Driver Benjamin Watson Hall, 84605, Royal Field Artillery, 92nd Brigade, 'C' Battery,
Benjamin Watson Hall was born in Ossett in late 1891, the youngest survivor of ten children, born between 1873 and 1892 to Sandal-born Robert Thomas Hall and his wife, Hannah (nee Render), who was born in Crigglestone. The couple married in 1872 and moved from Crigglestone to Ossett in the early 1880s. Sadly, four of the children died before 1911.
In 1891, Robert Thomas Hall senior, a joiner by trade, and Hannah were living at Happy Land Row, Ossett with five of their children. By 1901, the family have moved to George Street, Healey Road, Ossett and by 1911, Benjamin Hall, now aged 20, had left home and Ossett to take up work as a groom for the coachman at 'Spenfield', Otley Road, Headingley, Leeds. 'Spenfield' was built in 1875 for Leeds banker James Walter Oxley, son of Henry Oxley who owned Weetwood Villa. James Oxley became a partner in the bank of William Williams and Brown, later merged with Lloyds, and a director of the Midland Railways. Apart from 'Spenfield', the family owned other properties nearby including Oxley Hall, which in 1920 was gifted to Leeds University and is now Student Halls.
In 1911 Benjamin's parents and two sisters had moved to live on Park Square, Ossett where his father Robert worked as a cattle dealer. Robert Thomas Hall senior, of Park Square, Ossett died in 1913, aged 63.
Driver Benjamin Watson Hall of the Royal Horse Artillery and the Royal Field Artillery died from pneumonia on the 6th November 1918 just five days before the Armistice was signed.
Driver Hall’s army service record has not survived, but it is known that he enlisted in Leeds and that he embarked for France on 11th May 1915. He was posthumously awarded the British and Victory medals as well as the 1914/15 Star to recognise his overseas service before the 31st December 1915. Benjamin Hall's love of horses and experience as a groom in civilian life clearly influenced his choice of army career and he would have been dealing with horse drawn artillery pieces as a driver.
On 1 July 1899, the Royal Artillery was divided into two groups: the Royal Horse Artillery and Royal Field Artillery comprised one group, The Royal Garrison Artillery, being the other. In effect the three operated as separate corps until they were amalgamated in 1924. The RFA was organised into Brigades, attached to Divisions or higher formations and was responsible for the medium calibre guns and howitzers deployed close to the front line, being reasonably mobile.
92nd (Howitzer) Brigade, of the Royal Field Artillery was part of the 20th (Light) Divisional Artillery during WW1. However, 'C' Battery of the 92nd Brigade, RFA was previously known as the 288th (Howitzer) Battery between September 1914 and the 15th January 1915. The 92nd (Howitzer) Brigades of the RFA arrived in France with 20th Division on the 22nd July 1915.
It would be quite common for the drivers to be some miles behind the battery's guns in what were called the 'horse lines.' This protected both the drivers and the horses from counter-battery fire directed at the guns. When the guns needed to be moved to a new positions the drivers and horses would be brought to the battery.
Driver Benjamin W. Hall must have seen a lot of action throughout WW1, having been on the Western Front since 1915. He was probably a victim of the Spanish Flu epidemic that raged through the British Army in 1918 causing many casualties towards the end of the war.
The "Ossett Observer" 1 had this obituary for Benjamin Watson Hall:
"News has been received of the death, in France, of Driver Benjamin Watson Hall, R.F.A., son of the late Mr. Robert T. Hall, and of Mrs. Hall, Park-square, Ossett. According to a letter from an army chaplain, he died in hospital from pneumonia. The deceased 'joined up' at the beginning of the war, and had been in France since 1915. He was home on leave so recently as October, and was buried on November 6th. Before the war he was employed as a groom. A brother of the deceased was reported missing in May, 1916, and is presumed to have been killed."
Driver Benjamin Watson Hall, aged 27 years, died on the 6th November 1918, the son of Robert Thomas and Hannah Hall, of 47, Park Square, Ossett. He is buried at grave reference II. A. 38. at the Cambrai East Military Cemetery,2 Nord, France. Cambrai is a town about 32 kilometres south-east of Arras on the main straight road to Le Cateau.
Cambrai was occupied by German forces on 26 August 1914 and it remained in German hands until 9 October 1918. The 1917 Battle of Cambrai (20 November to 3 December) left the Allied line still eight kilometres from the city on the south-west side, and the German offensive of March 1918, drove it far to the west, but the 1918 Battle of Cambrai, the last of the Battles of the Hindenburg Line, delivered the city into the hands of Commonwealth forces, though it was very severely damaged and the main square was still burning two days after the fight. Two Casualty Clearing Stations were later posted to the town, 30 CCS in October 1918 and 22 CCS in November 1918.
Cambrai East Military Cemetery was made by the Germans during their occupation and laid out with the greatest care, with monuments erected in it to the French, Commonwealth and German dead. On 11 August 1918, as an inscription in the cemetery records, the Bavarian Commandant handed over to the city the care and maintenance of the cemetery. The graves have now been regrouped.
The Commonwealth Plots are numbered I to VI, in the south-east corner, and Plot VII, near the north side, on the left of the entrance. Plots I to IV were made by Commonwealth troops after the capture of Cambrai. Plots V and VI contain 69 graves brought from the battlefields east and south of the city, and Plot VII contains the graves of Commonwealth prisoners.
The cemetery now contains 501 Commonwealth burials and commemorations of the First World War. 28 of the graves are unidentified but special memorials are erected to seven soldiers known to be buried among them. Another special memorial commemorates a soldier buried by the Germans in Cauroir Communal Cemetery, whose grave could not be found.
1. "Ossett Observer", 30th November 1918