Monday, 21 November 2016

Sydney Hale (1891 – 1915) - British

I am very grateful indeed to all the wonderful people who help me with my commemorative exhibition project about the First World War.  The following comes from Maria and is about her Great Uncle, Sydney.  Maria does not as yet have a photograph of Sydney but has a photo of one of his brothers - Harold - which is reproduced here by kind permission of Maria.  
The following information about Sydney Hale has been
researched by Maria Coates who is Sydney Hale's Great Niece and  co- written by Maria Coates and Carol Switzer of the Facebook Group

Sydney Hale was born on 12th January 1891 in Stockbridge, Hampshire England. He was the fourth born son of Stafford Henry Hale, a plumber and his wife Elizabeth Hale, nee Baverstock, who lived at Prospect Place.   Sydney had the following siblings:  Frederick, Alick, Elsie, Ethel, Percy, Harold and Annie Ada.  He attended St Peter’s Church, High Street, Stockbridge, where both his Parents and Grandparents were married.  In 1911 the Census states that he was employed as a Footman living in Chelsea London.   Sydney wrote a poem for his sister Annie in her autograph album:

 A Diplomatic Dialogue

 What are you looking for, my pretty maid?
I’m seeking the suffrage, sir, she said.

What is your following, my pretty maid?
Something like yours, kind sir, she said.

Are you a Radical, my pretty maid?
Not by a long shot, sir, she said.

Then I cannot help you, my pretty maid.
Wait till I axes you, sir, she said.

A clever parody on an English folk song.  Parodies were a popular form of verse in the early 1900s when most people wrote poetry and/or recited it at family gatherings, etc.  There was no radio or television back then and ordinary folk made their own entertainment.

Right:  Annie Ada Hale, one of Sydney's sisters, for whom he wrote the verse.   Annie Ada was Maria's Grandmother.

When war broke out, Sydney, aged 23 years, enlisted in the Army at Southwark, Surrey, England. Rifleman Sydney Hale 7297 joined the 8th Battalion Rifle Brigade (C Company), which became part of the 41st Brigade 14th Light Division. The Battalion formed at Winchester in September 1914 and trained at both Aldershot and Grayshot in Hampshire.

From the 29th June 1915 the Battalion were in the front line trenches in the Hooge area of the Western Front. Two companies took over trenches at Railway wood, the other two at the GHQ line. Nine days in the frontline resulted in high casualties for them by the time they were relieved on the 8th July 1915.

For the next two weeks the Battalion performed various duties in and around Ypres until the evening of the 29th July 1915, when they were ordered to take over the Hooge frontline trenches once more. In a few short hours the lives of so many men would tragically change forever as the Battle of Hooge was about to commence.

We do not know with absolute certainty exactly where Rifleman Sydney Hale, of C Company, was located at 03.15am on the 30th July 1915.  We do know that his Company was split into three platoons. Two Platoons were located in trenches G4 and G5 which were in the centre of the frontline and only a few metres from the German lines. The third platoon was located in trench G7, a few short metres to the rear of G5. We also know that this was the exact time when the Germans first turned on their Flamethrowers and that these trenches were subjected to intense bombardment.

The fighting became confused and machine guns were soon out of action. Despite gallant fighting from both A and C companies of the Battalion the Germans had managed to push through the centre of the frontline, resulting in C Company being totally overrun by the advancing German troops. After unsuccessful counter attacks the remaining Battalion managed to hold on to the communication trenches and frontline of Zouave wood, until being relieved in the early hours of 31st July 1915. The Battalion had fought valiantly throughout the day and night without water or rations. Casualties were extremely high and costly and consequently C Company of the 8th Rifle Brigade ceased to exist.

Sydney is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial in France, as well as in his hometown on Stockbridge's War Memorial and at St Peters Church. He is also commemorated in Winchester where the Battalion was first formed, in an Encased Book of Remembrance inside Winchester Cathedral.