John Henry's Story.
John Henry Dale was born in Macclesfield on 12 May 1889. The son of Jonathan Dale, a shoemaker, and Sarah (formerly Ardern), he was one of eleven children and initially lived at 84 Vincent Street, before the family moved to 39 Buckley Street.
John was educated at Duke Street National School and in 1896 enrolled at St George's Church of England School, Sutton. By 1911, 21 year old John was living at 37 Lowe Street with his parents and siblings Lizzie (20), Ethel (19), Norman (12), Harry (9) and Violet (5), and was employed as a silk spinner.
John married Alice Cartwright at St. Georges Church, Sutton, Macclesfield on 29th November 1913.
John was already a member of the 7th Battalion (Territorial Force), Cheshire Regiment, when war was declared in August 1914.
Following a period of training in various locations in the south of England, the 7th Cheshires, as part of 159th Brigade, 53rd (Welsh) Division, received orders to equip for service in an undisclosed location in the Mediterranean. In July 1915 they sailed from Devonport to Alexandria in Egypt, then on to the island of Lemnos on the 4th August. On the evening of 8th August, they arrived off the coast of Gallipoli and proceeded to make a landing at “C” Beach, Suvla Bay, on the following day.
Despite three frustrating weeks aboard ship, no official word as to their destination, and a sleepless night having sat on deck, patiently awaiting their turn to disembark, the troops of the 159th Brigade were anxious to acquit themselves. Once landed, confusion and doubt set-in as they were hurriedly issued with a vague order to “Attack the Turks”. The brigade was ill-prepared, with little ammunition and no supporting artillery or transport. Additionally, the officers had not been issued with maps prior to their arrival and very little reconnaissance or planning had been carried out. Despite this, three battalions, including the 1/7th Cheshires, were ordered to advance inland towards the high ground. They moved forward through the heavy scrub to a line south of a strongly held position known as Sulajik Farm, where they came under steady fire from the Turkish defenders. By the time darkness had fallen, the units of the 159th had become fragmented, with many men lost behind enemy lines. At 3:00 a.m. on the 10th August, the Brigade (or what was left of it) was ordered to prepare for a dawn attack on the important high ground known as Scimitar Hill. At 6:00 a.m. portions of the 1/7th Cheshires, followed by the 4th Welch, advanced a few hundred yards but were soon pinned down by a stream of enemy fire. Casualties mounted and morale flagged as a further advance at 5:00 p.m. saw a number of men killed, or wounded and left to perish in the scrub, which by now was burning fiercely.
Through poor co-ordination, indecision and incompetence, the fighting ability of the 159th Brigade was effectively ruined within 48 hours of its arrival. The 1/7th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment had lost 18 officers and men confirmed killed, 154 wounded, and 288 missing. Pte. John Henry Dale was amongst the latter - reported missing presumed killed in action during the attack on Scimitar Hill (known to the Turks as the Yusufçuk Hills).
Private Dale's presumed death was reported in the Macclesfield Times on 7 July 1916, almost eleven months after he was reported missing:
TERRITORIAL'S FATE: PRIVATE DALE "FEARED NO LONGER ALIVE" - Mrs Dale, 65 Pickford Street, Macclesfield, has this week received a War Office intimation concerning her husband, Private John Henry Dale, 1/7th Cheshire Regt., who was officially reported missing immediately after the landings at Suvla Bay. The communication, dated July 2nd, states: "In reply to your letter received 24th June, 1916, concerning Private J H Dale, 7th Cheshire Regt., I am directed to inform you that no further information has been received in this office, and that he has not been traced as a prisoner of war. Under these circumstances, and in view of the lapse of time, it is feared that he can be no longer alive, and his case is under consideration with a view to the acceptance of his death for official purposes. A further communication will be addressed to you as soon as this question has been decided."
About seven months ago, Mrs Dale received a letter from Co-Sergt-Major Lingard, a Wilmslow man, serving with the 1/7th Cheshires. Sergt Lingard stated: "Having been asked to write and give you all the information I am able regarding your husband, Private J H Dale, it is with deep regret that I have to inform you that he has been missing since August 10th. I thought you would have received official notice long before this. I am not going to encourage false hopes over your husband. We had a great many casualties the same day. I remember seeing him personally on the day we landed but we were separated shortly afterwards. If he has been wounded and taken away from this place then he must have been attended to by another unit for nobody of our battalion knows anything of him after the first day; in which case he must surely have written to you. If, on the other hand, he had been wounded and left int he field when the retirement of our troops was found necessary, there is the possibility of him being attended and taken as a prisoner of war by the enemy. But I should not advise you to base hopes on that. The great uncertainty of this must be a great trial to you - far worse than certainty would be. You have my deepest sympathy... He was always a favourite with all the boys, for he had a fine disposition and was a good soldier."
Private Dale, whose age was 27, was educated at Duke Street School and employed, prior to the outbreak of war, at Messrs. Josiah Smale & Sons. He was a member of St Peter's Working Men's Institute. Mrs Dale has one child.
John has no known grave and is commemorated on panel ref. 75 to 77 on the Helles Memorial, Turkey. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission holds casualty details for Private John Henry Dale, and he is listed on the Imperial War Museum’s Lives of the First World War website.
In Macclesfield, John Henry Dale is commemorated on the Park Green, Town Hall, St Michael's Church, and St Peter’s Church war memorials.
GRO (England & Wales) Index: Births, Marriages
Cheshire BMD: Marriages
Census (England & Wales): 1891, 1901, 1911
National School Admission Registers and Log-books (FindMyPast): St George's School, Sutton, Macclesfield
Commonwealth War Graves Commission website
Lives of the First World War website
Macclesfield Times: 7 July 1916
Research by Rosie Rowley, Macclesfield