New Hampshire World War I Military: Private Ralph W. Shirley of Conway NH (1896-1918)

A Boston Post newspaper of 2 August 1918 announced Ralph W. Shirley’s death.

Ralph Wellington Shirley was born on 28 May 1896 in Conway, Carroll County NH, son of Arthur R. & Bessie (Moody) Shirley and grandson of  Joshua & Mary E. (Woodward) Shirley.  He had siblings Lela E. (b 1894), Earl A. (b 1899) and Leon A. (b 1897).   According to newspaper and other records, Ralph grew up in Conway NH and Fryeburg Maine, a farmer’s son, attending Fryeburg Academy.  He was studying at New Hampshire State College (now called the University of New Hampshire) in the future graduating Class of 1919, but he left to enlist in the United States army.

Ralph was assigned to F Company of the 101st Engineers. His brother, Leon Arthur Shirley also appears to have been a member of the same military group.  He was trained and sent to Europe, where he was killed in action on 13 July 1918, probably in the Pas Fini Sector, Lorraine France, where his battalion would have been stationed from July 8 to the 14th, 1918.

Photograph of Ralph W. Shirley from the Massachusetts State Library Archives. Presented to the State Library by the Boston Globe, July 2, 1935.

Like his comrades in arms, he would have been buried with military honors in a simple grave near where he fell.  When the war ended, his remains were returned to the United States, and reburied in the Shirley family plot at Pine Grove Cemetery, Fryeburg, Oxford County, Maine [6011 Section V Shirley Lot 254].

The Find-a-Grave web site includes a notation by Gene Sordillo that states, “Rolly Frey, who, on the night of 13 July, along with Corp. Joe St. Lawrence, Ralph Shirley, Walter Johnson and Frank Shaw were hit by shell fire while working in the ravine where it goes under the road to Lucy-le-Bocage. The St. Lawrence and Shirley were both killed and the other three later died of their wounds.” [This was taken originally from the book, “The Story of F Company, 101st Engineers.”  Ralph was 22 years 1 month and 15 days old.

Ralph W. Shirley’s name is listed on several monuments and plaques: (according to a news article in the Conway Daily Sun, by Tom Eastman in November of 2106) “Shirley’s name appears at the top of the list of 12 names on the East Conway Veterans Memorial near Sherman Farm. That memorial is “Dedicated to the Boys of East Conway N.H. who served their country in the World War.”  His name also appears on the NH Adjutant General’s list of WWI Casualties, and on the WWI Honor Roll in Doric Hall of the New Hampshire State House.  The University of New Hampshire [SEE Footnote 1] used to have a plaque that listed his name at Memorial Field in Durham NH.  The Ralph W. Shirley American Legion Post (Post 46) was named in his honor.  Ralph W. Shirley’s name is also listed on a plaque originally dedicated in 1920 at the Cadet Armory in Boston MA [SEE Footnote 2].

The Boston Post newspaper of August 2, 1918 reported: “Private Ralph Shirley of Fryeburg, Me., was killed July 13 while fighting with F Company of the 101st Engineers. He was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur R. Shirley of East Conway NH. He attended Fryeburg Academy and later was a student at the New Hampshire State College.” [see newspaper clipping at top of page]

Also see [upcoming] article: New Hampshire WWI Military: Heroes of Conway

[Editor’s Note: this story is part of an on-going series about heroic New Hampshire men and women of World War I.  Look here for the entire listing].


[1] The original UNH Honor Roll inscribed on dedication table at Memorial field included the names of Daniel C. Stinson, ’05; William H. Robinson, ’13; Forrest E. Adams, ’15; Paul E. Corriveau ’15; Earle Montgomery ’15; Pitt S. Willand ’16; John Humiston ’16; Armand A. Brien ’17; Donald W. Libby ’17; George D. Parnell ’17; William H. Thomas ’17; Cyril T. Hunt ’19; Ralph W. Shirley 19; Frank E. Booma ’20; Otis E. Soper ’20; Fred W. Stone ’21; George E. Elam x-’18; and John W. Powers. [per Portsmouth Herald, Nov 7 1940.  This plaque has since been changed to a generic one that acknowledges all wars but mentions no specific names]. The Portsmouth Herald, Tuesday, June 19, 1923; page 6.
Headline: STATE UNIVERSITY UNVEILS A TABLET TO HER HEROES | Durham, June 17.–The 53rd annual commencement of the University of New Hampshire was opened here Saturday with the observance of alumni day….This year’s class, number 169, by far the largest class to ever graduate from the institution is partly responsible for the number who thronged here. yesterday…The feature of the day was the review of the University battalion and unveiling of the memorial tablet. At 1:35 p.m. the battalion marched into the Memorial field led by the band. The five companies were in command of Lieutenants, Wilford Dion of Tilton, John Carr of Milford, Mass; Donald Jones, Nashua; Samuel Patrick Jr., of Winthrop, Mass; Theodore Rodenhiser of Henniker. |  President Ralph D. Hetzel was in the reviewing stand accompanied by Major E.B. Walker, professor of military tactics and science; Capt. Charles Petee and Cadet Major Daniel Byrne of Concord. Following the battalion parade the crowd gathered at the gate of Memorial field where the tablet was unveiled, accompanied by a salute from the battalion. Inscribed upon the tablet are the names of the men of the university who died in the World War and to whom the Memorial Field is dedicated. | The names are Pvt. Forrest Eugene Adams, Lieut. Frank Booma, Corp. Armand Alfred Brien, Lieut. Paul Edward Corriveau, Pvt. George Henry Elam, Bugler John Humiston, Lieut. Cyril Thomas Hunt, Lieut. Donald Whitney Libby, Corp. Earle Roger Montgomery, Lieut. George Downes Parnell, Sergt. John William Powers, Lieut. William Henry Robinson, Pvt. Ralph Wellington Shirley, Pvt. Otis Edmund Soper, Pvt. Daniel Chase Stinson, Seaman Fred Weare Stone, Lieut. William Hervey Thomas and Lieut. Pitt Sawyer Willand.
[2] The Cadet Armory in Park Square Boston was sold and is now in private hands.  That section of the building that includes the memorial plaque is known as Smith & Wollensky Restaurant.  According to Major Brian K. Pillai, U.S. Army NG MAARNG, and historian of the Cadets, this plaque is located behind the restaurant’s host station.  This was confirmed today (23 March 2017) with the restaurant manager that the plaque is still in this location, and available for viewing during regular business hours.   The following is the original newspaper article along with a list of all those commemorated on the plaque:
Boston Herald, Boston MA September 25, 1921 page 13
Military Men Dedicate Huge Bronze and Marble Tablet
Maj.-Gen. Edwards Is Special Guest
-Impressive exercises marked the dedication yesterday afternoon of a huge bronze and marble tablet in memory of the 101st engineers who died in the world war. The exercises were held in the Cadet armory, Columbus avenue before more than 750 members and friends of the 1st corps Cadets, who, with the 10st Engineers Veterans’ Association, erected the tablet which occupies the place of honor in the armory entrance hall.
-The organization had as its special guests, Maj.-Gen. Clarence R. Edwards, commanding the 1st army corps area; Mayor Peters, Col. George W. Bunnell, in command of the regiment overseas. Col. L.S. Blanchard, present regimental commander; 28 officers of the 1st corps Cadets, and officers connected with the state adjutant-general’s department.
-Unveils Tablet
-J.H. McIntyre, the cadet armorer, unveiled the tablet, which is 6 feet 8 inches square, set in a frame of pink marble. The design was executed by George H. Hallowell, a former member of the corps, in collaboration with Maj. Edward H. Hoty, architect.
-In bold relief on the tablet is the inscription, “Montrat Viam, 1741” (“We Lead the Way”) the date when the organization was formed. Following are the words: “To commemorate the service of the officers and men of the 101st engineers, 1st corps Cadets, 26th division, United States army in France, in the world war, here recruited and here organized, and to record the names of those who there gave up their lives for their country.” The 68 names then follow in alphabetical order.
-Gen. Francis H. Appleton, president of the veterans’ association, presided. Gen. Edwards reviewed the work done in the world war by the 26th division in general and the 10st engineers in particular, praising the regiment and its officers.
-Mayor Peters also paid glowing tribute to the regiment, declaring that officers and men of the organization were never found wanting in time of national or state need.
The Rev. Palfrey Perkins led in prayer. Ralph Osborne accompanied by Mrs. Dudley Fitts, sang the French song, “La Patrie.” The names of the men inscribed on the tablet are: Horace V. Balcom, Edgar D. Bascom, Ovila Binette, Bernard L. Boisvert, Chauncey D. Bryant, Elmer N. Buswell, Cecil R. Cole, Earl A Covey, Patrick J. Coyne, Robert S. Cross, Herman E. Daley, Frederick D. Day, Peter Deptula, Raymond J. Dixon, Frank B. Donovan, Charles H. Dupee, William W. Dyer, Clarence S. Eaton, Harold W. Estey, Raymond H. Fellows, Clifford B. Fletcher, Cecil W. Fogg, Robert L. Forbush, Rollin W. Frey, Benjamin W. Fuller, Emile B. Baillac, Alfred B. Goodearl, Harry L. Gutshall, Kenneth E. Henderson, Robert H. Hogg, Walter P. Jensen, Enfred A. Johnson, Parker B. Jones, Desire A. Joyal, James P. Lash, Ralph H. Lasser, Timothy Leary, Jr., James E. Lees, Brewster K. Littlefield, Thomas McAllister, Joseph McGarvey, Rex L. McKenney, Joseph J. McNeary, Thomas J. Migauckas, Leroy W. Miller, Russell S. Murray, Howard G. Parker, Eric G. Patch, James D. Ryder, Percy A. Rideout, James A. Shannon, Frank W. Shaw, Walter E. Shaw, Ralph W. Shirley, Daniel J. Smith, Exlone J. Snow, Otis E. Soper, Joseph C. St. Lawrence, Charles C. Stover, Fred R. Thurston, Alberton W. Vinal, William W. Walcott, Joe S. Wiblin, Fred Watson, Robert Watt, Seamen A. Wilbur, Edward R. Wilson, Harry T. Warburton.



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5 Responses to New Hampshire World War I Military: Private Ralph W. Shirley of Conway NH (1896-1918)

  1. Pingback: New Hampshire World War I Military: Heroes of The Great War | Cow Hampshire

  2. Bob Cottrell says:

    Great job on this Janice! Thanks so much for caring and sharing and honoring our vets.

    • Janice Brown says:

      Bob, thank you! Two more stories coming up in the next 8 days on Conway. I could not have written such complete stories without your help!

  3. Michael says:

    I’m always struck by those who died in the closing months of war. The loss was hard for family, I’m sure, but to lose them so close to the end of hostilities must have been even more difficult, too.

  4. Pingback: New Hampshire WWI Military: Heroes of Conway | Cow Hampshire

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