Six of the Hall family’s sons went to war... not all came back safely

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As yet another Remembrance Day takes place, one family in Chronicle Country remembers the extreme sacrifice her great uncles made in World War One.

Rosemary Kemp’s great grandparents lost two of their six sons in the First World War, with others being wounded and Roesmary’s grandfather being made a prisoner of war.

William Lawrence Hall and Emma Grey married at All Saints Church in Southill in 1880 and had several children.

Said Rosemary: “From references to them in the Biggleswade Chronicle during World War 1 it appears that the Hall brothers were all hardworking young men, well liked and well respected in their home village of Southill.”

The first reference to the brothers comes in an article on January 1, 1916. Private Ernest Hall of the Grenadier Guards (also nicknamed Bob) is reported by a friend as having been seriously wounded; there were rumours of his death but they had not been officially confirmed. Another brother, Arthur, of the 4th Grenadier Guards, was also reported as having been wounded and in hospital ‘but no mention made of the cause’. Another brother, Jim, of the Royal Engineers, had written to his parents to tell them he had had a splendid Christmas dinner in a large barn ‘well within range of the enemy guns, one shell striking the building and wounding five.’ There is mention of the youngest brother, Sidney, having joined up. The paper comments that ‘this is a fine record for one family’, and reference is made to the one remaining soldier son Herbert ‘a married man doing his bit at Lowestoft at the minute.’

On January 21 1916 it was reported that M and Mrs Lawrence Hall of Southill had received official notification that their son Ernest had died on January 4, 1916 from ‘wounds received in action’. The news appears to have saddened the village; ‘his many friends and acquaintances will regret that the genial ‘Bob’ is no more’ adding ‘but they are well content that he has done his bit for his country.’

By the same post Lawrence and Emma were informed that a younger son, Private Arthur Hall, 3rd Battalion Grenadier Guards, was ill in the Northumberland War Hospital, in Gosforth.

Sapper Jim Hall is mentioned on March 24, 1916 as having been home on leave after being ‘more or less slightly wounded’.

Sid Hall is mentioned on June 23, 1916 in a letter home from another soldier as doing trench work ‘in a very hot part of the line.’

In 1918 there is mention of the youngest and sixth son to serve, Cecil Cyril. He is reported as having been wounded ‘some time back’, when he made a good recovery and was returned to the front line. He has now been wounded again and is being treated at one of the base hospitals. The Chronicle writes that his is ‘not a bad case’ and that it is hoped ‘his friends will soon get better and more reassuring news.’

But there was worse news to follow. A later report said that Private Cecil Hall of the Lincolns ‘not yet 20 years of age’ fell in action on October 17, 1918, just weeks before the Armistice. The parents have ‘the deepest sympathy of the whole neighbourhood in their sad recent loss.’ and Cecil Cyril is described as a ‘well conducted young man’ employed by Messrs. Brown and King before joining up.

There is reference to the first loss of their son Ernest Hall and for the first time mention of Herbert Hall as being a prisoner of war in Germany.

Rosemary said: “On the 13th December 1918, grandfather Lance Corporal Herbert Hall of the Leicestershire Regiment is recorded as being ‘safely home.’ Herbert had been a prisoner of war since May 1918, and he said he had been kept behind fighting lines to care for horses the Germans had brought over from Russia and Rumania to break in for use in limbers. In the same report, there is a description of a service held in All Saints’ Church in memory of the 27 men who died in the war.

“In 1914, the population of Southill was 989, which means that nearly 3% of the entire village population was lost.

The Chronicle records that ‘the service was very bright and it was rendered the more enjoyable by the beautiful renderings of two solos.’ In the next village to ours, a family also sent six sons to the war. Not one of them returned.’

Herbert and his wife Bessie had six children, he died in 1938, three years before his father.

Rosemary continues: “This account has been summarised from articles in the Biggleswade Chronicle, commencing in 1916. The original research is not mine; these articles were painstakingly collated by my cousin Jeffrey Hall, (son of Cecil Cyril), before his untimely death from cancer in August 2015.