James Valentine Gale

James Valentine Gale
James was born in St Ives in 1895 at the family home in the Broadway, St Ives. He was the second youngest of five surviving sons born to William, a self employed carpenter, joiner and occasional funeral director, and Harriet (née Hodge). Twelve children were born in all, but five were stillborn and two died in infancy. In 1911 James was a grocer's apprentice.

James joined the Royal Garrison Artillery in November 1915 and served with the 9th Siege Battery, 71st Brigade. Using heavy Howitzer guns positioned behind the Front, it was the job of siege batteries to fire large calibre high explosive shells at the enemy, seeking to destroy their artillery, supply routes, railways and stores. James was certainly in the thick of battle, reported meeting up with Pte Bert Simons in a letter published in the Hunts Post of 21 September 1917.

Royal Garrison Artillery Siege Battery preparing for action
In January 1918 a flu pandemic arose. Initially the symptoms were typical, but in August 1918 a more deadly strain began in France. October was the most deadly month, the pandemic lasting through to 1920. Between 50 and 100 million people died worldwide.

James was one of those infected. He died of pneumonia following influenza on Wednesday 13 November 1918, aged 23yrs. He was buried at Vadencourt British Cemetery, France. His mother chose 'Not lost, gone before' to appear on the gravestone. James' father had died in October 1916.

The letter sent to James' mother confirming his death was published in the Hunts Post of 29 November 1918. How sad that, having gone through the perils of battle, James died of pneumonia just two days after the Armistice was signed ending WWI.

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