William Neilson Hall, seaman (born 25 April 1829 in Horton Bluff [now Lockhartville], NS; died 25 August 1904 in Horton Bluff). William Hall was the first Black, the first Nova Scotian, and the first Canadian naval recipient of the Victoria Cross.
William Hall was the son of Jacob and Lucy Hall, former slaves from the US who fled to Halifax at the end of the War of 1812. The Halls eventually moved to Horton Bluff, where William and 6 other children were born. William Hall chose to follow the sea at an early age, first leaving Nova Scotia on board a merchant vessel in 1844. After serving 3 years in the US navy, he joined the British Royal Navy in February 1852.
In June 1857 he was serving on board HMS Shannon in the Far East when mutiny broke out among the native regiments of the army in India. At Lucknow a British garrison was cut off and surrounded by rebels. In November the British military attempted to break through the siege. Among the forces participating was the naval brigade from HMS Shannon, with Hall serving as a gunner.
The force encountered the position of the Shah Najaf, a large mosque with thick walls, from which the enemy poured an intense fire. Guns from the naval brigade attempted to blast a breech through the mosque wall, and eventually only Hall and an officer remained standing with one of the guns. While their gun did not create the breech that allowed the British to capture the mosque, Hall and his colleague had bravely continued to fire while their companions fell around them. For this bravery Hall was one of 4 members of the naval brigade to be awarded the VC.
William Hall served in the Royal Navy until 1876, when he retired to live in a small farmhouse at Horton Bluff, near the spot where he was born, and where he lived, along with 2 sisters and a niece, until his death. He was buried without military honours in a nearby churchyard, where his grave became neglected. In 1945 his body was disinterred and reburied in a special plot of land adjacent to the Baptist church in Hantsport, and 2 years later a special cairn was erected there as a permanent memorial.