September 14, 1938, page 4

A KINGS COUNTY HERO

A correspondent of the Toronto Globe and Mail calls attention to the fact that August 25th was the anniversary of the death of the only Canadian-born negro to be awarded the Victoria Cross for valor in battle. This was William Hall, who thirty-five years ago was living at Horton Bluff, in this county. He was born in Nova Scotia in 1827, son of a negro who had been rescued from slavery while en route from Africa to the United States and had been taken to Halifax, with his companions, by a British frigate. The freed black man secured work with a farmer in Hants County and took the name Hall in gratitude to his benefactor. He married a negro girl whose family had escaped when the British destroyed Washington in 1814. Their son was William Hall, R. N., V.C. Born at Horton Bluff, he was a sailor from his boyhood and on February 10, 1852, decided to join the Royal Navy, signing on as able seaman on H.M.S. Rodney, on which he served through the Crimean War, winning Turkish and English medals, the latter with clasps for Sebastopol and Inkerman.

When the Indian mutiny broke out in May, 1857, he was on H.M.S. Shannon en route to China. She was intercepted and ordered to Calcutta. A "Shannon Brigade" was formed of 450 gunners, sailors and marines, under Captain William Peel, also a Crimean veteran. It was towed 800 miles up the Ganges to Allahabad. Then the force fought across country to Campbell’s headquarters at Cawnpore and were in time to take part in the relief of Lucknow, November 16, 1857.

It was on that day that the British negro hero won the V.C. When his particular scrap was over only he and a Lieut. Young remained. All the others had been killed or wounded. Hall afterward served on various men-of-war, won Quartermaster’s rank and was let out on pension as petty officer, first class, July 4, 1876. He then resided with two sisters, Mrs. Robinson and Miss Rachel Hall, at Brooklyn, Hants County. Three years before his death he travelled to Halifax, his breast ablaze with his medals, to pay his respect to the future King George V, when the then Duke of York laid the cornerstone of the South African memorial at Halifax.

William Hall’s grave is unmarked. Surely this should be rectified. It would not take many dollars to erect a monument telling the passerby of Canada’s first negro to win the most coveted decoration in the world.


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