HEATHER CAMERON – GAZETTE CONTRIBUTOR
A uniform that had been at the Galt Museum in Lethbridge since 1965 and officially in the collection since 1973 was identified as belonging to Sgt. John (Jack) Shield of Fort Macleod after assistant Ruthann LaBlance of the Galt collections department conducted an extensive audit.
“I went through the digitized version of the Lethbridge Herald looking through obituaries for men who had served in the First World War and the Second World War and who had received the Distinguished Conduct Medal and that search led me to the obituary for Jack Shield,” LaBlance said.
“Then, I went to the uniform just to see if there happened to be any details inside of it that happened to be overlooked and I found a service number. I went to Library Archives Canada and looked in their Soldiers of the First World War database and typed in the service number. Wouldn’t you know? Jack Shield came up.”
According to information LaBlance provided, Shield originally enlisted in February 1915 and was overseas by August 1915 serving in the Eighth Battalion.
Shield was promoted several times and reached the rank of sergeant in January 1918. In that same month, Shield also lost his younger brother, Cpl. Joseph Shield, in the line of duty at age of 20.
Sgt. Shield received the Distinguished Conduct Medal in August 1918 at the Battle of Amiens, otherwise known as the 100-Day Advance, near the end of World War One.
Sgt. Shield cut off about 80 enemy soldiers with his battalion and assisted in keeping the enemy at bay. After killing four enemy soldiers, Sgt. Shield took an injury to his thigh, but continued to fight on.
“Sgt. Shield had an absolute disregard for danger and was an example to his men,” LeBlance said.
The injury was the end of Shield’s participation in the war, as he was hospitalized for treatment for the remainder of the war.
Shield returned to Canada in 1919 and married Beatrice in 1923, and they had five children.
When World War Two broke out, LeBlance shared, Shields sought to enlist again with the 14th Army Tank Battalion in Calgary, but was discharged from service due to his age and flat feet.
Shield then joined the Veteran’s Guard, which was a way for those deemed too old to serve in the traditional way to give their service to their country.
Shield served with the Veteran’s Guard until the end of World War Two.
Shield’s grandson Jerry Ellerman, granddaughter Susan Shores, Edith’s husband Sam Moyes, Ruthann LaBlance of the Galt Museum, youngest daughter Edith Moyes, and grandson Michael Stonhouse came to the Galt Museum on Thursday to see the uniform and reminisce about the man behind it.
“It’s absolutely awesome,” Stonhouse said. “I’m one of the genealogy/history buffs in the family and I had pictures and files, but I had no idea the uniform even existed.”
Having two legitimate sources of information that could prove where the uniform came from allowed LaBlance to get in touch with Sgt. Shield’s family members.
Stonhouse was the first person LaBlance connected with and from there, more family members were contacted.
“I have nothing but good, happy memories of Grandpa,” Shores said. “He was fun. It was always a joke and lots of laughter. I remember camping trips, I remember his garden, I remember his cooking; we used to go over for lots of meals. Our parents worked, so we spent a lot of time there. Lots of good memories.”
Moyes shared that her father was the most loving, caring gentleman and she and her siblings and their children all have very fond memories of their father.
“I practically grew up there with him every weekend, every summer,” Ellerman said. “We’d go fishing, hunting, just everything.”
“He very seldom talked of anything army or war; he just didn’t do it. He was a joker in a lot of ways. He loved to play with kids and loved the grandkids and that’s probably why I like to have fun with kids; he’d have fun at the store with the kids when they came around.”
Moyes remembers her father’s character as being warm and helpful, always willing to do anything for anyone.
According to Moyes, Sgt. Shield had son-in-laws who respected him and was just a fabulous man.
“To have something tangible like that, the uniform my grandfather actually wore, is absolutely wonderful.” Stonhouse said. “Generations go by and the wars are becoming more and more a faint memory and this helps make it alive for people.”