When he was a lad Bert’s father made him learn to swim saying one day it might save a life, he was wrong…. It saved two.
Bert may not be one of the first names recalled when thinking of our past players but his story should never to be forgotten.
I read Bert's story in my boys comic as a lad and later heard it from Spurs supporters of the time.
Its a tale I've wanted to bring you for a while, sadly there seems few good images of him.
Albert Edwards Hall was born in Barry, South Wales in 1918. In 1932 he and his brother saw a seven year old girl struggling in a pond near their home and Bert (as he was always known) dived in and pulled her to safety. For this act h e was awarded Royal Humane Award for Bravery.
His father had been a player with Swansea Town and thought his son would become a boxer. However when Bert won the first of his three Welsh schoolboys caps he was spotted by a Spurs scout who said he was a trier with lots of stamina as well as a powerful shot. Bert won three caps at that level, scoring once, in the England game.
He would join the clubs nursery side they then run at Ebbw Vale and was a member of the South Wales XI which they brought to Tottenham when they played the local schoolboys with the club. Once again he scored, his side lost 1-7 but he had done enough to sign for Spurs as an amateur and he played for the junior side during 1934/5.
Being an amateur he was found work at Haywards a local factory and trained several evenings a week at the ground. He then lived in one of the houses the club owned at the time in Roedean Avenue and several first teamers lived next door. He turned professional in the autumn of 1935.
Left - One of the few pictures of Bert I could find displaying his balance with Andy Duncan.
He quickly won good reviews and was promoted to the reserve side. Although he could play anywhere in the front line he was normally an inside forward but it was as a right winger in April 1936 he made his debut at Norwich in a league game but he didn’t become a regular until 1938 and his first goal came against Sheffield United that autumn. The season before that he played in the side that won London Challenge Cup beating Arsenal in the final and scored 22 times in 31 reserve games.
He played for Spurs and Norwich at the beginning of World War 2 before joining the Royal Artillery and was captured by the Japanese at the fall of Singapore in 1942. As a prisoner of war Bert was tortured by his captives and held at the notorious Changi camp and was forced to work on the building of a railway for the invaders.
In September 1944 he was being transported by ship to Japan when it was attacked by American submarines and his ship was on was one of two sunk. For the next four days he clung to bits of wreckage and rafts watching friends perish in front of him before the Americans returned to the area and rescued him and he was taken aboard the submarine
Sealion, the same vessel which had sunk his vessel. The convoy had set off with more than two thousand POW’s, 159 were saved by the American’s, just over 600 had been picked up by the Japanese. More than fourteen hundred were lost.
This from 1939 Andy Duncan, Bert, Willie Hall,
There were three Hall's on the Spurs books at the time.
Returning to England via the USA he rejoined Spurs. People who knew him say he wasn’t the same man as he was before his capture and many thought his play never reached the same heights. In April 1947 he moved to Plymouth to play under his former Spurs boss Jack Tresarden but moved on to non-league football within a few months.
In the later years he would display signs of what we would these days post traumatic stress caused by his wartime experiences. He was a regular to watch Spurs play until he moved away from the area but continued to closely follow the sides fortunes until he passed away in 1988.
Bert scored 10 times in 41 league games for Spurs and 1 in 4 FA Cup ties. He also scored 10 war time goals in 33 games. What he may have achieved but for the intervention of the war we will never know. Some thought he would have played for his country.
Albert Hall, once a Lilywhite.
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