R A Hall

R A Hall

Reginald Arthur Hall (1896-1918)

My name is Reginald Arthur Hall and I was born in January 1896 in my home town of High Wycombe. I was the son of Cornelius and Beatrice Hall but lived with my grandparents and my brother Arnold in Gordon Road, which is less than five minutes from here – just the other side of Amersham Hill. This was because my mother died at an early age and my father was overseas.

From a young age I worked very hard and was highly respected by the people that I worked with. I worked as a cabinet maker for four years for a Mr Gaston Hugo, who had a factory on West Wycombe Road. Although I enjoyed it I wanted to protect my country so soon after my 19th birthday, in 1915, I went to London and joined the Corps of Royal Engineers as a pioneer. Meanwhile, my brother, John, joined the Royal Horse Artillery and my father became a sergeant in the Chinese Battalion in France. The Chinese Labour Corps (CLC) was a force of workers recruited by the British government in World War I to free troops for front line duty by performing support work and manual labour, such as unloading ships, building dugouts, repairing roads and railways, digging trenches and filling sandbags. As China was initially not a belligerent nation, her nationals were not allowed by their government to participate in the fighting - although the Chinese later declared war against Germany and Austria–Hungary, on 14th August 1917.

On the 15th July 1915 I set off with the Royal Engineers on the Peninsular Expedition. I was sent with hundreds of other British men to reinforce the army's position in enemy territory at Anzac Cove in Turkey. For those of you who don’t know, the Battle of Gallipoli was one of the Allies great disasters in World War I. The doomed campaign was thought up by Churchill to end the war early by creating a new war front that the Ottomans could not cope with. I was part of the 72nd company in the 13th Division which consisted of 40 other carpenters. The entire Division joined together at Anzac Cove between the 3rd and 5th August 1915.

Between the 6th and 21st August we then headed to Sulva to support the army. We were involved in communication, building trenches and mining. Hamilton had ordered an attack on Sulva Bay that was not heavily defended and involved the landing of 63,000 Allied troops. The plan was to take the area around Sulva Bay and then link it up with Anzac Cove. Despite this, we were pushed back by a frantic attack and by the 10th August the Turks had retaken Sulva Bay.

In December, just ahead of the evacuation of the rest of my division, I was sent home due to injury and remained at Reading hospital until March 1916. After, the three months in hospital I was reassigned to the 77th Company and I saw action in a number of different areas including the Battle of the Somme. You name a major battle on the Western Front and it seemed like we were there!

I stayed overseas for a couple of years, up until 1918. At the start of 1918 a large number of other soldiers started to became ill with sore throats, headaches and a loss of appetite. But recovery was rapid and doctors gave it the name of 'three-day fever.' Despite this, over the next few months more soldiers became infected and it became more life threatening. We heard it was also called Spanish Flu.

In the summer of 1918, as we were preparing for a great offensive to finish off the Germans, I caught the disease. While most people got better quickly, I didn’t, and it developed into pneumonia. I was sent back to England and was admitted to Cliveden Hospital. Cliveden Hospital had been set up in the grounds of Cliveden by the Canadian Red Cross; it had a very good reputation - only 40 people died at the hospital during the war. I remained in bed for four or five days until they contacted my grandfather, who came to visit. I passed away on the 21st June 1918, at the age of just 22. (It is interesting to note that some of the buildings at the hospital were donated to Wycombe Technical Institute, which has since become John Hampden Grammar School, to use as temporary classrooms).

Researched by Luke Brosse, performed by Sam Day

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