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Archive Report: Allied Forces

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.
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405 Squadron Crest
02/03.11.1944 No. 405 Squadron Lancaster III PB413 LQ-K F/O. Hannah

Operation: Düsseldorf

Date: 02/03rd November 1944 (Thursday/Friday)

Unit: No. 405 Squadron

Type: Lancaster III

Serial: PB413

Code: LQ-K

Base: RAF Gransden Lodge, Cambridgeshire

Location: RAF Debden, Essex

Pilot: F/O. Harold Allan Hannah J/28186 RCAF Age 24. Died from injuries (1)

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Ron H. Catlin RAFVR Safe

Nav: F/O. J.L. Cope RCAF Safe

Air/Bmr: Fl/Lt. George Albert Martin DSO (127850). DFC. 450921 RAFVR Safe

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Jack C. Burns RCAF Safe

Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. 'Barney' A.L. Pirie RCAF Safe

Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. "Tito" Elido Edoardo Perini RCAF PoW No: 1208 Camp: Stalag Luft Bankau (Bakow, Poland) near Kreuzburg (Klucsbork, Poland)



Page researched by David Langner and compiled by Jack Albrecht with Nic Lewis for Aircrew Remembered



REASON FOR LOSS:

Following account from Airforce - circa 1984 interview of J.L. Cope by Jo-Anne Ashe:

“Stop You Bastard, Stop You Bastard”!

As a little background, our crew formed up on 23 Jan 44 and after the usual training assigned to 424 Sqn at Skipton-on-Swale in 6 Group. We did 18 ops on Halifaxes from that station, including twice on D-Day. I guess we did a good job as we were asked if we wanted to go to Pathfinders which was quite an honour, but meant doing a double tour. We “graduated” as Blind-Sky-Marker crew.

As I recall, the forecast was cloud over the target, thus we were scheduled to “mark” at 0 plus 22 and carried a 500 lb Green, a 4000 lb “cookie” plus 5 x 1000 lb. bombs. This was our 31st “op” with take off at 05:30 to Rhur “Happy” Valley.

On the inevitable “last” leg running up to the target there wasn’t a cloud in the sky which makes a blind-marker feel rather naked. As we were +22 the German defences had time to set up for us and searchlights were like driving down a city street. But having previously flown through searchlights and flak without “getting it” we had the usual butterflies. However, we got coned (for the first time) whereupon the pilot took evasive action. One shell burst above us and the ONLY hole in the K was the canopy above the pilot, from which a piece of shrapnel entered his lung.

Right: F/O. Harold Allan Hannah

Of course Hannah immediately went unconscious, thus slumped over the control column, and Catlin (standing beside) announced the situation. Martin and I left our navigator bench and the three of us wrestled Hannah out of his chair. That wasn’t very easy in a very confined space with everyone tangled up with inter-com wires, oxygen tubes, etc., and I recall it took at least five minutes. We merely dumped the pilot on the floor (for the time being).

Flip-Flopped:

During that time we flip-flopped all over the sky. When one of us saw the nose diving we’d all pull back on the stick etc...I’m sure we almost looped-the loop at times. We lost altitude from 17,000 to about 5,000 ft., still with the bomb doors open and our bombs still aboard. Martin, who was the most senior, immediately took over by climbing into the pilot’s seat.

You must keep in mind that Martin had NEVER flown any a/c, let alone a Lancaster bomber. However, he used to play with a Link trainer on non-flying days, hence knew a little about the dials. Once he got “settled in” we continued SE direction, for an estimated half hour before Martin could get the thing turned around, jettison the bombs etc. As my navigation was long lost due to the above excitement, I gave a course of “North-west to England” (in due time I got reorganised) and with the engineer he (Martin) climbed to about 10,000 ft. For his “first solo” he did quite well except for wiggling 10 degrees off course both ways. He also did some “porpoising” but that was a minor detail at that time. He had considerable “help” from AG Pirie who instructed him in raising (or lowering) the nose, L or R wing etc...

We couldn’t do much for Hannah except for a shot of morphine and some pain pills. He remained unconscious all the way home.

We had several crew conferences on the way home, trying to decide the best thing to do. One of the lectures said that we should get over England, shove the wounded out on a parachute, head the a/c out to North Sea and the rest of the crew bale out. But we were still too chicken for that course of action.

During WW II there was a “crash” drome on the east coast of England - about five miles square and our next decision was to do a belly landing on that. But we couldn’t find that drome which didn’t respond to our wireless pleas.

No Answer:

In any case, as I recall, we came to a firm crew decision, so we plodded along to home base at Gransden Lodge, which was in darkness and didn’t answer our call. Not surprising as we were about two hours late thus probably written off in the meantime. Martin had descended K to about 2000 ft.

In response to our “May-Day” call the USAAF base at Debden answered, turning on all lights etc., and the control tower proceeded to talk us down (like you’d see in a movie). Again a rainy day lecture came to mind which reminded us to let all doors fly away and the crew got into crash positions. After the engineer reminded Martin that we only had 20 minutes of petrol left he (Martin) did his “final” turn for a belly landing. You can imagine anyone doing their very first landing! The following conversation will be burned into my brain forever:

Controller: “K King you’re much too high and off the runway.”
Martin: (in his English accent) “OK, I’ll go around again”


Whereupon he pulled back on the stick - but the engineer had left for crash position and he neglected to give some throttle. Naturally K went into the most gentle stall and found the only open field (for miles around) about half mile past the base. (During our descent our a/c barely missed the top of a farm house by inches? as we heard later). To help us the ground sloped away hence the tail caught first which was as ideal as possible. To be truthful (40 years later) I thought this was the end and expected all sorts of bits and pieces to be flying around. But nothing! Just calm and quiet! All but some red lights flashing, as no one had shut off any unnecessary switches. Just in case a fire started everyone hustled out of the a/c making sure we got Hannah out.

It seemed like only seconds until USAAF was on the scene with red lights flashing from fire trucks, ambulances etc. Then while our pilot was taken to the hospital, the rest of us were taken to the Officer’s Mess for a couple of large shots of scotch to settle our nerves. Up until that time I wasn’t frightened at all but once my head hit the pillow, I started trembling and dozens of times relived the sight of the ground coming up to our Lanc out-of-control. Afterwards, I learned other crew members felt the same.

DSO:

Martin was awarded an immediate DSO for what he called his “first, only and last solo”.

While flopping around the sky around Dusseldorf our rear gunner, Tito Perini, baled out, became a PoW and came back to Canada in Jun 45 on the same ship as most of our crew. We called the pilot “Hal” and when trying to get him out of the seat apparently Martin said “Get Hal out of here” which Perini mistook for “Get to hell out of here”. Quite understandable under the circumstances!

I wish this story had a real happy ending after our efforts to bring Hannah home. But after being moved to several hospitals, he died on the 27th Jan 1945 in a Midhurst, Sussex hospital.

Martin, who Cope calls a “real extrovert with a slight fringe of reddish hair thus fitting his nickname Curly”, recalled his memories of that night in an interview for a BBC radio program. The following are excerpts from that broadcast.

The engineer, Ron, up front, said that Harold was hit; the rear gunner, Tito, asked what went on; the mid-upper gunner, Barney, told us that we were diving and turning right. I went forward, breaking inter-com contact, to find that Harold, the pilot, had fallen forward on the controls and was feebly flailing his arms. Ron and I had a try at sitting him up, and heaving back on the control column, but it was soon clear that he was hard hit, and that he had to be got out of the pilot’s seat so that someone could take over the controls. Being off inter-com, I pulled Ron’s helmet away from his head and yelled in his ear - “Get Hal out of here”, meaning his seat, while I tried to lift the starboard wing to stop our turning motion, for I was fearing (among other things) a spin.

This must have been heard by the rear-gunner, Tito, as “Get the hell out of here”, for he baled out and this was the most likely time. No blame to him; our antics felt pretty wild up at the wing; what they must have been like down at the tail only God and a gunner could tell you.

We at last got Hal out on the cockpit floor, and I was in the seat. A pilot sits on his parachute, so it was fortunate that I was about four inches taller than Hal; the lack of a cushion didn’t matter so much, and I hadn’t had time to notice, for I was going “solo” for all our lives. Harold was alive but helpless, so it never occurred to any of us to “abandon ship”.

In the course of a couple of years flying I had scrounged a few hours in the Link Trainer, and seen an artificial horizon working, with the line for the horizon, and little aeroplane climbing and diving and tilting in response to the operation of the controls. When on practice flights, Harold had allowed me an hour or so at the controls, so I had the feel of things.

The mass of dials before me made it impossible to sort out compass, altimeter or airspeed indicator. There seemed to be hundreds of them. I had so little idea of our position in the sky that quite literally I didn’t know which way was “up”. About now I found the artificial horizon, and saw the little plane lying right down in the bottom right hand quadrant of its dial, and I remember thinking “That’s it! The gyros have toppled”, which meant that the only dial I knew even vaguely how to use was useless.

The airspeed needle had been around the 300 mph mark all this time, and as far as I recall, we had about 5000 feet to go when at last we were roughly straight and level and under control...Then I saw the loveliest sight I shall ever see. The little airplane on the artificial horizon was back on the job. Maybe the idea of flying that Lanc had scared me witless, but I could fly that little joker, and turn it left or right, so then I knew we might yet get home...

As we flew away from the enemy, we were not very talkative. Jack Burns, the wireless operator, was tending to Harold, and while we could not find any sign of much bleeding, it was clear he was badly hurt, for he was as strong as they come, and plucky, but he was unable to move much, and was very quiet...Ron was tending the motors, to ensure that I didn’t give them too much of a bending and Jake was really bringing clairvoyance into the art of navigation, to off-set my weird flying. We had all agreed that jumping out was out of the question, because Harold was too hard hit to go out that way. This meant that when we got home, I had to try to put the ship down.

I already had some form on this, for a couple of years before I had been in a plane that had unexpectedly landed itself on a hilltop, killing nobody. I therefore decided that we would go in “wheels up” as this should cut out the risks of bouncing up off the wheels, and stalling at 100 feet, or nosing over, or landing on one wheel and a wingtip, and cartwheeling.

All these things being well within the bounds of possibility and very dangerous indeed, if I could keep the aircraft level up to the time of touchdown on its belly, there was a fair chance of us staying right side up, and able to get out.

Jake’s efforts at last succeeded in bringing us over England, and we found ourselves over the right county, (the one with our station in it), and now the tension really began to build, as we began to let down towards the final gamble.

Now I learned how small an airfield looked when you are trying to land on it.

My approach was not improved by the need I had to keep checking on the little plane in the dial. The flying control officer knew it was an amateur doing the flying, for we had told the world, but he clearly saw it, as we came in, and I can hear his tired voice, (or was it deliberately relaxed to help steady me?), saying “You’re aw-a-y too high K. King, better go around”, in a lazy drawl, as if he was correcting a trainee pilot. He was in the control tower, which I could just as easily hit as miss, so his almost studied casualness was all the more admirable. I certainly met some brave men this night.

Good Advice:

His advice was good. The trouble about taking it was that it involved a climb, a turn, a calculated run back past the field, another turn, and then getting myself up to the point of letting down again. By this time I was getting past connected thought; I pulled up the nose without opening the throttles in an effort to climb, saw the airspeed falling to stalling point, put the nose down again to regain speed, saw the little plane wobble and concentrated on steadying that, pulled the nose up again to try to climb, felt that we must be awfully close to landing...then I couldn’t see, hear, or feel anything. I was out to the world.

I now became aware of someone saying “Stop, you bastard, Stop you bastard”, while I was shoving with my feet on the rudder bar, and hauling back on the control column like someone trying to halt a runaway team of horses. And at last I realized the character talking was me. We were down. It had come off.

The drome we had failed, (by about half a mile), to land at did a swift job of guessing where we had gone, for in a very few minutes their ambulance was across the field. It was very noticeable that even a half tumbler of Scotch (this was an American drome, remember) did no more than make us feel nearly normal.

There is a rather amusing footnote to all this.

When Jake and Viola (Cope) came over for their trip, we went to various stations where we had served, and of course to Debden to see the very spot where it all happened. To make it all proper we went to see the farmer whose land we had deep ploughed, to get the OK to take a photo on the spot. The farmhouse is dead in line with Debden’s runway, and I think we might have missed the roof top by about a foot. We were left in no doubt about the farmer’s feelings. Even after 15 years there was an absence of warmth!

This outcome was not a miracle when all the factors are taken into account. Lady Luck did play a critical role in the final outcome: She ensured that an overwhelmed and exhausted Fl/Lt. Martin lost control of PB413 with a low speed, ground level stall onto the downslope of a hill, and fuel tanks down to vapours. However, the events leading up to this remarkable crash landing were almost orchestrated. Perhaps most important was the leadership and skill that their Skipper had demonstrated during their thirty op tour. He had moulded them into a close knit team that could cope with any emergency short of a direct flak hit or devastating night fighter attack. He even prepared them for his own sudden incapacitation. His extensive experience as a flying instructor was a major factor. It is obvious that the brief patter and dual time he spent with his wireless operator were life saving for five of the crew. Fl/Lt. Martin was a veritable sponge! He immediately assumed control and utilized the crew's talents and cooperation to regain control of their gyrating Lanc, release the bomb load, close the bomb bay doors, navigate back home to England and pull off a text book crash landing in the dark onto an unlit field. Not to mention that his decision to land "wheels up" was quite likely life saving. It is most significant that during this adventure their decisions were always focused on ensuring the well being of their admired Skipper, F/O. Harold Hannah.


(1) The family of F/O. Harold Hannah also lost his older brother, F/O. Lloyd Hannah - just weeks earlier. Killed on the 14th October 1944 flying 625 Squadron Lancaster I LL956 CF-Q.


DSO Award Fl/Lt. George Albert Martin L/G 22nd December 1944:

"This officer was air bomber in an aircraft detailed to attack Dusseldorf one night in November, 1944; When nearing the target, the aircraft was hit by shrapnel and the pilot was seriously wounded. With the assistance of another member of his crew, Flight Lieutenant Martin removed his stricken comrade from the pilot's seat and afterwards took over the controls. Flight Lieutenant Martin regained altitude and went on to release the bombs over the target area. He afterwards flew the damaged aircraft to this country and effected a successful crash-landing at the nearest available airfield. This officer displayed the highest standard of courage and determination and, though not so experienced as the regular pilot, was undoubtedly responsible for the safe return of the aircraft and its crew".


Fl/Sgt. "Tito" Elido Edoardo Perini: Born on the 23rd December 1922 in Taber, Canada. Prior to service worked at Broders Cannery and helping out at his father's shoe shop. Married Marie Joyce on November 21st 1951. He eventually started his own business: E.E. (Tito) Perini Construction Ltd. operating various types of excavating equipment in Southern Alberta, the Crowsnest Pass and parts of British Columbia. After his retirement in 1988, Tito enjoyed many pastimes including fishing, gardening, carpentry and going on bus tours. Passed away on the 25th June 1999 after a long courageous battle with cancer.

Burial details:

F/O. Harold Allan Hannah. Stonefall Cemetery. Sec. G. Row F. Grave 12. Son of Allan and Mary Hannah, of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada. Grave inscription reads: "Greater Love Hath No Man Than This: He Gave His Life That We Might Live". (These words are identical to his older brother's)

Hannah Lake in Saskatchewan was named after F/O Harold Hannah and his brother F/O Lloyd Hannah in 1950.


Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to David Langner, Nic Lewis, Joe Williams, Jack Albrecht.

Decoration suggestions by Jack Albrecht:
F/O. H.A. Hannah - CGM, eye witness accounts. Fl/Lt. G.A. Martin - CGM, eye witness accounts. F/O. J.L. Cope - CGM, eye witness accounts. Fl/Sgt. J.C. Burns - CGM, eye witness accounts. Sgt. R.C. Catlin - CGM, eye witness accounts. Fl/Sgt. A.I. Pirie - CGM, eye witness accounts. Fl/Sgt. E.E. Perini - DFM, eye witness accounts.

It is noteworthy that under similar circumstances that Air Commodore Arthur Harris reversed the recommendation to award two VCs, three CGMs and one DSO, and in their places awarded five of the crew the CGM and one DSO, the only "crew" in the Second World War so decorated.

For further information see ED377 and ED446 (Audio link below—Battle Order: courtesy Joe Williams and Nic Lewis)

The submitters are deeply indebted to David Langner for bringing to their attention these remarkable accounts of his two uncles, F/O.'s Lloyd and Harold Hannah. His pride is well founded. It is also quite understandable why the family was disappointed that these two young men were not decorated for their service and sacrifice. It is particularly interesting that the government of France recognised the courage of F/O. Harold Hannah by awarding him the Legion of Honour (1947), yet he was overlooked by England and his home country with the exception of his Operational Wings and Canadian Memorial Cross.


ADDENDUM:

405 Squadron Loss: PB413, F/O Harold Allan Hannah Biographical Details

F/O Harold Allan Hannah Croix de Guerre (France) was born on April 12, 1921 at Rouleau, Saskatchewan, Canada. He received his formal education at West Lake Public and High Schools to Grade XI (Jr. Matriculation). Sporting activities included boxing, swimming and softball, all moderately. Occupation was farmer, tractor-man and labourer.

LETTERS OF REFERENCE

R.C.A.F. Recruiting Office
Regina, Sask.
Marquis Sask.
June 22/40

To Whom It May Concern—
This is to certify that the bearer Mr. Harold Hannah has been in my employ for the past year as tractor driver and mechanic and that he has proven himself to be capable energetic and faithful in the discharge of his duties.
Carl B. Scheffeld (handwritten)

Rev. George R. Burt, B.D.
St. Paul’s United Church
Tuxford, Sask.

To Whom It May Concern:
Concerning Harold Allan Hannah
This is to certify that I have known Harold Allan Hannah for the past five years. He is a member of the United Church Marquis and a regular attender at Divine Worship
He bears an excellent christian character and I have much pleasure in recommending him for any position of trust and responsibility.
Signed G.R.Burt
Pastor Tuxford and Marquis
United Church Congregations.

On June 26, 1940 he enlisted for Flying Duties, Air Crew with the R.C.A.F at the Regina Recruiting Centre.

CERTIFICATE OF MEDICAL EXAMINATION
Age 19: Tonsillectomy 1934 Appendectomy 1937- No complications
Ht 5’ 7” Wt 133 lbs Eyes - blue
4” well healed appendectomy scar - abdominal wall firm
Category A1B A3B
Nov. 11, 1940
Capt. Jas. McIsaac, Medical Officer

SELECTION BOARD: R.C.A.F RECORDS OFFICE

Date: 14/5/41.
Partial Jr. Matric. Missed algebra and two other subjects. Worked in garage 2 years and one year on farm. Family slightly opposed to enlistment. Wants to be a pilot. Quiet type of lad, education only fair. Not nervous during examination. Physically fit for all parts of aircrew.
Fit A1B A3B

ROYAL CANADIAN AIR FORCE
REPORT ON PUPIL PILOT- FLYING AND GROUND TRAINING

R79694 LAC Hannah, H.A.
Initial Training No. 3 I.T.S. Course No. 24 22-4-41 to 28-5-41
Passed
Considered unsuitable for commissioned rank
Recommend for training as Pilot
Remarks: Gives intelligent answers. Plugging hard at maths. Relaxes and becomes more communicative as you know him.
? Burton Wg. Comdr. Commanding Officer
No. 3 I.T.S., Victoriaville P.Q.
Date: 25-5-41
To be passed to No. 17 E.F.T.S.

ELEMENTARY TRAINING

No. 17 E.F.T.S. Course No. 30 9-6-41 to 27-7-41
Flying Training
Ability A Pass
Recommend for S.E.
Remarks on flying progress: Very good student. Appearance discipline good
Commission material
Ground Training
Commission rank: Appears suitable
General remarks: Good steady worker, reserved, dependable, conscientious, should make good. Appearance and discipline good.
R.M. Smith Chief Ground Instructor
Date: 27-7-41
To be passed to No. 8 S.F.T.S.
?? F/L Chief Supervising Officer
No. 17 E.F.T.S., Stanley, N.S.
Date: 27-7-41

SERVICE FLYING TRAINING

No. 8 S.F.T.S. Course No. 34 27-7-41 to 10.10.41
Flying Training
Remarks on flying progress: Progress good. Worked hard. Keen.
? Fraser S/L, Squadron Commander
Ground Training
Remarks of C.G.I.: Slow to learn but obtained average results.
Armament Test: Below average
? Williamson F/L, Chief Ground Instructor
Date: 4-10-41
General Remarks of Training Ability: Above average pilot. Very steady instrument pilot. No outstanding faults.
Awarded Pilot’s Badge 10-10-41
Recommended for commission: No, Assessment: Average
Remarks of Commanding Officer: Steady reliable type who works hard and can be depended upon.
W.W. Brown Wg Comdr
No. 8 S.F.T.S., Moncton, N.B.

CATEGORIZATION REPORT
R.C.A.F. FLYING INSTRUCTORS
REPORT ON FLYING INSTRUCTOR’S COURSE

Sgt. Hannah H.A. R.79694
Types of aircraft flown: Fleet, Anson
Flying Instructor Course 27-10-41 to 22-12-41
Instructor’s Report: Average pupil, industrious but lacks drive, aerobatics weak, but improving with practice. Instrument flying average. C. Moran F/L
Report by C.F.I. or Examining Officer: Remarks…Instructor ability should improve with further flying experience. To be checked by next visiting flight. Aerobatics good.
J.W. Reid F/L
Date: 22-12-41

Report of Medical Re-Examination
AIRCREW-PILOT-INSTRUCTOR
Flying History: Total Dual 138 hours Solo 1052 hours
Crashes: Engine failure, forced landing, plane turned over—no injury
Ht 67’ Wt 152 lbs
Remarks: Category A, B
Fit—Pilot, Observer, Air Gunner, Wireless Operator
Date: Mar. 4, 1943

ROYAL CANADIAN AIR FORCE
RECOMMENDATION FOR APPOINTMENT TO HIGHER RANK

Hannah H.A. R.79694
Trade- Elem. Flying Instructor. Group- Special
Temp. W/O Class II Effective 10/Oct/42
Act. W/O Class I Effective 10/Apr/43
Remarks: A very dependable N.C.O.. Has always worked hard.
N.B. Annan F/L Chief Flying Instructor
No. 13 E.F.T.S., St. Eugene, Ontario.
Date: May 2/43
Recommend for Appointment to Temporary Rank W/O I (Temp) 10/Apr/43

OCCUPATIONAL HISTORY FORM

Section G—Miscellaneous
26. Have you made any arrangements other than indicated above, for re-establishment in civil life after discharge?…(left blank)
27. State nature of your plans…Return to school
28. State any employment preference or ambition you may have other than indicated elsewhere in this form…Would like Commercial Flying
H.A. Hannah P/O J28186
Date: July 24/1943.

R.A.F. — TRAINING REPORT
PILOT
NO. 1531 BEAM APPROACH TRAINING FLIGHT

Hannah, Harold Allan J.28186 P/O
Course No: 58 22-9-43 to 28-9-43
Remarks: A good average pupil. I.F. and beam work sound.
?Lambert S/Ldr
Commanding Officer
Date: 29.9.43.

R.A.F. — TRAINING REPORT
PILOT
NO. (P) ADVANCED FLYING UNIT

Hannah, Harold Allan J.28186 Pilot Officer
Course No. 90 Intake 2 Sept, 1943- 14 Dec 1943
Remarks: An above average pilot by night and by day. Is keen and intelligent and should do well.
W.H. McGiffin S/Ldr.
for Officer Commanding.
Date: 13th December, 1943.

R.A.F. — TRAINING REPORT
PILOT
NO. 24 OPERATIONAL TRAINING UNIT

Course No. 38 15-12-43 to 29-2-44
Remark: Recommend for four engine aircraft. An above average pilot and a sound captain.

He volunteered and is recommended for employment as Pathfinder.

T.J. Gunn W/Cmdr.
Chief Instructor.
Date: 29.2.44
Signed- A.C.P. Carver Group Captain.
Officer Commanding

Type of Aircraft: Whitley V.
An ex AFU pilot of above average ability who should with further experience make an exceptional captain. He experienced no difficulties in converting to heavy aircraft and during the course has completed four cross countries by day and four by night in addition to a bullseye exercise at heights up to 15,000 feet. He has also carried out three fighter affiliation exercises by day and one by night.

RECORD OF SERVICE AIRMEN

Rank: AC2 11/11/40, LAC 7/6/41, Sgt. 10/10/41, W/O II 10/10/42, W/O I 10/4/43,
P/O 7/7/43, F/O 7/1/44

Postings: Training and Elementary Flying Instructor 11/11/40 to 7/7/43
1YD Halifax embarked 3/8/43, disembarked 11/8/43
Overseas: A.F.U. 24/8/43, 1531 B.A.T. 21/9/43, 24 O.T.U. 14/12/43,
61 Base Topcliffe 19/3/44, Dalton Battle School 28/3/44, 1658 C.U. 7/5/44,
424 Squadron 7/5/44, N.T.U. 4/8/44, 405 16/7/44, Gransden Lodge 3/11/44,
Died of injuries 27/1/45. (Blood Group O).
Buried at Harrogate RAF Cemetery.

HONOURS—AWARDS—MENTIONS

Pilot’s Flying Badge 10-10-41
Path Finder Force Badge 27-1-44
French Croix de Guerre AFRO 1619/45:

Awarded for

Individuals who distinguish themselves by acts of heroism involving combat with enemy forces

DECORATION DIGEST FOR PRESS RELEASE
J28186 Hannah, Harold Allan F/O Pilot
Birth: 12-4-21, Rouleau, Sask. Nationality: British (sic)
Parents: Mr. and Mrs. A. Hannah, 844 Alder Ave., Moose Jaw, Sask.
Enlisted: 11.11.40, Regina
Unit: Died 27.1.45
Strength Classification: Overseas
Class of Award: Operational—Gallantry—Flying—In Conflict
Decoration: French Croix de Guerre

CORRESPONDENCE

J28186 (R.O.4)
AIRMAIL
OTTAWA, Canada, 11th November, 1944.

Mr. Allan Hannah,
844 Alder Avenue,
Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.

Dear Mr. Hannah,

Confirming my telegram of recent date the Royal Canadian Air Force Casualties Officer, Overseas, has advised me that your son, Flying Officer Harold Allan Hannah, was seriously injured on Active Service on November 2nd and not November 5th as stated in my telegram.

Original advice stated that the aircraft of which he was a member of the crew made a forced landing one half mile south east of Debden, Essex, at 10.35 P.M. on November 2nd, 1944, after air operations over Dusseldorf, Germany, and that one member of the crew was slightly injured. Subsequent reports state that your son was seriously injured, sustaining shrapnel wounds in his neck and back and suffering from loss of blood. He was admitted to the Station Hospital at Braintree, Essex, England, where his condition is reported as favourable.

I hasten to relive your anxiety in regard to his care and you may rest assured the he will receive the best of medical attention.

Please be assured that when further information is received at these Headquarters, it will be communicated to you immediately.
Yours sincerely,

R.C.A.F. Casualty Officer for Chief of the Air Staff.

KING EWARD VII SANATORIUM
MIDHURST
SUSSEX
31st January, 1945.

Confirmation of telephone message

THIS IS TO CERTIFY that Flying Officer
H.A. Hannah died at this Emergency Chest
Hospital, on 27th January, 1945 at 8.50 p.m.
of heart failure following operation of
arterio venous aneurism of left subclavian
artery.
Philip W. Morse
B.M., B. Ch., M.R.C.P.
Deputy Medical Superintendent

J28186 (R.O.4)
AIRMAIL
Ottawa, Canada, 2nd February, 1945.

Mr. Allan Hannah,
844 Alder Avenue,
Moose Jaw, Sask.

Dear Mr. Hannah,
It is with deep regret that I must confirm the information conveyed to you by Reverend W. Shaver. that your son, Flying Officer Harold Allan Hannah, died on Active Service.

Advice had been received from the Royal Canadian Air Force Casualties Officer, Overseas, that your son died at 8:50 P.M. on January 27, 1945, as a result of injuries sustained during air operations on November 2nd. His funeral took place at 11:30 A.M. on February 1st, at the Royal Air Force Regional Cemetery, Harrogate, Yorkshire, England.

You may be assured that any further information received will be communicated to you immediately.

I realize that this news has been a great shock to you, and I offer you my deepest sympathy. May the same spirit which prompted your son to offer his life give you courage.

Yours sincerely,
(G.A.D. Will)
Group Captain,
A/Deputy Air Member for Personnel.

File: 4058/01236/28/P.1
9th February, 1945.

Mrs. Hannah,
844 Alder Ave.,
Moose Jaw, Sask., Canada.

Dear Mrs. Hannah:

Before you receive this letter, you will have had a telegram informing you of the death of your son, J.28186 Flying Officer H.A. Hannah, who passed away while undergoing an operation at the King Edward VIIth Convalescent Home, Midhurst, Sussex, on the 27th January, 1945.

Hal, as you are aware, was seriously wounded while carrying out operational duties over Dusseldorf, Germany, on the 2nd November, 1944, and appeared to be progressing favourably. It must have been a terrific shock to you to hear that he had passed away. I can assure you that it was a blow to us, and entirely unexpected.

Owing to the time taken to contact you under present conditions, it was not possible to ascertain your wishes regarding his funeral, in the time available, and, I had, therefore, to arrange for the burial without reference to you. I was, however, fortunately able to contact Hal’s sister, who is in the C.W.A.G. and complied with her wishes as far as it was possible for me to do so. I trust that the arrangements we were able to make were such as you would have wished. Your son’s funeral took place at the R.A.F. Regional Cemetery, Harrogate, Yorkshire, at 11:30 hours on Thursday, February 1st, 1945, the service being conducted by the 405 Squadron Chaplain. Full Service honours were accorded. The coffin was covered with the Union Jack, and the Last Post was sounded. Your daughter, Hal’s brother, also in the R.C.A.F., members of Hal’s crew, and some of the relatives in this country were present. Wreaths were sent by the Officers and Airmen of No. 405 Squadron. I regret that I am unable to forward you pictures of the funeral, as I had anticipated, due to the fact that the camera used had a defect in it, which was not discovered until the film was developed. I am naturally disappointed regarding this, as I have been holding this letter up, pending receipt of these pictures. However, I am enclosing two pictures of the Cemetery and of the Chapel in which the funeral service took place. Your son was buried in Grave No. F.12, Section G, of the Regional Cemetery.

I am instructed to explain that the questions of re-internment, if that were desired, could only be considered at the cessation of hostilities.

I am very sorry, indeed, to have to convey this information to you, as you have already suffered the grievous loss of two fine sons in this terrible war. Perhaps you will derive some consolation from the thought that their sacrifices have not been in vain, and that they have contributed towards a finer world, in which, if the men in the Services have any voice, all free people may live in peace with their neighbours.

If there is anything further I can do for you at any time, please do not hesitate to write.

Yours very sincerely,
(W.F.M. Newson) Group Captain,
Officer Commanding,
No. 405 (R.C.A.F.) Squadron.

AFTERMATH

WILL R.C.A.F. r.60

…Hannah, Harold Allan…of the village of Tuxford in the Province of Saskatchewan…farmer…

  1. a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force, Number R79694…
    Do hereby revoke all former Wills made my me and declare this to be my Last Will.

(2) I give, Devise and bequeath unto:—
my mother, Mrs. A. Hannah
Tuxford, Sask.

All my estate.

(3) I Give, Devise and Bequeath all the rest and residue of my Estate, both real and personal, of whatever kind and wherever situated unto :—
nil.

(4) I appoint Mr. A. Hannah, Tuxford, Sask…,
to be the Executor of this my Last Will.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF I have hereunto set my hand this…15th…day of……November…1940.
signed and acknowledged by the TESTATOR,
in the presence of us present at the same time who is in the presence of each other have hereunto subscribed our names as witnesses
Harold Hannah (Signature of Testator)

(5) Signatures

Clerk #1 D. Rogers
No. 1 Manning Depot, R.C.A.F. Toronto

Clerk #2 R.C. Jock
No. 1 Manning Depor, R.C.A.F. Toronto

DEPARTMENT OF NATIONAL DEFENCE
ESTATES BRANCH
OTTAWA, ONT.
February 13, 1945

For the purpose of record and in the event of there being any Service estate available for distribution (according to law) on the account of the late Hannah, Harald Allan, F/O J28186 R.C.A.F. O.S. it is necessary that certain information regarding the deceased and his relatives should be furnished to the Estates Branch…
STATEMENT of the Names, Ages and Addresses or Date of Death, of all the relatives that the deceased ever had in each of the degrees specified below.

Degrees or Relatives— Relatives— Name in Full— Age— Address in Full

  1. Widow : Not married
  2. Children: ….
  3. Father: Allan Hannah—55—844 Alder Avenue, Moose Jaw, Sask.
  4. Mother: Mary Hannah—49—844 Alder Avenue, Moose Jaw, Sask.
  5. Brothers: Angus Lowell—20—Comox, B.C.
    Cecil Norman—19—R.C.A.F. Overseas
    6. Sisters: Mrs. W.G. Tuplin—28—Regina
    Gladys Isabel Hannah—22—844 Alder Avenue, Moose Jaw, Sask.
    Dorothy May Hannah—18—844 Alder Avenue, Moose Jaw, Sask.
    Clara Edna Hannah—14—844 Alder Avenue, Moose Jaw, Sask.
    Leona Agnes Hannah–9—844 Alder Avenue, Moose Jaw, Sask.
    7. Names of brother…of the Deceased, who are dead, and the date of death of each— Lloyd Albert Hannah—October 14, 1944
    17. Did he have a Will?—No
    19. Did he have a Bank, Post Office or other account?—Possibly Royal Bank in England but not sure.
    23. Describe other assets…—Motorcycle in England

DECLARATION AND CERTIFICATE signed by father, Allan Hannah, with the witness of a notary public, on February 20th, 1945.

DEPARTMENT OF NATIONAL DEFENCE
STATEMENT OF WAR SERVICE GRATUITY

Deceased Member’s Name: Harold A. Hannah J28186 F/O
Payee: Receiver General of Canada
Date: 19 July/45
Total Qualifying Service No. of Days 1198- $292.50
Qualifying Overseas Service No. of Days 517- $129.25
Supplement for Overseas Service- $181.37
War Service Gratuity- $683.12

Author’s Note:

This biography has been researched and compiled for the family and relatives of F/O Harold Allan Hannah and his brother, F/O Lloyd Albert Hannah to ensure that the sacrifices made by these two remarkable young men are not forgotten with the passage of time.
http://www.aircrewremembered.com/hannah-lloyd-albert.html

It is quite remarkable that they are both buried in the same cemetery in England, Harrogate Cemetery (Stonefall), same Section, separated by five rows and three and a half months. It is most fitting and symbolic, under the circumstances of their deaths, that their family selected identical headstone inscriptions:

Greater love
Hath no man than this:
He gave his life
That we might live

It is significant that both brothers lost their lives during Bomber Command operations that resulted in them saving those of their crew mates, to carry on the fight with the enemy and go on to live productive lives. The tragic exception was the rookie Bomb Aimer of F/O Lloyd Hannah’s crew, F/Sgt. Lloyd Bennet, who tarried just long enough that his chute did not have sufficient altitude to fully deploy.

It is noteworthy that Sgt. D.R. Paige and three of his crew were on their night, operational, familiarization mission for the last flight of LL956, that lasted a mere six minutes. Their first bale out would serve as a dress rehearsal for their second, four months later with the loss of PB815.
http://www.aircrewremembered.com/paige-d-r.html

It is difficult to comprehend the impact of the loss of these two exemplary young men had on their families. Lloyd, age twenty-six, was married at the time of his death. It would take his widow, Margaret Hannah, over fifty years to find a man to fill his shoes. In addition, it is apparent that with the loss of their stalwart, eldest sons, Allan and May Hannah found it overwhelming to maintain their farm. This coupled with their next four children serving in the Armed Forces or married.

One has to be impressed with the character and determination of young Harold Hannah, from his reference letters through his meteoric rise in the Royal Canadian Air Force, as he excelled as a flying instructor in Canada for two years and then volunteering and being selected for the Path Finder Force. This was most unusual for a Bomber Command Pilot who had not completed a first tour of operations with a regular squadron. It is also obvious that he used his experience and leadership ability to meld a crew capable of returning to England and carrying out an off airfield forced landing, in the dark, without loss of life—a most unusual feat!

From a medical perspective it is most difficult to envision the impossible challenge that the physicians were confronted with as F/O Harold Hannah decompensated and ‘crashed’ before their eyes, with the limited emergency surgical resources available at a convalescent chest facility. This event occurred almost three months after his initial injury and he was obviously improving, when he would have suddenly experienced onset of chest pain, shortness of breath, rapid pulse and low to unrecordable blood pressure, followed within minutes by unconsciousness and cardiac arrest. That fast. At operation they would have encountered the occult, ruptured, traumatic aneurism, that would not have been evident on routine chest x-rays of the day. They would have been confronted with every surgeon’s nightmare: Pronouncing a patient dead before the procedure was completed. Even with the expertise of a modern day, tertiary, trauma centre, it is unlikely this young airmen’s life could have been saved. Time and his ‘O’ blood type (universal donor) were stacked against him. One can only empathize with the mental anguish of the medical staff involved and the profound grief of the Hannah family, when informed of their son’s unexpected death, just three months before war’s end.

During my career as a family physician, aviation medical examiner and part-time commercial pilot (flying instructor) I encountered a situation that brings F/O Harold Hannah’s final moments into vivid focus. Whenever I reread the archive report on the loss of PB413 and view his portrait, I am left with a feeling of deep sorrow, often on the verge of tears as I stare back into his haunting gaze.

My patient, ‘Ted’, was retired and in his mid eighties. A routine chest x-ray revealed a five centimetre thoracic aortic aneurism. He was asymptomatic and active. Cardiology consultation confirmed that rupture risk was low below a threshold of seven centimetres. Recommendation was six monthly chest CT scans. It took two years for the aneurism to reach the threshold diameter. After cardiology and thoracic surgeon consultations the consensus was that ‘Ted’ would not survive the anaesthetic and elective surgical resection. The only option was ongoing observation or ‘watchful waiting’. Several months later I arrived at the office one morning to have my faithful MOA greet me with a message that every GP dreads to hear: “Dr. Albrecht the coroner would like you to call her. 'Ted’s’ chart is on your desk”. It did not take long to ascertain that he had arrived DOA at our local emergency department. After relaying the pertinent medical history I assured her that a postmortem was not necessary to confirm his cause of death.

I braced myself for the call to his wife to console her. It was unnecessary! In her stoic English accent she reassured me that he did not suffer. At 2:00 AM he woke her, gasped: “‘Joyce’ something’s wrong!”, collapsed and died. That fast.

The difference between ‘Ted’ and Hal was that Hal had a life full of promise and potential ahead of him. He did not die with his lifelong spouse at his side.

Perhaps one of the most distressing aspects of the deaths of these two promising young Officers is that their sacrifice was overlooked by RAF Senior Staff. They were both deserving of decoration for valour with the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal or the Victoria Cross. It should have been almost routine for them to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross. It is most ironic that F/O Harold Hannah was awarded the Croix de Guerre by the French Government in 1945, with his nationality noted as British! This is indicative of the colonial discrimination that persisted throughout the war. This attitude has been exemplified in the following Aircrew Remembered archive reports:

W/C Ralph Viral Manning DFC CD
The torp that changed the course of the war—The Concept of Colonial Discrimination
http://www.aircrewremembered.com/manning-ralph-viril.html

625 Squadron Loss #32: LM513, 1st Lt. Max Dowden and Crew—The Chop. To date my personal hero of 625 Squadron, an American bush pilot pre-war. His sacrifice is particularly moving. Undecorated, a classic example of ‘colonial’ discrimination!
http://www.aircrewremembered.com/dowden-max-eugene-1.html

625 Squadron Loss #20 ME684, F/L Nobby Clark and Crew—Lack of Moral Fibre (LMF)
http://www.aircrewremembered.com/clark-norman-arthur-wadham.html

Of the seventy-four 625 Squadron aircraft and crews that failed to return over its eighteen month operational history, three would claim the lives of crew men whose families had lost at least two siblings to the meat grinder of Bomber Command:

625 Squadron Loss #23: W5009, S/L Nicholls and crew. The Anderson family would lose their eldest son, mid-upper gunner, F./Sgt. Lloyd on the catastrophic March 30/31, 1944 Nuremberg raid. Twins, William and James would be lost in 1943 and 1942 respectively.
http://www.aircrewremembered.com/nicholls-thomas-m...

625 Squadron Loss #52: LL956, F/O Lloyd Hannah and Crew, noted above with archive report link.

625 Squadron Loss #59: NG239, F/O Bruce and Crew. The Wilmot family would lose their son, mid-upper gunner P/O Earl on the November 9, 1944 raid, a mere two and a half months after brother, Brian, serving with 415 Squadron was reported missing on operations.
http://www.aircrewremembered.com/AlliedLossesIncidents/?q=ng239&qand=&exc1=&exc2=&search_only=&search_type=exact

This archive report would not be complete without acknowledging the remarkable contribution that Marg Liessens has made to researching the history of Bomber Command and military cemeteries in Canada and Europe. She has compiled numerous submissions to the Bomber Command Museum of Canada, Veterans Affairs Canada and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website to edit their material.

One of her projects was to research the R.C.A.F. airmen of Bomber Command KIA who had one or more sibling who ‘failed to return’. The list totals seventy-seven families who suffered such catastrophic losses, including the three 625 Squadron losses noted above. It includes three families who lost three sons and four sets of twins, one set dying on the same day in the same aircraft!

Marg’s father was KIA on March 31, 1945, with the loss of Lancaster KB859 during the Hamburg daylight raid.

REFERENCES:
Library and Archives Canada/Ancestry website: J28186 F/O Harold Allan Hannah
Aircrew Remembered Archive Reports

CO-AUTHORS:
John Naylor
Maureen Hicks
Reg Price DFC, 625 Squadron Vet
Mike Edwards

Submission by David Langner, nephew of F/Os Harold and Lloyd Hannah and Jack Albrecht

KTY - 17.03.2018

CHB 24.09.2021 Canadian geographical feature added.

JA - 19.01.2022/ Addendum: Biographical details for F/O H.A. Hannah

Pages of Outstanding Interest
History Airborne Forces •  Soviet Night Witches •  Bomber Command Memories •  Abbreviations •  Gardening Codenames
CWGC: Your Relative's Grave Explained •  USA Flygirls •  Axis Awards Descriptions •  'Lack Of Moral Fibre'
Concept of Colonial Discrimination  •  Unauthorised First Long Range Mustang Attack
RAAF Bomb Aimer Evades with Maquis •  SOE Heroine Nancy Wake •  Fane: Motor Racing PRU Legend
Acknowledgements
Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Archiwum - Polish Air Force Archive (on this site), Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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