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Eric Arnold Shacklady

Eric Arnold ShackladyEric Arnold Shacklady was born in St Michael's, Liverpool on 30th October 1892, the son of James Shacklady. He was educated at Liverpool Institute and subsequently took up employment with the Royal Exchange Insurance Company, Royal Exchange Chambers, Liverpool where he rose to the position of Assistant Manager in the Accident Department.

The Great War was declared on the 4th August 1914 and 13 days later Eric enlisted, as (2248) into 'C' Company, 1/5th Battalion King's (Liverpool) Regiment. At this time his family was living at 'Idlesse', Lindhurst Rd, Wallasey. He trained at Canterbury before being drafted to France with his Battalion on 21st February 1915. He was not long in France when he returned to England on the 12th April 1915 to train for a commission having completed the forms for a commission on 12th January 1915 prior to going abroad. So keen was he to be commissioned that he attended evening lectures to learn about map reading, sketching, surveying and other military matters probably while he was stationed in Canterbury.

Eric was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant, dated from 14th April 1915, into the Manchester Regiment and returned to the front once more on the 28th August, 1915 to serve with the 2nd Battalion Manchester Regiment. Suffering from rheumatic fever, acute neuralgia and neurasthenia he was evacuated to England on the 11 December 1915 on board the Hospital Ship ‘St Andrew’. For many months he suffered from debility, sleeplessness, headaches and a general lack of self-confidence. He was not to return to France but was employed as a Bombing Instructor to the Regiment, a position which would nevertheless result in him being seriously wounded and awarded the Albert Medal for gallantry. He was promoted to Lieutenant on 1st February 1916.

On 15th December 1916 he was in charge of a bombing practice session at Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire. Eric takes up his own story:

“I was in charge and instructing a party of 'C' Company, 3rd Battalion the Manchester Regiment in throwing live bombs on the foreshore at Cleethorpes. I am bombing officer to the Battalion and hold a Special Certificate at the Northern Command School and Bombing Instructors Certificates at the Clapham School. At the time of the accident, about noon, I had (8847) Private J Roberts in the bay under instruction. There was no one else in the bay. (985) Sergeant G Richmond was in the adjoining bay. Private Roberts had thrown two bombs without mishap. I handed him the third one and saw him go through the motion of extracting the safety pin. As far as I remember he immediately dropped the bomb. He picked it up and attempted to throw it again. The next thing I remember is seeing the bomb lying on the ground. I immediately picked it up, with the idea of throwing it out of harm's way, when the bomb burst in my hand. In my opinion it was not a premature burst. My injuries were at once attended to and dressed, a field dressing and a stretcher being at hand. All instructions as laid down in the Digest of Command Orders dealing with bombs and training of bombers were carried out. The Regimental Medical Officer arrived within a very short space of time and also the ambulance”.

Private Roberts, the man who dropped the grenade, described the incident as follows:

“On 15th December 1916, about noon, I was in the throwing bay at Cleethorpes foreshore under instruction. Lt Shacklady was in the bay with me, he was standing on my left. I had already thrown two live bombs over the parapet. Lt Shacklady then handed me a third bomb. I withdrew the pin and immediately threw the bomb. I suppose I let go of it too soon as instead of going over the parapet the bomb went straight up in the air and dropped at my feet. I at once picked it up again and at the same time, turning my back on Lt Shacklady, threw the bomb to the rear of the trench. I have been instructed that if a bomb was accidentally dropped I should pick it up and throw it over the parapet. I was afraid that there would not be enough time to do this and in order if possible to save Lt Shacklady I threw it to the rear of the trench hoping it would go over the parados. It fell short hitting the parados. I at once ran towards it but Lt Shacklady passed me and picked the bomb up which at once burst in his hand. I have served in Gallipoli and France where I have thrown dozens of live bombs and never had an accident before. I cannot account for this accident in any way”.

Lt Shacklady was admitted to Grimsby Military Hospital suffering from the effects of the bomb explosion. His right hand was practically destroyed and had to be amputated. He also had a compound fracture of his right tibia 3 inches above the ankle bone. In addition he had sustained a wound to his left eyeball and scattered wounds over the right foot and leg.

A subsequent Court of Enquiry into the incident reported:

“The Court is of the opinion that the accident which occurred to Lt Shacklady, 3 Manchester Regt, was in the execution of his duty and that he is in no way to blame. The Court considers that the action of Lt Shacklady in picking up the bomb after it had fallen for the second time was a particularly gallant one”.

The recommendation for a gallantry award to Eric Shacklady reads:

“During bombing practice at Cleethorpes on 15th December 1916 a live grenade, which was thrown by one of the squad, failed to clear the parapet. The grenade was picked up and thrown a second time but again failed to clear the parapet. By this time the five second fuse had burnt nearly to the end. Lt Shacklady however, with utter disregard for himself but out of solicitude for the man rushed forward and picked up the grenade which exploded in his hand. He lost his hand in this gallant action which undoubtedly saved the man who had thrown the grenade”.

The Major-General noted that the merit in his action lay in the fact that he approached the point of danger rather than attempting to retire from it. There was no doubt that he was urged to do this, certainly not for his own safety but out of solicitude for the safety of the man and the Sergeant. Both of whom he undoubtedly thought would be exposed to the bursting grenade as owing to it having fallen the second time there was not sufficient time for them to get clear.

In June 1917 Eric's father wrote to an officer in the War Office:

“I am venturing to address you without the knowledge of my son and therefore without his sanction which I know would not be given. It is with reference to the recommendation which I understand was made by the Court of Inquiry which sat in January last and which I believe was endorsed by your good self and the Brigadier. Five months have now lapsed and I am wondering whether the papers have been hung up or the recommendation has been turned down. Personally Eric professes to have lost interest in its fate and I am afraid that his state of mind is rather symptomatic of his condition, dependent as it is upon the decision of the surgeons as to the seriousness of the impending operation (one of a series of operations which Eric underwent to repair the damage he sustained when the grenade exploded). I feel quite sure that news of any recognition of his courageous action would materially brighten his spirits. I should take it as a very great favour if you were to feel at liberty to inform me in strict confidence as to the present position of the recommendation and of the prospects of its going through. Please accept my apologies for troubling you especially when I recall the recent announcement of your resignation owing to ill health.

Lt Eric Arnold Shacklady was invested with the Albert Medal 2nd Class in Buckingham Palace at 11.30am on 16 January 1918 in recognition of his gallant conduct.

By Mr Joe Devereux