Researched and written by Anne Wright
L/Cpl H J C Hann
7th Battalion, East Surrey Regiment
Died of wounds, 13.8.1916
(Harold) John Charles Hann was one of the earliest volunteers from Weybridge; he enlisted in the town on 7 September 1914. His mother, Alice (nee Edwards), was a native of Weybridge as were her five children. She married Frederick John Hann, who hailed from Dorset, in June 1886. Their first home was in Brooklands Lane. Ethel Alice, William Frederick, Rose Mary, Lilian Daisy, and (Harold) John Charles arrived between 1888 and 1896. Her last child was born on 11 April 1896 and was baptised at St. James’ Church two months later. He seems to have dropped his first name as later records refer to him as John or John Charles.
Frederick Hann was a carter/carman employed by builders. By 1901 the family had moved to Hope Cottages, Elm Grove Road but Frederick was now a widower as Alice had died in September 1900. Ten years later they lived at 4, Barnes Cottages, Waverley Road: Frederick had remarried in 1902 and two more children, Edward and Agnes, had been born. John, now 15 years old was employed as a house boy – probably a general servant. By the time he enlisted he had become a plumber; he stood just five feet and four inches tall, had a sallow complexion, grey eyes and black hair.
Ahead of John lay months of training, the final phase of which took him to Aldershot in February 1915. This ended four months later: his battalion arrived in Boulogne on 2 June. They first went into the trenches, at Ploegsteert Wood (12.5 km south of Ypres) on 30 June. Their war diary describes their first three months on active service as ‘…a relatively easy time re fighting…’ but they carried out an enormous amount of work in work parties and sustained 13 deaths and 62 injuries in this period. On 24 September, the 12th (Eastern) Division of which the 7th East Surreys were a part were ordered to the Loos area where the battle of that name already raged. They arrived five days later. This battle was supposed to be ‘The Big Push’ against the Germans in 1915 after stalemate on the Western Front for most of the year and the disaster of the Gallipoli Campaign. John and his comrades were intended to renew the offensive: they were involved in the Action of the Hohenzollern Redoubt on 13 October and took their objective – Gun Trench. However, ‘The Big Push’ did not succeed and the British were fortunate not to lose ground.
For the next few months the 7th East Surreys were in and out of the line. By 26 October they were back in the trenches at the Hohenzollern Redoubt, on 19 December they were in the trenches at Festubert but ten days later had some light relief when they enjoyed an all-male version of Aladdin in Bethune (29 km north of Arras)! The same pattern repeated itself in the early months of 1916. For most of May the battalion was training and practising attacks. The real thing came with the Battle of the Somme, launched on 1 July (phase 1, the Battle of Albert, 1-13 July); yet another attempt to break through the German lines. John’s battalion was at Millencourt (2 km west of Albert) on 30 June. They went into the front line on 3 July. When they arrived the trenches were already full of the dead and wounded and they stood in water for the four days they spent in the line. They returned to the front on 31 July.
They were now involved in another phase of the Battle of the Somme; the Battle of Pozieres (23 July-3 September). On 10 August John and his comrades were in the front line north of Ovillers (5 km north-east of Albert).They launched an attack in the evening of the 12 August. Severe fighting ensued: 10 were killed, 90 wounded, and 64 reported missing. According to the Surrey Mirror of 6 October John was among the wounded and died the following day. He is buried in the Communal Cemetery Extension (VII.C.5) in the village of Warloy-Baillon (21 km north-east of Amiens). John had fought in two of the great battles on the Western Front.
His father remained in Weybridge until at least 1933 and the family’s long association with St.James’ Church continued with the marriage there of his sister Lilian Daisy in May 1919.
East Surrey Regiment, The British Army in the Great War 1914-1918, www.longlongtrail.co.uk
Surrey, England, Church of England Baptisms, 1813-1912. www.ancestry.co.uk
Surrey Recruitment Registers 1908-1933, https://search.findmypast.co.uk
UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919, www.ancestry.co.uk