b. 08/08/1882 Wellington, New Zealand. d. 11/08/1915 Gallipoli, Turkey.
Alfred John Shout (1882-1915), hailed as one of Australia’s greatest heroes of the Gallipoli campaign, was in fact a New Zealander by birth. He was born on 8th August 1882 in Wellington, the son of John Shout, a London born cook, and his Irish wife Agnes nee McGovern. He was privately educated in his youth. Little is known of his early life, until his early teens when he embarked with the New Zealand contingent to fight in the Second Boer War in South Africa.
He served with distinction in the Border Horse, was twice wounded and, on one occasion, reported as killed in action. His gallantry was marked with a mention in despatches and promotion to Sergeant for a deed on 29th January 1901 at Thabaksberg. He was said to have displayed great courage and assisted in keeping men together. Under a heavy enemy fire, he brought out of the firing line a wounded man of the 17th Battery, Royal Field Artillery and took him to safety.
It is possible he remained in South Africa after the war, and in 1903 he joined the Cape Field Artillery, as a Sergeant. He emigrated to Australia in 1907 and settled in Sydney, in the suburb of Darlington, where he worked as a carpenter and joiner. He remained in touch with the military, by joining a militia unit, the 29th Infantry Regiment, otherwise known as the Australian Rifles. He was commissioned as Second Lieutenant in the militia on 16th June 1914, and enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 27th August. By then, Shout had married Rose Alice and they had a 9 year-old daughter.
Shortly after the outbreak of war, the 29th was swallowed up into the newly constituted 1st Battalion, AIF, and Shout was posted as second lieutenant to F Company, commanded by Lieutenant Cecil Sasse. The battalion embarked for Egypt on 18th October 1914 and shortly after arrival the unit re-formed into four companies, with Shout becoming a platoon commander in D Company. In February 1915 he was promoted to Lieutenant and it was with this rank that he landed at Anzac Cove on 25th April.
Shout played a significant part in the confused and costly fighting to secure the beachhead. On the first day he fought a rearguard action on Baby 700 and later that same day he led a mixed party of stragglers to support the thin Australian line on Walker’s Ridge. Two days later, having toiled without a break since the landing, he replaced a wounded officer and held a threatened sector on Walker’s Ridge. His actions were described by one of his men…”Lieutenant Shout was a hero. Wounded himself several times, he kept picking up wounded men and carrying them out of the firing line. I saw him carry fully a dozen men away.” For his gallant leadership, he was awarded the Military Cross.
Shout’s wounds were not as serious as first thought, and he was soon back with his unit. On 11th May 1915, he was wounded again, leading to a painful wait for information for his wife who felt compelled to write to the army authorities in Sydney on May 28th. Again, Shout had been fortunate and, on 29th June, he was mentioned in despatches for his services since the landing. A month later he was promoted to Captain and a week after that led his men into Lone Pine. The three day battle that followed was one of the fiercest fought on the peninsula. The Australians would pay a fearful price for their victory. More than 2,000 men of the 1st Australian Division were killed, wounded or posted missing, including Shout.
On the morning of the 9th August, 1915, with a very small party Captain Shout charged down trenches strongly occupied by the enemy, and personally threw four bombs among them, killing eight and routing the remainder. In the afternoon of the same day, from the position gained in the morning, he captured a further length of trench under similar conditions, and continued personally to bomb the enemy at close range under very heavy fire until he was severely wounded, losing his right hand and left eye. This most gallant officer has since succumbed to his injuries. Shout’s body was recovered and he was buried at sea off Gallipoli. He was described by Charles Bean, who knew him personally, as “one of the gamest officers that ever lived, from the first day ready for any adventure, plunging into the thick of it, light hearted and laughing…”
After decades of private ownership, in 2006, his medals came up for auction. The group including his VC, MC, Queen’s South Africa Medal with three clasps, King’s South Africa Medal with two clasps, 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20 and Victory Medal 1914-19 with Mentioned in Despatches oak leaf, was purchased by the Australian media mogul Kerry Stokes for the then world record price of $1.2 million Australian Dollars. Following the sale, Stokes donated the medal group to the Australian War Memorial, Canberra. This prompted Shout’s grandson, Graham Thomas to say “To get it on show and get the money, you can’t ask for much more than that. I’m tickled pink.”
LOCATION OF MEDAL: AUSTRALIAN WAR MEMORIAL, CANBERRA.
BURIAL PLACE: BURIED AT SEA OFF GALLIPOLI, TURKEY.
Steve Lee www.memorialstovalour.co.uk – Image of the Shout VC MC Medal Group at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.