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Soldiers of the Regiment

Private James Hall - A Tragic First World War Story

Pilling Territorial’s Suicide

The tragic end of a Territorial was reported from Pilling on Wednesday. A nineteen year old farm labourer, James Hall, received his call to join the Territorial detachment to which he belonged at Fleetwood by Wednesday morning’s post, and shortly afterwards his father heard the report of a gun on the farm. On making investigations he found Hall dead with a bullet wound through the head. The wound had been inflicted, it is stated, with a Territorial rifle, the muzzle of which was in Hall’s mouth. Hall is stated to have been a keen religionist, and it is surmised that he feared the possibility of having to kill his fellow men.

The inquest was held at Simpson’s Tea Rooms on Thursday afternoon, before Mr N Holden, Lancaster, coroner, when the following evidence was give:-

Richard Hall, joiner, Pilling, identified the body as that of his son, James Hall, aged 19 years. He was a farm labourer, and a member of the Fleetwood Company of the 5th King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment. On Tuesday night he came home and said he had seen the mobilisation paper posted up. He seemed ready to go and said he would have to join at Fleetwood. He said nothing more before going to bed. On Wednesday he got up at 8.30 am. After breakfast about 9.30 he went to the shippon and took his rifle with him. After a while witness followed him, and found him trying to clean the rifle with a piece of string. He said he had broken the proper cleaning rod. Witness said he would go into the shop and try and find something to help him. Witness went to the shop, and within two minutes head the rifle shot. He went back and found his son shot. He was leaning over a cow trough dead. His rifle was on the right side, and a piece of wood was under him. Before he left he saw the piece of wood on the ground two of three feet away from where he afterwards found it. Witness did not know he had any ball cartridges with him, but four had been found in the house since. He was quite sane, and never expressed any opinion about going on active service.

PC Strong, Pilling, said at 10 am on Wednesday he received information, and went to the shippon. He found the deceased leaning over the trough, quite dead. The rifle was on the floor under his right arm. The bullet had gone through his head and come out on the left side. He found a bit of wood under him. In the rifle there was a spent ball cartridge. Since then he had received four cartridges, completing the clip. He searched his kit, but found nothing.

The Coroner, in summing up, said the case would have to be treated seriously. The deceased had evidently taken his life at a time when he was perfectly sane. At such times when soldiers were called up to serve their King and Country it was the act of a coward to go and take his own life. The father’s evidence proved that Hall was sane, and he pointed out that they had no alternative but to return a verdict in accordance with the evidence that of felo de se.
The jury returned a verdict of ‘Felo de se.’

Source: Lancaster Guardian, 8th August 1914.


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