Left: When he had just joined up and Right: on his retirement
Mr. Walter Shelley, 322, Devises Road, has been awarded the Meritorious Service Medal.In 1891, at the age of 14 years, Mr. Shelley was apprenticed to a naturalist and taxidermist in Fisherton Street, but joined the Wilts Regiment at the then recruiting office in the Market Inn in 1895. He served in the South African War with the rank of sergeant from 1899 to 1902 and was granted the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal in 1913. During World War I he served in France as quartermaster with the 12th S.B. Kings Royal Rifle Corps and on leaving the service was appointed expense store accountant at Mayhill Barracks, Glasgow. Returning to Salisbury in 1931, he was, during the recent war, employed at the Experimental Station, Porton as clerk in the stores and later in the finance office.
Of three sons, the eldest (Walter Archibald Shelley) served in the Royal Air Force and is now section leader at Messrs Blaw Knox (formerly Shorts) of Rochester. The second son, a flight lieutenant in the R.A.F. (Bryant Thomas Shelley) was selected and sent by the Air Ministry on a course of engineering with the jet engine inventor (Frank Whittle) to Cambridge where he gained first class honours. He was many times navigator to the Schneider Trophy and speed ace, the late Wing Commander Orlebar. He died in Iraq of fever in 1936. The third son (John Randolph Shelley) served in the Royal Artillery during the last war and attained the rank of Captain. He is an M.A. of Cambridge and is geologist of an oil prospecting team now working in Kuwait.
My grandfather often liked to talk about his experiences in the South African War, but only told one story from World War One.
He was the regimental crack shot and there still exist shooting badges and photographs of him with others flanking shooting trophies won at Bisley. On one occasion, he put this skill to particularly good use. On day in 1917, a German officer had crawled into 'No Man's Land' and was picking off soldiers taking the rations up a communications trench to the front line. On being told, grandfather went straight to the spot where the others had been killed, rifle at the ready. He said he just happened to spot the glint of reflected sunlight on the German officer's sniper scope and fired at once. He then crawled himself into No Man's Land to see if his adversary was still there, and to find what sort a person he might be if he was still alive. He was, of course, dead, but grandfather brought back his papers for intelligence purposes.
Left: his friend with picture of General Hindenburg. Centre, his iron cross ribbon. Right his sweetheart in Germany
Certificates awarded to my grandfather include:
Third class certificate of education awarded to Lance Corporal
W Shelley dated November 30th 1896
Second class certificate of education awarded to Lance Corporal W Shelley dated March 3rd 1897
First class certificate of education awarded to Colour Sergeant W Shelley dated March 28th 1911
Warrant as a Warrant Officer issued July 5th 1915
Commission as Quartermaster September 26th 1917
The Experimental Establishment at Porton was concerned with germ warfare. Even today, now that it has become the Public Health Laboratories Service Centre for Applied Microbiological Research, local people still wind their car windows up when they go past the experimental farm....
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