Second World War - Lynsted Memorial Project

(James) Percy DALE (of Oare)

b. 1914
d. 11th October 1945. Aged 31

Sergeant, Service Number 6285444
12 Infantry Training Centre
The Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment)

Oare Churchyard
Killed in a firing practice accident

Son of Mr and Mrs Edwin Dale, Percy was born in 1914. A miner by profession, in 1940 he married Bessie Adelaide Butler of Oare where they lived in 2 Pheasant Cottage.

Sadly, Percy was killed whilst working as an instructor for The Buffs, 12th Infantry Training Centre at Canterbury.

The inquest into his death was published locally:

Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald of 20 October 1945

Mortar Bomb Hits N.C.O. in Face.
Oare Sergeant's Death.

The tragic death of Sergeant James Percy Dale, of the Buffs, aged 31, whose home was at 3, Pheasant Cottages, Oare, Faversham, was the subject of an inquest conducted by Mr. A. K. Mowll, Deputy Coroner for East Kent, at the Council Chamber, Herne Bay, on Friday evening.

Sergeant Dale was fatally injured just before noon the previous day at Reculver whilst engaged in instructing recruits in firing two-inch mortar bombs. He belonged to "I" Coy., the Buffs, 12th Infantry Training Centre, The Barracks, Canterbury.

Howard George Heathfield, 18, Russell Place, Oare, labourer on the Southern Railway brother-in-law of deceased, gave evidence of identification. Deceased, he said, was a miner in civil life, and had good health. He was happily married, and witness last saw him alive on Saturday, October 6th, at his home.

Dr. Grace Catherine Evans, practising at Herne Bay, said she saw the body of deceased in a car outside Herne Bay Hospital just before noon, the previous day. He had extensive injuries to the upper part of the face and head. She thought a mortar bomb must have passed right through his head, and death must have been instantaneous.

Lieut. Herbert Stringer, East Surrey Regiment, gave evidence that on the previous day he was in charge of the two-inch mortar range at Reculver, and all the required military precautions had been taken. There were two mortars, witness being in charge of one and deceased of the other, and 30 recruits were present.

There was a crew of three men to each gun, and Pte Cyril Colchin, as No.1 was firing the gun off which deceased was in charge. He would be lying full length on the ground, with his chest on the base plate. No. 2, Pte Letchford, was the man who loaded the gun, and the order to fire would be given by deceased. No. 3, Pte Cushway, would be in front of the mortar, about 15 yards away, and slightly to one side. His job was to report the striking of the bombs on the target which was approximately 350 yards away.

Witness was standing about 20 yards from deceased's mortar and on being called over he saw deceased had been injured. Witness commandeered a private car, in which deceased was taken to hospital. Deceased was an experienced instructor and a good N.C.O.

Witness thought that the man who was to fire the mortar did not turn the grip sufficiently, and realising this he gave it another turn, and the mortar was fired.

The mortar was produced and witness demonstrated to the Coroner how it was fired.

Pte Cyril Colchin, the Buffs, said he was aged 18 and had been in the Army just over three months. He had fired one bomb, and after Pte Letchford had reloaded the mortar witness heard deceased say: "Put another bomb in." Witness told him there was already one in, and deceased, who was behind witness, then said, "Fire." Witness did not actually see where deceased was, because he was looking down at the sight on the mortar.

At this point the Coroner said he did not propose to call any of the several other witnesses present. It appeared to him that deceased did not know another bomb had been put in, and knowing he was dealing with recruits, he went to inspect the mortar when Colchin told him one had been put in. Colchin, not knowing the position of deceased, because he was looking down at the sight, fired the mortar, causing the instantaneous death of deceased.

Therefore, said the Coroner, he would record a verdict of Death by Misadventure, and would express deep sympathy with the widow and other members of the family, and also with the unit in losing the services of a valuable soldier.

Major Reginald Charles Guy, M.C., on the staff of the 12th Infantry Training Centre, also expressed sympathy with the family on behalf of Colonel Wilson, Commanding Officer of the Training Centre. He said deceased was held in very high esteem and was a very valuable member of the instructional staff.

Inspector Setterfield, on behalf of the police, associated himself with the expressions of sympathy.

Bessie remained in Oare, later living at 35 Church Road. She did not remarry and died aged 64 in 1981. She is buried along with Percy in Oare Churchyard.

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