Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

William Hale

William Hale :

William Hale : Queen's South Africa Medal with clasps 'Cape Colony', 'Transvaal', 'Wittebergen'

Queen's South Africa Medal with clasps 'Cape Colony', 'Transvaal', 'Wittebergen'

William was born in around April 1879 in Salford, Lancashire. We don't know anything about his family or his early life. He was a member of the Church of England.

By October 1896 William had found work as a carter for Mr Lambert, a contractor based on Lord Napier Street in Salford. He lived at 11 Davidson Street, off Liverpool Street, but until recently he had lived at 28 Manchester Street.

William must have wanted to do more with his life, because on the 13th October he enlisted in the 3rd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. This was a unit of the Militia, so William would keep his civilian job and home, and train as a soldier for a short period every year.

When he enlisted William was 5 feet 4 3/4 inches tall and weighed 111 pounds. He had a 'fresh' complexion, blue eyes and dark brown hair. He was given the service number 5552.

William took part in the 3rd Battalion's annual training in 1897, 1898 and 1899. He joined the Special Service Section of the battalion on the 30th June 1899. Normally a Militia unit would be called up to serve together, but Special Service men were willing to be attached to other units if needed. They could not spend more than 12 months in this Section.

The Boer War broke out on the 11th October 1899 between British and Boer settlers in South Africa. It began badly for the British and they were soon sending as many soldiers as they could to the country. During 1900 many Militia units were called into service to fight in the war. The 3rd Battalion was renamed the 5th Battalion in February and it was called into service, or embodied, on the 3rd May. Many Militia units from Lancashire had already gone to South Africa, so it was not deployed.

William must have wanted to see action because on the 20th he joined the Militia Reserve. This was similar to the Special Service Section in that it was made up of Militiamen who were willing to leave their unit and serve as an individual in a unit of the Regular Army. The difference was that service in the Militia Reserve was not limited to 12 months. It was also much more popular.

We don't know when William was sent to South Africa, but he had joined E Company of the 2nd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment before the end of July. We know this because otherwise he would not have qualified for the 'Wittebergen' clasp.

Having more soldiers available meant that the British Army could try to force the Boers to face it in battle. By the end of 1900 they had captured most Boer towns, but the Boers refused to surrender and began to fight as guerrillas in small units. William spent the rest of the war manning blockhouses and taking part in patrols of the countryside aimed at restricting the movements of the Boer forces. This was eventually successful and the war ended on the 31st May 1902.

William and the other Militiamen in the 2nd Battalion were quickly returned to the UK. He was posted back to the 5th Battalion on the 31st July and disembodied the next month. On the 12th October his period of service came to an end and he was discharged.

The rest of William's life remains a mystery. His medal was donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in October 1965. As well as his Queen's South Africa Medal, William was also awarded the King's South Africa Medal with clasps 'South Africa 1901' and 'South Africa 1902' for his Army service.

Museum of the Manchester Regiment
c/o Portland Basin Museum
Portland Place
Heritage Wharf

Telephone: 0161 343 2878
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Trustees of the Manchester Regiment Museum & Archive and Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council