Black History Month
William Hall was the first Black person, the first Nova Scotian and third Canadian to be awarded the Victoria Cross.
Born in Horton Nova Scotia in 1827, Hall was one of seven children. His parents, Jacob and Lucy Hall, were former slaves brought to freedom by the British Royal Navy as part of the Black Refugee movement. The Hall family eventually bought a farm across the Avon River at Horton Bluff Nova Scotia. Hall first worked in shipyards at nearby Hantsport, Nova Scotia before opting to go to sea at the age of 17. Hall served in the United States Army from 1847-49. In 1852, Hall volunteered for the British Navy. With the British Navy, he fought in the Crimean War serving ashore in a naval brigade.
Hall was on HMS Shannon when the Indian Mutiny broke out in 1857. In November 1857, Hall and fellow sailors from the Shannon were sent on a mission to rescue a British garrison that had been under siege in Lucknow, India. He and his fellow comrades were assigned the task of breaching the walls of a large mosque, which was being used as a fortress by a group of rebels. The battle left heavy casualties. Hall and Lieutenant Thomas James Young – the battery’s commander were eventually the only survivors left. In 1959, Hall was awarded the Victoria Cross by Rear Admiral Charles Talbot and rose to the ranking of Petty Officer First Class in HMS Royal Adelaide by the time of his retirement in 1876. Hall eventually moved back to Horton Bluff and ran a small farm there until his death in 1904.