Driver 69174 John Henry Hale

Died Home on Saturday, 31st March 1917, age 32.
Buried in Grave A. 356. at Tipton Cemetery, Staffordshire, United Kingdom.

Royal Engineers, 35th Signal Company.

Husband of Mrs Ada Hale, of 5 Eagle Passage, New Road, Great Bridge, Tipton, Staffs.
Born: Great Bridge, Enlisted: Birmingham, Resident: Tipton.

First landed France & Flanders, 28th January 1916.
Medal entitlement: British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives survived and transcribed.

Commemorated on the Tipton Library Memorial.
Commemorated here because he appears on a Tipton memorial.

No current entry on the Commonwealth War Graves Site. This is probably an error, and will be raised with them.

Genealogical Data

Birth of John Henry Hale registered September quarter 1884 in West Bromwich.

1891 Census
126 Whitehall Road, Greets Green, West Bromwich, Staffs.
Thomas Hale (45, Boatman, born West Bromwich), his wife Susan (42, born Wednesbury), and their 4 children: Thomas (22, Boatman’s Assistant, born West Bromwich), John Henry (5, Scholar, born West Bromwich), Susan A. (11, born West Bromwich) and Maria (2 months, born West Bromwich). Also Thomas’s brother Benjamin Hale (47, Boatman, born West Bromwich).

1901 Census
168 Whitehall Road, Greets Green, West Bromwich, Staffs.
Thomas Hale (55, Steerer of Canal Barge, born West Bromwich), his wife Susan (50, Shop keeper (home), born Wednesbury), and their 4 children: Thomas (29, Steerer of Canal Barge, born West Bromwich), Susan (20, born West Bromwich), John Henry (16, Steerer of Canal Barge, born West Bromwich), and Maria (10, born West Bromwich).

Marriage of John Henry Hale and Ada Stephenson registered March quarter 1905 in Dudley, (actually: 12 February 1905, at St. Martin's Church, Tipton).

1911 Census
36 Farley Street, Whitehall Road, Greets Green, West Bromwich, Staffs.
John Hale (26, Steerer - Boatman, born Great Bridge), his wife Ada (26, born West Bromwich), and their 4 surviving children of 4: Doris (5, born West Bromwich), Ada (4, born West Bromwich), Benjamin (1 year 9 months, born West Bromwich), and Annie (10 days, born West Bromwich). Annie died in June quarter 1911, and a further child, John Henry, was born in September 1912.

The 4 surviving children’s dates of birth were: Doris May 28 May 1905, Ada Georgina 3 September 1906, Nicholas Benjamin 5 June 1909 and John Henry 2 September 1912.

Personal Data

John Hale enlisted with the Royal Engineers on 24th March 1915 in Birmingham. He was 30 years and 10 months of age, and living at 5 Eagle Passage, Great Bridge, Tipton, with his wife and 4 children. He was 5 feet 3½ inches tall, had brown hair, grey eyes and had a fresh complexion; he had a scar on the tip of the ring finger, left hand. His religion was stated as Church of England, and his occupation was Boatman. Overall, John was regarded as “Fit, subject to dental treatment”.

He reported to the 39th Division Signals Company on the 25th March at Reading where he underwent training. During 1915 he had 3 incidences of being ‘Absent without Leave’. The first two were in May and June at Reading for which he was Confined to Barracks for 3 days, and the third on 28th December at Perham Down for which he forfeit 6 days pay – possibly extending leave at Christmas.

John embarked for France on 28th January 1916, when he was attached to the 35th Signal Company, presumably utilising his skill with horses from working on canal barges. A reference from Richard Hale, Steerer and Contractor of Swan Lane, West Bromwich, had said “John Hale has worked for me several times and I have always found him honest and willing to do his work. He is used to any sort of horse.”

After John’s discharge (see Action below), he was awarded a Disability Pension of £1/5/0d (1 pound and 5 shillings) per week, plus 2/6d (2 shillings and 6 pence) for each of his 4 children. This was re-confirmed at a further Medical Board on 21st February 1917, but no further Boards were required as John died on 31st March 1917.

John’s Disability Pension ceased upon his death, and was replaced by Ada’s Widow’s Pension which amounted to £1/8/9d (1 pound, 8 shillings and 9 pence) per week for Ada and the 4 children. This was a reduction of 6/3d (6 shillings and 3 pence) per week but obviously one mouth less to feed.

The Pensions Papers remaining suggest that Ada was not having an easy time financially, as there is a record of 35/0d (35 shillings) being deducted to repay H. Basil Croke, Treasurer of the L.W.R.C. (Local War Relief Committee?) care of London City and Midland Bank, Tipton, in respect of monies advanced. Also there is a record of a £5 grant being paid 18th January 1918.

John's War Gratuity amounted to £6/0/0d (6 pounds exactly), this was paid to his widow, Ada, in September 1919. This relfects his service from March 1915 until his discharge in September 1916.

Action resulting in his death

John had been in France just 5 months when he was admitted to No. 23 General Hospital in Étaples on 28th June 1916. Just over a month later, on 29th July, he was transferred back to England. He was posted to the Fenny Stratford Signal Depot, this was likely to be an administrative matter needing to be allocated to a unit for pay purposes. Two months later, on 19th September, he was discharged from the army “no longer physically fit for War Service.” His entry on the ‘Silver War Badge’ register records that this was due to ‘nephritis’, this is inflammation of the kidneys which can result from physical over-exertion.

A report of the Medical Board dated 5th September 1916 stated:
“Originated in France in June 1916. Began with headache, swelling of face and eyes, legs and ankles, and pain in back. Since his admission to hospital he has had constant headache, and at the first backache, the latter is not so evident now. No oedema (Editor: fluid retention) of legs since he has been in bed. Albumen in urine is very great, present quantity 31st August 1916 3½ esbach (Editor: a measure of albumen in urine). Right & Left eyes show intense neuro retinitis, white spots and striated haemorrhage. Heart sounds clear. Microscopically urine contains epithelial (Editor: outer surface lining of organs) and fatty casts, no blood.
Result of Active Service – exposure to cold and wet.
Permanent – Total incapacity.”

This can be summed up as severe kidney disease in the days before dialysis, anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive drugs, the outcome did not look good.

John died on 31st March 1917 and he was buried in Tipton Cemetery on 8th April 1917. John's Pension Card record shows that his death was due to "Chronic Bright's disease, commencing on Active Service". He does not have a Commonwealth War Graves headstone, and is currently not recorded on the CWGC online ‘Debt of Honour’. The process of having his death accepted for commemoration by the CWGC was started in January 2020, but may take up to 2 years.

Newspaper Cuttings