Presentation honours William Hall and Black military contributions

Dr. Afua Cooper addresses members of the crowd during the Black History Month Speaker Event at Juno Tower, CFB Halifax on February 29. AVIATOR GREGORY COLE

Presentation honours William Hall and Black military contributions

By Nathan Stone
Trident staff

The life and legacy of Petty Officer William Hall and the military history of Black people in Canada were the subjects of a presentation in the Juno Tower Ballroom on February 29th. The event served as a celebratory close to this year’s African Heritage Month at Canadian Forces Base  (CFB) Halifax.

The Keynote speaker for the day was historian and Dalhousie University professor Doctor Afua Cooper, who presented attendees with the story of William Hall, the first Black person and first Canadian to receive the British Empire’s highest award for bravery, the Victoria Cross. He received the medal for his actions during the Siege of Lucknow during the Indian Rebellion in 1857.

Dr. Cooper wove the story of Hall’s 29 year naval career into a larger narrative around African Canadians in the military. She said that the service of Black Canadians is an important part of Canada’s military history.

“They fought in every major conflict in the history of Canada.”

Dr. Cooper spoke on the importance of recognising William Hall and the spirit in which he served. She said that she was pleased to see the recent increased awareness of the man and his legacy, and that it was overdue in coming.

“I’m so glad he’s being recognized today because when he came home he was forgotten by the British military.”

Hall’s Victoria Cross was on prominent display during the presentation. It rested in a glass display case at the focal point of the room. The medal was on loan from the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. Many of the attendees stopped to snap a picture with the artefact before or after the presentation.

During the event the crowd was treated to Music Nova Scotia award winning musician Reeny Smith accompanied by the Stadacona Band, performing the hymn Lift Every Voice and Sing.

Speakers at the event included Rear Admiral (RAdm) Josée Kurtz, the Minister Responsible for Military Relations MLA Barbra Adams, and a recorded message from Commander Scott Kelemen and his crew aboard His Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) William Hall.

In her closing remarks RAdm Kurtz, the Commander of Maritime Forces Atlantic and Joint Task Force Atlantic, said the Royal Canadian Navy naming its newest Arctic and Offshore Patrol Vessel after Hall allows for a special way to honour his legacy.

“The unique ability of a ship to take his history and bring it to places he visited.”

Members of Maritime Forces Atlantic Defence Visual Minority Advisory Group pose for a photo with the Victoria Cross (VC) that William Hall, VC, was awarded. AVIATOR GREGORY COLE