Brother’s appeal to help solve mystery of poppy appeal tribute
Friday 30th November 2018 @ 14:48 by Tom Greggan
Ashton News Tameside

Two family descendants of a World War One hero are hoping to trace the person who left a touching tribute to him on November 11.

Mike and Terry Hall were at the Ashton Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday to pay their respects to their great uncle, Lance Corporal James Hall, who was killed in action on the Western Front in 1917.

They were intrigued to find a poppy cross memorial to James placed at the cenotaph, but with no indication of who had written it or placed it there.

“We are unaware of any other family members or descendants of James, but would really like to know if there is – or whoever it might be – so we can thank them and make contact,” explained Mike.

Mike and Terence Hall will be well known to many. Both are former pupils of St Damian’s School, plus former captains of Ashton Swimming Club and are also honorary presidents of the club.

Mike, who served as an MP until 2010 and Terry, awarded an MBE, both visited James’ grave in France earlier this month as part of their tour of the western front on the 100th anniversary of the end of the ‘Great War’.

Terry Hall and his brother Mike visited the grave of their great uncle, Lance Corporal James Hall, earlier this year.

Their great uncle James Hall had lived at 27 Bradgate Street in Ashton. He was the son of Catherine and John Thomas Hall and by trade he became a collier and he worked at the New Moss Pit as a winch winder.

He had previously served for four years with the Ashton Territorials and re-enlisted on August 4, 1914 the very day Britain declared war on Germany. He was immediately posted back to his original battalion the 1st/9th Manchester Regiment based in Ashton.

James saw active service in the ill-fated Dardanelles campaign and in Egypt. He qualified as a 1st Class Machine Gunner and was transferred to the 126 Machine Gun Company on March 13, 1916.

In turn the 126 MGC transferred from Egypt to the Western Front, arriving in Marseilles in March 1917 and on April 19, 1917, James was made an unpaid Lance Corporal.

Earlier in April, the British had advanced on a wide front between Cambrai and St Quentin as the Germans undertook their strategic retreat to the Hindenburg Line.

He was tragically killed in action on May 11, 1917, having been hit in the neck by a fragment of an aeroplane shell at 3.30pm. He became unconscious and died a few minutes later. He was just 23.

“We are unaware of any other family members or descendants of James, but would really like to know if there is – or whoever it might be – so we can thank them and make contact,” said Mike.

The 126 MGC was positioned along the front line at the time, east of the recently captured villages Ronssoy and Lempire and facing the German outer defence lines west of the Hindenburg Line.

On the day he was killed in action the Germans fired 160 shells into Ronssoy and launched an aeroplane attack on the British front line.

James is buried in the Templeux-Le-Guerard British Cemetery France and was awarded the 1914-1915 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

The Ashton Reporter carried an obituary of Lance Corporal James Hall in its edition of July 7, 1917, including a photograph. Unfortunately the article records his death as taking place on April  11, 1917 not May 11, 1917.

The article also states that James was the only son of Catherine and John, but although he was single, he did have two brothers William and John Hall. He also had three sisters Jane Ann, Lily and Mary Hall.

Anyone who can help solve the mystery of the tribute placed at Ashton Cenotaph for Mike and Terry can email Mike direct at [email protected] or contact our newsdesk on 0161 379 0254.