William Hall was born on April 28, 1827 in Nova Scotia. He was the son of free slaves.
He volunteered for the Royal Navy sometime before 1852 and was decorated in the Crimean War in 1854-55. In 1857, he was sent with a brigade of sailors to Lucknow, India to relieve the British garrison besieged there. Only Hall and one officer survived and between them, they loaded and served the last gun. For this, he won the Victoria Cross, making him the first coloured man to do so.
Hall rose to the position of Quartermaster and Petty Officer before retiring in 1876. He died at home in Avonport, Nova Scotia on August 25, 1904.