Herbert was born in Datchworth in 1898, the son of Richard and Amy Scales, later recorded as of Holly Bush Cottages, Datchworth, Stevenage, Herts. In 1901 he was living with parents and known as Bert. His father was a ploughman. In 1911 he was described as "just left school". In army records it is said he lived in Stevenage, but this is probably a misinterpretation of his address which was "Datchworth, Stevenage, Herts"