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Canadian honour for sea fight hero; VETERAN PLANTS TREE IN STREET WHICH BEARS HIS NAME.

A WAR veteran born in Coventry has had a street in a Canadian town named after him.

Samuel Shale, aged 79, travelled to Ajax, Ontario, to plant a tree in Shale Drive just before Christmas.

The small town of Ajax was named in tribute to the crew of HMS Ajax, one of the vessels which took part in the Battle of the River Plate in which one of Hitler's deadliest warships, the Graf Spee, was destroyed.

Mr Shale is now the only surviving Marine who fought in the battle.

Mr Shale, who was born in Newnham Road, Stoke, went to Frederick Bird School before embarking on a 30-year career with the Royal Marines at the age of 16.

He was posted to HMS Ajax and fought in the dramatic battle which ended when the Graf Spee was scuttled by its own crew.

The Battle of the River Plate, in December 1939, was the first major Allied naval success of the war, but British losses were severe.

Mr Shale, who now lives in Portsmouth, had swopped gun-loading places with a corporal in a turret which received a direct hit. The corporal was killed instantly and his body came crashing at Mr Shale's feet.

He said: "If I hadn't swopped places with that corporal, I would not be alive today. The lights went out, steam was hissing, we all thought the ship had gone out of action.

"On the lower deck, everyone was killed - there was blood spattered everywhere."

Although very proud of his involvement, he still feels the loss of some of his shipmates, who were also honoured in the town of Ajax.

In the tree-planting ceremony, the father-of-four spoke in memory of the corporal who died at his feet.

Mr Shale, now widowed, has six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
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Author:Cuthbertson, Hayley
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Feb 4, 2000
Words:299
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