2033 Private Hubert Halsey, 1/9th Battalion Middlesex Regiment, attached 2nd Battalion Norfolk Regiment
Born on 24th January 1891 in Briden’s Camp, Great Gaddesden
Died on 29th September 1959 in Perth, Australia
Hubert Halsey (always called Bert) was born in Briden’s Camp, Great Gaddesden and was the eldest of the 4 children of Thomas Halsey and Hannah née Tarsey. He was then baptised at St John the Baptist’s Church, Great Gaddesden on 15th March 1891.
His sister Daisy Nora was born on 15th January 1894, his brother Eric Leslie on 20th July 1901 and his brother Kenneth Thomas on 31st August 1908.
In the 1891 Census, 2 month old Bert and his parents lived at Briden’s Camp; his father Thomas was an Agricultural Labourer. However, by January 1894 when Daisy was born, the family lived in Ringshall (Ashridge Park).
The Little Gaddesden School Log Book entry for 24th April 1894 notes that: “The following Infants have been admitted – Hubert Halsey, Joseph Ing, Ada Fountain and Maude Rance.” Bert was 3 years 3 months old.
Little Gaddesden School had an annual Diocesan Inspection, during which the children were examined in Religious Knowledge. The names of those children who distinguished themselves in this examination were then recorded in the School Log Book and Hubert Halsey’s name is included in 1901 and 1903.
In the 1901 Census, the family lived at 39 Ringshall, Ashridge Park, which is now part of Cherry Tree Cottage in Alderton Drive. Hubert’s father Thomas was a Park Ranger’s Helper on the Ashridge Estate. 10 year old Bert and 7 year old Daisy were at school.
On 22nd February 1903, 8 children including Horace Ruffett, Hubert Halsey and Joseph Hing sat for their Labour Certificate (Certificate of Proficiency), which they passed. Therefore, on 27th February 1903, Hubert Halsey, just 12 years old, left from Standard 5 at Little Gaddesden School with a Certificate of Proficiency.
The Little Gaddesden Brass Band 7
The Little Gaddesden Brass Band was formed in 1902 and a report and statement of accounts for 1902 – 1903 has survived. To obtain funds, entertainments were performed and donations sought. Each band member paid 3d per week (1¼p today) toward the cost of tuition. The report noted “our balance in hand is very low, but we again rely on our many kind friends to give us their support and stick to our motto: Nil Desperandum”. The report included a photograph on which Bert Halsey is shown, aged about 12, sitting underneath the big drum.
Others in the Band with links to the Roll of Honour are:
- Back Row, L to R: 1. Archibald Johnson; 2. Thomas Johnson; 3. Frederick Cutler; 5. John Wibden; 6. Edward Hing; 7. Edward Pinnock (father of George Pinnock and Arthur Pinnock).
- Middle Row, L to R: 3. Arthur Johnson; 4. Sam Oakins; 6. Harry Wells (father of William Wells); 7. Walter Holland; 8. Herbert Fenn.
- Front Row, L to R: 1. Steve Oakins; 4. William Johnson; 5. Sidney Rogers.
- Band members absent from the photo included William Fenn and Matthew Munden; the Band’s Secretary was Geoffrey Talbot.
In an article written in 2014 for the magazine “Between the Lines”, the Journal of the Family History Society of Rockingham & Districts, Western Australia, Bert’s daughter Alice noted:
When Bert left school at 12 he went to work on the Ashridge Estate, the home of Lord and Lady Brownlow, to learn to be a gardener. However he was more interested in the new-fangled motor cars and wanted to be a motor mechanic. His mother arranged for him to live in Luton where he served his apprenticeship at the Vauxhall Motors.
Alice’s comment is supported by Bert’s 1911 Census entry. In April 1911 Bert is recorded as a 20 year old Coach Bodymaker for a Motor Manufacturer. He then lived as a Boarder in the household of Harry and Laura Major at 6 Pondwicks Road, Luton.
Meanwhile, his father Thomas, older sister Daisy, aged 17 and younger brothers Eric, 9, and Kenneth, 2, lived at 41 Ashridge Park, now part of Witches Hollow. Thomas was then a Ranger on the Ashridge Estate while Daisy was a Dressmaker’s Assistant working from home. Eric was at school. Hubert’s mother Hannah, however, is recorded as a Patient in the London Hospital, Whitechapel.
According to Alice, Bert’s great friend from childhood was Percy Willmore. They “grew up together, often going exploring in Ashridge Park or trailing after the people riding to hounds”. Bert became a skilled motor mechanic at Vauxhall Motors, but, with Percy Willmore, volunteered early in the War. On 7th September 1914, Bert and Percy Willmore attested for the 1/9th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment at Pound Lane, Willesden Green. Bert’s Service Number was 2033 and Percy Willmore’s 2044.
Bert’s Service Record has not survived but Percy Willmore’s has; it shows that their battalion was shipped out to India on 29th October 1914, as part of the Home Counties Division, to relieve the regular troops there. They sailed from Southampton aboard the troop transports Dilwara and Dongola, arriving in Bombay on 2nd December 1914. The 1/9th Battalion Middlesex Regiment was then posted to the Dinajpur District, West Bengal (now in Bangladesh), where Bert and Percy Willmore remained until mid-May 1915.
Both Bert and Percy Willmore were in the first draft of men of the 1/9th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment to be attached to the 2nd Battalion Norfolk Regiment and sent to Mesopotamia (now Iraq). Bert’s Medal Roll Index Card confirms that he served in Theatre of War 5A (Mesopotamia) from 20th May 1915. After Turkey entered the War on Germany’s side, Britain sent troops to protect its oil supplies in the then Ottoman province of Mesopotamia.
Toward Baghdad 12
The 9th Middlesex/ 2nd Norfolk Regiment men were then part of the 6th (Poona) Indian Division, commanded by Major-General Charles Townshend. From their base at Basra, they advanced 160km along the River Tigris to Amara, which they captured on 4th June 1915. Then, from Amara, they continued north-west, first to Kut, then on toward Baghdad, some 400km away. The division entered Kut on 28 September 1915, having inflicted heavy losses on the Turks. Then, by mid-November, it was only 40km from Baghdad. However, sickness and a lack of artillery, ammunition and supplies seriously weakened Townshend’s force.
Retreat to Kut-el-Amara 12
Between 21st and 23rd November 1915, the Division was blocked by the Turks at Ctesiphon. They suffered heavy losses, therefore retreated back to Kut-el-Amara. On 7th December 1915, the Turks surrounded Townshend’s forces and, for the next few weeks, launched attacks against the Kut defences. The siege of Kut-el-Amara continued in increasingly appalling conditions until 29th April 1916, when 13,000 men surrendered into captivity.
However, a Soldier’s Medical Record entry shows that, very fortunately for Bert, on 16th December 1915, he was admitted to the 19th General Hospital. Then, on 26th December 1915, his medical record states that he returned to England aboard HMHS Sicilia. He was suffering from neuritis (inflammation of the nerves) of the left arm. The record gave his age, 24, also noting that he had served in the army for 1 year 2 months and had completed 6 months with the field force. That medical record supports his daughter Alice’s account:
By this time Bert and Percy were in the hospital, Bert’s left arm was paralysed carrying a pack too long whilst Percy was delirious with fever. The order came for walking wounded to get down to the river to be evacuated. Dad would not leave Percy so somehow he managed to get him on his back and carried him down to the boat. They were taken to Bombay in India for hospital treatment; probably issued with clothes, and received some back pay.
It is possible that the hospital treatment in Bombay was received en route back to England but the 19th General Hospital was believed to be in Alexandria, Egypt. HMHS Sicilia did, however, undertake some circuitous voyages.
Return to England 1
Alice notes that on his arrival in England in 1916, Bert:
was in hospital for several months being looked after by Dutch nurses… His black hair was nearly grey and his left arm was paralysed from a pinched nerve from carrying a pack too long. He did regain most of the use of his arm and hand but it took nearly two years.
On 27th May 1916, Bert was discharged from the Army under paragraph 392 (xvi) of the King’s Regulations, as the result of sickness, in other words, the paralysis of his arm. A Silver War Badge record dated 13th January 1917 confirms that he was granted Silver War Badge and Certificate No. 113129. The badge was to be worn on civilian clothing to show that he had been honourably discharged due to wounds or sickness resulting from military service.
Bert’s friend Percy Willmore recovered from his fever and continued to serve, returning to the 1/9th Middlesex Regiment on 8th March 1916. However, on 7th June 1918, whilst serving in India, Percy Willmore was discharged from the British Army to take up a temporary commission in the Indian Army. He then served as Lieutenant with the 4th/9th Bhopal Infantry, attached to the Brahmans.
On 15th July 1918, at St Peter and St Paul’s Church, Little Gaddesden, Hubert Halsey married Annie Livingston Barker. Hubert was then a 27 year old Motor Fitter of Ashridge Park. His father Thomas was recorded as a Keeper (Game Keeper). Annie, 29, also of Ashridge Park, was the daughter of John William Barker, Hall Porter. The witnesses were Annie’s father John and Hubert’s married sister Daisy Nora Buttle.
Men who have answered their country’s call in defence of a “Scrap of Paper”
Hubert Halsey is named on the Roll of Honour, which hangs in St Peter & St Paul’s Church, Little Gaddesden and lists 119 men from Little Gaddesden, Ringshall and Hudnall who served in the 1914 – 1918 War. He is listed in the 9th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment. On the Centenary Revision of the Roll, his regiment is recorded more precisely as 1/9th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment. His friend Percy Willmore (“Wilmore” on the original Roll) is also named on both Rolls.
Rolls of Honour photos: Jane Dickson, Michael Carver
On 5th December 1924, Mr H Halsey, aged 33, a Motor Engineer, and his wife Mrs A L Halsey, aged 35, of 20 North Street, Luton, left the UK. They travelled 3rd Class aboard the Orient Line SS Osterley from the Port of London to Fremantle, Western Australia with the intention of residing permanently in Australia. As their daughter Alice put it, “to follow the sun.”
The 1926 Australia Electoral Roll gives their address as 47 Railway Rd, Subiaco, Perth, Western Australia.
Bert and Annie’s daughter, Alice Sylvia Halsey was born in October 1929.
On 7th August 1936 Hubert Halsey, aged 45, a Motor Mechanic, his wife Annie, 47 and their daughter Alice, 6, arrived at the Port of London. They had sailed aboard the P&O Line steamer RMS Mooltan from Fremantle, Western Australia. Their proposed address for the visit was 36 Little Gaddesden, Berkhamsted, Herts, the home of Hubert’s widowed mother Hannah.
Alice remembered that:
When we went to England in 1936, my grandmother still had father’s army tunic and solar topi hanging in a cupboard.
On 13th November 1936, with Alice then aged 7, they left the Port of London for the return voyage. They sailed aboard the P&O Line steamer SS Narkunda, bound for Fremantle, Western Australia.
By 1937 Bert and his family lived at 73 Evans Street, Subiaco, Perth, Western Australia. However, by 1943, they had moved to 125 Onslow Road. Alice noted that:
Bert had a wonderful sense of humour… which probably got him through the times he was upset and worried about his work as Manager of the workshop at International Harvester Truck Company in Perth. He claimed the mechanics stayed awake at night working out how they could mess up a job – this was during the Second World War when the workshop repaired trucks for the Army.
By 1954 the family lived at Ashridge, Mills Road, Gosnells, Canning, Western Australia. Alice remembered:
Bert had many talents and could turn his hand to almost anything; he built the foundations for his house Ashridge in Mills Road, Gosnells from the stone on the block. When he retired because of illness in 1953 he was happy with his garden and raising Light Sussex Chooks and showing them, winning quite a few prizes.
On 29th September 1959, 68 year old Hubert Halsey died of a heart attack in the Old Armadale Hospital, Canning, Perth, Western Australia.
It was as if a light had gone out of our lives. There were many people at the funeral who we did not know, and we received lots of cards and letters from people who thanked us for Dad’s help in the past.
Bert and Percy Willmore kept in touch with each other after Bert and Annie emigrated to Australia. However, Percy Willmore, aged 66, died in Luton on 25th September 1959, just 4 days before Bert’s death.
1. http://fhsrd.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/December-2014BTL.pdf p3 History in the making. Bert Halsey in the First World War 1914-1916.
6. Little Gaddesden School Log Books 1887 – 1906
7. Report and Statement of Accounts of the Little Gaddesden Brass Band 1902 – 1903
15. Little Gaddesden Marriage Register
18. https://bdm.justice.wa.gov.au/_apps/pioneersindex/default.aspx Halsey, Alice S
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Research, text and (unless otherwise credited) photos: Jane Dickson