Arthur Gelston SHEPHERD (1894–1915)
Shepherd in his school athletics team
Photograph Abingdon School Archive
Arthur Gelston Shepherd was born in Abingdon in 1894, the eldest child and only son of Arthur Mutrie Shepherd (born in Abingdon in 1865) and Violet Gelston (born in Dublin in 1865). His parents were married at Rathfranham Church in Dublin on 1 June 1892 and had four children:
- Arthur Gelston Shepherd (born in Abingdon on 18 January 1894)
- Violet Margaret Shepherd (born in Abingdon in 1896)
- Kathleen Phyllis Shepherd (born in Abingdon in 1901)
- Rosamond Patricia Shepherd (born in Sunningwell on 17 April 1908 and baptised at Wootton Church on 10 May 1908).
Arthur’s father was an Abingdon carpet manufacturer who started out as a clerk to his own father, a woollen merchant in Ladygrove, Abingdon but in 1891 by the age of 25 was a coir merchant. At the time of the 1901 census when Arthur was just seven years old the family was living at Springfields, Abingdon with three servants (a cook, gardener, and nurse/housemaid).
Around the beginning of 1908 the family moved to White Lodge, Foxcombe Hill, and Arthur attended Abingdon School. He was a founder member of the group of boys who went to see Sir Arthur Evans to ask for some land to “do” scouting on: this led to the foundation of Youlbury Scout Camp on Boars Hill in 1913, and Arthur became the first scoutmaster of the Youlbury troop.
By 1911 Arthur was aged 17 and a student in a chartered accountant’s office: he spent the census night that year in the Abingdon home of Miss Lydia Martha Layng, a 44-year-old teacher.
Arthur went up in aircraft while he was still at Abingdon School, and was determined to learn how to fly. On 21 July 1914 at the age of 20 he gained his aviator’s certificate (No. 849) on a Grahame-White biplane at Hendon.
In the First World War Arthur Gelston Shepherd first acted as an assistant instructor, and then served as a Probationary Flight Sub-Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Air Service (at that time the air arm of the Royal Navy). On 10 March 1915 he went to take a biplane from the seaplane sheds at Eastbourne to the aerodrome. He rose well, but appeared to be in difficulties after one circuit, and fell into the sea just 200 yards from the beach and a quarter of a mile from the fishing station. At the inquest at Eastbourne on 17 March 1915, his death was attributed to head injuries, and the jury recorded a verdict of accidental death.
Shepherd is buried in Wootton churchyard (south of the chancel), and the grave he shares with his sister Kathleen who died a year later is shown below. The inscription along the north side (front of picture) reads simply:
ARTHUR GELSTON SHEPHERD 1894–1915
The names and dates of his mother and father are recorded along the east and west sides, but only their ashes are buried here.
Shepherd also has a brass plaque in Wootton church, which reads:
IN MEMORY OF
FLIGHT SUB-LIEUT. ARTHUR GELSTON SHEPHERD R.N.
KILLED WHILE FLYING MARCH 10TH 1915
He is remembered on the war memorials at Abingdon School and at both St Leonard’s Church at Sunningwell and St Peter’s Church in Wootton.
He is also remembered at Youlbury Wood scout camp (below and right).
Administration was granted to Shepherd’s mother on 5 December 1918, and his effects came to £324 7s. 9d.
Arthur Gelston Shepherd’s parents
- Arthur Mutrie Shepherd and Violet Shepherd both died at the age of 84 within days of each other in early 1950. They were both cremated: Violet’s ashes were buried in Wootton churchyard with her children Arthur and Kathleen on 9 March, and her husband’s ashes were buried there on 13 March.
- Kathleen Phyllis Shepherd died at the age of 15 and was buried at Wootton with her brother on 9 May 1916.