William Bruce Raikes Hall was born into a military family. His father, Jasper Hall, was a Colonel in the Coldstream Guards and English Census Records show the family moving from one posting to another.
William joined the Army as a career officer, rising to the rank of Colonel in the Royal Artillery and served in various garrisons across the British Empire. He began his career as a Gentleman Cadet at the Woolwich RMA as a 16 year old in 1854. He was commissioned lieutenant in 1856 and posted to Gibralter.
William Hall joined the Royal Artillery at a time of great change in the structure and nature of the armed forces. The British Army had not performed well in the Crimean War of the early 1850s. The British Navy commanded the seas but with an agressive foreign policy from both Disraeli and Gladstone the British Empire needed an effective army too. The Royal Artillery was expanded to 29 horse batteries, 73 field batteries and 88 heavy batteries and given additional responsibilities like coastal defence.
Captain Hall, a big guns man, enjoyed a posting to Bermuda during its infamous fox hunting period. From 1873 to 1976 RA officers were minded to import foxes and hounds so that they could partake in their usual sport of riding to hounds. Captain Hall was stationed at St Georges from 1873 to 1875.
As Major Hall he had responsibility for a Coastal Defence Battery guarding the fortifications on the south coast of England at Brockhurst, Porstmouth, then similarly at Alderney and Guernsey. The Channel Islands were under constant threat of invasion or attack. The traditional enemy, France, was now a major rival in Europe's empire building phase but the real enemy was Russia.
The 1870 and 80s were the period when Europe, including Britain, were 'Scrambling for Africa' as the European nations tried to gain footholds on the African continent. Britian was concerned to protect trade routes to India so attention was focussed on the Mediterranean after the opening of the Suez canal in 1869. Major Hall served in Malta in 1882 and Egypt in 1884.
Major Hall was posted to the Citadel, Cairo in February 1884 as part of the reinforcements requested by the Governor Genera,l Charles George Gordon who had been fighting a holy war against the Mahdi since 1882. Major Hall was in command of a mule battery with a 7 pounder. He was recalled to Woolwich Headquarters, June 1884 to be made up to Lieutenant Colonel. His replacement in attempting the rescue of Gordon at Khartoum won the Victoria Cross, posthumously. The rescuers were two days too late and Gordon was beheaded.
Lt Colonel Hall served as Assistant Quarter Master General at Woolwich until his retirement in 1895. He retired to Overbury, Gloucestershire, living with his sister and her husband the Reverend Glynn. Like many heavy gun officers William Hall never married. In modern terms he would have been a computer 'geek' or 'nerd' intersted only in the technical details of his calling. Royal Artillery officers did not buy their commissions but earned them through examinations and experience.
An older brother joined the Navy and rose to the rank of Admiral, commanding the West India Station.
Another sister, Sarah Justina, married Duncan Davidson of Tulloch and after his death in 1881 moved to Angel Court in Fortrose.
William eventually moved north to be closer to this sister on her ill health and subsequently settled in the Precincts at Fortrose in 1902. In the years that followed he served 2 terms on the School Board and was a member of the Town Council.
William Hall died on January 11th 1912, aged 72.
A close friend of William Maclean, he assisted in the excavation of a cave at Rosemarkie. Colonel Hall's expertise in surveying and field sketching as well as his extensive local knowledge made him a valuable asset. The Royal Artillery had a reputation as 'antiquarians' and collected material from archaeological sites all over the world for the Royal Artillery Museum. Colonel Hall's interest in the subject led him to become a Fellow of the Society Of Antiquaries of London and a member of the Bristol and Gloucester Archaeological Society while he was living at Overbury.
'Colonel Hall's literary and scientific interests were remarkably wide and varied; and in many branches of knowledge, including botany and geology, he was a keen and enthusiastic student. Not less thorough and intelligent was the attention he devoted to antiquarian pursuits, and few men knew more familiarly the district in which he resided, or for that matter, all Scotland, especially on the archaeological, historical and natural history sides.'
Ross-Shire Journal; January 19, 1912
Photo: Colonel Hall's grave, Rosemarkie Churchyard