Family of Great War soldier want chance to pay respects

Susan Nicholls at the grave; below, Lance Corporal Michael Hall. Picture: OX66841 Antony Moore

Susan Nicholls at the grave; below, Lance Corporal Michael Hall. Picture: OX66841 Antony Moore Buy this photo

First published in News thisisoxfordshire: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Abingdon and Wantage, South Oxford and Kennington. Call me on 01865 425431

A MOTHER-of-three is battling to be able to lay poppies on her war veteran grandfather’s grave.

Susan Nicholls, 57, from Littlemore said when she discovered that Lance Corporal Michael Hall was buried in an unmarked pauper’s grave in Rose Hill cemetery she was told she couldn’t lay poppies there because it had since been sold to somebody else.

But she wants Oxford City Council to reconsider the decision in the centenary year of the First World War.

Mrs Nicholls, who works as a cleaner at Oxford University’s Lincoln College, said: “It would mean a lot to me to put poppies there in the centenary of the First World War.

“I would like to be able to lay a wreath and the council should reconsider this.

“I tried to say to them, he fought in two world wars and spent 20 years in the army but they just weren’t interested.”

Oxford city councillor for Rose Hill, Ed Turner, has now contacted the city’s head of cemeteries, Trevor Jackson, on Mrs Nicholls’ behalf.

Mr Turner said: “Anything being laid on the grave would need permission of the holder to the deed to that grave, but the council would have no problem with a memorial plaque being placed nearby and would be pleased to be contacted by Mrs Nicholls to discuss where this could best be placed.”

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Mrs Nicholls said she was “disappointed” not to be able to lay flowers, but would contact the council to arrange for a commemorative plaque.

The city council still offers pauper’s graves, but does not keep a record of how many there are.

Born in Ireland, Lance Cpl Hall served as a drummer with the Royal Irish Fusiliers in the First World War.

He fought in the trenches in France and was also deployed to India.

After the war, he married Amy Grace Argent in Essex in 1935.

When he was called up to fight in the Second World War, Mrs Hall and her three children, including Mrs Nicholls’ mother Eileen, went to live on a farm in Wheatley.


Lance Corporal Michael Hall

After L Cpl Hall returned home a decorated veteran, the family stayed in Oxford. He worked as a cobbler, while Mrs Hall took care of their children. When he died in the 1950s, she didn’t have enough money to buy him a headstone, so he was buried in an unmarkedgrave.

Mrs Nicholls said her mother did not speak about her father, and it wasn’t until two years ago, caring for her elderly disabled aunt, that she learnt he was buried in Rose Hill cemetery.

The grave is now occupied by two members of the same family who died in 1994 and 1995.

Mrs Nicholls contacted the Oxford Mail after Eric Pickles’ Department for Communities and Local Government announced a £100,000 fund to restore the graves of Victoria Cross recipients from the First World War, including that of Sgt Maj Edward Brooks at Rose Hill cemetery.


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