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Percy Gale, Royal Marine Light Infantry -Survived WWI, Died WWII


ph0ebus

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Hi all,

A third Gale brother has come to light who has served in the Great War. I am creating this separate thread so as to try and keep the details for each man somewhat contained. I learned about Percy first as a casualty of the air raid against Exeter on the 4th of May 1942 which claimed the life of Percy, his mother and four other members of the Gale family. I found the following details of his death:

Killed at 178 Monks Road. Colour Sergeant Percy Gale of the Royal Marines, HMS Exeter. Gale had not joined his ship and she was sunk on March 1st 1942. Identified from his medals which were found the next day in the street in Pamela Road by a man who handed the medals to William Hill and shreds of his uniform were found in Pinhoe Road.

From:

http://www.exetermemories.co.uk/em/blitzcasualties.php

Percy's mention via the CWGC:

http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/2463694/GALE,%20PERCY

The reference to medals made me wonder about possible Great War service, and sure enough, located a file at the National Archives that seemed a good possibility:

Reference: ADM 159/159/16685

Description: Name Gale, Percy

Register Number: 16685

Division: Royal Marine Light Infantry: Plymouth Division

When Enlisted/Date of Enlistment: 25 May 1914

Date of Birth: 28 December 1898

Date: [1913-1914]

From: http://discovery.nat...ails/r/D7824423

seaJane confirmed that the lead was a good one, and horatio2 added the following additional lead:

There is an RMLI Attestation Pack of papers for Percy at the Fleet Air Arm Museum. I have the following notes on him :- Born Exeter. 1914 Star (PLYMOUTH BATTALION RND). DISCHARGED TO PENSION AND RE-ENLISTED AS PENSIONER RECRUITER 1937. KILLED IN AIR RAID 04/05/1942

Having members of my family on the British side is a refreshing change and I am incredibly thankful and appreciative of the help and guidance given thus far. I welcome further additions to this thread and I will park any new leads and developments here.

:poppy: :poppy: :poppy:

Daniel

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I just downloaded the file from the NA on Percy, and it is quite dense with extremely helpful information. Sorting through it now, but it is 100% the right man!

-Daniel

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Oh, my!

Percy was in the thick of it from day one! See below, for the proverbial tip of the iceberg:

post-32240-0-55480100-1416424550_thumb.j

And all that at only age 15!

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Percy was a boy bugler - very young (but not the youngest) "Old Contemptible" - serving with Plymouth Battalion RND at Ostend, Dunkirk and at the Defence of Antwerp and qualifying for the 1914 Star and Clasp, under enemy fire.

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Percy was a boy bugler - very young (but not the youngest) "Old Contemptible" - serving with Plymouth Battalion RND at Ostend, Dunkirk and at the Defence of Antwerp and qualifying for the 1914 Star and Clasp, under enemy fire.

Indeed...only 15 years old when he landed at Ostend!

One of the items on my list is to figure out what became of his medals, that were recovered from the street after the family home was destroyed by bombing. Perhaps a wild goose chase, but I'll see it through.

-Daniel

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Wow. That's amazing!

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One of his fellow Plymouth Battalion buglers was 14 years, 2 months and 21 days old when he landed at Ostend in August 1914. He probably considered Percy to be an old chap!

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Yes! I do think it's about time people considered the Navy's boy sailors as well as the Teenage Tommies...

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I think there has been some confusion between the City of Exeter, Devon, where Percy was killed in an air raid and the cruiser HMS EXETER which was in the Far East. Even CWGC lists him as HMS EXETER when he was actually a Pensioner Recruiter. He could not have been on the books of HMS EXETER while serving in UK. Indeed, nobody was on the books of HMS EXETER on 4 May 1942 because she had been sunk two months earlier.

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I gather it would still be appropriate for him to appear on the Plymouth Memorial, even if he did not serve with HMS Exeter, because he died while in the service of the Royal Navy and has no known grave...

So, looks like the CWGC entry may be in need of correction (certainly the Maritime Quest page is!) I would like to see his full file before adding that to the to-do list.

-Daniel

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I found a lead on the man who recovered Percy's medals, in a post on the 'Exeter Memories' forum in regards to research into the Wessex Field Ambulance:

"I don't know if you are still looking into the Wessex Field Ambulance, but I do know of someone who serve with them during WW1.
His name was William John Russell Hill. I am looking into the people who lived in Pamela Road Exeter and he lived there. The lady I know knew him as they both originally came from Dawlish.
I have found evidence that a story I was told as a child is true, that 'a soldier was on leave when Exeter was Blitzed. His house took a direct hit and all they found were his medals.' Having looked into this, the medals were handed over to Mr Hill after they were found in Pamela Road. There were also a couple of people killed/serously injured in Pamela Road so I can only imagine that William Hill was helping when the medals were handed to him. (The solider was C/Sgt Percy Gale RM, who had been drafted to HMS Exeter but for some reason wasn't onboard when she was sunk earlier in 1942.)
"

From:

http://www.exetermemories.co.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=206&p=1538&hilit=percy+gale#p1538

I have registered with the forum and hope to be approved by the mods there soon so I can follow up on this lead.

-Daniel

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" ... C/Sgt Percy Gale RM, who had been drafted to HMS Exeter but for some reason wasn't onboard when she was sunk earlier in 1942."

This does not ring true. HMS EXETER left UK as a convoy escort in May 1941 (the latest date when Percy would be expected to join her). She went on to the Far East and remained there, joining in the war against Japan from December 1941. To join EXETER in the Far East (if he was drafted to her) Percy would have had to leave UK in a troopship by early 1942. If he did not go he would not have been on EXETER's books.

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Indeed, it looks like the locals created what might be termed an urban legend. I don't know how leave worked during WWII for the Royal Navy (and we should probably not dig into that and avoid the 'wrath of the mods', as it were) but I would bet that the record from the Fleet Air Arm won't have any mention of HMS Exeter in it. Even if he was 'just' a Pensioner Recruiter, his loss was just as tragic.

I am continuing to try and decode the NA record for Percy and will post it here once it takes shape.

-Daniel

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Four days, and still not registered for that other forum!

I have reached out to the Heavitree Local History Society, in case they might have interest in this mystery and/or additional information about Percy.

-Daniel

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I am pleased to report that I received a response from the historical society and they seem interested in delving further into Percy's records and story. I will post notable updates here...stay tuned!

Daniel

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  • 5 months later...
Guest Southsea

Dear Ph0ebus

I discovered your thread recently regarding Percy Gale and I am sure you would be very interested to know that he was my Great Uncle. I can confirm much of the information your have already discovered for yourself, but might also be able to fill in some of the gaps in your research. It would be interesting to know your exact family connection and perhaps we can piece together a fuller history.

Kind regards

Southsea

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Dear Ph0ebus

I discovered your thread recently regarding Percy Gale and I am sure you would be very interested to know that he was my Great Uncle. I can confirm much of the information your have already discovered for yourself, but might also be able to fill in some of the gaps in your research. It would be interesting to know your exact family connection and perhaps we can piece together a fuller history.

Kind regards

Southsea

Hi Southsea!

Very wonderful to meet you! My maternal grandfather was Emmanuel Gale, son of Walter Emmanuel Harold Gale and Anna nee Christiansen. Going back from there, I suspect the common ancestors for us might be Will and Mary Raddon. My uncle Walter is really more of an expert on the Gales (he is a Gale himself; there are quite a few Gale descendants here is the US). I would be most happy to share whatever information I have that may be of interest and given you are a new member of the Forum, I do not believe you have access to the PM system. Please feel free to reach me via email at ph0ebus at optonline dot net.

I have Percy as one of four children of Tom and Lavinia Gale, the other three being Alice, Tom and William. Are you related via Alice, or another sibling I am not presently aware of?

All very exciting! I look forward to either your reply here or via email.

Best wishes,

Daniel

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Doing some more reading on the events of the day Percy died...quite horrifying:

http://demolition-exeter.blogspot.com/2010/10/exeter-is-jewel-of-west-and-we-have_16.html

The house at 178 Monks Road, today:

post-32240-0-31500000-1433168660_thumb.j

-Daniel

PS, as an aside, I am curious about the death at 178 Monks Road of Peggy Edna Miles, age 14, Daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Fred Miles of 23 Elmside. She did not live there, and her parents did not perish in the attack...so why was she there? Perhaps we shall never know.

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Friend of the family (were there girls?). Housemaid? She was old enough to be in service.

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Friend of the family (were there girls?). Housemaid? She was old enough to be in service.

If I had to guess, I would say the latter. I am not aware of any girls in the family and Percy's mother was 78, so a housemaid might make sense.

-Daniel

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  • 2 weeks later...

All,

I have joined and posted in the Exeter Memories forum, where I first learned about Percy and the sugggestions about his Great War service. Though it is a bit of an old thread, I hope that folks there may have other information or suggestions on where to look for additional information about Percy. I am also now looking for online newspapers that may have more details about him and what happened.

Take care,

Daniel

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I wonder if folks can help me to decipher a bit of handwriting on Percy's service record, in the 'Wounds and Hurts' section?

post-32240-0-44490600-1434125659_thumb.j

I see the following:

Feb 32 Paid ?? LS + GC Gratuity

27 Aug - 31 Aug Landed at Ostend

19 Sep - 12 Oct 14 Served (?) at Dunkirk

Defence of Antwerp

20 May 20 (?) ????????

18 Aug 19 Paid War Gratuity ??

30/4/18 - 11/11/18 B.E.F. (France)

26/8/18 Shrapnel Wound R Knee, Head (?) ???????

The rest I cannot decipher.

Given he was wounded, is it possible he may have received a Silver War Badge? I see some entries in Ancestry but I do not have access to the non-USA files from home. If he had, would it have been listed with his Decorations? All I see there is

1914 Star

BW & Victory Medals

LS & GC Medals

The Coronation Medal

-Daniel

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I wonder if folks can help me to decipher a bit of handwriting on Percy's service record, in the 'Wounds and Hurts' section?

attachicon.gifPercy Gale Wounds and Hurts.jpg

I see the following:

Feb 32 Paid £10 [ten pounds] LS + GC Gratuity

27 Aug - 31 Aug Landed at Ostend

19 Sep - 12 Oct 14 Served (yes) at Dunkirk

Defence of Antwerp

20 May 20 Paid £9 11s [nine pounds eleven shillings] Naval Prize Fund

18 Aug 19 Paid War Gratuity £29-0-0 [29 pounds 0 shillings 0 pence]

30/4/18 - 11/11/18 B.E.F. (France)

26/8/18 Shrapnel Wound R Knee, Hurt Certificate Granted 11/4/20

4/4/23 Paid final share Naval Prize Fund. Paid £14.7s

The rest I cannot decipher.

Given he was wounded, is it possible he may have received a Silver War Badge? I see some entries in Ancestry but I do not have access to the non-USA files from home. If he had, would it have been listed with his Decorations? All I see there is

1914 Star

BW & Victory Medals

LS & GC Medals

The Coronation Medal

-Daniel

See inserts above in BOLD

He was not discharged invalided/wounded so did not qualify for a Silver War Badge.

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See inserts above in BOLD

He was not discharged invalided/wounded so did not qualify for a Silver War Badge.

Thank you! That nuance about the SWB I had missed somewhere along the way, so thanks for clearing that up.

I was just reading up on the term 'Hurt Certificate Granted' and its implications, as well as the Naval Prize Fund...all in all, Percy is giving me quite an education.

Thanks again,

Daniel

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