an effective range of 2,700 metres. In a defensive role, the machine guns would provide crossfire into the advancing infantry, while during an assault, so-called plunging fire would be directed into the defensive positions of the enemy.
The Battalion was in action during the German Spring Offensive in early 1918 and then, a few months later, as the allies made their Hundred Day offensive that began in August and drove the Germans out of France and back behind the Hindenburg Line.
It was the beginning of the end of German resistance and the Armistice was signed on 11 November.
Private Lowman Shaw left France for England in mid-January 1919. He returned to Melbourne in March and was discharged from service in June.
The Australian Electoral Roll tells us that he returned to Melview Farm after the war. He married Elizabeth Evelyn Johnson in 1920. It’s not known if they had children. They left the Werribee area at some point in the 1940s living in Footscray. Lowman Shaw died at Yarraville in 1967 aged 76.
Medals and Entitlements:
- 1914/14 Star
- British War Medal
- Victory Medal
Lest we forget
B2455 SHAW LOWMAN
Battalion histories and war outcomes
Australian War Memorial