Bill McShane helped South Bendigo to a football premiership before setting off for England and World War One

Photo: Matt Kimpton
Photo: Matt Kimpton

The German bomb that landed on Lieutenant Bill McShane killed him outright. 

That he died instantly was at least one small mercy, although his brother Hughie was nearby when it happened.

The 100th anniversary of that World War One death is to be remembered during a vigil at the Soldiers Memorial Institute forecourt this Thursday evening at 6pm.

Lieutenant Bill McShane. Picture: SUPPLIED

Lieutenant Bill McShane. Picture: SUPPLIED

It will be another night vigil in Pall Mall, which have been taking place every day as part of the city’s Centenary of ANZAC commemorations.

McShane was 21-years-old on the day of his death on a battlefield in France. He had grown up locally, helping South Bendigo to a football premiership just weeks after war had been declared.

With football abandoned the following year and news reaching home of casualties at Gallipoli, the former cadet lieutenant enlisted in 6th Battalion and arrived in France two days before the New Year.

He saw action across the Western Front and was recognised for his bravery during a raid on a German trench, where five prisoners were captured.

He was hit and killed in action by a shell in 1918, during the Second Battle of the Somme which raged in the dying days of the war.

McShane’s brother Hughie served with him through the war and the family believes they were near each other when the shell hit. Hughie returned home alone on the 20th of February 1919.

Below: The last post performed for Private Henry Bell, a fellow digger whose remains were identified earlier this year. The tribute was part of the nightly vigils.

Nephew Michael Connolly said that while McShane’s death happened a long time ago it was important to remember those who went to war.

While McShane has no known grave, family members had visited the Australian war memorial at Villers-Bretonneux, where the lieutenant is listed.

“It was a fairly moving occasion,” Mr Connolly said.

Apart from being remembered for his war service, Mr Connolly said McShane was a talented carpenter.

“We still have one of the tables that he carved, that’s been handed down through the family. We still call it the Bill McShane table,” he said.

And then, of course, there was his passion for sport. Not only was he a keen football player, but he was a strong athlete and the family still has a trophy he won a sprinting championship at his battalion.

Nightly vigils like that which will honour McShane will continue in Pall Mall until the centenary of the World War One Armistice on 11 November.

The last of the crosses to the city’s original ANZACs will be added to Bendigo’s Field of Remembrance on that evening.

Descendants can registrar names for the additional crosses by emailing anzaccentenarybendigo@gmail.com

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