Roland Allan SHAWYER

SHAWYER, Roland Allan

Service Number: 4208
Enlisted: 19 November 1915, Adelaide, SA
Last Rank: Corporal
Last Unit: 27th Infantry Battalion
Born: Riverton, South Australia, 16 June 1894
Home Town: Mount Gambier, Mount Gambier, South Australia
Schooling: Riverton Public & Gawler High Schools, South Australia
Occupation: Bank Clerk
Died: Wounds, France, 21 May 1918, aged 23 years
Cemetery: Franvillers Communal Cemetery Extension
Plot 1, Row B, Grave 15, Franvillers Communal Cemetery Extension, Franvillers, Picardie, France
Memorials: Adelaide National Australia Bank WW1 Honour Board, Adelaide National War Memorial, Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Kadina & District WW1 Roll of Honor, Kadina Town Hall WW1 & WW2 Roll of Honour, Kadina War Memorial Arch, Kent Town Wesleyan Methodist Church WW1 Honour Roll, Men from Renmark and District Roll of Honor Boards (4), Mount Gambier War Memorial, Riverton & District High School Roll of Honor WW1, Riverton & District War Memorial Pool Memorial and Flagpole, Riverton Methodist Church Honour Roll WW1, Riverton RSL Hall Honour Roll
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World War 1 Service

19 Nov 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, 4208, 27th Infantry Battalion, Adelaide, SA
9 Mar 1916: Involvement Private, 4208, 27th Infantry Battalion
9 Mar 1916: Embarked Private, 4208, 27th Infantry Battalion, RMS Mongolia, Adelaide
17 Jul 1916: Promoted AIF WW1, Lance Corporal, 27th Infantry Battalion
21 Jul 1916: Promoted AIF WW1, Corporal, 27th Infantry Battalion
20 Sep 1917: Wounded AIF WW1, Corporal, 4208, 27th Infantry Battalion, Belgium
21 Mar 1918: Wounded AIF WW1, Corporal, 4208, 27th Infantry Battalion, France
21 May 1918: Involvement Corporal, 4208, 27th Infantry Battalion

Help us honour Roland Allan Shawyer's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.

Biography contributed by Elizabeth Allen

Roland Allan SHAWYER was born on 16th June, 1894 at Riverton, South Australia

His parents were John Gilbert Allan SHAWYER and Victoria May BATTEN

He had two years previous experience in the 78th Battalion (Citizens Forces) before he enlisted in Adelaide on 19th November, 1915 to serve in WW1 - he embarked with the 27th Infantry Battalion, 10th reinforcements on the ship RMS Mongolia on 9th March, 1916 from Adelaide

Roland died on 21st May, 1918 from shell wounds to his head and is buried in Franvillers Communal Cemetery Extension - there is also a memorial headstone for him in the Payneham Cemetery in South Austalia

He was awarded the British War Medal & the Victory Medal



SHAWYER - In loving memory of our dear son & brother, Roland Allan Shawyer, killed in action on the 21st May, 1918

Inserted by his parents, brothers & sisters 

"Sweetest memories linger"


"He died the noblest death a man may die,

Fighting for God, and Right, and Liberty

And such a death is Immortality"


Biography contributed by Evan Evans

From François Berthout

Cpl 4208 Roland Allan Shawyer
27th Australian Infantry Battalion, B Company,
14th Platoon, 7th Brigade, 2nd Australian Division
Through the fields of the Somme, serene and peaceful today, stand row upon row the white graves of thousands of young men whose voices are heard beyond the poppies on which they lived and fell alongside their brothers and comrades who stand solemn and proud on the old battlefields bathed in light on which, forever young they walk in silence on what was for them a hell on earth in which they sacrificed every part of their youth in the darkness of the trenches but where, proud and determined they fought with pride in the name of peace and freedom for which they shed their blood in the barbed wire and the mud and which, for their country and for France, for each of us gave their lives.Gone but not forgotten, they live shoulder to shoulder on these sacred grounds for which they did so much and gave their all so for me who lives in the peace for which they fell, I will always watch over them with the highest respect to tell who they were so that they live forever and so that their names, their sacrifice will never be forgotten.

Today, it is with the utmost respect and the deepest gratitude that I would like to honor the memory of one of these young men, one of my boys of the Somme who gave his today for our tomorrow. I would like to pay a very respectful tribute to Corporal number 4208 Roland Allan Shawyer who fought in the 27th Australian Infantry Battalion, B Company, 14th Platoon, 7th Brigade, 2nd Australian Division, and who died of his wounds 104 years ago, on May 21, 1918 at the age of 23 on the Somme front.

Roland Allan Shawyer was born on June 16, 1894 in Riverton, South Australia, and was the son of John Gilbert Allan Shawyer (1857-1934) and Victoria May Shawyer (née Batten, 1870-1936), of Kadina, South Australia.He was educated at Riverton Public School then at Gawler High School and after graduation served two years in the 78th Battalion of the Citizen Forces, worked as a bank clerk and lived in Mount Gambier, South Australia.

Roland enlisted on November 19, 1915 in Adelaide, South Australia, as a Private in the 27th Australian Infantry Battalion, 10th Reinforcement, battalion whose motto was "Primus Inter Pares" (First Among Equals) and under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Walter Dollman.After a three-month training period at Mitcham Camp, south of Adelaide, Roland embarked with his unit from Adelaide, on board RMS Mongolia on March 9, 1916 and sailed for Egypt.

On May 10, 1916 Roland arrived in Alexandria, Egypt but the rest was short-lived because he embarked later the same day alongside the men of the BEF (British Expeditionary Force) on board HT Scotian then proceeded overseas for France.

On May 18, 1916, after a one-week trip on the Mediterranean Sea, Roland arrived in France and was disembarked in Marseilles then on June 5, joined the 2nd Australian Divisional Base Depot in Etaples, was appointed to the rank of Acting Corporal with pay on 24 June, reverted to the rank of Private on July 15, proceeded to unit the same day and was taken on strength with the 27th Battalion the next day in the Somme, at Bertangles.

On July 17, 1916 Roland was appointed Lance Corporal then promoted to the rank of Temporary Corporal on July 21 at Toutencourt and eight days later, on July 29, he entered the trenches of Pozieres which was the first major engagement of the 27th Australian Infantry Battalion in the Somme.

The 27th Battalion was committed to the fighting near Pozieres as part of the Second Division AIF, along with the First and Fourth Divisions. On the 4th August 1916, the 27th Battalion was on the left flank of the 2nd Division attack aimed at capturing the heights above Pozieres. The 27th Battalion's axis of advance took it through the Windmill, or rather the ruins of the 17th Century windmill, which had the dominant view of the surrounding area. They captured it, and held it in the face of unrelenting artillery fire and counter attacks.

The Second Division was relieved in place by the Fourth Division, two nights later. By coincidence, the 27th Battalion was relieved by the 48th, drawn from South Australia and Western Australia.When the 48th took over from the 27th they reported that there was no one left alive in the forward positions. The 48th suffered similarly high casualties and indeed the area around the windmill is said to contain more South Australian DNA than any other piece of ground anywhere in the world.

After that the 27th had a short respite for reinforcement and rest and was then committed to combat again in the second phase of the battle near Mouquet Farm.

Until the 9th September the 27th Battalion moved from from one camp to another, generally on foot. They finished up in France at Steenvorde. The battalion remained at Steenvorde until the 5th October when they entrained with the rest of the Brigade for Ypres where they relieved the 19th Battalion in the Salient and became the right battalion on the Brigade front. Here they remained until relieved by the 25th Battalion on the 12th October, whereupon they moved into barracks at Ypres.

Roland and the 27th Battalion returned to the Somme from the 16th October when they entrained for St Lawrence Camp. Again they were on the march, occasionally they managed to stay two nights in one place. Eventually, on the 27th October, they arrived at Dernancourt, where they engaged in consolidation and training before heading to the Front near Le Barque, where they relieved the 53rd Australian Infantry Battalion.

A few days later, on November 4, 1916, Roland was admitted to the 5th Australian Field Ambulance suffering from blistered heel and then joined his unit on November 12 in Flers, Somme. A few days earlier, the 27th Battalion was involved in a major action at Flers, just to the south east of Pozieres. The first Flers attack was launched on 5 November with the 1st Brigade advancing against trenches north of Gueudecourt, and the 7th against a complex of trenches known as "the Maze".The 27th role was an attack on the enemy position in Bayonet Trench. While they held on there were no reinforcements available and they lacked secure flanks. Both attacks managed to capture some of their objectives, but were eventually forced to withdraw. Another attack was launched against the Maze by the 5th and 7th Brigades on the morning of 17 November, it also succeeded in capturing a portion of the German trenches, but a surprise attack two days later returned this to the enemy.

In these brave and determined assaults the 27th Battalion lost 5 Officers and 72 Other Ranks killed. A further 5 Officers and 136 Other Ranks were wounded. 75 were listed as missing in action. Many have no known grave.

Mid-November marked the end of Field Marshal Haigh’s Somme offensive, the cost of which was hideous in the extreme.The Second Division endured winter quarters near Guedecourt, not far from Pozieres. It was a bitterly cold winter, the worst in living memory, and the conditions there took their toll; more than 20,000 casualties across the Australian Divisions. Logistics were a nightmare made worse by the mud, which had come to characterise the battlefield.

On February 2, 1917, after a short period of rest at Mametz Camp, Somme, Roland and the 27th Battalion moved back to Flers, in support trenches (Scotland Trench) in which they relieved the 13th Battalion of the Royal Scots and fought again in appalling conditions, in biting cold and under intense artillery then were relieved on February 6 by the 25th Australian Infantry Battalion and moved to Villa Camp which they left on February 10 for Scots Redoubt Camp before returning to the front line on February 14.Four days later the 27th Battalion was relieved by the 25th and marched to Sussex Camp then to Fricourt and fought shortly after in the Warlencourt sector where the battalion captured the "Galwitz Trench".

On March 1, 1917, after a raid led by Lieutenant Parkes on the "Malt Trench" which ended in failure on February 28, a general frontal assault took place on March 1 to capture this fortified position and after having advanced a distance of 130 yards across no man's land, the Germans flanked the 27th Battalion and launched a counterattack and the Australians had to retreat.The attack was a failure.

On March 5, 1917, the 27th Battalion marched for Le Sars and moved back to Flers then to Vaulx-Vraucourt, Pas-De-Calais on March 21 and on March 26, fought at Lagnicourt.

Lagnicourt, in northern France, was the scene of fierce fighting in March and April 1917. When the Germans withdrew to the Hindenburg Line in March and the British and dominion forces advanced rapidly in their wake but as they neared the Hindenburg Line they were confronted by well-prepared rearguard forces, which were only removed after difficult fights. One such action took place at Lagnicourt between 26 and 27 March. Closing with the Hindenberg Line, the British lost no time in launching a major offensive around Arras. This left their line weak in several places, including Lagnicourt. Aware of this weakness, the Germans launched a counter-stroke in the Lagnicourt area at dawn on 15 April, utilising 23 battalions. Their aim was not to permanently recapture the territory, but merely to hold it for a day and capture or destroy all the equipment and supplies they found there. They rapidly occupied Lagnicourt and captured several batteries of the 1st Australian Division's artillery. A vigourous counter-attack by four Australian battalions just after 7 am recaptured the village and most of the guns, and forced a premature German withdrawal.

On May 6, 1917, three days after the battle of Bullecourt, the 27th Battalion fought on the Hindenburg line between Morchies and Noreuil and on May 17, after hard fighting, marched into Billets at Senlis where they remained until June 15 then the Next day the battalion moved back to the Somme and arrived at Varennes.

On June 29, 1917, Roland was sent to Le Havre where he was admitted to Central Training School on July 1 and then two months later, on September 5, proceeded to join unit and joined the 27th Battalion on September 7 at Renescure, Hauts-De- France. On September 13, they marched to Steenvoorde and Montreal Camp and on June 17 reached Ypres and moved to Westhoek Ridge where Roland was injured by a shell wound to his right wrist on September 20 and evacuated to the 6th Australian Field Ambulance then to the 3rd Canadian Casualty Clearing Station and embarked by Ambulance Train the same day for Boulogne.

In Boulogne, Roland was admitted to the 2nd Australian General Hospital then transferred to the 1st Convalescent Depot on September 29 and a month later, on October 11 to the 3rd Rest Camp. On October 14, after recovering from his injuries, he was sent at the 2nd Divisional Base Depot in Le Havre, proceeded to join unit on October 18 and joined the 27th Battalion on October 20 in Steenvoorde then fought at "Albert Redoudbt" near Ypres until November 3.

On November 8, 1917, Roland was granted a leave in England and returned to his comrades on November 25 in Bailleul then fought again in the salient of Ypres, in Ploegsteert until the end of December then on February 4, 1918, was granted on leave in Paris then returned to his unit on February 12 in Henneveux, Pas-De-Calais.

In late March the Somme front erupted as the Germans unleashed their make or break Spring Offensive, intended to dislocate the French British front and cut Paris off from the Channel Ports to give the Germans the best possible position from which to sue for peace on their terms before the arrival of US forces in large numbers. The AIF was despatched piecemeal by the British High Command to block gaps in the crumbling British 5th Army front.

The 2nd Division spent most of this period in an arc south of Villers-Bretonneux north to Molancourt, under command of the British 3rd Army and had relieved the 4th Division after it had fought the Germans to a standstill near Dernancourt.The 5th Brigade was detached under command of the British 4th Army and was deployed around Hangard Wood / Villers Bretonneux.

In May the Australian Corps was at last formed and General John Monash appointed as its commander, although not without a lot of opposition and thinly veiled anti-Semitism by people, including correspondents Bean and Packer trying to influence Australian Prime Minister Billy Hughes who himself was wavering. They were proven wrong by subsequent events.

From May 2 to May 15, 1918 Roland and the 27th Australian Infantry Battalion were billeted in Amiens where they underwent a period of training and then marched for Albert the next day. On May 20, the battalion reached Ville-Sur-Ancre, near the river Ancre where unfortunately the next day, May 21, he met his fate and was seriously injured in his head by a shell and was immediately evacuated by stretcher-bearers to the 6th Australian Field Ambulance in Franvillers but on admission the surgeon declared "there was no hope".Roland remained unconscious for about an hour and died peacefully shortly after, he was 23 years old.
Today, Corporal Roland Allan Shawyer rests in peace alongside his friends, comrades and brothers in arms at the Franvillers Communal Cemetery Extension, Somme, and his grave bears the following inscription: "Dearly loved in life, honored in death ,cherished in memory."

Roland had two cousins who also served with bravery during the great war, the first of them was Sergeant number 1742 Edward Leonard Clare Hodge who fought in the 16th Australian Infantry Battalion and who was awarded the DCM (Distinguished Conduct Medal). Edward survived the war and died on October 14, 1980 at the age of 85 in Gilberton, South Australia.

Roland's second cousin was Sub Lieutenant Roy Norman Clare Hodge who was killed in action aboard the British cruiser "Viknor" off the Irish coast on January 13, 1915 at the age of 22. Unfortunately his body was never found and today his name is remembered and honored with respect at the Adelaide National War Memorial, Australia, and the Portsmouth Naval Memorial, England.

Roland, You who were so brave, it was under the bells of a world at war that in the prime of your life you answered the call of duty and left the fields of Australia to fight in the trenches alongside of your mates and your brothers in arms who together, as brave as lions, fought fiercely through the poppies of the Somme on which they shed their blood in the name of peace and freedom for which they served with pride and determination in the mud of Pozieres, Mouquet Farm, Flers, Amiens and Villers-Bretonneux where they were guided behind drums and bagpipes and carried out courageous shoulder-to-shoulder assaults united in the ANZAC spirit, a spirit of courage,valour,sacrifices and camaraderie that kept them strong in the face of the horrors and fury they went through,a spirit that gave them the strength to go over the top under the bullets and shells that mowed down without mercy and at an appalling pace friends, brothers and fathers who gave their all without hesitation in the name of the highest values who brought these young men together and who did their duty with honor for Australia.In the chaos and the madness in which the world sank, the young Diggers walked valiantly through the villages of northern France with on their faces, the faith, the determination and their smiles which remained forever engraved in the hearts of children and of the French people who adopted and loved these young boys as their sons and who, far from home, in moments of respite, found the love and comfort of an adopted country they knew little about but for which they did, gave and sacrificed so much.Under fire, under bullets and poison gas these young heroes showed the strength and bravery of all the Australian people and of the whole Australian nation which suffered terribly for four years and which lost so many of its sons and daughters in the hills of Gallipoli, in the barbed wire of Fromelles, in the mud of Ypres and in the poppies of Pozières and day after day new wooden crosses stood on the fields of glory and more and more families received the sad telegrams which said that their sons and husbands, their children were who told them that their sons and husbands, their children were killed in action and that they fell with honor for the king and the empire.In tears and pain, broken families had to endure the silence and the absence of their young sons and many mothers did not have the consolation of being able to go and pray at the graves of their loved ones who never disappeared from their hearts and their thoughts and today, more than a hundred years after the great war, it is thinking of these families that I walk with respect and gratitude through the rows of white graves, to honor the memory of these men who came from so far away for our old France and who gave their youth, their today and their lives for us who are lucky enough to live in peace.Forever young, they will always be loved and remembered so that their memory, like the poppies of the Somme, never fades and for them, for their families, I would give my today, my heart and my life so that the names of these young boys, my boys of the Somme live forever.Thank you so much Roland,for everything.At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember him,we will remember them.