Personal Stories from the 1914-18 War

THE HALLS - A MILITARY FAMILY

BEFORE THE GREAT WAR

WILLIAM HALL (1840-1904), a labourer, married Martha Wheeler (1843-1919) in Great Wolford in 1867. A prolific family - they had nine children, six boys and three girls, all baptized in Great Wolford, viz Jane, born 1868; Ellen 1870; Caleb 1872; Frank 1874; Levi 1876; Charles 1879; Harry 1881; Topham 1884 and Robina 1887.

JANE HALL went into domestic service in London and Cheltenham, before returning to Little Wolford; she was living in The Lane, Little Wolford in 1939, and died there in 1948.

ELLEN HALL married in Notting Hill, London in 1891, presumably whilst in domestic service, and died in Edmontion in 1948.

CALEB HALL enlisted in the Royal Field Artillery in 1889, aged 16 and served through the Boer War, and also through the Great War when, at Salonica in 1917, he was severely wounded in the head. He was honourably discharged due to his wounds, and received the Silver War Badge.

FRANK HALL was a founder member of the Congregational Church in Little Wolford in 1895. In 1897 it was noted "the brethren were sorry to hear that Frank had left Little Wolford for Birmingham yet rejoiced to know that he had already commenced Christian work". He married in Aston in 1904 and died in Birmingham in 1946.

The remaining brothers formed a remarkable service quintet all having enlisted before 1914. Typically, men enlisted before the Great War would have enlisted for seven years regular service followed by five years in the Army reserve. By 1914, all five had fulfilled this requirement and were respectively aged 42, 36, 35, 33 and 30. Obviously all experienced soldiers, Levi recalled receiving the Queen's chocolate box at Christmas 1899 and, later the King and Queen's medals with four bars for service. Although not mentioned elsewhere, it is highly probable that the other three received similar awards.

LEVI HALL (born 1878, died 1942, aged 65)

From Mrs Warriners writings:

"I enlisted on March 1st 1898 in the Suffolk Regiment in which I served until September when I was transferred to the R.F.A serving in the 43rd battery at Shorncliffe camp until September 1899 when I joined the 1st Battery to proceed to South Africa. We sailed from Birkenhead on September 26th and after having a breakdown while crossing over we arrived at Cape Town on October 30th. We proceeded up the line to Dewar where we camped to await more troops.

"We moved off from there and crossed the Orange river on November 21st where we camped for the night. The Boers fired a few rounds at us from their artillery, to which we replied, that being our first fit of real warfare. We went into action in the early morning of November 22nd and fought at Belmont which we captured about nightfall; that was our first engagement. We then camped for the night; we moved off in the morning and marched till evening camping for a few hours. We went into action at Graspau in the early morning of the 24th November and which we captured at night having taken several prisoners from both places. We camped there till midday next day; the water there was very bad. We marched till evening when after resting for a few hours we went into action at Modder River on 26th November 1899 capturing that position. On the morning of the 27th after resting a few days we went into action at Maggersfontein but after 24 hours fighting we had to withdraw as the Boers had a very strong position, and we had to await more troops. We had our Christmas dinner in a sandstorm. When Lord Roberts arrived we moved off on Sunday night coming at Paardeburg. On Tuesday morning after 7 days fighting we captured that on February 27th 1900 when Cronje surrendered with over 4000 troops not including the killed and wounded. We then commenced our march to Bloemfontein having several small engagements on the way.

"We were on quarter rations at this time and having no tents we continued on toward Johannesburg. We had a sharp engagement at a place called Rand River. After taking Johannesburg, we went on to Pretoria, after resting there for a few days we went out to Watervaal with the Scots Greys and released about a hundred of our prisoners. We then went on to Penaar River where all our horses died; so we had to do outpost duty until we could get some more. We then marched on to Pietersberg doing outpost duty. We lost our Christmas dinner 1900 through the train being blown up. We then came down to Ladysmith and went on Lord Kitchener's drives: we were always on the move then, all over the place. Arriving at a place called Tywfontein two days before Christmas 1901, we were completely cut up on the Christmas morning. Our position was given away to the Boers by our guides, who were afterwards shot. I was taken prisoner with some more, but after taking our clothes away they let us go.

"I then joined the 77th Battery R.F.A. and continued with them till the end of the war. I was then posted to the 8th Battery R.F.A. and remained in Africa till November 1904 when I was invalided home, having been kicked by a horse and crippled for life. I took my discharge on March 15th 1905. I received the Queen's chocolate box. Christmas 1899 the King and Queen's medals with four bars.

"My mother received a letter from Queen Victoria for having five sons serving in the Army. My mother also received a letter from King George for having five sons and a grandson in the Army".

CHARLES HALL (1879, died 1940, aged 61)

From Mrs Warriners writings:

"I enlisted in January 1898 in the Royal Field Artillery aged 19. I was in Aldershot till the following January 1899 in the 18th Battery R.F.A whence my brother claimed me; I went to Shorncliffe Camp to the 43rd battery in which two of my brothers were at the time. I served there till Oct. of the same year, when we received orders to proceed to Woolwich for mobilization for S. Africa. We embarked at the Royal Albert Docks on the S. S. Englishman which took us 28 days in getting out to Cape Town. Arriving at Cape Town we proceeded to Maitland camp that was about 2 ½ miles SE of Table Bay. That was for the sole purpose of getting horses and men climatized before proceeding up country to the front. After 17 days there we entrained for Bloemfontein which lasted seven days before reaching it. On our arrival we started the trek to Sannas Post to the relief of Nr. 2 Battery, Royal Horse Artillery which was completely cut up. From there we fought at Delvetsdorp, the Banchu, Smithfield, Rouseville, Aliwal North. From there we went to Kronstadt and fought our way out to Lindley.

"It was three months before we saw the line again. After that we started off for Vereeniging and Johannesburg, Harrismith, Heilbron, Coal Mine Drift, Klerksdorp, Ptchefstroom. This was the farthest point we advanced to in the Transvaal. At the time of the Armistice we were at Frankfurt.

"This is merely an outline of my experience of South Africa. I might say I was under General Smith-Dorrien, Plumer, Rundle, Ian Hamilton, Cole Byng, Williams, Hall, Broadwood. These were the men I fought under in that campaign. South Africa itself is quite alright as regards settlers. But of course at that time the inhabitants were far from being civilized towards a Britisher."

HARRY (HENRY) HALL, (1881, died aged ?) enlisted in the Royal Marine Light InfantryI in 1899, went to Canada Quebec. Was at Messina at the great earthquake in 1908 on expedition being on a relief party and with a few others received the King of Italy’s medal for their services.

TOPHAM HALL (born 1883, died 1950, aged 66) enlisted 1899 in the 4eth Battalion, Gloster Regtiment and served at St Helena during the Boer War guarding prisoners; the day following demobilisation in 1901, he joined the Royal Navy as a Stoker and served throughout the Great War.

SERVICE 1914-1918 AND AFTER

The brothers continued to serve in the Great War.

In 1914 CALEB, aged 42, enlisted again and recalled fighting in Salonica. He was severely wounded in the head. He was buried in Wolford in 1930 probably as a result of his wounds. Joyce Kelland, née Rolfe, of Ash House Farm, Great Wolford recalled his working on the farm before he died:

"Caleb worked for my father full-time for 30 shillings (£1.50) a week He never had a full day off. Farm workers didn't in pre-war days. Sunday though was different. Caleb only came over at milking time. On Sunday afternoons he would arrive in his bowler hat, then change it in the tack room which adjoined the stable, for the beret he normally wore. When the milking was done he would change back into his bowler to return home. My father bought an old laundry van to use in place of the wagon. He cut off the top to halfway down the side. Caleb understood horses and had a working knowledge of farm machinery but the lorry was a bit of a mystery to him. One day when it had to be pushed to get it to start Caleb stood up in the back of the van and pushed with all his strength. When the van didn't move he shouted down to my father "isn't anyone but me pushing boss, I be doing all the pushing up here". Peter and I teased Caleb unmercifully and. he struggled hard to keep his temper on many occasions. Sometimes we went a bit too far and he would chase us and threaten to give us a hiding. He never did catch us. I'm not sure if he ever intended to".

LEVI

From Mrs Warriners writings:

"I was called up again on October 22nd 1914 for home service; I volunteered for France, but the doctors would not pass me for overseas owing to the wounds in my legs. I served in England in the R.F.A. till 23rd December 1916. I then joined the Anti-Aircraft and served in that till 19th April 1918 when I was discharged unfit for any further service through the old wounds. I afterwards received the King's discharge."

During the Great War, HARRY (HENRY) served in the 29th Division at the Dardanelles, and at Antwerp. He was still in His Majesty’s service in the late 20's having served 21 years in the Marines regular service and nearly 30 years in total. Nothing is known of his later life.

CHARLES, aged 35 in 1914, was buried in Wolford in 1940, aged 61.

From Mrs Warriners writings:

"The Great War. On August 4th 1914 we were mobilised to the Isle of Wight, from there on to Chelmsford for training. We arrived in France on 16th March 1915. On 4th of April we experienced our first attempt of the war. During this attack John Aston was killed with several others of our regiment at Plug Street Wood. We left that salient on June 12th for Hebertune. We remained in this part of the line till the big offensive of the Somme, where we fought at Beaumont Hamel, Albert, Fricourt. Here our Battalion started with 820 men and finished with 240 in three days. We were reinforced and continued our attack up to La Boselle, Contalmaison, Bapaume, Ypres, until we got to Vimy Ridge. There on November 15th we were withdrawn from the line. On the 19th we were on our way to Italy which proved to be more disastrous than France at that time. After a fortnight’s marching we took up our position at Mount Grissna, a point which took seven hours to climb from the foot of the plain. Here our battalion suffered heavy losses. On June 15th half the battalion was captured and in four hours they were recaptured again. After getting reinforcements we continued our operations at this part of the line till September 2nd , when we had to return to France. We arrived back soon enough to take part in the capturing of the Hindenburg Line, Beauvoir, Le Cateau, Landrecies. After this last place was taken our worst task was over. We continued the drive until the night of November l0th, which was the last of the fight. The following morning we started on our return journey for Le Cateau; the end had come at last."

A Private C Hall was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal in 1919. Possibly him?

TOPHAM, having joined the Royal Navy as a Stoker in 1901, continued in that role throughout the Great War; he was on the Battleship Malaya in the North Sea but also in the Battle of Jutland. He was demobilised in 1919, but joined the Royal Fleet Reserve the following year; he had married Florence Goodman in Jarrow in 1917, and went on to father 12 children. He lived on Tyneside until around 1946, when he moved to Islington, London, dying there in 1950.

WILLIAM HALL, born 1893, son of Caleb, enlisted 1910, aged 17, in the Connaught Rangers and was severely wounded, lingering for some time before dying of his wounds and buried in Wolford in 1921 aged 28.

SUMMARY

Levi recalled that his mother "received a letter from Queen Victoria for having five sons serving in the Army."

A second letter was sent on behalf of HM The King to (the late) Mrs W. Hall:

“Madam, I have the honour to inform you that the King has heard with much interest that you have at the present moment five sons and a grandson serving in His Majesty’s force. I am commanded to express to you the King’s congratulations, and to assure you that His Majesty much appreciates the spirit of patriotism which prompted this example, in one family, of loyalty and devotion to their Sovereign and Empire".

Surely a remarkable labouring family! But not one is remembered by a Church gravestone!