Shocker Shaw was born in England 13 December 13th 1919 in Cradley Heath, in what they called the Black Country, because it was a very industrial area. He was named Ashley George (Pat) but was later known by his SAS buddies as Shocker. The reason why will become clear as this story unfolds.
Shocker's mother worked in a factory making ship chain to help with the family income. She would have Shocker beside her in a cradle while she worked at the blowers. Shocker was brought up in tough times but was part of a very close family. Shocker's Dad bred Staffordshire bull terriers, a breed of dog that Shocker would later have and make famous in the New Zealand SAS.
Prior to joining the army Shocker had worked as a driver and mechanic. To join the army Shocker had to change his date of birth, as he was not old enough. He initially joined the forces as a driver in the transport corps. Shocker eventually joined No. 9 Commando. He was already parachute qualified and in fact had been an army parachute instructor. Shocker served with the Scots No. 9 Commando in most theatres of the war. He went into Tobruk and got out. He was in Anzio and Yugoslavia, behind the lines with the Partisans in Italy. His wife, Jeanne recalled he had delivered a baby in a cellar in Italy and was confident that, if called upon, he could deliver theirs.
Mrs Shaw actually met Shocker at the end of the European and Japanese wars. After they were engaged, Shocker went away to the Neremberg trials as a guard and Mrs Shaw said that after what Shocker had seen, he stated that the only good German was a dead one at that stage of time.
Shocker got out of the army and joined the fire brigade thinking that it would be interesting, but that didn't last long and he went back into the army, this time the Territorial 18th Para Regiment as a Sergeant Major, at a place called Yardley in Birmingham. Mrs Shaw recalls Shocker riding his motorcycle from their home to the 18th Para Headquarters with his Staffordshire bull terrier riding on the motorcycle with him. The police visited his office after receiving a complaint about the dog riding on the motorcycle. Of course Shocker denied all, just before the dog in question made its way into the office, police officer still present.
At the time of the trouble at the Suez Canal, Shocker was on the reserves list. It was at the same time that he had gone to London and signed up with the New Zealand Army. For a while he wasn't sure if he would make it to New Zealand as he could have been called back off the reserve list, but fortunately for the New Zealand army and unarmed combat Shocker made it here.
Pat arrived in New Zealand several months before Mrs Shaw and they settled in Waiouru where he was an instructor at the School of Infantry. When the New Zealand SAS was reformed in 1962, Shocker was posted to the SAS and moved to Papakura. He was posted direct to the SAS in the capacity as SSM to the squadron. One of his duties was to run the selection courses.
Shocker had a faithful companion at his side while conducting SAS training – a Staffordshire bull terrier named Nipper, who was not always the young troopers' best friend. In fact at times Nipper was disliked or worse for his ability to outrun them and make them look stupid, plus he had privileges that they didn't. Of course he had the protection of Shocker, so he was not ill treated because of fear of Shocker.
Nipper in fact was the official SAS mascot. He had his own number and was on the payroll and had even accompanied Shocker overseas with the squadron as a recognised member. On Nipper's passing, Shocker got another Staffordshire bull terrier named Cindy who accompanied him on runs up until his death. Mrs Shaw stated Shocker did good things when he got out of the SAS but he was a professional soldier and the SAS was where his heart was.
After seventeen years of marriage Shocker and Mrs Shaw had a daughter named Jennifer. Shocker was convinced that she was a boy before she was born and after the birth did his utmost to make her a boy.
In 1984, just prior to his death, he was honoured by the Police Armed Defenders Squad at a formal presentation. Shocker's involvement had continued right up until his death.
Mrs Shaw recalls taking Shocker to the ballet, while they were courting back in the UK, dressed in his Commando uniform, where he must of felt out of place. This was testament to his affections for Mrs Shaw when you consider Shocker thought men don't wear tights and dance like that. He always thought that those types of men were strange.
Mrs Shaw called Shocker her "Rock of Gibraltar". She knew no matter who invaded or if the roof fell in; Shocker would take care of it. He once said to his wife, "if I live to be old and I have to be sick, then I don't want to, I'd rather go out with a bang", and he in a way got his wish not to suffer. After returning from a run he had a heart attack in the shower and passed away.
Shocker liked to operate to clockwork and Mrs Shaw remembers that if he said they were leaving home at thirteen hundred hours, that is what he meant and often she would have to run to the gate after the car. Shocker was a man of the land and admired its beauty. He once took Mrs Shaw to Mt Ruapehu at 4am in the morning to show her (as he described it) the world awakening. She will never forget Shocker's attempt at curing her of her fear of heights; while at the Isle of Wight he physically picked her up and held her dangling over a cliff, she recalls digging her fingernails in as deep as she could, and needless to say he did not cure her.
Mrs Shaw considers herself privileged to have met, married and spend thirty eight years with a man of such quality. No other man could come close to him, she was proud of him, respected him and loved him. Their daughter once told her that she did not have to stay on her own after his passing, to which she replied, "nobody could measure up to what he was". The day Shocker's daughter, Jennifer was born, Papakura Camp virtually came to a standstill. He was a proud and good father.
Shocker was fair and just, but his word was his bond, he set high standards but wouldn't expect anyone to attempt anything he could not do himself. Life was a challenge and he thrived on challenges. He would often come home, lie flat on the hard floor after a hard exercise then he'd be off again on duty. Mrs Shaw states Shocker was a great role model for youth, he had good, sound, old-fashioned values and was a very special man.
Soldier B remembers that Shocker was renowned for attacking you when you least expected it and would generally target your solar plexus to take the breath out of you.
He always not only had the element of surprise on his side but he could put the fear of hell up you, and being a Sergeant Major, the trooper was not likely to consider retaliation.
Another one of Shocker's surprises was to pick you up without warning, helicopter spin you above his head and unceremoniously dump you to the ground to teach you to always be ready and as a toughner. Soldier B also recalls that confounded dog Nipper, the one that would bark and alert Shocker if the pace slowed down, "It was as if that bloody dog knew Shocker's every move and intention".
The Mt Eden Prison riots of 1965 saw the services of the SAS called upon and Shocker led his men, armed with rifles and bayonets, to Mt Eden and showed how formidable they were and that they had the intent and means to do the job if required. The end result was that the prisoners gave up.
Soldier B recalls hearing of the legend of the fearful Shocker and just how hard and tough he was while on selection, but when he met the legend in person he found him to be encouraging and helpful in his advice to the young trooper regarding the rigours of the selection course.
On getting out of the SAS Shocker kept fit, exercising and running and always kept his ear to the wall to see how his soldiers and beloved unit were going. Just before he got out of the SAS he was involved with training the first Armed Offenders Squad. In fact he started the Armed Offenders Squad along with Police Inspector Perry who was an ex navy officer. Inspector Perry once disarmed an armed offender and in the process received a cut across the face that scarred him for life. Originally the Armed Offenders Squad was trained by Shocker as part of his role as an SAS instructor and when he got out of the SAS he continued his association with them.
In the mid 60's there was a murder and two offenders escaped from a psychiatric institution and these offenders and others gave the police the run-around. The police were too beat orientated. Shocker, seeing their ineffectiveness, contacted Inspector Perry, who understood and realised what Pat was saying was correct, and they formed the Armed Offenders Squad. In one incident two psychiatric escapees evaded police in the Hunuas and they had to call in the assistance of the SAS. The police were amazed at how Shocker and a young Fijian officer were able to track the offenders down and capture them.
Another situation where the SAS was called to assist the police to capture an escapee ended when the escapee was surrounded in a house. A police officer shone his torch on the armed offender and told him to put down his weapon, breaking every rule in the book. The incident made Shocker want to do something to improve the police because they handled the situation so badly. A lot of the initial armed offenders members could not handle Shocker's ways or training, and there were a lot of police officers against it, but because Shocker had the total support of Inspector Perry, they could not stop the forming of the Armed Offenders Squad.
Shocker went on to Borneo to undertake reconnaissance prior to returning to train a detachment bound for Borneo. He was not happy that he had to remain home and train the soldiers for Borneo and was not able to go himself.
Shocker also went to Thailand as the Squadron SSM accompanied by Nipper, official squadron member and mascot. In Thailand Shocker was involved in administration and would close the office door as often as he could and go where he preferred, outdoors. He was taking a group of soldiers for unarmed combat one morning. He called one of the soldiers forward to demonstrate and threw him against a six foot wall, the soldier staggered off the wall and looked at Shocker as if to say "What did I do to deserve that", Shocker's reply, "That's for not having a haircut this morning", and that soldier had his haircut at lunchtime, he couldn't get one quick enough.
In another situation Shocker was instructing a selection course group on prisoner taking techniques and he had two assistants carry in a soldier he had previously prepared for the demonstration. He had wired his wrists and ankles and throat, and was placed on the stage alongside Shocker who went on with his lecture making no reference to this live training prop. All the attending soldiers were wondering what was going to happen next – that was always part of Shocker's strategy. He would keep you wondering and on your toes. Just as he was about to finish his lecture he went up and with his foot he pushed on the wires and the assistant screamed. "That's what you called wired for sound", he said.
Shocker was often asked to lecture other units about explosives, taking people for granted and potential terrorist acts. In one lecture that he undertook he wasn't searched when he should have been. Under his clothing he revealed that he had explosives all around his body, telling them that he should have been searched and could have been the one to blow them all up.
In another scenario he pulled a condom of explosives from his body to show what can be done and this was years before we heard of international terrorism. It was these practises that earned him the name Shocker.
He brought to the SAS in the 60's skills unheard of before hand. Unarmed combat was part of the SAS soldiers training and Shocker used to teach all the fending, blocks and guarding techniques and then towards the end of the course he would teach street fighting techniques – Shocker style. Some of his favourite techniques were the bronco stomp with both boots, stamp kick to the knees, basics; finish with the downright dirty fighting skills. His courses of training included knife fighting, sentry takeouts, bayonet fighting, POW techniques and the use of many varied weapons. Shocker believed that the feet were most important and installed in his soldiers to check their feet and tend to them.
Shocker had a heart of gold and it was his fairness that made him a soldiers' man. You knew that if Shocker said something, it would happen. He meant it and you knew what was expected of you.
An example of this was a young officer who once contacted him out of town saying he had been delayed at a wedding and requested Shocker to pack his pack. Now Shocker knew he had to listen to officers but didn't always have to follow the rules so accompanied by another soldier went to the officer's barracks to pack his pack. Uplifting a painted white stone used to keep the cars off the grass, Shocker instructed the young soldier to leave out some of the food and warm clothes and put one of these stones in their place in the officer's pack. The officer in question had the nouse to keep his stone all through the exercise and on his return he put it on the RSM's desk with a note. Thanks RSM – here's your stone.
Another incident happened during the Vietnam era when the phone had to be manned 24 hours, stopping the soldiers' social life. One soldier who Shocker was fond of let it known he intended going to a party. Shocker informed him that he would check the barracks at 2am and if he was not there he would court marshal him. Shocker checked and the soldier was not there and he duly court marshalled his favourite corporal. Shocker would give you the rope; you would either run with it or hang yourself.
Shocker had a love of boxing and used to go to the fights in the UK, boxing used to be part of his unarmed combat warm-ups. If ever two blokes showed aggression towards each other that was getting out of hand, Shocker would make them put the gloves on and get in the ring. He was not a fan of professional fancy wrestling, but used practical grappling drills in his unarmed combat training. He knew and was an admirer of Lofty Blomfield, and whenever he was in Whangarei would endeavor to contact him.
Shocker didn't suffer fools, and I can honestly say I was honoured to have been so close to Shocker. Often he would ring and ask me to come and see him and after I'd been out there for about 20 minutes he'd say haven't you got something to do. That was the way he was with everyone.
Shocker, when taking unarmed combat classes was the type of instructor who would demonstrate skills to the group and then have them practise the skills while he would correct any mistakes. One of his favourite sayings was that you always keep a trick up your sleeve and never showed your class everything; you could have a good student try it on you so always keep a trick up your sleeve. Shocker would gladly accommodate anyone who tried it on him, especially as he was getting a little older, but all met with disaster.
Shocker's unarmed combat came directly from the Commandos and their training base in Achnacarry Scotland. It was Shocker who introduced unarmed combat to the New Zealand SAS in the form of one of the many skills he brought with him from the Commandos. He was trained in unarmed combat and served alongside Mike Calvert, known as Mad Mike of British SAS fame.
Fight to the Death
Mike Calvert had been in action in Burma for many weeks as part of the Brit Forces facing the Japanese onslaught. While taking time out for a quick swim in a river, Mike was confronted by a Japanese officer, also bathing. Neither dared alert their troops for fear of not knowing each others strengths so it was to be Commando unarmed combat vs Japanese Jiu Jitsu.
After a quick and quiet kill, Mike Calvert exited the river, the victor, after which he led his men against the Japanese patrol wiping them out.
Mike Calvert was a senior British officer with a very colorful career during the Second World War.
David Stirling formed the Bristich SAS and Mike Calvert had been part of it. After the war the Britich SAS was disbanded and it was Mike Calvert that was responsible for their reformation.
On disbanding, SAS members became somewhat unruly and it was Mike Calvert and John Woodhouse, the father of the modern day SAS that took control.
On one operation where Shocker served alongside Mike Calvert, one of his fellow soldiers slipped while crossing a river and proclaimed he was drowning, the reply he got from Mike Calvert was, "If you're going to drown, drown bloody quietly.
The methods of John Woodhouse and Mike Calvert are still relevant in todays modern Special Forces.
I was once given a reference by Shocker that I was too embarrassed to use as I considered it to be too good. When I went for the job, the employer who knew Shocker from another factory said, any recommendation from Shocker Shaw was enough for him and I got the job.
Often Shocker would call me and invite me around to see how things were going and after we had spoken he would say, "Haven't you got anything else to do?"
I was trained at Waiouru in 1960 by Shocker at the School of Infantry, where he terrorized us young cadets, and then later trained under Shocker in the SAS. Major John Mace was the CO of the New Zealand SAS and along with Shocker reformed the SAS. John Mace later went on to be the General of the New Zealand Army. Shocker's associates went right to the top of both the New Zealand and Brit Special Forces.
After the SAS Shocker worked in TWI training within industry and labour department organizations, where he would go into factories and train everyone from management through to leading hands down to the labourers on the floor. Shocker could handle all levels of company, he was a great leader of men who led by example and would never expect anyone to do any job he wouldn't do himself. He trained staff in companies all over Auckland. When you consider how hard and tough Shocker was, it's hard to imagine the fact that one of his pleasures was growing roses. He loved his roses and tended to them with loving care.
He wasn't a great runner but he could pack march all day. Very few people could match him and could only get ahead of him by running. He had hips made to carry a pack. At a party during selection, Shocker made it clear that no one was allowed to leave until after midnight and had to be up early for the final long run so that everyone was on even footing.
Shocker brought the Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife and made it their official knife. He was a born leader and knew how to get the best out of people. He could communicate with all levels from the ground up to the boardroom.
With Shocker, if you did something wrong, you would get your punishment but afterwards he would help you. However if you didn't tell him, it would be much worse.
When he left the SAS his rank was WO1 and Camp RSM. When he finished with SAS, apart from keeping his ear to the ground in regards to his beloved unit, he cut all ties except for the SAS Association. Shocker's life was SAS and he was sent off with a full military funeral in Papakura.
Shocker retired from the army in October 1969 completing his 30 years military service. During his entire military career he led by example and was a true professional, never careless and always committed and brave no matter how grave the situation. Shocker was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his efforts around Tobruk and later the Military Medal at Salerno. The citations for these decorations can be read at this chapter's conclusion.
Finally Shocker was not an individual of self-praise or of high profile and was extremely security conscious. It is for this reason photographs of Shocker are virtually non-existent and likewise self-records were not a consideration. There were many descriptions made of Shocker, of his toughness, modesty, how sharp of mind and how quick of hand he could be, what a hard task master he was, how he did not suffer fools, how he was proud of his family, the SAS and his friends, how he was always looking, learning and planning, how he gained much satisfaction from those he trained and most of all, for all his hardness and toughness, everyone who was trained by Shocker or close to him was glad of his wisdom and thankful for the experience.
Distinguished Conduct Medal Citation
T1106298 Driver Ashley George Shaw On 10 Dec. '41 Dvr Shaw was on duty as Ambulance driver with the Strongpoint Column, North West of Bir GUB1.
At about 1600 hrs the point was subjected to an intense 'Dive Bombing' and machine gun attack. Shaw saw there were casualties from the first attack and immediately ran his ambulance to the spot and with the aid of his orderly, loaded up 5 cases and took them back to the medical aid post. The ambulance was being bombed and machine gunned all the while. The cases were seriously wounded and after attention were reloaded into the ambulance and at 1730hrs Shaw moved off to the nearest A.D.S. being given only a compass bearing to drive upon for approximately a distance of 21 miles.
He drove this distance in the darkness but encountered no ADS At 2100hrs one case died in the ambulance, the other being in a very serious condition. He halted and with his orderly they re?dressed wounds and gave what comfort was possible to the cases. At first light on 11 Dec drove on and after 12 miles met a Fd. Amb but cases were refused as the Fd. Amb was moving. He carried on and encountered another Fd. Amb when a Medical officer looked at the cases and directed him straight to the nearest C.C.S., which he reached at 1030hrs and the cases were taken off. Without any rest he immediately drove back to his place of duty with the Strongpoint Column.
Driver Shaw has been one of the outstanding Ambulance drivers of the Western Desert for the past 8 months. From July 1941 to the present he has only rested in Headquarters when his ambulance needed attention. He has practically been continuously on duty with forward columns. On November 14, 1941 he left the Headquarters and joined the 51st Fd. Regt. Since then he has done the forward Ambulance work continuously. On 18 Dec, his name was mentioned to me by the Officer Commanding CCS and a strong letter of praise came from the Regimental Medical Officer. I gradually gathered together facts of the episode on which I have based my recommendation. I may mention that his name was put forward for notice after the French Campaign of 1939?1940 for magnificent work both before and at Dunkirk.
Military Medal Citation
T1106298 Driver Ashley Shaw
On the nights of both September 14 and 15 this Bn. was heavily attacked by a considerable German Force at the River Tusciano. Considerable casualties occurred in the leading coys and transport and was required to evacuate them. This private soldier was the driver of a Jeep at the Bn RAP. On repeated occasions on both nights he drove his vehicle under intense artillery and machine gun fire to the forward troops and picked up the casualties and returned through the same enemy fire.
His courage and disregard for his own safety was an inspiration to us all and by his actions he undoubtedly saved many lives.