All Saints' Church, East Finchley

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Vincent Hall

For those of you who couldn't be at the Parish Mass on 14 May, you will find below information on Vincent Hall and the background to the commemorative medal which is now on display next to his memorial in the South Aisle.  

Frederick Vincent Hall (1898-1918)

At the end of the Parish Mass on 14 May 2017, All Saints’ received a commemorative medal given by the town of Dunkerque to Barnet War Memorials Association.  This replaces the one awarded to Flight Sub-Lieutenant Frederick Vincent Hall in thanks for his part in the defence of the town against German attack.  

Frederick Vincent Hall – known to his family as Vin – was the only child of Frederick Hall, a solicitor, and his wife Florence.  He was born on 20 March 1898 in Finchley, but soon after the family moved to Muswell Hill Road and lived there throughout Vin’s childhood.  He was educated at Highgate School and then Eastbourne College.  In July 1916 he was gazetted as a Flight Sub Lieutenant in No 10 (Naval) Squadron of the Royal Naval Air Service.  He spent a couple of weeks at Crystal Palace before being sent to the Royal Naval Air Station at Chingford, and got his flying certificate there on a Grahame-White Biplane on 1 December 1916.

After further training on Sopwith Pups, Vin was posted to No 4 Naval Squadron on 26 April, and on 2 May 1917 he took part in the action which we remember today.  The French town of Dunkerque was suffering many aerial attacks from German planes, and early that afternoon Vin Hall and his observer (Wing Commander Newbury) were searching for a German Albatross plane flying at high altitude over Dunkerque and Bergues.  Watched by many residents of Dunkerque they engaged the German plane, scoring several hits, and it fell to ground killing both the pilot and the observer.  The local paper recorded the event in graphic detail over three days, and noted that the two British officers came to salute the bodies of their opponents before their removal.  In gratitude for their action in protecting the town of Dunkerque Vin and Wing Commander Newbury were awarded commemorative medals by the Mayor.

Vin had been reassigned to No 8 Naval Squadron on 5 May, and was shot down on 23 May which meant he had to spend some weeks in Chatham Hospital requiring treatment for bullet wounds in his leg.  He was therefore unable to be present in person to receive his medal, and its whereabouts are now unknown.  

After his recovery Vin rejoined No 10 Naval Squadron flying Sopwith Camels and was very active over France and Belgium, engaging amongst others with the notorious Baron von Richtofen.  When the RAF was formed from the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service on 1 April 1918 Vin’s squadron was renamed No 210 Squadron, and he was given temporary promotion to Captain.  He had a total of seven successes in aerial combat making him an ‘ace’, before his luck ran out and he was killed on 15 May 1918, possibly in collision with another Camel during combat.

He is buried in Ebblinghem Military Cemetery on the edge of a wood outside Hazebrouck.  This is a very small cemetery, and like so many others in that area it was originally a casualty clearing station.  Vin’s gravestone bears the inscription ‘For whom we return thanks to God’.   His parents had a memorial plaque to their son erected in All Saints’ Church which the family had attended while he was growing up, and he is included on our parish memorial.  After their son’s death they moved to Tiptree in Essex, and Vin’s name is also recorded on the village war memorial there as well as on Eastbourne College’s Roll of Honour.  There is also a memorial to Vin in the General Cemetry in Hull, his father's home town.

In the London Gazette of 1 January 1919 Flight Lieutenant F V Hall was Mentioned in Despatches.

After the war Vin’s family published some of his letters and his flying log in a memorial book, and a copy of this is held in the RAF Museum in Hendon.  We have a facsimile which will be on display on the window sill next to Vin’s memorial.

Below are some words from the Archdeacon's homily on 14 May 2017:

"When Jesus tells his disciples on the night before he died "Let not your hearts be troubled, trust in God and trust also in me", he was not  saying that there would not be trial or darkness, anger, hate or suffering ahead but that in all the times of trail and darkness, anger, hate and suffering we are never alone but Jesus is there with us with his hands outstretched willing us to place our hands into his hand, our lives into his life.

24 years ago, a young man of 19 years' old was slain in the streets of our great city.  It was just another night in the month of April, with a young man standing waiting for a bus.  His name was Stephen.  As he lay on the cold hard pavement of a south London street, his life ebbing from his pierced body, a stranger (a woman) came and held his dying body and whispered over and over again as he slipped from this world to the next the words "Jesus loves you".  The death of this young man, Stephen Lawrence, in the last decade of the 20th centry has had a profound influence on British society.

100 years ago, a young man had the courage to answer the call from his country to serve;  he stepped into the fragile frame of a bi-plane and took to the skies to defend the civilians of a small town called Dunkirk, a town that 25 years' later became the focus of one of the greatest achievements in the face of defeat that this country recalls in the history of the 20th century.  

I am not sure if any of us have the details of Vincent's last moments.  I imagine that, for him, there was no one to hold him and remind him that in death he was not alone.  But we recall that fact this morning and to Vincent we say "thank you" and, in thanking him, remind ourselves that his trust, his courage and his death, along with the sacrifice and loss of millions of others in those terrible years of the First World War changed the world.

In the Upper Room, Jesus declares to his disciples:  "Trust in God and trust in me.  I am going to prepare a place for you so that where I am you may be also."

These words remain true for those first disciples to whom Jesus was speaking as they do to every one of us who place our trust in God, through Jesus Christ.  They are true for Vincent and for you and me this morning.

As we recall with thankfulness his sacrifice, so we recall the sacrifice of our Lord 2000 years' ago and all those who have since been prepared to show that greatest love - to lay down their lives for another.

In this act of remembrance and thankfulness, we are grateful for the opportunity to dedicate our lives anew this morning to the ways of peace that come from trust in God and that will allow life to flourish and become abundant.  We meet with Jesus this morning with our hands outstretched to receive his body and our parched tongue ready to taste the wine of his love.

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!"

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