Walsall Wood Trooper Henry Hall: A message from The Netherlands

A few weeks ago I featured a post here telling the remarkable story of a soldier from Walsall Wood – Trooper Henry Hall – who died in the liberation of Dieteren in The Netherlands from Nazi occupation, and of the remarkable endeavour being undertaken there by historian Henk Penders and his fellow historians who are gradually building up a documented history to honour those lost in the relief of their village.

Much work is still ongoing both here, undertaken by the indefatigable David Evans and of course back in Dieteren, yet I think we are still to find any relatives of Henry. If we could find someone, it would be most wonderful. The search is still ongoing.

In the meantime, Henk sent me this remarkable film, covering the liberation of Susteren and the part in that battle played by Major John Evans, who lost an arm there, not far from Dieteren. It is a stunning and emotive piece of work and beautifully crafted, but also gut-wrenching in it’s realism.

Henk said:

A local made documentary film about the liberation of Susteren and Major John Evans who got injured (lost his arm) during the battle.

After [the] war a school [which later became derelict and was demolished] was named after Major Evans and there is a street named after him.

On the house were he got injured there is a plaquette about it.

The film was made by Cor Voorter and Ton Vranken, two people I know. They live in Susteren and that is their focus.

I have no contribution to the making of it.

I researched the liberation of Dieteren, this was the first objective of operation Blackcock, this was for long unknown to the local people as only the liberation of Susteren was known.

Henk Penders

It’s worth noting that the name of the offensive – Operation Blackcock – was nothing to do with Henry Hall or Walsall Wood, although there is a notable pub in Walsall Wood called The Black Cock. How much of a coincidence is that?

My thanks to Henk for pointing out this film – it’s great to see the people of The Netherlands honouring those who fell so beautifully and with such attention to detail. May we never forget. Thanks are also due to David Evans, whose energy in this enquiry is wonderful and ceaseless.

I include the original post below, and would ask readers to note that the request for relatives of Henry Hall is still live and ongoing.

If you can help, please comment here, mail me on BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com or tug my sleeve on social media.

Original post:

Hello folks – I have a very important request here from blog contributor, friend and historian David Evans who is helping a team from the Netherlands uncover the history of the forces that liberated their village of Dieteren in 1945. One of the lads to be lost was from Walsall Wood, Trooper Henry Hall.

‘Dieteren, Occupied by the Germans May 10, 1940 Liberated by the English January 16, 1945’ – Image from Henk Penders and the Liberation of Dieteren website to which he contributes.

My thanks and best wishes to all involved in this, it’s a stunning example of collaborative history and international cooperation, which is hugely prescient in light of the times.

I’ll let David explain:

Very recently a request was posted in the comments on Brownhills Bob’s blog for information about a Walsall Wood soldier who had been killed in action in the Netherlands during the Second World War.

Thanks to the wonders of technology – the blog primarily, the internet , the super help given by fellow reader and contributor Andy Dennis, it has been possible to complete most of the request.

In the Netherlands  there is an ongoing local history project to honour those who gave their lives to liberate the village of Dieteren, whereby local resident Mr Henk Penders and others have been compiling a book.

Following a Messenger call with Henk he sent me these links to the site detailing the history – they are in Dutch but if you open in Chrome they translate beautifully to English – they detail a remarkable military liberation operation in which Trooper Hall from Walsall Wood gave his all:

Main site – click here.

The last crossing The Story of Trooper Johnston and the Canadian Kangaroos – part 1

The last crossing The Story of Trooper Johnston and the Canadian Kangaroos – part 2

The remarkable level of detail in what is a fascinating story, both of the events and subsequent historical detective work, is a credit to Henk and those involved. It’s a touching and wonderful thing.

So here’s where help is needed from the community: What of  Trooper Hall?

A sobering document, generously shared by Henk Penders via David Evans. Click for a larger version.

Trooper Henry Hall served in the 9th Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry. The 1939 census confirms the military record, and that he lived in Walsall Road, Walsall Wood before enlisting.

image from the Mayo collection,. from ‘Memories of Old Walsall Wood’ by Bill Mayo and John Sale.

David and Henk are trying to locate surviving members of the Hall family, that Henry may be honoured for his sacrifice. It’s possible that Ivy Hall may still be living locally (that would be possibly Ivy’s maiden name).

If you can help, please contact Bob by commenting here, or emailing him on BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com, or pull him aside and have a word on social media, please.

I would like to express my personal thanks to Mr Andy Dennis for his help and to Brownhills Bob for his expertise and assistance, and to Mr Henk Penders in the Netherlands for his amazing work to honour our fallen.


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