Hurst War Memorial, St.Nicholas Church, Hurst, Berkshire
:: Hurst in the Great War
:: The War Trophy
:: Reminiscences
:: Gallery
:: Map of Memorials
:: The Graves
:: Casualty Statistics
:: Military Voters
Hurst War Memorial
Follow on Twitter
Barracks at Shorncliffe Camp
Barracks at Shorncliffe Camp
Trench map showing Loos in September 1915, immediately prior to the battle
Loos, September 1915
image: Paths of Glory
Previous: Leonard Greetham
Next: George Hayward

Hale, Arthur

Arthur Hale
1914-1915 Star
1914/15 Star
Victory Medal
Victory Medal
British War Medal
British War Medal
Corporal Arthur Hale (10863)
Killed in Action on Friday 31st March 1916
Killed by Sniper, aged 35
Son of Sutton Penman Hale & Mary Hale
Father's occupation: Railway Porter Foreman
Born Q4 1881 at Skipton, Yorks
4 sisters, 2 brothers, position in family: 5
Local address: Wokingham
Pre-war occupation: Gamekeeper, Haines Hill Estate
Enlisted:Reading, Monday 31st August 1914
Regiment:Royal Berkshire
Battalion:5th Bn.
Division:12th (Eastern)
Went overseas:Sunday 30th May 1915
Died:Friday 31st March 1916
Cause:Killed in Action
Action:Killed by Sniper
Battalion at:Noyelles
Commemorated:Grave at Vermelles British Cemetery, Pas de Calais

Arthur Hale was born in Skipton, Yorkshire in 1881 to Sutton and Mary Hale, and was the third youngest of seven children. He lived with his two brothers and four sisters in 16 Upper Union Street, Skipton and his father was a railway foreman porter. By the age of 18 he had left home and was a sawyer in a nearby village, boarding at 8 South Street, Gargrave.

At some time Arthur moved to the Hurst area and became a Keeper on the Haines Hill Estate, owned by the Godsal family. Within three weeks of the outbreak of the First World War he had responded to Lord Kitchener's call for volunteers. In Berkshire this involved press appeals and mass meetings and was headed locally by the Lord Lieutenant and the Mayor of Reading.

Arthur enlisted in Reading on 31st August 1914 and was initially stationed in Brock Barracks, Oxford Road, Reading along with other volunteers. Francis Goodall, George Hayward and Ernest Lloyd also signed up the same day. The recruiting campaign was so successful that by 12th September there were enough men to create a 5th and 6th Battalion for the Royal Berkshire Regiment, each staffed with 1,100 men. These new 'service' Battalions of volunteers were distinct from the two regular and one reserve Battalion that were the peacetime complement for a county regiment.

Brock Barracks was overwhelmed by the sudden inrush of volunteers and by 8th September conditions were called 'a disgrace to the country' in a complaint forwarded to Lord Kitchener. There were 2000 men in accommodation designed for 300 and it would have been a relief for Arthur to be assigned to the 5th Battalion and sent within a few days for training at Shorncliffe Barracks. Even here there was overcrowding and men were sleeping on the floor without sheets.

Conditions did not improve when the 5th Battalion was moved out of the barracks to make way for new arrivals. They then slept under canvas on St. Martin's Plain until a combination of bad weather, leaking tents and deep mud made soldiering impossible. The men were then billeted in various hotels around Folkestone and training continued to improve the men's fitness and discipline with square bashing, full-pack marching and shooting practice at Hythe Ranges. During this time Herbert Bevis joined the Hurst contingent in 5th Battalion.

Towards the end of February 1915 the Battalion transferred to Aldershot to join up with the rest of 12th (Eastern) Division, becoming part of 35th Brigade. After further training 5th Battalion was ready for action and Arthur sailed for France on 30th May 1915, arriving in Boulogne the next day. The Battalion moved on to Armentieres and then to Ploegsteert, just across the border in Belgium. Ploegsteert was a comparatively quiet part of the front line where new troops were acclimatised to the rigours of trench warfare and Arthur spent three months in this sector. At first 5th Battalion were fortunate to find themselves under instruction from 1st/4th Battalion of the Royal Berkshire Regiment. Arthur learnt the daily routines of life at the front and there was time to meet up with friends in the ten days before 1st/4th Battalion was moved to another sector.

On Sunday 26th September Arthur's Battalion was relieved at the front and they retired three miles to billets at Westhof Farm near Neuve Eglise. Next day they marched back into France to the pretty village of Merris near Bailleul, ten miles behind the front lines. They arrived about 6p.m. and were expecting to stay for three weeks. Within two hours of their arrival orders were given to pack up and be ready to move out at 7a.m. next morning. Buses took the men south to the assembly point for 35th Brigade of 12th Division. They were about to play their part in the Battle of Loos.

The Battle of Loos was the British element of a combined offensive with the French, designed to overrun the railway system behind the German lines and undermine their positions along much of the Western Front. It was a large scale engagement involving 120,000 men from six divisions advancing on a six mile front. The attack took place on 25th September 1915 and by the time that Arthur moved up into the support trenches with the 35th Brigade, the battle had been in progress for five days.

Evidence of the earlier fighting was all around as they passed German prisoners, walking wounded and ambulances going in the opposite direction. Their path took them over ground taken in the previous days where they saw hundreds of British soldiers lying dead, still in formation. They then dug into the loose chalk while stretcher bearers looked for signs of life amid the carnage and took pay books from the dead as proof of their identity.

Soon the 5th Battalion moved up to relieve a Guards Battalion and found themselves on an open plain in full view of the Germans. They were under constant bombardment and could only move around at night. For a fortnight the Battalion suffered this torment as they alternated between the front line and reserve. Then they had a short spell behind the lines in readiness for the second attack on 13th October.

The attack started at 2p.m. and 5th Battalion was sent over the top when the initial thrust was held up by machine gun fire. Despite suffering heavy casualties they managed to reach the German trenches where hand to hand fighting ensued. Later in the day they were driven out and had to crawl back across No Man's Land under constant fire. Arthur Hale was one of the soldiers who was fortunate to return. He later recalled:

"Early in the encounter I was cut off and it was only after 36 hours exposure on the field that I returned to the trenches...I shall never forget how I crept about that field trying to find my line. I was so done for that I had to be taken into reserve so that I could have food and rest".

Arthur was indeed lucky; by the end of the day one hundred and sixty of his comrades were reported killed, wounded or missing. The Battle of Loos ended without the desired breakthrough and was ultimately deemed a failure. It resulted in over 50,000 casualties for the British First Army.

The next few days were spent on the sorry task of clearing up and on 19th October the 5th Battalion was relieved and marched two miles to billets in Vermelles. Next day they were withdrawn to the Béthune area and they spent the next few months in this sector, rotating between their billets, reserve and the front line. This was not without danger and thirty four men were killed during the first half of 1916, even though 5th Battalion was not involved in any major offensives.

On 31st March 1916 five men were killed in a single day, and one of those men was Corporal Arthur Hale. At noon 5th Battalion moved into the front line trenches at Noyelles. The Battalion War Diary reports:

12 Noon. The Battalion relieved the 7th Suffolk Regt in the front line trenches.
D Company on the Right
A Company Centre
C Company on the left
B Company 2 Platoons in support of A Company and 2 Platoons in the Quarry.
Units on the Flanks:
Right 7th Norfolk Regt
Left 20 Royal Fusiliers.
8.30pm. The Germans sprang a mine about 40 yards E of Craters 3 and 4 doing no damage to the latter Craters.
Casualties through this explosion: 2 Killed and 20 Wounded or shaken by falling debris.
Total Casualties Other Ranks: 5 Killed 20 Wounded
Captain C. Nugent joined from Hospital
There was a great deal of Bombing and trench Mortar Grenades for about 2 hours.
Lt. Colonel
Comdg 5th Bn. Royal Berkshire Regt.

At some time during this hectic activity Lance Corporal Arthur Hale was killed by a sniper; he was 35 years old. Arthur had been on active service in France and Belgium for 10 months and had risen to the rank of Corporal. The Reading Standard reported that he had also been recommended for promotion to Provost Serjeant. Arthur now rests in the Vermelles British Cemetery alongside many of his comrades, including the other four soldiers who died on that day.


Arthur Hale at Vermelles British Cemetery, Pas de Calais
Vermelles British Cemetery, Pas de Calais

They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun, and in morning
We will remember them.
Lawrence Binyon