Leonard Henry Hall is a member of Mitcham’s “Out in the cold” group who died after discharge on 15th May 1919.
It should be remembered that the CWGC primary qualifying criteria is for deaths that occurred in the date range of 4th August 1914 to 31st August 1921. This seemingly arbitrary cut off point actually corresponds to the legal declaration of the end of the War as defined in the “Termination of the Present War (Definition) Act 1918“. The then Imperial War Graves Commission adhered to this act which laid down that the war would officially end when an “Order in Council declared that it had ended” – and this was declared to be 31st August 1921.
Leonard’s case has yet to be considered by the CWGC, this is his story.
Leonard Henry Hall’s birth was registered in the first quarter of 1898 in Hackney, East London. His parents Henry Isaac Hall and Henrietta Prickett had married on 27 Aug 1892 in the Church of St Paul, Upper Holloway in Islington. Leonard’s father worked in the corn trade and was originally from Suffolk, his mother Henrietta was from Peckham. Leonard was their third child, he was one of five siblings with two elder sisters, Ethel May and Helen, and two younger brothers, Douglas Charles and Eric Wilfred. By the age of three Leonard was living in Tolworth, near Kingston and later in Horace Road, Kingston. The first trace of the Hall family in Mitcham is in 1914, when Leonard’s father appears on the electoral register living at 5 Devonshire Road, Colliers Wood. This address was in the Parish of Mitcham (West Ward), and the County Electoral Division of Mitcham (Christchurch). The family would move nearby to 33 Wilton Road, later in 1914. Henry Isaac Hall had last been registered in Horace Road, Kingston, in 1912, so it’s possible Leonard and his family had come to Colliers Wood in 1913.
Leonard was now working in London as an upholsterer, apprenticed at Amery & Co. of Maple St. since 1912. In the short time the Hall family had lived in Colliers Wood, Leonard had become a regular member of his local church choir. He had been brought up in an age when the virtues of “God, King and Country” were firmly established in the Nation’s conscious. At the outbreak war, Kitchener’s call to arms evoked the same deep rooted sentiments as Shakespeare’s cry of “God for Harry, England, and Saint George!”
Like anyone of faith, Leonard was a young man facing difficult decisions in the heady atmosphere of the patriotic fever that was sweeping the country in August 1914. Was he prepared to take up arms and kill? Could, or should, he even lie about his age to volunteer? How best could he serve his country? Leonard resolved these conflicts by volunteering for home service with the Royal Army Medical Corps on 10th August 1914 for an initial period of six months, a decision possibly made with the guidance and consent of his parents. He had joined at Millbank, the site of the Queen Alexandra’s Military Hospital, and gave his true age of 17 years and 6 months. Leonard was now Pte. 9896 Hall, of the 35th Company, Royal Army Medical Corps.
After training in first aid and ambulance duties, Leonard remained at various locations in London for just over a year before he was transferred to the RAMC depot at Aldershot on 27/10/1915. Leonard Hall was being sent overseas as part of the medical units supporting the M.E.F in Salonika, he arrived on 11.11.1915. The complex history of British Salonika Force can be read elsewhere, for example:
1915 would be Leonard’s first Christmas away from home, and with his love of singing perhaps it is not too fanciful to imagine he would have been in some kind of entertainment. Members of the 85th Field Ambulance (3rd London) wrote an entire pantomime to be performed on Christmas Night, 1915.
Salonika was a very unhealthy place to be, the climate and poor sanitary arrangements made dysentery and various enteric diseases almost endemic amongst the troops in the summer months, malaria was rife and records show more men dying of disease than in combat. Some idea of the conditions Leonard worked in can be found in these accounts:
The sufferings of a typical Tommy in Salonika are vividly described in this account of Walter John Cooke’s war.
Leonard was here for nearly two years, between 11.11.15 and 21.8.17, helping with the sick and wounded, before falling ill himself. He was invalided back to the UK, diagnosed with TB. Leonard Hall appeared before a medical board who reported their proceedings on 25.8.1917. He was 20 years and 7 months old, during his three years service Leonard had grown in stature and in so many other ways. Leonard was “sober, steady, reliable and trustworthy“, a man of “very good” character who had done his duty. Suffering from TB of the lung, Leonard was discharged unfit on 15th September 1915, awarded a pension and recommended for sanatorium treatment. Sadly, he never recovered and passed way on 15th May 1919. Leonard Hall’s funeral was conducted at Christ Church, Colliers Wood, were he had been a regular member of the church choir, on 19th May. He was taken for burial at the Church Road Cemetery in section 12, grave number 81. The burial register shows his profession as “Discharged Soldier“.
The families of Mitcham had already put many names forward for inclusion on the Mitcham War Memorial, but same late additions were made before its official dedication on 21 November 1920. The name “HALL L.H.” appears at the base of one of its faces. The Hall family also arranged for Leonard’s name to appear on the main “Roll of Honour” board in Christ Church. His name also appears on the separate Oak Lectern dedicated to the memory of five members of the Christ Church choir who lost their lives as a result of the Great War. It bears the inscription:
THEY SHALL WALK IN WHITE/ FOR THEY ARE WORTHY/ (NAMES)/ A SOMETIME FELLOW CHORISTER, THANKFUL FOR THEIR FRIENDSHIP,/ IS HUMBLY HOPING TO MEET THEM AGAIN./ EASTER 1921.
Footnote: While Leonard Hall was in Salonika, his younger brother Douglas Charles Hall had served in 1st/5th Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment which spent the war years in India and Mesopotamia. Douglas returned safely home at the end of the war. Leonard’s parents continued to live at 33 Wilton road post-war. Both Douglas and his sister Ethel were married in Christ Church, Mitcham, in the 1920s. Leonard’s father Henry Isaac Hall passed away in 1923 and was buried in Church Road Cemetery on 18 September 1923.