Waitomo News : April 17 2014 ANZAC
twoyears&274days... By ROBBIE KAY 6 IN OUR DEFENCE Thursday, April 17, 2014 RIFLEMAN Albert Shearer was one of three Shearer brothers who fought in World War l. His younger brother Stanley went to war on January 8, 1916, a lance corporal with D Company, 9th Reinforcements Otago Infantry Battalion. He was killed eight months later at the Somme in France on September 15, the day Albert was wounded for the second time. Stanley was only 20 years old and is remembered on the Caterpillar Valley (New Zealand) Memorial in the Cater- pillar Valley Cemetery, Longueval, Somme, France. His older brother Frederick was a sapper with the 25th Reinforcement Headquarters Divisional Signallers, New Zealand Expeditionary Force. He went to war on April 26, 1917 and returned. Albert was born in Eltham, Waitara, to James and Emily Shearer on January 22, 1894. When he left school he went to live in Mapiu with his eldest brother Jack who built houses and woolsheds. He earned the nickname ‘Brownie’ because they pit- sawed their own timber and he would get covered in sawdust when working down in the pit. In his late teens he got a job with B. Johnson driv- ing a team of six horses and a cart on the daily run between Te Kuiti and Piopio. ENLISTED Albert was 21 when he enlisted with the NZ Army in October, 1915. After training at Trentham, he shipped out to Egypt in February, 1916 with the New Zealand Rifle Brigade 3rd Bat- talion A Company arriving in Suez on March 13. A few weeks later he was sent to fight on the Somme on April 7. In June he was detached to divisional grenade school in the field, rejoining his unit on June 18. HOSPITALISED Six weeks later he was admitted to a field hospital for eight days with scarlet fever. On September 15 – the same day his brother Stanley was killed – he was shot twice in the leg. After two days Albert was evacuated to Brockenhurst General Hospital in Hampshire. He went AWOL for four days on New Year’s Day which cost him four days’ pay and seven days confined to barracks. He was again admitted to hospital in June suffering from scabies, then re-admitted later that month with tonsillitis. A month later he was back in hospital, then went AWOL again in November. He was finally classified medically “unfit for active service” with thyroidism and sent home to New Zealand on May 1, 1918. He’d served two years and 274 days. MARRIAGE Albert returned to Te Kuiti in 1919 and became engaged to Ellen (Nelly) Fitzgerald from Mapiu. They married in the Tangitu Hall and settled in Taupiri St, Te Kuiti. The couple’s house with some land for an or- chard and a cow, above the riverbank opposite the St John Ambulance Station still stands. Two years later Albert bought a horse and cart and started his own carrying business. In 1929 he replaced the horse with a truck. It was the first Chevrolet in the North King Country. Times were tight, so Albert would often be paid with furniture for carrying jobs, ending up with lots of furniture the family didn’t need, but little money. He is remembered as a good father who kept a large vege garden and worked hard to feed his wife and their five chil- dren Emily (Jean), Keith, Daphne, Gordon and Betty. Keith (93) and Betty (83), both of Te Kuiti, are the only surviving children. Albert volunteered with the Te Kuiti Fire Brigade and was active in the Masonics and Oddfellows lodges for many years, earning a Grand Lodge Purple Degree in 1924. A long-time member of the Te Kuiti RSA, he served as president in 1936-37 and was honoured with a Gold Star in 1944. Despite being tough and very fit from his job as a carrier, he was hospitalised with pneumonia in the 1940s and forced to sell up. The couple moved to Auckland in 1950. Ellen died in 1964 and is buried in Auckland. Albert died on June 4, 1976, aged 82 years and is buried in the RSA section of Te Kuiti Cemetery. His daughter Betty Barrell, remembers her dad as having a lively sense of humour, telling people in England that when the tide went out New Zealanders could row across to Australia for afternoon tea. He also convinced them back in New Zealand he was a boundary rider on a bee farm. Though he didn’t talk much about his war experiences, he did tell Betty about one battle when the word came down the line: “Is ‘Brownie’ Shearer here yet?” When word got back to the general that Albert was indeed there, the general said: “Well then, let battle commence!” > ONE OF THREE: Rifleman Albert Shearer (above) along with his brothers Frederick and Stanley served in World War I. Albert returned to Te Kuiti in 1919 and married Ellen (Nelly) Fitzgerald from Mapiu (below). Albert became a carrier, a volunteer with Te Kuiti Fire Brigade, was active in the Masonic and Oddfellows lodges and a long-time member of the Te Kuiti RSA. > SURVIVING SON: Long-time Te Kuiti resident Keith Shearer (above) was a sergeant in the Royal New Zealand Air Force and Royal Air Force (left) during World War II. He was captured by the Germans enroute to England and spent five years as a prisoner of war.
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