A FAM­ILY’S sac­ri­fice

It was news dreaded by all par­ents wait­ing at home dur­ing the First World War - their beloved child serv­ing abroad had been killed. For one Nor­folk fam­ily that news came time af­ter aw­ful time. Angi Kennedy tells the story of the Halls of Reed­ham.


“I grieve so deeply for you in your triple loss. They are to­gether again but how you must miss them in your lonely home. May God com­fort you by rais­ing your heart where your trea­sure is.”

The words, writ­ten with such a gen­tle touch by the Bishop of Nor­wich and sent to a griev­ing fam­ily in the Broad­land vil­lage of Reed­ham, must have meant so much to James and An­nie Hall as they grap­pled with the aw­ful loss of three of their beloved sons.

John Her­bert Hall - known as Jack and the youngest of the Halls’ four sons at just 24 - was the first to be killed in ac­tion in France in March 1917. His brother James Fredrick Hall, a cor­po­ral in the Royal Ar­tillery, died of his wounds in Flanders in 1917, aged 26. Then, in Jan­uary 1918 Ernest James Hall, aged 36, was killed when his ship was tor­pe­doed and sank en route to Tu­nisia.

Trag­i­cally though there was more sor­row just around the cor­ner - and that lonely home would be plunged even deeper into grief.

With the cel­e­bra­tions of Armistice Day fol­lowed quickly by the first Christ­mas of the new peace­time, the Halls would have been look­ing for­ward to wel­com­ing home their daugh­ter Su­san­nah. She - and two of her sis­ters, Olive and Hilda - had vol­un­teered for war ser­vice with the Queen Mary’s Army Aux­il­iary Corps. Su­san­nah had seen peace de­clared in Novem­ber 1918 but was still in France where she was serv­ing as a cook for the troops who were wait­ing to be de­mobbed.

And then the un­think­able news reached home. Su­san­nah had fallen vic­tim to the ‘Span­ish flu’ that was sweep­ing across Europe. The 30-year-old woman, whose fam­ily were builders of boats and wher­ries, died in France on March 23, 1919. She was buried at the Ter­linc­thum Bri­tish Ceme­tery, Wimille.

Josie Dix is the great niece of Su­san­nah Hall. She too grew up in Reed­ham, just a road away from the Halls’ River­side home.

“She was talked about by my mother, who had been told Su­san­nah’s story by her mother, my grand­mother,” says Josie. “Su­san­nah didn’t have to sign up, she did it out of choice. We know that she was posted to Rom­ford and Folk­stone be­fore she went out to France in Septem­ber 1918, not long be­fore Armistice.

“She would have known that war ended and was pre­sum­ably look­ing for­ward to com­ing home. But they would still have needed cooks to look af­ter the peo­ple until ev­ery­one was brought home.

“It is un­be­liev­able to think what the fam­ily went through. As a mother of three my­self, I think it must have been un­bear­able for An­nie los­ing four of her chil­dren - the three boys dur­ing the war and her daugh­ter

just af­ter war had ended.”

Josie’s grand­mother Olive Hall also joined the QMAAC and re­turned safely to Reed­ham af­ter the war had ended. She mar­ried Wil­liam Race and had a daugh­ter, Esme, who mar­ried Charles Bris­ter in 1957. By co­in­ci­dence, Charles’ mid­dle name was Armistice as he was born on Novem­ber 11.

For Josie and her fam­ily, the Reed­ham War Me­mo­rial was a re­minder of the sac­ri­fice of the Halls in the First World War. The names of the three broth­ers were in­scribed there and in 1995, at last, Su­san­nah’s name was added too. Her story and those of the other vil­lagers whose names fea­ture on the me­mo­rial are told in a fas­ci­nat­ing book called Reed­ham Re­mem­bers by Noel Mor­ris.

And the re­mem­brance con­tin­ues this Novem­ber for Josie, who now lives at Por­ing­land. The story of her great-aunt has been re­searched by Daryl Long for an ex­hi­bi­tion at The Fo­rum in Nor­wich, Nor­folk In The First World War: Somme to Armistice. Women: Their Lega­cies, as part of this, is the cul­mi­na­tion of a two-year project to com­mem­o­rate women across Nor­folk 100 years ago whose lives were trans­formed dur­ing the war.

“Su­san­nah’s story is very spe­cial, and we have dis­cov­ered some in­cred­i­ble sto­ries of Nor­folk men and women,” says Sarah Power, learn­ing and events man­ager at The Fo­rum. “My hope is that the amaz­ing sto­ries and lega­cies un­cov­ered may en­cour­age more peo­ple to un­der­take re­search about their fam­ily or friends who lived through such an ex­tra­or­di­nary pe­riod of his­tory.”

Josie has loaned the ex­hi­bi­tion Su­san­nah’s iden­tity bracelet which bears a lit­tle lucky black cat mo­tif. And on Sun­day, Novem­ber 11, Josie will lay a wreath at the war me­mo­rial by Nor­wich’s City Hall to rep­re­sent Su­san­nah and all the women who died in the First World War. An im­por­tant ex­hi­bi­tion at Nor­wich Cas­tle Mu­seum and Art Gallery will be Armistice; Legacy of the Great War in Nor­folk, which launches on Oc­to­ber 20 and runs until Jan­uary 6, 2019. The ex­hi­bi­tion will ex­plore the im­pact of the First World War on Nor­wich and Nor­folk, and pro­vide a fit­ting fi­nale to four years of centenary com­mem­o­ra­tions and re­search by in­di­vid­u­als, lo­cal his­tory so­ci­eties and mu­se­ums around the county. Ex­hibits range from aero­plane mod­els to med­i­cal aids, chil­dren’s toys to trades union ban­ners, and posters to clothes.

Nor­folk In The First World War: Somme to Armistice Ex­hi­bi­tion is at The Fo­rum, Nor­wich from Novem­ber 1 to 13. For events and talks linked to the free ex­hi­bi­tion, see the web­site: the­fo­rum­nor­wich. co.uk/ww1

Josie Dix, great niece of Su­san­nah Hall.

Su­san­nah Hall, who died shortly af­ter the end of the First World War.

Su­san­nah Hall’s iden­tity bracelet which is in the Fo­rum ex­hi­bi­tion.

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