Archive letters tell personal story of WW1 defeat at Qatia

  • 22nd April 2016

Trooper Hal Wardale King, 2577, was the son of Mr. And Mrs. J. Wardale King, of Oldswinford House, Stourbridge, Worcs. He was killed in action  on 23rd April 1916, aged 21.

Hal and his friend John (Jack) Preece joined Queen’s Own Worcestershire Hussars (Worcester Yeomanry) in September 1914.

During his service with the Yeomanry Jack wrote home to his parents as often as he could telling them about the training, life in the camp, the food, the journeys and the people he had met. The collection of letters also includes letters from Hal to Jack’s family and particularly Mrs Preece who he called ‘My Dear Other Ma’

Hal King Back Row 2nd from left

In December 1915 Jack wrote about how they had spent Christmas and describes the visit that he and Hal made to the Pryamids and Sphinx which he says ‘are well worth a visit’. Hal sent a photo postcard showing him and Jack and another soldier on horses in front of the pyramids. On 4th April 1916 Mrs Preece wrote to Hal thanking him for her birthday gift and telling him about life at home, the family and how many eggs they were collecting on the farm. The letter was returned to Mrs Preece unopened. ?????????

??? The unopened letter returned to Mrs Preece

At dawn on 23rd April 1916, the isolated Yeomanry garrison at Oghratina, which had been ordered to protect a party of Royal Engineers on a well-digging exercise, was attacked by over 3000 Turkish troops. The defending troops were forced back and the Turks advanced to reinforce a second attack at Qatia which fell with the loss of three and a half squadrons of yeomanry.

After the attack, Hal’s family wrote to say that they are making enquiries in Port Said to find out more information and they are not giving up hope that Hal was still alive. However, on 10th May, they sent a brief letter to the Preece’s to say that Hal had been killed in action on April 23rd 1916.

In the meantime Jack wrote home to tell his family that ‘the camp was attacked on Easter Sunday’. He tells them ‘that Hal and H. Hodges have been killed, Ted Harrison and H. R. Reading captured’. He reports that a ‘wounded Turkish officer who had been taken prisoner said they (the Turks) ‘were 750 strong and there were only 100 in the regiment holding them back’. Jack wrote that they lost 6 out of 11 horses but his horse (which had been with him since 1914) was not touched. Jack adds that he has written to the 4 families and and hopes that his letters are worded correctly. He tells his Mother not to worry as he is quite well.

Hal King is remembered on the Jerusalem Memorial.

The letters sent by Jack and Hal are part of the archive collection deposited by John Preece and kept in the Archive and Archaeology Service at the Hive in Worcester.

The 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Qatia will be commemorated on 23rd April 2016 with a service at Worcester Cathedral and the unveiling of a Poppy Mosiac Sculpture in Cripplegate Park. For more details visit

The unopened letter was discovered by one of the volunteers who was summarising the contents of the letters and was opened by our conservator.


the Yeomanry Regiment


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