William Reginald Hall
Admiral (United Kingdom)
Admiral is a senior rank of the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom, which equates to the NATO rank code OF-9, outranked only by the rank Admiral of the Fleet...

 Sir William Reginald Hall, KCMG, CB
Order of the Bath
The Most Honourable Order of the Bath is a British order of chivalry founded by George I on 18 May 1725. The name derives from the elaborate mediæval ceremony for creating a knight, which involved bathing as one of its elements. The knights so created were known as Knights of the Bath...

, RN
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 (28 June 1870 – 22 October 1943) was the British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 Director of Naval Intelligence (DNI) from 1914 to 1919. Together with Sir Alfred Ewing he was responsible for the establishment of the Royal Navy's
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 codebreaking operation, Room 40
Room 40
In the history of Cryptanalysis, Room 40 was the section in the Admiralty most identified with the British cryptoanalysis effort during the First World War.Room 40 was formed in October 1914, shortly after the start of the war...

, which decoded the Zimmerman telegram, a major factor in the entry of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 in World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...


Royal Navy career

William Hall was born in Britford, Wiltshire, eldest son of Captain
Captain (Royal Navy)
Captain is a senior officer rank of the Royal Navy. It ranks above Commander and below Commodore and has a NATO ranking code of OF-5. The rank is equivalent to a Colonel in the British Army or Royal Marines and to a Group Captain in the Royal Air Force. The rank of Group Captain is based on the...

 William Henry Hall
William Henry Hall
Captain William Henry Hall was the first Director of Naval Intelligence of the Royal Navy.Hall was thought of highly by John A. Fisher, who had requested him to act as Commander in HMS Inflexible, which Fisher was to captain and which was under construction at the time. Hall had to decline the...

, the first head of Naval Intelligence, who married the daughter of the reverend Thomas Armfield from Armley, Leeds. Hall decided on a naval career for himself when taken on a cruise on board HMS Flamingo
HMS Flamingo
Two ships of the Royal Navy have been named HMS Flamingo, after the bird.* The first Flamingo was a composite screw gunvessel launched in 1876, sent to harbour service in 1893, and sold 1923....

 by his father. He joined the training ship HMS Britannia
Britannia Royal Naval College
Britannia Royal Naval College is the initial officer training establishment of the Royal Navy, located on a hill overlooking Dartmouth, Devon, England. While Royal Naval officer training has taken place in the town since 1863, the buildings which are seen today were only finished in 1905, and...

 in 1884 and two years later was appointed to the armoured cruiser Northampton
HMS Northampton (1876)
HMS Northampton was a armoured cruiser of the Royal Navy, built by Robert Napier & Sons, Govan, Scotland and launched in 1876. The Nelson class were "essentially second-class ironclads". She was launched in 1876 but not commissioned until 1881....

. After a year he was transferred to the ironclad battleship Bellerophon
HMS Bellerophon (1865)
HMS Bellerophon was a central battery ironclad built for the Royal Navy in the mid-1860s.-Design and description:In this ship, designed by Sir Edward Reed, the power-to-weight ratio was increased; the long rows of guns on the broadside were replaced by a small number of guns, centrally placed, of...

 which was part of the North American Station. In 1889 he became acting sub-lieutenant before attending courses for his Lieutenants examinations at Greenwich, the gunnery school and torpedo school where he achieved first class grades in all five of the subjects. Now as Lieutenant he was posted to the China Station
China Station
The China Station was a historical formation of the British Royal Navy. It was formally the units and establishments responsible to the Commander-in-Chief, China....

 where he served on the flagship, the armoured cruiser Imperieuse
HMS Imperieuse (1883)
HMS Imperieuse was the lead ship of the Imperieuse-class of first-class armoured cruiser, built at Portsmouth and launched on 18 December 1883. She was the flagship of the China Station from 1889 to 1894 and the Pacific Station from 1896 to 1899....

. In 1892 he was recommended to train as a gunnery officer, which involved a course in mathematics at Greenwich Royal Naval College
Old Royal Naval College
The Old Royal Naval College is the architectural centrepiece of Maritime Greenwich, a World Heritage Site in Greenwich, London, described by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation as being of “outstanding universal value” and reckoned to be the “finest and most...

 followed by a years course at the gunnery school at HMS Excellent at Whale Island
Whale Island
Whale Island is the name of several islands, including:* Whale Island, Canada* Whale Island, New Zealand* Whale Island, United Kingdom* Whale Island, an island in the Torres Strait, Queensland, Australia...

, Portsmouth. Having qualified he remained for a year on the staff.

In 1894 he married Ethel de Wiveslie Abbey, daughter of Sir William. The engagement had begun when he was aged 19, five years before, but at the time this was still considered a young age for a naval officer to get married. In 1895 he was appointed as gunnery lieutenant on the cruiser Australia where he served for two years before being appointed to the senior staff at Whale Island. In 1901, after promotion to commander, he served on the battleship Magnificent
HMS Magnificent (1894)
HMS Magnificent was one of the nine Majestic-class battleships of the Royal Navy .-Technical characteristics:HMS Magnificent was laid down on 18 December 1893 at Chatham Dockyard...

, flagship of the second in command of the Channel Fleet
Channel Fleet
The Channel Fleet was the Royal Navy formation of warships that defended the waters of the English Channel from 1690 to 1909.-History:The Channel Fleet dates back at least to 1690 when its role was to defend England against the French threat under the leadership of Edward Russell, 1st Earl of...


He was promoted to Commander
Commander is a naval rank which is also sometimes used as a military title depending on the individual customs of a given military service. Commander is also used as a rank or title in some organizations outside of the armed forces, particularly in police and law enforcement.-Commander as a naval...

 in 1898.

In 1904 he became commander of the predreadnought battleship Cornwallis
HMS Cornwallis (1901)
HMS Cornwallis was a Duncan-class predreadnought battleship of the Royal Navy.-Technical Description:HMS Cornwallis was laid down by Thames Ironworks and Shipbuilding Company at Leamouth, London on 19 July 1899 and launched on 13 July 1901...

 which was commissioning with a new crew to operate in the Mediterranean. Hall had a reputation as a strict disciplinarian with an ability to get the best out of a crew, so he was given some of the worst sailors to bring up to scratch. A trick of disaffected sailors was to remove gunsights and throw them overboard, and indeed this happened. Hall instructed the master at arms to look out for two sailors who had previously been friends but who now avoided each other. He took one, told him that the other had confessed they had removed the sights, and the sailor duly confessed. Behaviour on board improved. Although Hall imposed discipline strictly, he also showed concern for the men he commanded and for their welfare, which was unusual for that time. He took particular care for the boys and junior seamen.

In December 1905 he was promoted to Captain and appointed by the First Sea Lord, Sir John Fisher as Inspecting Captain of the new Mechanical Training Establishments, which Fisher had established to give engineering training to ordinary sailors (1906-7). He was next appointed captain of the cadet training ship HMS Cornwall
HMS Cornwall
Seven ships of the Royal Navy have been named HMS Cornwall after the Duchy of Cornwall. Cornwall's motto is unus et omnes ....

. Although not a conventional warship, this now involved Hall in intelligence work. The ship visited foreign ports, particularly in Germany which was now seen as the navy's greatest potential enemy, and Hall started the tour with a long list of places to investigate. In Kiel he was tasked with discovering how many slips had been constructed for building large vessels. To do this he devised a ruse with the help of the Duke of Westminster, who was visiting the port and agreed to lend his motor boat for the task. Hall and a couple of officers dressed down as sailors and took the yacht on a full speed circuit of the harbour, pretending to break down by the naval dockyard. A concealed camera was then used to take photographs of the installations. More information was discovered by careful questions ashore.

In 1910 two officers, Lieutenant Brandon and Captain Trench, who had been part of Hall's crew gathering intelligence were sent on a 'holiday' in Germany to collect information about coastal defences by Captain Regnart of the intelligence division. The two were captured and served two and a half years of a four year sentence, before being pardoned in May 1913 as part of a visit by King George V
George V
George V was king of the United Kingdom and its dominions from 1910 to 1936.George V or similar terms may also refer to:-People:* George V of Georgia * George V of Imereti * George V of Hanover...

 to Germany. The admiralty then denied any responsibility for what had happened to the pair and their considerable financial loss as a result. When appointed director of intelligence, Hall arranged for them to be compensated.

Hall was appointed to the armoured cruiser Natal
HMS Natal (1905)
HMS Natal was a Duke of Edinburgh-class armoured cruiser built for the Royal Navy in the mid-1900s. She escorted the royal yacht in 1911–1912 for the newly-crowned King George V's trip to India to attend the Delhi Durbar. During World War I the ship was assigned to the 2nd Cruiser Squadron of the...

 following the death of her captain, F.C.A. Ogilvy. Ogilvy had obtained a high reputation for his ship which had beaten all records at gunnery but Hall managed to step into Ogilvy's place, retaining the confidence of the crew and bettering the gunnery record the following year. His reputation for unorthodox treatment of his men continued to grow, making it his business to reform recalcitrant sailors rather than simply punishing them. He had the knack of threatening men with punishments he could not deliver (such as dismissal from the service) if they did not reform, and succeeded. Natal was called upon to assist a sailing ship, the Celtic Race, which had lost most of her sails in a storm and was in danger of sinking. Despite the risk to his own ship, he escorted Celtic Race into Milford Haven. He was rewarded by the owners and underwriters, being presented with a silver table centrepiece by the Lord Mayor of Liverpool on their behalf.

From 1911-13 he served as Assistant to the Controller
Third Sea Lord
The Third Sea Lord and Controller of the Navy was formerly the Naval Lord and member of the Board of Admiralty responsible for procurement and matériel in the British Royal Navy...

 of the Royal Navy.

In 1913 he became captain of the battle cruiser Queen Mary
HMS Queen Mary
HMS Queen Mary was a battlecruiser built by the British Royal Navy before World War I, the sole member of her class. She was similar to the s, though she differed in details from her half-sisters. She was the last battlecruiser completed before the war and participated in the Battle of Heligoland...

. When he took over he was asked to take part in an experiment by the admiralty to dispense with ships police, transferring their duties to petty officers. He also introduced an innovation of his own, to divide the ships crew into three watches rather than the customary two. Hall believed that in the war with Germany which he expected, it would be impossible to run a ship continuously with just two watches. The change attracted much ridicule but when war came it was adopted on all large ships. A religious man, he arranged that a chapel was provided on board the ship, and this innovation too was adopted generally. He felt it important that the authority of petty officers should be boosted, and he did this by improving their quarters. He arranged for washing machines on board, for the convenience of the officers who no longer had to pay for laundry ashore, and to the benefit of sailors who were 'tipped' to carry out the washing. He introduced a bookstore on board, and the navy's first shipboard cinema. Inadequacies in the water supply meant that it took an hour for all the stokers to finish washing after duty. Hall insisted that his engineers find a solution to provide enough hot water that they could all wash in 15 minutes, giving them more free time. These changes too became standard. Hall was criticised for being too soft with his crews, but his requirements for discipline were not relaxed. Rather, he believed that reward was necessary as well as punishment. Living conditions in society were improving generally and he believed the navy must keep pace with standards ashore.

Queen Mary took part in the battlecruiser squadron's visit to Cronstadt, where the fleet officers and sailors were entertained by the Russian royal family, and a lavish ball was held on board ship as the culmination of the visit. It was the last such visit before world war I commenced and the battlecruisers transferred to their initial wartime base at Scapa Flow
Scapa Flow
right|thumb|Scapa Flow viewed from its eastern endScapa Flow is a body of water in the Orkney Islands, Scotland, United Kingdom, sheltered by the islands of Mainland, Graemsay, Burray, South Ronaldsay and Hoy. It is about...

. Ships spent large amounts of time at sea, before the strategic situation became clearer and the fear of immediate German raids diminished. Queen Mary took part in the Battle of Heligoland Bight, where the battlecruisers were called upon to support a raid by destroyers and cruisers against German patrol ships operating off Heligoland. The raid was hailed as a British success, although behind the scenes it was marred by poor communications between the British forces involved.

Hall's health had deteriorated under the stress of continuous sea service, and after three months matters had reached the point where he was obliged to request posting away from the ship.

Director of the Intelligence Divisions

His seagoing career cut short by ill-health, Hall was appointed Director of the Intelligence Division (DID) by the Admiralty
The Admiralty was formerly the authority in the Kingdom of England, and later in the United Kingdom, responsible for the command of the Royal Navy...

 in October 1914, replacing Captain Henry Oliver
Henry Oliver
Admiral of the Fleet Sir Henry Francis Oliver, GCB, KCMG, MVO was a British naval officer.-Naval career:...

. According to Oliver, Hall's wife wrote to him on behalf of her husband requesting that he replace Oliver in the Intelligence Division. Hall served as DID (the title eventually reverted to the pre-1911 "DNI") until January 1919 when he retired from active duty. It turned out to be a fortunate appointment, for he was responsible for building up the naval intelligence organization during the war, encouraged codebreaking and radio-intercept efforts and provided the fleet with good intelligence, making the NID the pre-eminent British intelligence agency during the war. He also encouraged cooperation with other British intelligence organizations, such as MI5
The Security Service, commonly known as MI5 , is the United Kingdom's internal counter-intelligence and security agency and is part of its core intelligence machinery alongside the Secret Intelligence Service focused on foreign threats, Government Communications Headquarters and the Defence...

 (under Vernon Kell), MI6 (under Mansfield Smith-Cumming
Mansfield Smith-Cumming
Captain Sir George Mansfield Smith-Cumming, KCMG, CB was the first director of what would become the Secret Intelligence Service , also known as MI6...

) and the Special Branch
Special Branch
Special Branch is a label customarily used to identify units responsible for matters of national security in British and Commonwealth police forces, as well as in the Royal Thai Police...

 of Scotland Yard
Scotland Yard
Scotland Yard is a metonym for the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police Service of London, UK. It derives from the location of the original Metropolitan Police headquarters at 4 Whitehall Place, which had a rear entrance on a street called Great Scotland Yard. The Scotland Yard entrance became...

 (under Basil Thomson
Basil Thomson
Sir Basil Home Thomson, KCB was a British intelligence officer, police officer, prison governor, colonial administrator, and writer.-Early life:...


Easter Rising

Thanks to intercepts from Room 40, Hall was instrumental in the interception of the steamer Aud on 21 April 1916 by HMS Bluebell
HMS Bluebell (1915)
HMS Bluebell was an Acacia-class minesweeping sloop of the Royal Navy launched on 24 July 1915.The Aud was intercepted by HMS Bluebell as she carried arms to Ireland for the Easter Rising in 1916.She was sold in May 1930....

, which was carrying German arms to Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

. The following day the man who had organised the arms shipment, Sir Roger Casement
Roger Casement
Roger David Casement —Sir Roger Casement CMG between 1911 and shortly before his execution for treason, when he was stripped of his British honours—was an Irish patriot, poet, revolutionary, and nationalist....

, was arrested in Tralee Bay
Tralee Bay
Tralee Bay is located in on the west coast of County Kerry, Ireland. It is situated between Kerry Head on the north side and the Maharees on the west and extends eastwards as far as the bridge at Blennerville. Several small rivers feed into the bay through the town of Tralee...

 after disembarking from a German U-Boat. Hall was aware of the upcoming Easter Rising
Easter Rising
The Easter Rising was an insurrection staged in Ireland during Easter Week, 1916. The Rising was mounted by Irish republicans with the aims of ending British rule in Ireland and establishing the Irish Republic at a time when the British Empire was heavily engaged in the First World War...

 in Dublin, but refused to reveal his sources, so that when information of the rising did reach the government, its authenticity was questioned. Hall interrogated Casement and allegedly refused Casement the opportunity of making a public demand for the cancellation of the uprising.

The 'German Plot'

When the United States broke off diplomatic relations with Germany, intercepted traffic between the US German legation and Berlin dried up as a key source of British intelligence. Less reliable information was used by intelligence chiefs including Admiral Hall, such as 'spy-obsessed loyalist residents in Ireland.' The mass arrests of known Sinn Féin activists, following the discovery of a spurious 'German Plot'
German Plot (Ireland, May 1918)
The "German Plot" was a conspiracy alleged in May 1918 by the Dublin Castle administration in Ireland to exist between the Sinn Féin movement and the German Empire to start an armed insurrection in Ireland during World War I...

 in Ireland has been interpreted as:

a striking illustration of the apparent manipulation of intelligence in order to prod the Irish authorities into more forceful action...when the British Government was unable to provide convincing evidence of a 'German Plot', nationalist Ireland concluded that it had been invented as retribution for the defeat of conscription.'

In this analysis Irish public opinion was wrong. Based on the faulty intelligence information made available to them, 'British ministers sincerely believed the threat was real'.

German counter-intelligence

Room 40's decryptions also led to the capture of Captain Franz von Rintelen
Franz von Rintelen
Captain Franz Dagobert Johannes von Rintelen was a German Naval Intelligence officer in the United States during World War I....

, a German Naval Intelligence officer who had firebombed munitons ships and factories in the neutral United States.

In 1917, Hall was awarded the Japanese Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star
Order of the Rising Sun
The is a Japanese order, established in 1875 by Emperor Meiji of Japan. The Order was the first national decoration awarded by the Japanese Government, created on April 10, 1875 by decree of the Council of State. The badge features rays of sunlight from the rising sun...

, which represents the second highest of eight classes associated with the award. In that same year, he was promoted to Rear-Admiral. He was knighted in 1918 and was promoted to Vice-Admiral in 1922 and to full Admiral
Admiral is the rank, or part of the name of the ranks, of the highest naval officers. It is usually considered a full admiral and above vice admiral and below admiral of the fleet . It is usually abbreviated to "Adm" or "ADM"...

 in 1926, both on the retired list.

Political career

Upon retirement Hall served as a Conservative
Conservative Party (UK)
The Conservative Party, formally the Conservative and Unionist Party, is a centre-right political party in the United Kingdom that adheres to the philosophies of conservatism and British unionism. It is the largest political party in the UK, and is currently the largest single party in the House...

 Member of Parliament
Member of Parliament
A Member of Parliament is a representative of the voters to a :parliament. In many countries with bicameral parliaments, the term applies specifically to members of the lower house, as upper houses often have a different title, such as senate, and thus also have different titles for its members,...

 (MP) for Liverpool West Derby from 1919 to 1923, then for Eastbourne
Eastbourne (UK Parliament constituency)
Eastbourne is a parliamentary constituency represented in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It elects one Member of Parliament by the first-past-the-post system of election. Traditionally a safe Conservative seat, Eastbourne became very marginal following the 1990...

 1925-29. As an MP, in 1919 he and a group of industrialists founded a group to counter subversive actions against free enterprise known as National Propaganda, which was later renamed the Economic League (UK)
Economic League (UK)
The Economic League was an organisation in the United Kingdom dedicated to opposing what they saw as subversion and action against free enterprise....

. Even in the House of Commons
British House of Commons
The House of Commons is the lower house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which also comprises the Sovereign and the House of Lords . Both Commons and Lords meet in the Palace of Westminster. The Commons is a democratically elected body, consisting of 650 members , who are known as Members...

 he was still said to be involved in the Zinoviev letter
Zinoviev Letter
The "Zinoviev Letter" refers to a controversial document published by the British press in 1924, allegedly sent from the Communist International in Moscow to the Communist Party of Great Britain...

 affair in 1924, which led to the victory of the Conservatives in the general election of that year
United Kingdom general election, 1924
- Seats summary :- References :* F. W. S. Craig, British Electoral Facts: 1832-1987* - External links :* * *...

. In the 1920s and 1930s he travelled extensively in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 to give lectures on intelligence gathering matters. Too old to return to active service on the outbreak of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, Hall nevertheless served in the British Home Guard
British Home Guard
The Home Guard was a defence organisation of the British Army during the Second World War...

 until his death.

Hall was described by the U.S. Ambassador to the Court of St. James's
Court of St. James's
The Court of St James's is the royal court of the United Kingdom. It previously had the same function in the Kingdom of England and in the Kingdom of Great Britain .-Overview:...

 Walter Page
Walter Hines Page
Walter Hines Page was an American journalist, publisher, and diplomat. He was the United States ambassador to the United Kingdom during World War I.-Biography:...

 as a "clear case of genius", while American attaché Edward Bell described him as "a perfectly marvelous person but the coldest-hearted proposition that ever was — he'd eat a man's heart and hand it back to him."

He was known as "Blinker" on account of a chronic facial twitch, which caused one of his eyes to "flash like a Navy signal lamp". His daughter attributed this to childhood malnutrition. (He had attended a military boarding school in which the boys had to fill their bellies by stealing turnips from neighbouring farms.)

Honours and awards

  • Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George
  • Companion of the Order of the Bath
  • Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star
    Order of the Rising Sun
    The is a Japanese order, established in 1875 by Emperor Meiji of Japan. The Order was the first national decoration awarded by the Japanese Government, created on April 10, 1875 by decree of the Council of State. The badge features rays of sunlight from the rising sun...

  • Commander of the Order of St. Maurice and St. Lazarus (Italy)
  • Commander of the Legion of Honour (France)
  • Distinguished Service Medal (United States)
    Distinguished Service Medal (United States)
    The Distinguished Service Medal is the highest non-valorous military and civilian decoration of the United States military which is issued for exceptionally meritorious service to the government of the United States in either a senior government service position or as a senior officer of the United...

  • Grand Officer of the Order of the Crown of Italy
    Order of the Crown of Italy
    The Order of the Crown of Italy was founded as a national order in 1868 by King Vittorio Emanuele II, to commemorate the unification of Italy in 1861...

External links

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