NS Heritage Day 2024


William Hall

2024 Honouree: William Hall

William Hall was the son of formerly enslaved parents, Jacob and Lucy who fled Maryland during the War of 1812 as refugees and settled in Nova Scotia. Jacob found work in a shipyard in Summerville, where Hall was born in 1827. The family later bought a farm in Horton Bluff, where he also attended school. As a young man, Hall worked in shipyards in Hantsport for several years, building vessels. He then joined the crew of a Merchant Navy vessel and, before he was eighteen, had visited many of the world’s busiest ports.

Hall enlisted in the Royal Navy in 1852 at Liverpool, England. His first service, as Able Seaman, was onboard HMS Rodney, and included two years in the Crimean War. Hall was part of the marine forces that landed to assist with manning heavy gun batteries, and he received British and Turkish medals for his service. After the Crimean War, Hall was assigned to the receiving ship HMS Victory at Portsmouth, England. He then joined the crew of HMS Shannon as Captain of the Foretop. It was his service with HMS Shannon that led to the Victoria Cross.

The captain of the HMS Shannon, William Peel, recommended Hall and fellow crew member Thomas Young for the Victoria Cross, in recognition of their “gallant conduct at a twenty-four-pounder gun... at Lucknow on the 16th November 1857.” Hall received his Victoria Cross aboard HMS Donegal in Queenstown Harbour, Ireland, on October 28, 1859. His naval career continued aboard many ships until he retired in 1876 as Quartermaster.

Hall returned to Nova Scotia and lived with his sisters, Rachel Robinson and Mary Hall, on a farm in Avonport. Few Nova Scotians knew of his career until 1901, when HRH the Duke of Cornwall and York (later King George V) visited Nova Scotia. A parade of British veterans was held in the Duke’s honour, where Hall wore his Victoria Cross and three other service medals. As the Duke inspected the veterans, he inquired about the medals, which drew attention to Hall’s service.

Three years later, William Hall died at home and was buried without military honours in an unmarked grave. In 1937, a local campaign was launched to have Hall recognized by the Canadian Legion, and in 1946 his body was reburied in the grounds of the Hantsport Baptist Church and a monument was erected near by. 

Subsequently, a branch of the Canadian Legion in Halifax was renamed in his honour. A gymnasium in Cornwallis, and the DaCosta-Hall Educational Program for Black students in Montreal, also perpetuate his name.

Hall is also featured in exhibits at the Halifax Citadel, the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic and at the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia.

In November 2010, a connector road in Hantsport was named the William Hall VC Memorial Highway. Signs bearing Hall’s likeness were erected on the road from Highway 101 to Trunk 1.

It was announced on 26 June 2015 that the fourth ship in the Royal Canadian Navy’s Harry DeWolf class would be named for William Hall. The ship will be constructed at Halifax Shipyards in Halifax. The keel laying ceremony was held on 17 Feb 2021 with a number of his descendants in attendance.

Learn More Here - https://heritageday.novascotia.ca/content/2024-honouree-william-hall

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