Biography from Cambridge, Ontario Municipal web site: Hall of Fame Members
William Tales was born in Leeds, England on April 5, 1893 and came to Canada in 1913. He settled first in New Hamburg with his family and came to Galt in 1919. In 1917 at the age of 24 Mr. Tales enlisted with the Highland Light Infantry and later served with the 18th Battalion and the 111th Overseas Battalion, commonly known as “Galt’s Own”. He was a veteran of the Canadian victory at Vimy Ridge and received the Military Medal for “conspicuous gallantry” at the battle of Passchendaele on November 10, 1917. In that action the stretcher-bearer of his platoon was killed leaving Mr. Tales to take over his duties. Mr. Tales was injured while rendering first aid but remained on duty. Later when his section commander was slain and the section disorganized Mr. Tales reorganized the men, re-adjusted their position and remained on duty, though wounded, until a new commander relieved him. His courage and devotion to duty were seen as providing a fine example for the rest of the men in his platoon. In addition to the Military Medal Mr. Tales received the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.
Following the war, he came to Galt and established Tales’ Shoe Repair a business he operated for forty-seven years. His slogan was “If your footwear ails, take it to William Tales”. While setting up his business he found plenty of time to become deeply involved in the concerns of returning war veterans. At a time when there was no Department of Veterans’ Affairs and no rehabilitation programs or any assistance for returning veterans Mr. Tales was instrumental in establishing three local organizations aimed at providing assistance to war veterans: The Great War Veterans’ Association, the British Empire Service Club and the Royal Canadian Legion Galt Branch 121. Known to many, as “Mr. Legion” Mr. Tales was a charter member and served as the Galt branch’s first secretary when it was organized on October 21, 1928. Over the years he served in every office in the organization, including that of president, and on virtually every committee at the branch level. Mr. Tales served as the legion area zone commander in 1935 and 1936 and helped to organize the first reunion of the 111th Battalion on November 10, 1934.
Beginning in 1928 Mr. Tales began to play Santa Claus for the children of veterans as part of the legion’s Christmas tree committee. During the Second World War that job took on giant proportions as he and the legion committee played host to about 1,000 children of soldiers serving overseas. He continued to play Santa until he was well into his eighties. During World War II Mr. Tales served as the secretary of the Galt War Parcels Association that shipped over 13,000 parcels to area men and women overseas. One of the last shipments included 1,894 parcels weighing over a ton and requiring over $1,000 in postage. In January 1945 he was presented with the “Jewel of Merit” in recognition of excellent work in Legion activities.
Over the years Mr. Tales became the unofficial archivist and historian for the Galt branch of the Royal Canadian Legion and acquired many documents related to the history of the Galt branch that might otherwise have been lost. As a direct result of his archival activities, his knowledge of veterans’ activities in the area and his interest in the history of the legion Mr. Tales produced, in 1978, of a short history of the Galt branch of the Royal Canadian Legion and of the organizations that preceded it.
Finally Mr. Tales was a life member of the sergeant’s mess, Highland Fusiliers of Canada. Mr. Tales died on January 10, 1980 and is buried in Mount View Cemetery.
Of note is the significant action taking place in the 18th Battalion War Diaries at this time.