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William Edward Hall, VC April 18, 1827 – August 25, 1904

William Edward Hall - Source: Trials and triumphs : the story of African-Canadians, Lawrence Hill -- Toronto : Umbrella Press, c1993

William Edward Hall was the first Black Victoria Cross recipient and the first recipient from any British Dominion.

His father, Jacob, had been freed from slavery when the British Frigate, Leonard, intercepted a slave ship bound from Africa to the US. His Mother, Lucinda, escaped slavery from a plantation in Washington. She boarded a Royal Navy ship to Halifax. Initially employed as a cook and gardener for shipping magnate, Sir William Cunard they moved to Horton Bluffs and farmed for Peter Hall – where they took his last name.

In his teens, William signed up with the merchant marines as a deck hand on the HMS Rodney and enlisted in the Royal Navy, but he deserted, and re-enlisted that same year – this time on the HMS Shannon. He became a marine and in the Crimean War earned two medals, one from Britain and one from Turkey.

During the Indian Mutiny, on November 16, 1857, at Lucknow, 250 soldiers and marines joined with the army to free British Soldiers and civilians who were held in a fortress. Hall and wounded commander, Lieutenant Thomas Young were the only survivors of their gun crew. They kept firing until infantry freed the hostages.

His Victoria Cross citation read, “Finally, in one of the most supreme moments in all the age long story of human courage, Hall fired the charge which opened up the walls and enabled the British to push through to the relief of the garrison and ultimately to the quelling of the mutiny and the restoration of peace and order in India.”

William Hall retired after 21 years on active service and seven years as a gunnery instructor, in 1897. He turned down an Honourary appointment at Whitehall in London and instead bought a poultry and cattle farm in Hantsport with his two sisters. His Victoria Cross is on display at the Nova Scotia Museum.

William Hall’s 1891 Records in Ancestry.ca

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