Regardless training was no doubt rushed and he would be moved by train across Canada to Halifax, Nova Scotia and boarded on the Canadian Pacific Liner's SS Missanabie as shown above. This and other CP liners were converted during the war to troop carriers, and like others had to travel across the dangerous U Boat covered Atlantic ocean. The 29th would take 37 officers and 1,104 other ranks off Canadian shores on 20 May 1915. A sight many would never see again. Some 3 1/2 years later this very troop carrying ship would be sunk by a German U-Boat off the coast of Ireland.
Private Hanna's unit would have probably be held or near London for some training before being sent off to Europe. And it would be in Europe after many battles no doubt that Robert would become a hero. Along the road he obviously impressed his superiors over the next two years and rose from the rank of private through to Company Sergeant Major. That's possibly seven different promotions folks.
The battle for Hill 70 took place in the upper right corner of this map. The battle was most viciously fought between both sides, with the 29th launching three separate attacks on the hill to be repulsed each time... and at VERY heavy costs. In fact Hanna's B Company had all of its officers already killed and this left him in charge.
Hanna rallied his troops and decided to take a fourth run at the hill and this time, despite murderous fire managed to get a group of men through the barbed wire and advancing on an enemy machine gun pit. Hanna alone took out the first three by bayonet and clubbed the forth to death using the butt of his rifle. The men then immediately set up a defensive position knowing full well that the Germans would counter the attack, and they certainly did. But this time Hanna and his company held the ground till later relieved. About ten weeks later it was announced in the London Gazette that CSM Robert Hanna had been awarded the Victoria Cross. Here is that announcement...
Within about ten weeks of the battle Hannah was in London and attending a special ceremony at Buckingham Palace. HRH King George V presented him and Michael O'Rourke... another Canadian, with their Victoria Crosses. Both were for heroism on Hill 70. (His blog yet to come.) (But I will now say that he also came from Ireland to Canada pre WW1, took out cirtizenship and later went off to war. He was from about 200 miles away from were Hanna spent his youth. And both were from BC Regiments, and on death are both buried in the same city in BC)
Hanna is shown here wearing the white band of an officer in training, and possibly while still in London. Difficult to see, but it appears he is also wearing the VC ribbon.
Also shown is a Victoria Cross. I enlarged it as much as I could and note the date on the reverse of the image, (it is two images of same cross, one on top of other) is the date of the deed, that being 21 August, the date of the deed on Hill 70. The suspension bar also seems to show the soldier's serial number and name but as it is enlarged it get fuzzier. But I do believe this may well be his Victoria Cross.
By the fall of 1919 Hanna was back at Vancouver and again in the logging business. He actually set up a camp which he ran till 1938. In 1930 he married a Scottish woman and they had two boys but one died in infancy. He travelled back to Ireland several times for visits and was in London and paraded with the rest of the Canadian VC recipients who attended the 100th anniversary of the investiture of the first ever VC at Hyde Park back in 1857. Unfortunately he doe not appear in the wonderful picture of about a few dozen recipients posted on this blog site in one of the Rowland Bourke blogs.
If ever in Ireland, drop in on the folks at the Kilkeel British Legion, and therein on one of the walls you will find proudly displayed Robert Hill Hanna's sword.
In September of 2008 the BC Regiment (Duke of Connaught's Own) Association unveiled the marker at the left, near Lens France and marking the Hill 70 battle. The two markers are commemorating the heroism if two Irishmen. Robert Hanna and Michael O"Rourke. Each describes their heroism on that date back in 1917.
Robert Hanna was born on 6 August 1887, and that was exactly 126 years ago today. He passed away in his 80th year and lies at rest in Burnaby BC...just a few miles away from where his fellow countryman O'Rourke also rests today.