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Somme Stories - Canada

Company Sergeant-Major Robert Hill Hanna, VC

Robert Hill Hanna was born at Aughnahoory near Kilkeel in Co. Down but immigrated to Canada in 1905. Prior to emigrating, Robert was a member of Aughnahoory LOL No. 343b.

Settling in British Columbia, he joined LOL No. 2226 and enlisted in what would become the Canadian Expeditionary Force in November 1914. The 29th Battalion (Vancouver) of the Canadian Expeditionary Force saw action at the Battle of the Somme in 1916.

Hanna would return to Kilkeel during his periods of leave, and it was during one of these leave periods that he became a member of RBP No. 208. Because of the wartime situation, he got special permission to receive all the Black degrees in one night. This is a process which normally takes 11 months to complete.

As a Company Sergeant-Major, Robert would go to win the Victoria Cross at the Battle of Lens in 1917. He survived the war and died in 1967.

Private Arthur Holmes, MM

Arthur Holmes was originally from Hugomont, Ballymena and was a member of LOL No. 472.

Prior to the war he had immigrated to Canada and enlisted in Winnipeg in February 1915. He served with the 16th Canadian Infantry and saw action at the Somme in 1916, where he was wounded and on three occasions was buried in shell holes.

He was killed in action on 28 April 1917 and a letter was sent to his parents from Captain J. P. S. Cathcart: “Arthur was without doubt the best boy in my medical section. It may be of interest to you to know that he was recommended for a decoration for his wonderful work under heavy fire in the battle of Vimy Ridge on April 9th. Unfortunately he was killed before he received it.”

He was awarded the Military Medal and his citation stated: “This man went forward as a company stretcher bearer. He displayed conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty in dressing wounded men under shell fire. This work was so remarkably done that the most serious cases did not require a second dressing at the aid post.”

Private Osborne James Armstrong

Osborne James Armstrong was the youngest son of Edward and Maria Armstrong of Tandragee, Co. Down.

He was also a member of Temperance LOL No. 730, and held the position of Honorary Secretary for a number of years.

After his move to Canada James enlisted in the 8th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force and was wounded in the French village of Courcelette, near Bapaume. James died of his wounds in St. Johns Military Hospital, aged 32, and was buried in Etaples Military Cemetery, near Boulogne.


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