Private Joseph William Hall
200394 6th Bn., Leicestershire Regiment who died on 18 September 1918
Joseph William Hall was born in 1893, the fifth of the nine children of Charles and Hannah (nee Southam) Hall. A 10th child ad died in infancy. Joseph’s siblings were George, Edith, Martha Ann, Mary Elizabeth, John Charles, Percy Leonard, Arthur James and Doris Evelyn. Until his enlistment Joseph lived with the family at 52 Glengate, South Wigston. Charles Hall was a bricklayer’s labourer and Joseph worked as a shoe hand (boot laster).
Joseph has an extensive service record which details how he was wounded several times but always returned to the front. A fate which befell many of those serving in the Great War.
An early volunteer, Joseph enlisted on 1 September 1914 at the age of 21 years and 6 months. He was posted to the 4th Battalion Leicestershire Regiment. Like many recruits Joseph had probably never seen a doctor and he required a full set of inoculations which he was given in December 1914 followed by further vaccinations in January 1915. He also had problems with his teeth which required hospital treatment on 2 May 1915.
Joseph arrived in France on 2 March 1915. On 13 October 1915 he took part in the ill-fated assault on the formidable Hohenzollern Redoubt. This battle is still regarded as the darkest day in Leicestershire Regiment’s military history. The attack on the Hohenzollern Redoubt was the last action fought during the Battle of Loos and was, in the view of the Official Historian, James Edmonds, ‘nothing but the useless slaughter of infantry’. For most of the men of the 4th Leicesters it represented their first experience of battle. Joseph received a gunshot wound to his right knee. He was treated at a casualty clearing station in the field and then admitted to No 1 General Hospital at Etretat near Le Havre. From here Joseph was evacuated to England for treatment on the hospital ship SS St David.
Wounded returning from Hohenzollern Redoubt. Captain Hills described the injured as ‘worn out by the exertions of the past 24 hours, half gassed by the chlorine, shot out by machine guns from every quarter, they had been broken by bombing attacks from every trench they attacked’.
By 15 April 1916 Joseph was sufficiently recovered to return to the front. The 4th Leicesters were in divisional reserve during the summer Battle of the Somme. The battalion was so depleted after the mauling at Hohenzollern that it took many months to rebuild its strength with replacement drafts. Joseph spent the autumn and winter of 1916 in the Monchy sector and on 2 January 1917 he was awarded a good conduct badge. Joseph next saw action in February 1917 during an assault on Gommecourt. Spring 1917 was spent in and out of the front lines. The war diary for 15 May suggests that the line was quiet but that the enemy was seen amassing south of the Souchy River ‘informed artillery who did excellent work’. Joseph was wounded for a second time when he received a gunshot wound to his chest and arm. From a field dressing station he was transferred to No. 1 Casualty Clearing Station at Choques and thence to No. 3 Canadian General Hospital in Boulogne. This hospital, also known as The McGill had been established by the McGill University, Montreal, Canada in 1915 as a centre of medical excellence. Its Commanding Officer was surgeon Lt. Colonel John McCrae who wrote the poem ‘In Flanders Fields’. Joseph was treated at The McGill until 30 May when he was evacuated to England aboard the St Denis hospital ship. The St Denis was a converted Great Eastern Ferry Train, formerly called The Munich.
No.3 Canadian General Hospital, Boulogne
During this period of convalescence Joseph married Oadby girl, Clara Maria Rachel Hill at Blaby Registry Office on 8 August 1917. He returned to France again on 10 September and transferred to the 6th Leicesters, joining his unit on 2 October, holding the line at Polygon Wood on the Passchendaele battlefield.
Troops in shell holes on the Passchendaele battlefield, winter 1917
Joseph spent a muddy and bitter, but relatively uneventful, winter until the start of the German Spring Offensive in March 1918. On 15 June he was admitted to a field hospital with shrapnel wounds. During this hospital stay Joseph was deprived of seven day’s pay for being improperly dressed. On 27 July he was assigned to depot duties but was returned to the field yet again on 2 September.
After 4 years and 17 days serving his country and being wounded three times, Joseph’s luck finally ran out on 18 September when he was killed during an advance to secure enemy trenches near Heudecourt. He has no known grave.
Joseph Hall is Remembered with Honour on the Vis-en-Artois Memorial. He is also honoured on the South Wigston and Oadby War Memorials.
Vis-en-Artois Memorial, France
South Wigston War Memorial, Blaby Road
Oadby Senior School memorial
There is also a Joseph Hall mentioned on the Oadby Council Senior School Memorial. It seems unlikely that this should be Joseph William Hall as his early life was spent in South Wigston and his connection to Oadby appears to be only through his wife Clara. As yet the Oadby Remembers project has been unable to find the Joseph Hall who is named on this memorial.
Other Family Members
In 1920 Joseph’s widow, Clara Hall, married Mackwood James Measey and the couple lived at Manor Cottages. The cottages were part of a complex of buildings on the right of Manor Farm, seen below in the 1960s. Clara was the daughter of Henry Hill and sister of Walter. These men were the Oadby lamplighters and Walter worked for the council. In the latter stages of the war he had temporarily fulfilled the post of gravedigger and cemetery caretaker. He was replaced in this role by Clara’s husband, a gardener and chauffeur, when Measey was demobbed in 1919. The couple were still living at Manor Cottages in 1939.
Manor Farm, London Road, Oadby in 1960s