Private A.B. Hales - 78 Coy Pioneer Corps

Discussion in 'Searching for Someone & Military Genealogy' started by Bram D, Oct 17, 2020.

  1. Bram D

    Bram D Member

    Dear Forum Members,

    Please let me introduce myself with a post and question. I’m Bram Dierckx, archivist of Meerhout (Belgium – Antwerp Province) and researching WWII in my own region in free time and especialy my hometown Balen.

    A few weeks ago my profession and hobby once again met eachother. Old wall paintings were discovered in the local school of Meerhout. The paintings were discovered behind a blackboard and a bulletin board in a classroom. They were made by a British soldier in the Second World War, when the area was liberated by the allied forces.

    The drawings are well preserved because the were hidden for so many years and show liberation scenes at the end of the war. The characters are English and Scottish war figures.

    They were probably made at the end of 1944 and bear the signature of a British soldier, private A.B. Hales, soldier in the 78th Coy P.C. Also his address was mentioned: 67 Devonshire Streat, Norwich, England. We think he must be enlisted in the 78th Company – Pioneer Corps.

    We already started to research the wall paintings and are trying to find the soldier and painter behind it. A local teacher has already started a project with her class and has found a possible connection with Alfred Bertie Hales, born on June 12th, 1909 (Service Number 13113276).

    The school buildings were used by the Germans during the war, but by British soldier just after the war. We can find traces in the local archives of the presence of engineers and pioneers in the schoolbuildings during the winter of 1944-1945. Possibly the building was also used as a ‘2nd Army PC Training School’.

    At the moment we are documentation the murals and its history, as the schoolbuilding will be demolished in the near future. Off course the murals will get a second life in the new school and some specialists are trying to preserve and restorate them. For that reason we are trying to reconstruct the full story behind the waal paintings.

    It would be great to find more info on private Hales, his unit in Meerhout (78 Coy PC) and all possible links to the schoolbuilding. All help or suggestions to save and research the story are welcome.

    Many thanks in advance.

    Regards from Belgium,
    Bram Dierckx.

    Bevrijding_muurschilderingen_Meerhout (16).JPG
    One of the most complete paintings: Gloria, an ATS volunteer.

    Bevrijding_muurschilderingen_Meerhout (19).JPG
    A platoon marching through Meerhout. The painter made a mistake as Meerhout was liberated by the 2nd Bn. Gordon Highlanders on September 13th, 1944. He refers to the 51th Highland Division and that has to be 15th Scottish Division.

    Bevrijding_muurschilderingen_Meerhout (30).JPG
    The painters signature.
  2. Sandra Doran

    Sandra Doran Well-Known Member

    An amazing discovery!
  3. Tony56

    Tony56 Member Patron

    A Census was taken in England on 29 September 1939 and Alfred B Hales, dob 12.6.09, was indeed living at 67 Devonshire Street, Norwich, which would seem to confirm what has been found.

    Alfred was baptised on 7 April 1918, his parents quoted as Bertie and Esther Laura Hales of 67 Devonshire Street, Bertie's occupation was 'soldier'.

    It would appear that Alfred died in 1956.

    A great project.
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2020
    Bram D and Sandra Doran like this.
  4. Bram D

    Bram D Member

    Great info. Thank you!
  5. travers1940

    travers1940 Well-Known Member

    This could be Alfred's entry in the England & Wales Probate Calendar for letters of Administration granted to the person settling his affairs after his death. It would seem there was no will.
    HALES Alfred Bertie of 55 Ladysmith Road, Sprowston-Road, Norwich, died 27 May 1956 at West Norwich Hospital, Bowthorpe Road, Norwich. Administration Norwich 27 July to Sybil Rose Hales, widow. Effects £768 0s 11d.

    This seems to be the marriage of the Alfred above, sad to see they only had a short marriage.
    Name: Alfred B Hales
    Registration Quarter: Oct-Nov-Dec 1949
    Registration District: Norwich
    Inferred County: Norfolk
    Spouse: Sybil R Andrews
    Volume Number: 4b. Page Number: 1206

    I can provide the online links to order both docs if you want them.
    Bram D likes this.
  6. travers1940

    travers1940 Well-Known Member

    Have sent Bram the current address of a possible daughter of the Alfred & Sybill mentioned above, located via BMD records & electoral registers.
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2020
  7. Bram D

    Bram D Member

    Great, many thanks for all help!
  8. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

  9. Bram D

    Bram D Member

    Oh, I totaly missed that. :D

    You can read the newslink in English now: Wall paintings discovered made by British soldier in 1944.

    Also Polsat TV (Polish news) made a reportage: Żołnierskie graffiti odkryte w belgijskim mieście, które wyzwalała brygada generała Maczka - Polsat News. Unfortunately my Polish isn't that good and the videos are blocked abroad.
    Rich Payne likes this.
  10. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    You weren't likely to find it, hidden behind my obscure thread title...and my joke doesn't work now that we know it was 15th (Scottish) Div ! :rolleyes:

    Well don't to the VRT for posting the translation.
    Bram D likes this.
  11. Bram D

    Bram D Member

    Just a quick update. Thanks to this wonderfull Forum we are now in contact with the daughter of private Alfred Bertie Hales. Many Thanks! The story will continue for sure.

    We are now further researching his unit and especially the '2nd Army Pioneer Corps Training School'. We found out that training school was located in the former schoolbuildings at Meerhout during the winter of 1944-1945. The classroom were the murals were found must have been the canteen of the training school, we assume. If anyone has some tips and tricks to find out some more about the school, please let me know.

    The main parts of the murals were taken out before the building was demolished. Here are some more photos of the preservation and removal of the paintings. For your eyes only. ;)

    Again, many thanks!

    Murals_preservation (1).JPG

    Murals_preservation (2).JPG

Share This Page