Sheepshanks, William

Fifth son of the Right Reverend John Sheepshanks, Bishop of Norwich, 1893-1909 and Margaret Sheepshanks, daughter of Thomas Ryott of Thirsk. He was one of four Wykehamist brothers although there were fourteen Sheepshanks children in all. His older sister Mary was prominent in the Suffragette movement and a peace campaigner. His Wykehamist brothers were Richard Sheepshanks (Coll.1885-1890), Edward Sheepshanks (Coll.1897-1903) and Thomas Herbert Sheepshanks Coll.1908-1913). His father went out to Canada in August 1859, borrowed £1000 pounds from friends in England and laid the foundations for Holy Trinity Church, New Westminster, British Colombia in 1860. He became its Rector until 1866. The church burned down in 1865 while Sheepshanks was in England fund raising. He returned to New Westminster in April 1866, but while planning the new church he was forced to resign owing to the failing health of his aging parents. On his way back to England – travelling on foot and unarmed – he crossed Northern China, seven hundred miles of Gobi Desert, the Siberian wilderness, the Ural Mountains, and visited Moscow, returning to England in 1867. In 1868 he became Vicar of Bolton, Yorkshire. He married in 1870, and in 1873 was made Vicar of St. Mary’s Anfield, Walton-on-the-Hill, Liverpool. In June 1893 he was consecrated Bishop of Norwich. He resigned in 1909 and died on June 3rd 1912 at the age of seventy eight.

William came to Winchester from the Oxford Preparatory School, where he showed great ability as an actor, taking the part of Hamlet in the school play of 1904. He was Prefect of Chapel in his last year, and won the Warden and Fellows’ Prize for Greek Iambics, the King’s Silver Medal for English Speech and the Duncan Reading Prize. He also played in College VI and in 2nd XI cricket. In 1909 he was elected to a Classical Scholarship at New College, Oxford and took his degree in 1913 with a First in Classical Moderations, and a Second in Literae Humaniores. He joined the Civil Service and received an appointment in the Home Office.

When war broke out he made efforts to obtain his release and secured it with some difficulty in 1915, being given a commission in the 6th Battalion King’s Royal Rifle Corps. He was later attached to 2nd Battalion. On 10th July 1917, the British detachment occupying a position on the east bank of the Lys, just south of Nieuport, was attacked by the enemy with 58 batteries of artillery – over 300 guns – many of which fired shells containing mustard gas (the first time this had been used by the Germans) and three 240 mm naval guns. Sheepshanks fell severely wounded during this bombardment, and was taken prisoner by the Germans. He died at a German field-dressing station.

War: World War 1

  • Surname: Sheepshanks
  • Forenames or initials: William
  • House: College
  • Years in School: 1904-1909
  • Rank: 2nd Lieutenant
  • Regiment: King's Royal Rifle Corps
  • Date of Birth: 5th August 1890
  • Date of Death: 10th July 1917
  • How Died: Died of wounds as a prisoner of war
  • Location in War Cloister: Outer C6
  • Decoration: NA
  • Burial Site: Unknown but commemorated on the NIEUPORT MEMORIAL