Donald Bruce Shaw was born December 7, 1898 in New Maryland, New Brunswick to William A. Shaw and Maggie Graham. Donald’s parents married one another January 14, 1844. Together they had six children in addition to Donald named William Roy, Irvine, Vera, Lloyd, Betty, and Hazen. Records suggest that the Shaw family had residences in both New Maryland and Fredericton. While William and Maggie worked the farm in New Maryland with their children, they would also have a home at 147 Westmorland Street. When not working on the farm, the family attended St. Paul’s Church and were active with the community. Given his young age at the outbreak of the war there are few accounts of his early childhood, one that largely revolved around farming and church. At the time of his formal enlistment April 23, 1915, Donald had no formal military training, however, he did belong to the local militia. Despite only being fifteen years of age when he enlisted in Fredericton with the 55th Battalion, his attestation form claims that he was three years older. He was described as having grey eyes, brown hair, and a dark complexion while standing five feet seven inches tall. Newspapers indicate that he was the only one in the family who enlisted, likely because of the need for others in the family to work the farm. Over the spring and summer of 1915 Donald remained in Canada training with the 55th Battalion in preparations for going overseas to England. According to his service record, just prior to leaving he was at Valcartier, Quebec with other members of the 55th Battalion. It is unclear if he saw his family before leaving.
On October 30, 1915, Private Donald Bruce Shaw embarked from Montreal, Quebec, aboard the S.S. Corsican for England. He arrived November 9 and remained in England for the next seven months, eventually being transferred to the 39th Battalion, likely because of his young age. When a draft was called in the early summer of 1916 with the 18th Battalion, Donald went over as a signaler before joining a machine gun brigade. On June 28, 1916, he was finally in France and Flanders arriving just before the beginning stages of the Somme. Spending July and August in southern Belgium, Donald arrived at Albert in September as Canadian Divisions began preparing for attacks along Pozieres Ridge. According to the official war diary of the 18th Battalion, on September 9 his unit marched to Albert and rested until the opening assault on Courcelette a few days later. On September 14, Private Shaw moved into trench positions as part of the 4th Canadian Infantry Brigade with his battalion holding the right flank alongside the 20th and 21st Battalions. At 6:24 AM on September 15, his unit attacked German front and second-line positions achieving objectives for the day. According to his circumstances of death record, at some point during the first day of fighting Donald was killed and his body never recovered. News of his death reached home shortly after in early October. According to his obituary listed in the Daily Gleaner October 12, it was the first news the family had received at all about Donald since he had left the previous year. At the time of his death, Donald had only been overseas for ten months. He was seventeen years old.
Lest We Forget
Private Donald Bruce Shaw is honoured on the Vimy Memorial located in Vimy, France. According to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Donald is one of over 11, 000 names honoured for individuals killed in France during the war who have no known grave.