Charles James SHEA


SHEA, Charles James

Service Numbers: 2690, 2690a
Enlisted: 26 April 1915, Keswick, South Australia
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 50th Infantry Battalion
Born: Crystal Brook, South Australia, 17 June 1893
Home Town: Adelaide, South Australia
Schooling: Crystal Brook Public School
Occupation: Engine Cleaner (Railways)
Died: Killed in action, Passchendaele, Belgium, 26 September 1917, aged 24 years
Cemetery: Tyne Cot Cemetery and Memorial
Plot 63, Row G, Grave No.4
Memorials: Adelaide National War Memorial, Adelaide South Australian Railways WW1 & WW2 Honour Boards, Crystal Brook District WW1 Roll of Honour, Crystal Brook Rotunda
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World War 1 Service

26 Apr 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Keswick, South Australia
2 Sep 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 2690, 10th Infantry Battalion, Third Ypres
2 Sep 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 2690, 10th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Anchises, Adelaide
29 Feb 1916: Transferred AIF WW1, Private, 50th Infantry Battalion
26 Sep 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 2690a, 50th Infantry Battalion, Third Ypres
27 Sep 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 2690a, 50th Infantry Battalion, Polygon Wood

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Biography contributed by Saint Ignatius' College

Charles James Shea (1893 – 1917) private and engine cleaner, was born to Agnes and Cornelius Shea as their second son on 17 June 1893 in Crystal Brook, South Australia. Charles James Shea and his elder brother were both Roman Catholics and went to Crystal Brook Public School together. He then worked as an engine cleaner at Adelaide Railways. His brother, Cornelius Patrick Shea, was a fireman at the Adelaide Railways. The average salary for factory workers was £157. During the 1900’s, the currency used Australia wide was pounds because Australia was ruled under control of Britain. Before Charles James Shea had enlisted, he had not had any previous record of any kind of military service before. Charles James Shea was 5 feet 6 inches, weighed 120 lbs with dark brown hair, hazel coloured eyes and fair skin complexion.

Charles James Shea enlisted on 26 April 1915 whereas his elder brother, Cornelius Patrick Shea enlisted 2 months after him. They both enlisted at Keswick, South Australia. When they enlisted they both were single, C.J Shea was 21 years old when he embarked whereas C.P Shea was 24. To enlist, they both had to sign an oath, they both joined the same unit and were embarked on the same ship to Egypt for training on 26th August 1915.

They went through basic training at Egypt first. In Egypt, they “camped in the valley of the pyramid with two of the big pyramids in sight”. In the training, they had been making rifle ranges, building latrines etc. Charles James Shea stayed in the 8th Reinforcement of the 10th Battalion until 29th February 1916 when both brothers were transferred to the 50th Battalion. However before getting transferred to the 50th Battalion Charles got sick and stayed in the hospital on 4th February 1916 for a period of 11 days. After this, the 50th Battalion went to France.

Charles rejoined the 50th Battalion on 13th August 1916 after an absence through ilness. On 22nd November, he was sent to hospital reporting sick. Next year, on 26th January 1917, he embarked to England with Cold feet but during the journey got diagnosed with Trench Feet.  On 6th of March he was infected with Trench Feet again. On 6th of April 1917, he was sick and sent to hospital. It was probably while in hospital in England that he received word of his brother's death in action on 2 April 1917.

Since Charles James Shea’s rank was of a private, he had limited equipment. His equipment included gas masks to save them from gas attacks from the enemy, weapons and ammunition to use in the battlefield. These also included a bayonet, rifle, bullets and some grenades. A shovel to make trenches and clothing equipment such as boots to wear in the trenches (BBC, 2019). The life on the western front was tough because the trenches used to be wet which used to make the soldiers feel uncomfortable.

Charles James Shea was killed in action during the Third battle of Ypres on 26th September 1917.  The Third Battle of Ypres started on 31st July 2019 and ended on 10th November 1917. This was a battle fought between the Germans and the British allies. Charles James Shea’s last rank was of a private whereas his brother’s last rank was of a ‘Lance Corporal’. This rank is higher than the rank of a private but lower than the rank of a corporal. Cornelius Patrick Shea was killed in action on 2 April 1917 in a campaign named ‘German Withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line’. Charles James Shea was buried in the Tyne Cot Cemetery and Cornelius Patrick Shea was buried in the Noreuil Australian Cemetery in France. He was originally posted as missing but was later confirmed killed.