My brother Bill
joins the army
"Your Country Needs You!"
In the war years, 1914 - 1918, not much furniture was being
made. Most of us were employed making boxes for shells and parts
for aeroplanes including propellers. Many joined the army. My
brother Bill, and some of his friends, responded to Kitchener's
call - "Your Country Needs You !" and joined
the armed forces. Bill and cousin Arthur Falshaw joined the army.
They were both too young to enlist so they gave false ages -
they had it in their heads that together they would fight for
their country. They were not together for long, after enlisting
in Preston, they were separated and they never met again. Arthur
was killed in the battle of the Somme.
Although his escapade was successful and was admired
by his comrades, his senior officers awarded him 'Number 1. Field
Punishment' - which meant he spent a hour tied spread eagled
to the wheels of a gun carriage. He was not allowed to win the
war on his own.
Gunner Bill Hanna
My brother, 189329 Gunner Wm. Hanna, became a driver in the
Royal Field Artillery. He came home with his health in ruins,
he was greatly affected from shell-shock. I remember on one occasion,
he came home from France, his uniform covered in mud, so dad
swilled him down with a hose-pipe, then hung his uniform out
Two of my relatives were in a Canadian Regiment. Both uncle
Tom and cousin Sam fought in France. Uncle Tom was recognised
as a tough and fearless man. As an ex-gold miner he knew the
skills of tunnelling and when he saw an opportunity to tunnel
under enemy lines and plant explosives - he did it alone, without
My brother Bill used to correspond with him using a Field
Postcard. To Bill's surprise, on one occasion, he received a
reply the same day he had sent his card. His uncle Tom was just
a short distance 'up the line'.
Bill was given permission to meet his uncle Tom. When he reached
the Canadian line he looked a pitiable sight in his mud covered
uniform and before his return to his own unit, Bill had been
issued with a new Canadian uniform. He was allowed to wear it
after he had sewn on his own regiment's insignia.
It was always pleasing to have news from my brother, but sometimes
months would pass without a word. How surprised we all were when
there was a knock at the door and a man handed s a note which
had been thrown out of a train passing through Barracks station.
It was a message from Bill, it said that he was safe and well
and that he was on his way to Ripon to collect more horses and
Mother had a good cry when she read the note, she was deeply
relieved to know that Bill was still alive. For my part I was
determined to go and see my brother. So the following morning
I put on my Scout uniform, packed my sandwiches in the saddlebag
and rode off towards Ripon. The roads were very quiet, by late
afternoon I had found the army depot. I had never seen so many
army huts, mules and horses. I saluted every soldier I came to
and asked - "Do you know Gunner Bill Hanna?"
There were many shrugs of shoulders and shakes of heads, until
one soldier said that he had seen a bloke that looked like me.
When the soldier took me to one of the huts, sure enough it was
my brother Bill.
Bill was thrilled to see me. He took me to see one of his
officers who gave him permission to let me stay overnight. I
was pleased about this, I did not feel like cycling all the way
back to Burnley on the same day. A meal was soon provided and
I tucked in heartily, it was the mug of tea that I was not too
sure about; one of Bill's pals had just been having a shave and
I saw him lathering his shaving-brush in the self same mug he
was now giving me to drink out of.
Before turning in for the night, Bill took me to see the horses
and mules. Suddenly, there was a great hue and cry, two of the
mules had escaped and were running round the lines of huts, then
one of them careered into the side of one of the huts and almost
demolished it. But there were plenty of soldiers there to round
up the two runaways. Then it was a case of going to bed, and
lights out. I slept really well but reveille came all too soon.
The bugler was my brother.
It was not easy to say goodbye, I held back the tears, there
was a lump in my throat, I felt very sad, I could not be certain
if I would ever see my brother again. The journey home was uneventful,
except for a brief moment when I stopped for a rest on the road
side at Thornton in Craven. I was stretched out on the grass
verge next to my bicycle, when a man gave me a prod with his
stick to see if I was alive or dead, he thought I had had an
accident and had fallen or been knocked off my bike. I assured
him all was well, and so as to prove it, I stepped on my pedal,
scooted off on to the road and smartly swung my leg over the
saddle and pedalled quickly away.
Back home, other and dad were pleased to see me safe and well.
I told them every detail of my meeting with Bill. After tea,
neighbours called and I told the whole story a second time.
By 1918 news came that the war was nearly over. Without a
wireless set we had to read the notices posted up on the wall
of the Town Hall to find out what was happening in the war. Then
on the 11th November I saw a large crowd outside the Town Hall
as a clerk fixed up the News Sheet, he seemed very excited and
was shouting the details out before anyone had had chance to
read the notice; there was an armistice - the war was over. I
ran all the way home, shouting the news to everyone I met, almost
completely exhausted I ran into the kitchen where my mother was
getting the dinner ready, I flung my cap in the air "The
war's over," I shouted. We danced round the kitchen,
then mother plonked herself on to a chair, took my hand and with
tears running down her cheeks, she mumbled "Oh, Billy
where are you ?" The fact was we had had no news from
my brother for several weeks.
It was only when Bill returned to England that we found out
what he had been doing in those last few weeks of the war. He
was in Germany, constantly on the move, and had not been able
to write to anyone. On reaching the Rhine an officer wanted a
bugler to ride in front of the victorious troops and cross the
bridge - signalling the final victory. Bill had learnt how to
blow a bugle in the Boy Scouts, so he volunteered and it was
my brother - Gunner Wm. Hanna 189329, who rode a white horse
across that Rhine bridge.