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*William Hall was born on this date in 1827. He was a Black Canadian mariner.
Born at Horton's Bluff, Nova Scotia, he was the son of a freed slave. At age 17, Hall joined the merchant navy as a seaman. Later, he volunteered for the Royal Navy at Liverpool, England, February 1852. When the Indian Mutiny broke out in May 1857, Hall was on HMS Shannon en route to China. She was intercepted and ordered to Calcutta (city has been renamed Kolkata).
A Shannon Brigade was formed of several gunners, sailors, and marines, under Captain William Peel. The ship was towed over 600 miles up the Ganges River to Allahabad. Then the force fought across country to Campbell’s headquarters at Cawnpore and was in time to take part in the relief of Lucknow. On November 16, 1857 at Lucknow, India, naval guns were brought up close to the Shah Nujeff mosque, and the gun crews kept up a steady fire in an attempt to breach the waIls, while a hail of musket balls and grenades from the mutineers inside the mosque caused heavy casualties.
An able Seaman, Hall and the lieutenant (Thomas James Young) in command of the battery were the only survivors, all the rest having been killed or wounded, and between them they loaded and used the last gun. Hall remained with the Navy, rising to the rating of Quartermaster Petty Officer in HMS Peterel before he retired in 1876. He was the first Black, the first from Nova Scotia, and third Canadian born recipient of the Victoria Cross.
William Hall died at Avonport, Nova Scotia, on August 25, 1904. He was buried in an unmarked grave without military honors. A campaign to recognize Hall was started in 1937, and in 1945 his remains were moved to the Hantsport Baptist Church and a monument was erected in his honor. In 1967 his medals were returned from Britain to Canada for exhibition at Expo 67, and were then transferred to the Nova Scotia Museum.
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