Herbert SHAW
Rank: Ordinary Seaman
Number: Mersey Z/2297
Unit: SS Vienna ROYAL NAVY
Date of Death: 10 September 1917
Age: 30
Cemetery: Plymouth Naval Memorial

James Shaw was working as a cotton bleacher in the Wigan area when he got to Harriett. Herbert and his younger brother, Percy were born there. By 1901, the family had moved to Heaton Mersey and was living at 36 Beech Road.

The Navy’s Volunteer Reserve fulfilled a similar purpose to the Territorial units of the Army, in that it was comprised on civilians who had received naval training and could be called up if needed. With War imminent, or already declared, Herbert married his fiancée, Beatrice Berry in a civil ceremony registered at Stockport between June and the end of August 1914. Her address is later given as 137 Stockport Road, Cheadle, but it’s not known if this is the home she shared with Herbert.

The SS Vienna was a merchant ship of nearly 4200 tons. Most of her crew were civilian mariners but she was armed for defence and Herbert appears to have been one of the trained gunners. On 10 September 1917, she was some 340 miles north west of Ushant when she was torpedoed without warning.

25 members of the crew lost their lives and her captain was taken prisoner. There were a number of survivors, including a group of five rescued by an American vessel two days later. In its edition of 19 October, the Stockport Advertiser wrote “We are informed that some of the survivors saw Gunner Shaw aboard a small boat but as it was not afterwards seen it is presumed that the boat capsized and all the occupants perished.”

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