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Sapper | South African Engineer Corps


For five years since he was nineteen, Hale practiced his trade as a coach painter, interrupted only by service in the Royal Durban Light Infantry over the course of three years.  What began as a one-year apprenticeship with the South African Railways and Harbours became a career for the young man.  After the breakout of the Second World War, Hale joined the Engineer Corps in 1940 and by the next year had sailed to the Middle East theater.  For two years he served with the 81st Engineer Base Workshop as a painter, storeman and draughtsman. 


His variety of duties likely provided some challenge to an otherwise dull life in the Western Desert.  The environment was an unwelcome change for any painter who takes great pride in keeping his subject matter clean and neat, for the fine sand permeated everything.  If Hale’s work was not gritty to begin with, an immediate dusting would undoubtedly cover any freshly painted surface.  Fortunately, he was not working on fine railway cars of rich colors and décor, but limited to colors of the Army which all seemed to be within the broad spectrum of ‘drab.’  Duty as a draughtsman offered an opportunity for creativity, with many elements of problem solving and the reward of finding a solution for a given task or project.  As a young sapper, Hale took this quite seriously and hoped to impress his seniors.


For the duration of his time in Egypt time seemed to pass slowly, but after his two-year tour came to a close it did not seem like it had been so long.  He was eager to return to the Union and continued work as a painter and storeman for a year with the No. 24 Workshop and Park Company, before discharge and reemployment with Railways and Harbours.   Later that year on November 1, 1944 Jeffrey married Dorothea, an avid tennis player who would eventually become a championship player.  The two settled into a comfortable life, traveling occasionally to destinations for tennis matches, but keeping close to home for the rest of their years together.

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