NORTHERN IRELAND’S LAST WORLD WAR I VETERAN COMMEMORATED
4 August 2014
A group of neighbours living at Clanmil Housing’s Savoy independent living housing scheme for older people in Bangor have spent the day together commemorating the 100 year anniversary of the start of World War I.
Tenants and staff at The Savoy were joined by Lady Sylvia Hermon MP, Cllr Peter Martin, Mayor of North Down and Baroness May Blood for the unveilling of a plaque to commemorate the life of former resident Thomas Shaw, Ireland’s the longest surviving WW1 veteran who lived at the scheme until his death in 2002.
The tenants had organised a day long programme of events focusing on remembering the life of Thomas Shaw, Northern Ireland’s longest surviving World War I veteran, who lived at The Savoy until his death in 2002 aged 102.
Mr Shaw, originally from Belfast, served in 1914 and again from 1916 to 1919.
He first enlisted as a rifleman in 1914 at age 15 but was sent home from the battlefield when his brother, a military policeman, met him by chance in France. In 1916 Mr Shaw joined the 16th battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles and was again posted to France, fighting in battles such as Messines and Passchendaele. He served in Germany as part of the Army of Occupation for six months after the war ended and returned home in April 1919. Mr Shaw lived at The Savoy in Bangor with his wife Nell for the 12 years until his death in 2002.
The Savoy’s day of remembrance started with the laying of a wreath at Mr Shaw’s grave in Clandeboye Cemetery in Bangor followed by a memorial service at the scheme. An Ulster History Circle plaque was also unveiled at the scheme by North Down MP, Lady Sylvia Hermon and Mayor of North Down, Cllr Peter Martin.
The tenants and their guests also enjoyed a poppy lunch together and an old time supper dance in the evening.
Sam Girvan, Clanmil Housing’s Scheme Co-ordinator at The Savoy said:
“Here at The Savoy we feel a special connection to World War I because of Tommy Shaw. Despite the fact that he was the last living combatant of the Great War living in Ireland he didn’t like a fuss to be made about his years of service. He was a very quiet and unobtrusive man.
“Those of us who knew him felt really privileged and in remembering Tommy today we are honouring all who served in World War I and the sacrifices they made for their country.”
The Savoy housing scheme provides 56 self contained independent living apartments for older people.