Shaw, Sir Frederick Charles (1861–1942), soldier, commander-in-chief in Ireland, was born 31 July 1861, son of John Shaw of Normanton, Derbyshire, England. Educated at nearby Repton School, he joined the Sherwood Foresters (Derbyshire Regiment) in 1882 and immediately saw active service in the Egyptian war of that year. He was subsequently a staff brigade-major in the second Boer war (1899–1902), and as a lieutenant-colonel (1902) became in turn deputy assistant adjutant-general and assistant adjutant-general. In 1903–7 he was deputy assistant quartermaster-general, 6th Division, 2nd Army Corps. In 1907–11 he was commander of the 2nd Battalion, Sherwood Foresters (redesignated the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire regiment since 1902), and general staff officer (grade 1) of the Scottish Command in 1911–13. In 1913 he was created CB and appointed to command the 9th Infantry Brigade, which served on the western front in the first world war. Promoted major-general, Shaw was briefly a divisional commander in 1915. In that year he became director of home defence at the war office, London, then chief of the general staff (home forces) in 1916–18, receiving his KCB in 1917.
He was sent to Ireland in May 1918 as temporary commander-in-chief, succeeding the Galway-born Sir Bryan Mahon (qv) who had himself succeeded Gen. Sir John Maxwell (qv) in late 1916. On his arrival in Dublin, Shaw met head-on with a relentless anti-conscription campaign, encouraged now rather than condemned by leading citizens including Cardinal Michael Logue (qv). By extension, he encountered the resurgence of Sinn Féin and the Irish Volunteers: his forces, spread over three military districts, remained on full alert, assisting and subject to the civil power as it increasingly applied the Defence of the Realm Act (DORA). His Irish command was one of several new appointments in mid 1918, including that of the viceroy, Viscount French (qv), and the chief secretary, Edward Shortt (qv).
Shaw lacked manpower throughout late 1918 during the last push in western Europe against the Germans, and the threatened extension of conscription to Ireland ensured a Sinn Féin general election victory in December. Shaw's troubles increased from January 1919 as the republican revolutionaries of Dáil Éireann and the IRA resolved to undermine every British institution in the country. He nevertheless distinguished between Sinn Féin politics and IRA violence, concentrating his military response on the latter. In April 1919 he requested nine more army battalions and received one. Promoted lieutenant-general in June 1919, he reluctantly accepted the army's subordinate role in responding to a crisis which the government was determined not to recognise as a war. Forced from July 1919 to shore up the disintegrating police forces, the primary targets of the IRA, Shaw doubted his capacity to cope when the remaining wartime military establishment in Ireland was demobilised. Opposing an ‘irregular’ proposal by RIC inspector-general Joseph A. Byrne (qv) to disperse troops to occupy police barracks, he informed Byrne and the chief secretary in August 1919 that his dwindling forces would no longer be available for back-up duties after December, offering the somewhat doubtful argument that they were required for training. His proposal in September for an alternative recruitment of auxiliary police, as also suggested by Walter Long (qv), MP, from among demobilised soldiers outside Ireland, was rejected at first, till the escalating conflict produced a similar outcome; an important difference was that Shaw envisaged such a force as concentrated in five large mobile groups.
Meanwhile, Shaw continued his support role as the government sought a solution in recruiting and arming more Irish personnel. His forces shrank further and the remainder were regrouped in November 1919 as two (5th and 6th) divisions. On 19 December, however, Shaw's security role was suddenly elevated to equal status with the police, following an IRA attack on Viscount French at Ashtown, Co. Dublin. Early in 1920 Shaw was authorised under DORA to arrest and detain IRA suspects at will, powers little short of martial law. His effectiveness continued to be hampered by shortage of personnel, ambivalent police cooperation, and the IRA's ability to evade capture under guerrilla war conditions where state coercion only strengthened popular support for the insurgents. His forces replaced the regular police where civil power had collapsed. Shaw continued making arrests, hoping attrition would weaken the republicans. His hopes were premature, given the series of bloody successes the IRA claimed in early 1920 against policemen, Dublin Castle officials (notably the investigating magistrate Alan Bell (qv)), and other government agents in spite of mass arrests and raids by the military. Shaw had employed military intelligence officers from late in 1919 to crack the IRA but they were hidebound by regular military methods against the native cunning of an invisible and insidious enemy.
As the situation worsened, Shaw was suddenly replaced at the end of March 1920 as commander-in-chief by Gen. Sir Nevil Macready (qv), whose military and police experience might be seen as an attempt to improve cooperation between the forces in Ireland. However, according to the memoirs of Gen. Frank P. Crozier (qv), subsequently commandant of the Auxiliary Division RIC, Shaw had been replaced without notice for seeking martial law and sufficient men to enforce it; the government had more direct experience of Macready, who was known to the prime minister, David Lloyd George, and had been commissioner of the London Metropolitan Police since September 1918. Offended at his abrupt dismissal, Shaw retired from the army almost immediately thereafter. Before he departed, the first temporary police recruits had arrived in Dublin, to become notorious among soldiers and civilians alike as the ‘Black and Tans’.
Shaw married (1890) Florence Edith (d. 1918), daughter of the Rev. Canon Denton of Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire; they had one daughter. Shaw, a member of the Army and Navy Club, died 6 January 1942, aged 80.