A C Hale

A C Hale

Alfred Hale (1897-1915)

Iím Alfred Cyril Hale and I was born in 1897. I was one of 7 children in our family so my parents, William Henry and Sarah, certainly had their hands full! My father and older brothers worked in the furniture trade as chair makers. We lived at 41 Totteridge Avenue, near the cricket club in High Wycombe and I attended Gordon Road School (which is now called Bowerdean Nursery school). I loved sport and regularly played football and cricket. However I wasnít a fan of school and in fact, at one point, I ran away from school which got me in some trouble and my family never let me forgot it! When I left school I started work in a shop.

When war broke out in 1914 I was only 17 so I couldnít join up immediately. My older brothers did, however, into the Ox and Bucks Light Infantry. It was about this time that my oldest sister, Florence, died aged 24; she is also buried in this plot. I was very upset and this along with the general excitement of the War meant that, without telling anyone, I went and signed up; I had to lie about my age as I was still only 17. Like many local men I joined the 1st/1st Bucks Battalion of the Ox and Bucks Light Infantry and I was sent to Chelmsford for my training. We eventually left for France on March 30th 1915.

The first few days in France and Belgium were spent learning how to hold trenches and after 4 days' experience we were told the Battalion was read to take its place in the line on its own. On April 15th we marched to Ploegsteert in Belgium near the border with France. Actually no-one called it Ploegsteert but rather called it Plugstreet. We had to hold a line of trenches in front of the village of St Yves. Every four days the battalion would get relieved by the 1st/5th Gloucestershire regiment and then we would have four days in billets. The trenches consisted of sandbagged walls, a duck board bottom, a host of large flies and an enormous smell. At some points the German trench was only about 100 yards away and therefore to show oneís head about the parapet was risky; there were always enemy snipers on the look-out.

On April 28th 1915, we were in the trenches and I was sent out to mend the barb wire early one morning. A German sniper must have seen me and shot at me; hitting me in the head. The other solders thought I was dead but at the field hospital they realised I was still alive. I was then evacuated from France and sent to hospital in Nottingham. I became 18 while I was in the hospital but I never recovered consciousness and I died on June 1st 1915.

My funeral was the first military funeral for someone from Wycombe to be held in the town and therefore it was a significant occasion with thousands lining the streets from the Union Baptist Church to the cemetery where I was buried in the same grave as my sister.

My parents were given a Memorial Plaque, which is still in the family today, and which was issued after the War to the next-of-kin of all British service personnel who were killed as a result of the war. The plaques were made of bronze, and hence popularly known as the "Dead Manís Penny".

Researched and performed by Toby Stilwell

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