Albert Gale was born in the Devon village of Chudleigh Knighton in October 1883, one of five children to John and Elizabeth Gale. It seems that Elizabeth may have died when Albert was young, as, by the time of the 1901 census, John was married to a Sarah Gale, and the family were living in the village of Hennock.
John was a clay cutter, and this was a trade into which Albert followed his father. Again, as time moves on, things change; the 1911 census found Albert boarding with his sister Sophy and her husband, fellow cutter Thomas Willcocks, back in Chudleigh Knighton.
War was coming to Europe and, in April 1916, Albert enlisted, joining the Somerset Light Infantry as a Private. He would have cut a commanding figure; his enlistment papers show that he stood at 5ft 10ins (1.77m) tall.
Albert served on home soil. While attached to the Somerset Light Infantry, he was assigned to the 661st Agricultural Company of the Labour Corps, working in Kent and Sussex.
During this time, he received hospital treatment on four separate occasions: in August 1916, he was admitted with cellulitis of the arm; in December 1916 and January 1917, he was treated on two separate occasions for scabies. In November 1911, however, he was admitted to the Military Hospital in Chichester, West Sussex, as he was suffering from influenza. Sadly, this last condition was to worsen and, on 21st November 1918, Private Gale died, having subsequently contracted pneumonia. He was 35 years old.
Albert Gale’s body was brought back to Devon for burial. His brother-in-law Thomas had died the previous summer; his story can be found here. Albert was laid to rest in the grave next to his sister’s husband in the churchyard of St Paul’s in Chudleigh Knighton.
With Thomas dead, Sophy had been left a widow. Understandably bitter at what the war had taken from her, when she was asked if she wanted a memorial for her brother, she returned the form with the following statement: “I don’t require the plaque and scroll in memory of my dear brother; a piece of paper won’t keep me.”