b. 06/08/1887 Kilkeel, Ireland. d. 15/06/1967 Mount Lehman, British Columbia, Canada.
Robert Hill Hanna (1887-1967) was born on 6th August 1887 near Hanna’s Close, Aughnahoory, Kilkeel, County Down, Ireland. His father, also Robert Hill Hanna, was a farmer. He married Sarah (surname unknown) in c.1885. They had a large family of eleven children including Robert, who was the second eldest.
Robert was educated at Ballinran School, near Kilkeel. He emigrated to Canada in 1905 and took up farming initially before working as a logger in British Columbia. He enlisted at Vancouver, British Columbia on 1st November 1914. He was posted to 29th Battalion and sailed for it for Britain on 20th May 1915 on RMS Missanabie. He was fined one day’s pay for being absent 22nd-23rd August. Robert sailed with the Battalion to France on 17th September, arriving in Boulogne the following day. He was a member of a wood cutting party, returning to the Battalion on 6th January 1916. Having contracted German measles, he was admitted to 6th Canadian Field Ambulance on 31st March and No 7 General Hospital, St Omer on 1st April until being discharged on 13th April. He attended a bombing course and was promoted to Lance Corporal on 20th August. He was then promoted to Sergeant on 9th October, and then attended the Canadian Corps Training School from 29th January to 24th February 1917. He was then appointed Acting Company Sergeant Major of B Company on 21st August.
On August 21st, 1917, at Hill 70 Lens, France, Company Sergeant-Major Hanna's company met with most severe enemy resistance at a heavily protected strong point, which had beaten off three assaults and all the officers of the company had become casualties. This warrant officer, under heavy machine-gun and rifle fire, coolly collected and led a party against the strong point, rushed through the wire and personally killed four of the enemy, capturing the position and silencing the machine-gun. This courageous action was responsible for the capture of a most important tactical point.
He was officially promoted to Company Sergeant Major six days later. The VC was presented by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 5th December 1917. He attended officer training and was granted leave to visit his family home in Kilkeel. He received a hero’s welcome in the square from over 3,000 people, who gave him several gifts. On 10th November 1917, he was posted to the Canadian Training He served with 138th Company at Inverness from 4th January until 29th April 1919, then rejoined the CFC Base Depot Sunningdale, reverting to 29th Battalion next day. Robert sailed for Canada on 10th May and was on the strength of District Depot XI, Hastings Park, Vancouver until being demobilised in Ottawa, Ontario on 24th May 1919.
He returned to the lumber industry and managed a logging camp at Aldergrove, British Columbia. In 1930 he married Hannah May Gillis, of Scottish origin, and went back to farming, settling at Bradner Road, Mount Lehman, British Columbia. They had two sons, John and Robert HA Hanna. Robert was also a Freemason, being initiated into Canada Lodge No 3527, London. He was affliated to Lions Gate Lodge No 115, Vancouver on 6th October 1938. Robert attended the VC Centenary Celebrations at Hyde Park, London on 26th June 1956. He died at Mount Lehman, British Columbia on 15th June 1967 and was buried in the Masonic Cemetery, Burnaby, British Columbia.
In addition to his VC, he was also awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, George VI Coronation Medal 1937 and Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953. His medals are understood to be held by the family.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: CANADIAN WAR MUSEUM, OTTAWA.
BURIAL PLACE: MASONIC CEMETERY, BURNABY, BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA.
Cemetery Plans courtesy of Kevin Brazier
PLOT 49, SECTION C, GRAVE 2
War Illustrated, 5th January 1918
Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin (Brian Drummond)
Kilkeel, Northern Ireland courtesy of Brian Drummond
Freemasons Memorial, London (Brian Drummond)
Orange Banner Commissioned by Robert Hill Hanna's former lodge LOL 343b in 2017 to Commemorate the Centenary