19th October 1894 - 16th August 1917 (age 22)
25th Bn. Canadian Infantry (Nova Scotia Regiment)
John Smith Dale married Nancy Mary Lister at Thirsk in 1889, but sadly he died only seven years later leaving Nancy widowed with two sons and a daughter, all under the age of five. Nancy was to lose both of her sons in the Great War. The children were all born at Topcliffe, but by the time of the 1901 census, the family had moved to Sowerby. In 1911, Nancy was living at South Crescent with her youngest child John Charles aged 16, he was employed as a draper's apprentice.
The next available records show that John Charles attested into the 39th Bn. Canadian Infantry in February 1915, which suggests he had emigrated to Canada before the age of 20. John did not take easily to army discipline and he was recorded AWOL (absent without leave) from 6:15am - 10.00pm on 3rd June 1915. Two weeks later, the battalion set sail for England, arriving there on 3rd July 1915. In September, John was recorded absent again, this time from parade at Caesar's Camp. The 39th Bn. provided reinforcements to the Canadian Corps in the field and so it was that John Charles transferred to the 25th Bn. (Nova Scotia Rifles) at West Sandling Camp near Folkestone before going arriving in France on 2nd November 1915. The 25th Bn. was part of the 2nd Canadian Division and had arrived in France in September 1915 after which they spent 339 days in the Belgian trenches 164 of which were involved in front line duty. They fought in the actions of St. Eloi Craters, Hill 62, Mount Sorrel and Sanctuary Wood before moving South to the Somme.
Thrown into the ongoing Battle of The Somme, the battalion was involved in the Battle of Flers-Courcelette which started on 15th September 1916. Two days later, on the same day that Sowerby men Harry Kendrew and William Seavers were killed in action, John Charles received a shrapnel wound in the back and so on 19th September he arrived back in Folkestone at the Canadian Casualty Assembly Station. The following day he was admitted to Mile End Military Hospital, Bancroft Road, where his injury was recorded as "gun shot wound to the back". Later moving to Woodcote Park Hospital in Epsom, John Charles spent a total of 56 days in hospital and was finally pronounced "fit" at a medical board on 13th November 1916.
His challenge with army discipline continued and he was found guilty of being drunk, refusing to give name and number and threatening to strike an N.C.O. at Shoreham on 19th November 1916. One can imagine that he was perhaps reacting to the horrors of war that he had already experienced and which had culminated in injury and eight weeks in hospital. In early 1917, John Charles moved to Bramshott Camp, Epsom where he was awarded a good conduct badge but was also reported for gambling (a common past-time in the army then). Returning to France in May, John Charles rejoined his unit on 9th June 1917.
The Battle of Hill 70 commenced near Lens on 15th August 1917 between the Canadian Corps and five divisions of the German Sixth Army. Rather than to gain territory, the main objective was to draw German troops away from The Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele). John Charles was killed in action on 16th August 1917 and it is assumed that he was taking part in this battle. He has no known grave and is remembered on the Canadian Memorial at Vimy Ridge to all commemorate over 11,000 Canadian soldiers who died on the Western Front and who have no known grave.
The Canadian Memorial at Vimy Ridge
John Charles' younger brother (Harry (or Harvey) Lister Dale) died of wounds only four months later and is also recorded on the war memorials in Sowerby. Their mother Nancy, passed away at Sowerby in 1925.
Note: Although shown as "C" or "Charles" Dale on the Sowerby memorials, the other available records show "John C." Dale for the man who was without doubt the same soldier and this includes the attestation papers signed by himself.
The information on this page was compiled by Steve Billings.
Information about John Charles Dale on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website
Information about John Charles Dale on the War Graves Photographic Project website
Part of the St Oswald's Church website