Sergeant James Hall
202371 6th Bn., Leicestershire Regiment
who died on 23 October 1918
James Hall was the son of Joseph Hall and his wife Catherine (nee Abbott). He was born in Oadby in June 1887. Joseph, a shoe finisher from Syston and Catherine, a laundress from Earl Shilton had a large family. At the time of the 1891 census they lived at Spencer Street, Oadby with three children, William (1886), James (1887) and baby Sydney (1890) who, sadly, was to die in 1902. The couple’s eldest child, Catherine (1885), was staying with her paternal grandparents, Joseph and Ann Berridge in Syston.
The path in this photograph leads across Stoughton Road Green to Lawn Terrace, the houses on the right hand side (later known as East Street). The green and the houses on the left were cleared to make way for the A6 Oadby bypass.
By 1901 the family had moved to Lawn Terrace, Oadby. Joseph Hall Snr was now working as goods porter on the London and North Western Railway (LNWR). James was an elastic welt worker. Since the last census four more children had been added to the family: Joseph (1892), Maud (1894), Edith (1897) and Sarah (1898). A further daughter, Frances, was born in 1903. In 1911 the Halls were living at 73 Sherard Road, Leicester with their younger children. Joseph was a goods checker on the LNW Railway.
In late 1910 James married Mary Ann Garratt and in 1911 they were living at 27 Willow Brook Road, Leicester with Mary’s mother Elizabeth Garratt, and James was working as a rubber hand. This was presumably a similar occupation to that which he pursued in Oadby, working with elastic products in the footwear industry. Leicester was renowned for its production of fashionable ladies’ boots with elastic inserts. At the outbreak of war it took Leicester’s factories some time to adjust production to produce army boots. Initial government contracts went to Northampton which specialised in men’s work boots.
James and Mary Hall had three sons: Bertram F born March 1913, Frederick A born in June 1915 and James A. Hall born in December 1917.
James’ service record is no longer available but at the time of his death he was serving with the 6th Battalion Leicestershire Regiment. It seems unlikely that as a married man of 31 he would have joined the colours until conscripted after May 1916. Given the dates of the births of his sons this also seems plausible. However the Medal Award Roll also lists him as number 6709 in the 2/4 Battalion Leicestershire Regiment which was a territorial battalion. Without a service record we can only speculate.
A 1909 postcard of the village of Vendegies-au-Bois
James was promoted to Corporal at some point and at the time of his death was Acting Sergeant.
On 23 October the 6th Leicesters were involved in an action at Vendegies-au-Bois were British troops managed to secure the town.
David Kelly, in his book ’39 Months With The Tigers’ describes the attack thus,
Some instinct led the enemy to lay a violent barrage… Never the less the Battalions (1st Wiltshires and 7th Leicesters) cleared the area, the 6th Leicesters assisting on the line east of Ovillers, and the latter battalion continued the advance towards Vendegies at 7.15a.m. One company worked round the wood which lay in front of Vendegies Chateau and took it in the flank, capturing the German regimental commander.
It is likely that Sergeant James Hall fell in this attack.
James Hall is Buried with Honour at Vendegies-au-Bois British Cemetery. He is also commemorated on the Oadby War Memorial.
As a man raised in Oadby and presumably educated at Oadby Council Senior School it would seem obvious for James to have been commemorated on the school memorial, but his name does not feature. However there is a Joseph Hall mentioned and Oadby Remembers researchers believe that there has been a transcription error, particularly given that James’ father and brother were called Joseph. There is a Joseph Hall who appears on the Oadby town War Memorial and on the South Wigston memorial but his only connection to the Oadby was through his wife. No evidence has yet been found of a Joseph Hall raised in Oadby who fell during the Great War.
Vendegies-au-Bois British Cemetery
On 14 May 1919 the London Gazette announced that Sergeant James Hall had been awarded the Military Medal for bravery in the field. It is not clear if this was awarded for the action in which he died. His personal effects amounting to £15 4s 10d and a £15 war gratuity were left to his wife.
Headstone photograph reproduced with the kind permission of www.britishwargraves.co.uk
Other Family Members
Mary Ann Hall never remarried and in 1939 she was living at 27 Willowbrook Road, Leicester and caring for her 80 year old mother Elizabeth Garrett who is described as ‘incapacitated’.