OTTAWA (February 1, 2010) – In celebration of Black History Month, Canada Post has issued a commemorative stamp of William Hall, the first Canadian sailor and black man to receive the Victoria Cross, the military honour for bravery during combat.
Mr. Hall was awarded the Victoria Cross on October 28, 1859 from the British Royal Navy. The distinction was given after Mr. Hall defended a British garrison in Lucknow, India that had been attacked by mutineers. After his crew members on the ship HMS Shannon fell, Mr. Hall continued to fight and defended the garrison until relief forces arrived to secure the fort.
Mr. Hall became the first Canadian sailor, the first Nova Scotian, and the first black person to receive the Victoria Cross from the British Royal Navy. “Mr. Hall stands as a major figure in Canada’s military history and in the black community,” said Jim Phillips, Canada Post’s Director of Stamp Services. “It is particularly poignant that we honour Mr. Hall this year as the Canadian Navy marks its 100th anniversary.”
Born in 1825 to African-American parents who had been liberated from the U.S. slave trade, Mr. Hall began his nautical career at a young age, first joining the crew of an American trading vessel at age 19 and then enlisting in the British Royal Navy as an able seaman at age 27. During his career, Mr. Hall also received British and Turkish medals for his combat service during the Crimean War that ran from 1853 to 1856.
The commemorative stamp features an illustration of an older, decorated Mr. Hall. The image on the stamp was created from a photograph taken of Mr. Hall around 1900. On the stamp, Mr. Hall is shown against a seascape with the HMS Shannon in the background. He is wearing his Victoria Cross, the Indian Mutiny Medal, the Turkish Crimea Medal, and the Crimea Medal.
Engravings from the period at the top and bottom of the stamp pane move chronologically through Mr. Hall’s life and travels. Mr. Hall’s authentic signature – reproduced with permission from the Nova Scotia Museum – is printed across the middle of the stamp pane. Red dots scattered in the background highlight the places where Mr. Hall lived and traveled.
Canada Post honours William Hall as part of Black History Month (16)