From the farming area of Micalong near Tumut two brothers left and marched with the Kangaroos to enlist. One brother, William Wingate Hall aged 27 on enlistment (#1668) returned, the younger, Leslie John Hall aged 21 on enlistment (#1667) did not. Both big strong lads, Leslie was a six footer with William not far behind him. Leslie Hall joined the Kangaroos in Cootamundra; while his brother W.W. (known as ‘Bing’) Hall joined in Goulburn.
Henry Fisher Hall had married Eliza Jessie Jenkins in Cobar in 1880. William was born in Yass and Leslie in Nyngan. Their father Henry died in 1910 leaving Eliza a widow.
About forty of the Kangaroos remained in camp at Goulburn for Christmas 1915, where they were given a good Christmas dinner and afterwards visitors came to the camp. As recorded in ‘The Kangaroo March’ the local newspaper reported:
‘The only man to be seen at first was a Kangaroo, fast asleep on the ground in the tent; but the charm of the music soon brought men from all parts of the camp and the young ladies handed cigarettes round. There was a pathetic scene when Private Hall, who possessed a very fine voice, broke down twice when singing a song of his own composing ‘My Wee Wife Nellie’.’ It is not recorded which Hall brother this was.
Both men sailed on the Ceramic with many other Kangaroos in April 1916.
William’s army service was plagued with illness, beginning in Cairo where he was hospitalised and diagnosed as anaemic and with Brights disease, known in modern medicine as nephritis, a disease of the kidneys. However he continued with the 55th Battalion and his brother to join the Australian troops fighting on the Western Front in France. William’s fighting was interspersed with further hospitalisations for influenza and phthisis. He was also inflicted with a case of mumps in February 1917. Eventually his continued ill health saw him returned to Australian on board Gaika, arriving in July 1918. He was discharged as medically unfit with a disordered action of the heart, safely home though unwell, to comfort his mother when the saddest news came of Leslie’s fate. William died in 1946.
Leslie had a narrow escape during a German bombardment on the night of 12th October 1916 when the dugout he shared with mate Gus Stevens was blown to pieces. Leslie was not in the dugout at the time but Gus was badly wounded and died the next day. Following on from his brother William, Leslie also came down with mumps in March 1917 and spent 3 weeks in the 1st Anzac Rest Station before being discharged to duty. He also had two other occasions where he needed treatment, one for pyrexia and one for eczema.
In August 1918 Leslie showed his courage and initiative in an incident described in a letter to his mother sent in 1919 by Base Records: “For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty during an attack on an enemy post near Proyart N.E of Villers-Bretonneux on 17th August, 1918. This man displayed great courage and initiative in the attack and capture of the post. As our party commenced to withdraw from one of the captured posts, Private Hall noticed an enemy Machine Gun Section trying to outflank our party. He at once took up a position and opened fire on the enemy with his Lewis Gun, putting the enemy Machine Gun out of action, thereby assisting materially in the safe withdrawal of our men. This man’s coolness and bravery during the operation was a great example to the remainder of the men.” For this gallant action Leslie was awarded the Military Medal.
The battle for Peronne in the first two days of September stand out in the records of the 55th Battalion. After bayonet charges and advancing the firing line, the battle came down to a ‘fierce and exhausting fighting which included hand-to-hand combat.’
Leslie was felled with a gunshot wound to the head and died later the same day 2nd September, 1918 after being transferred to 5th General Hospital, Rouen. He was buried in St. Sever Cemetery Extension at Rouen, France.
His mother wrote to Base Records: “I am a widow and he was my youngest and dearest son and I would like to have whatever effects he left behind. I am sure you sympathise with me and if you can procure them for me will be very grateful”. She did receive Leslie’s effects. These were sent to her from the A.I.F Kit Store in London in a sealed parcel and contained: 2 wallets, 1 YMCA wallet, 2 razors, 1 metal cigarette case, 1 fountain pen, 1 religious books, 1 match box cover, 1 watch (damaged) and chain, 1 small knife, 1 coin, 2 charms, photos, cards, letters.
Her request for two extra photos of Leslie’s gravestone in France was granted and these were received. She had requested one for her son’s good friend Fred Farrall. Eliza (Jessie) was offered a public presentation of Leslie’s Military Medal, however she wrote back requesting she receive it privately writing she “would not like public function when he is gone”.
Our grateful appreciation is expressed to Dahlis Evans for compiling this story of the two Hall brothers.
Since the completion of the Re-enactment March, we heard from a grandson of Wingate (‘Bing’) Hall who gave us an update on his family:
Eliza, like her son Bing, was always known by her second name, Jessie, had 3 sons and 2 daughters. Jessie’s lease was state government owned snow lease country, and eventually Jessie moved to Penrith, then later Thornleigh. She and her daughters are all buried at Rookwood.
Bing was married before the war, and had children after he was repatriated in 1918. Bing drew a soldier settler block post war. The last and youngest of Bing’s children passed away in December 2015.
We would be very interested to learn more of the Hall family and these soldiers of WWI. Please email Angela Williamson at firstname.lastname@example.org if you can oblige.
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