William Hall was a born Canadian mariner. Hall was born in Horton’s Bluff, Nova Scotia on April 28, 1837. He was the son of a freed slave. At the age of 17, Hall joined the merchant navy as a seaman.
He later 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.
Naval guns were brought up close to the Shah Nujeff mosque, on November 16, 1857 at Lucknow, India. 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. Able Seaman Hall and the lieutenant (Thomas James Young) in command of the battery were, after a time, the only survivors, all the rest having been killed or wounded, and between them they loaded and served the last gun.
Hall remained with the Navy, and reached the rank of Quartermaster Petty Officer in HMS Peterel before he retired in 1876. He was the first Black person, the first from Nova Scotia, and third Canadian born recipient of the Victoria Cross. William Hall died on August 25, 1904.