WWII Veteran Alec Hall from Southend-on-Sea, died at home on Monday 16 October with his family by his side.
Alec Hall served with the 181 Field Ambulance (Airborne) as a medical nurse and was part of Operation Market Garden in 1944. He returned to the Netherlands on several occasions with the Taxi Charity for Military Veterans, most recently in May 2023 to remember his colleagues who did not come home.
At age 18, Alec was one of the first people to volunteer for 1st Airborne. He was a medic in Africa and Italy before he participated in Operation Market Garden in 1944. When Alec landed in September, he headed to a hotel that was being used as a medical station and as the fighting intensified in the Arnhem area, moved to a second medical station in the Hotel Vreewijk that was being constantly attacked. He worked with surgeon Guy Rigby Jones and treated the badly wounded with two new drugs, one of which was penicillin.
After many men had been extracted by the Dutch Resistance, Alec who had been asked to stay behind to tend to the wounded was put on an army Red Cross train and taken to Germany where he was held in a 3,000-capacity POW camp, Stalag V11-B.
He was held there until February 1945 at which time the only food he ate was boiled turnips. On 25 February, the prisoners woke up to find that the Germans had disappeared, and the camp gates were open. They vacated the camp, and Alec spent three weeks wandering, with nothing to eat until he came across an American tank in Memmingen. Alec was in rags, with his shoes falling off his feet. He shouted that he was English and was delighted when one of the Americans gave him his best uniform and a new pair of shoes. Alec helped with the ill and wounded for three more weeks before he was flown back to England in a Dakota.
After returning to the UK, Alec, like all the other POWs, received medical checks on his physical and mental health before returning to work in the hospital in Tidworth and was then transferred to a hospital in Dortmund Germany.
After the war, Alec managed a number of stores in Southend, Leigh, Chalkwell and Shoeburyness for the London Cooperative Society until he retired. He loved football, and tennis and during the 1950’s he was the captain of the local tennis club in Southend. A young girl called Margaret came to the club one day for a trial and they fell in love and were married in 1956. Truly sports-mad, Alec was still playing tennis in his mid-seventies! Alec and Margaret had two daughter’s Sue and Annie and four grandchildren, Dominic, Milly, Edward, and William. Margaret, who was absolutely the love of his life, died in 2019 leaving him to soldier on with his habitual courage and grace for four more years.
Annie Bennett, Alec’s eldest daughter said:
“Alec was a wonderful husband to Margaret, father to Anne and Sue, and grandfather to Dominic, Milly, Edward and William. He was loyal, courageous, stoic, hardworking and determined, and provided his family with all the love and support we needed. He was also a great character with a wicked sense of humour. We will not see his kind again.”
Dick Goodwin, Honorary Secretary, Taxi Charity for Military Veterans said:
“It was always a pleasure to be in Alec’s company and I have very fond memories of him and his daughters joining us on our annual trips to the Netherlands. This picture was taken in May this year when we visited the Hartenstein Museum and he spent some time talking with Ronnie Weijers, Director of the Hartenstein Airborne Museum and Taxi Charity Ambassador and founder of the Market Garden Foundation, Frans Ammerlaan.”
Ronnie Weijers, Director of the Hartenstein Airborne Museum said:
“This news really saddened me. I met Alec last May and he shared some of his stories. He tended to wounded soldiers in the same building I am working in today, which is hard to imagine. Most of all he told me how lucky he was to survive, as opposed to so many of his young friends. Alec was such a sweet and grateful man. Meeting him was one of the most touching experiences of my life.”
In 2021 Alec shared his story with the Taxi Charity:
Alec’s funeral will be held at Southend Crematorium on Tuesday 7 November at 10am.
To find out more about the support the Taxi Charity offers to veterans or to donate, please visit: www.taxicharity.org.