CBC Digital Archives CBC butterfly logo

CBC Archives has a new look: Please go to cbc.ca/archives to access the new site.

The page you are looking at will not be updated.

Commemorating the first black VC recipient

The Story

It's a chilly, rainy November day in Hantsport, N.S. But the weather's not stopping a crowd from gathering at the unveiling of a new Canadian Legion monument to William Hall, "Canada's first negro Victoria Cross winner," says reporter Barrie Macdonald in this 1947 radio report. The Nova Scotia-born son of former black slaves, Hall had received the British Empire's highest honour for bravery almost 90 years earlier for his part in the relief of Lucknow, India in 1857. 

Medium: Radio
Program: CBC Radio News
Broadcast Date: Nov. 10, 1947
Reporter: Barry MacDonald
Duration: 2:36

Did You know?

• William Hall was born in 1827 in Horton, N.S.

• He enlisted in the Royal Navy, based in Liverpool, England in 1852. After enlisting he spent two years of service in the Crimean War, for which he received British and Turkish medals of honour.

• The Seige of Lucknow was part of the Indian Mutiny of 1857-58, a mutiny against British rule in India. A British garrison at Lucknow was under siege by Indian rebels in 1857, and Hall was part of a British contingent sent in to "relieve" the garrison. As the battle wore on, Hall was one of only two men from his crew left standing. He and Lieutenant Thomas Young kept firing their gun until they opened up one of the walls around the garrison, which helped cement British victory and assured both men a Victoria Cross.

• Hall was the first black person and the first Nova Scotian to ever receive the prestigious Victoria Cross.

• William Hall died in August of 1904 in Hantsport, N.S. He was initially buried in an unmarked grave with no military honours.

• In 1937, a local campaign to have Hall specially recognized by the Canadian Legion began. Eight years later, in 1945, his body was moved to the grounds of the Hantsport Baptist Church, and the monument described in this clip was unveiled at this site two years later. 




Celebrating Black History more