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William Erskine Shearer was born in Glasgow on 29th June 1889, one of eight children of Margaret Shearer (née Kerr) and William Shearer, a warehouse clerk. Shearer attended The Glasgow School of Art from 1908 to 1915 as a student of drawing and painting, being taught by Mr Artot and Professor Britten. During the First World War, Shearer served as a Lieutenant in the 315th Army Brigade, in the Royal Field Artillery. He was killed in action on 8th June 1918 and is buried in Harponville Communal Cemetery at the Somme in France. Shearer is commemorated on The Glasgow School of Art's First World War Roll of Honour.
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