James was born on 24th September 1896 to parents James and Ruth, at Greys Inn Lane, St Pancras, London and baptised the following month on 19th October. The family lived at 52 Jupp Street and father James worked as a compositor.
By 1901 the little family had expanded and James, aged 5, had two younger siblings, Irene and Cyril. Possibly due to needing more house space, they had moved from Pancras and were then recorded living at 13 Cloudesley Square, Islington. 10 years later, on the 1911 census, James was aged 15 and worked as an office boy. The Hall’s had moved once more and resided at 26 Brighton Road, Stoke Newington, and there was one last younger sibling, Reginald, who had been born in 1897.
He joined the Navy on 8th July 1912, leaving his office position, starting his Navy training as a Boy 2nd Class on HMS IMPREGNABLE until 14th February 1913. He was 5’4” tall when fully grown, with brown hair and eyes, noted with 3 moles on his neck and an additional scar on the top of his head. He left HMS IMPREGNABLE and moved to the Suffolk coast for further training at HMS GANGES and rose in his rating to a Signal Boy on 12th May 1913. He left the base on 10th October 1913 and joined HMS PEMBROKE I waiting for his first posting. He embarked to the dreadnought HMS ST VINCENT on 5th November 1913 until 24th January 1914, then being transferred to her sister ship HMS VANGUARD on 25th January 1914. He rose to Ordinary Signalman on 3rd March 1914, Signalman on 22nd April 1915 and Leading Signalman on 11th February 1917, after participating in the Battle of Jutland in 1916.
He had passed examinations for a Petty Officer position on 15th March 1917, but this was sadly never accomplished. His Star, Victory and British medals were passed to his father following his death and he is remembered on the Chatham Naval Memorial.
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England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1837-1915 - Free BMD
London, England, Church of England Births and Baptisms, 1813-1906 London Metropolitan Archives; London, England; Reference Number: p90/pan1/041
1901 & 1911 England census
Royal Navy Registers of Seamen's Services, 1848-1939 National Archives of the UK; Kew, Surrey, England; Royal Navy Registers of Seamen's Services; Class: ADM 188; Piece: 684
British Army and Navy Birth, Marriage and Death Records, 1730-1960 National Archives of the UK; Kew, Surrey, England; Admiralty: Naval Casualties, Indexes, War Grave Rolls and Statistics Book, First World War.; Class: ADM 242; Piece: 008 (1914 - 1919)
British Army and Navy Birth, Marriage and Death Records, 1730-1960 National Archives of the UK; Kew, Surrey, England; Admiralty and predecessors: Office of the Director General of the Medical Department of the Navy and predecessors: Service Registers and Registers of Deaths and Injuries. Registers of Reports of Deaths
Royal Navy and Royal Marine War Graves Roll, 1914-1919 TNA Series: ADM 242/8; Scan Number: 0718
Naval Medal and Award Rolls, 1793-1972 Class: ADM 171; Piece: 104
Image courtesy of Valerie Wilson