Voices from the Past

Private Patrick Sheerin, Killed in Action

Patrick ‘Pat’ Sheerin was born in Palmerston North in 1891 and at the outbreak of World War One, was working as a Printer for the Wellington based company Ferguson and Mitchell.

Pat left for Egypt in October 1914 and in a letter to his mother, wrote.

“We had a good run over and no sign of being seasick. We did not get a rough sea all the way….It took us about seven weeks to get here so you can see we were pretty sick of the boat once we landed.”

Once in Egypt, Pat was camped just outside Cairo at Heliopolis and in the same letter to his mother, he wrote.

“This place is terribly dirty but they have some lovely buildings here. The Catholic Church is the prettiest place you could see…..we have to march over to church every Sunday at 8 o’clock.”

However in a letter to his mate Tom, he wrote of different sights.

“I can’t describe this place and if I could you wouldn’t believe me. The n**ger girls are married with seven or eight of a family when their 14 years old. They use no closets [toilet] the main street does them, and they would be glad to murder the lot of us.”

Pat first encountered the Turks in February 1915 at Suez Canal although he never fired a shot. In his letter he wrote of his disappointment at not coming face to face with the Turks but he was glad to be out of the trenches. Back in Cairo he carried on with training and waiting to be told when they would be on the move again. In his letter to his mother, dated 1 April 1915, he wrote.

“We are hearing that we have to move away from here every day but have not gone yet. I suppose the end will be that we will go home again……they published in the papers that the British base was going to be at Naples next month, so it is likely that we will go there. That is in Italy.”

Unfortunately, it was not Italy and on 25 April 1915, Pat and the other men of the 4th Otago Company found themselevs hitting the beach at ANZAC Cove at around 5.00pm and then having to make their way to Plugges Plateau. Here they had to ‘dig in’.

By 1 May, the men were caught up in a stalemate. They were under constant shell and machine gun fire and Turkish snipers were earning their keep.

On 17th May, at some point during the day, the trench occupied by Pat and others came under heavy shell fire. The trench collapsed and it is believed that Pat was killed by the falling dirt and debris of the trench. His body was never recovered. Patrick Sheerin is commemorated on the Lone Pine Memorial, Panel 75.

Further tragedy was to befall the Sheerin family when Pat’s older brother James was killed during Wellington’s attack on Chunuk Bair on 8 August.