Son of Edwin Percy and Norah Hannam.
The Origins Of The Hannam Family In The Wetherby District &
Ernest Hannam (as the family name is recorded in various census returns)
was born at Worsbrough, near Barnsley, in 1897, to parents Edwin Percy, occupation, a Coal Hewer, and Norah Hannam.
The Hannam family, with origins in the farming community of North Deighton, had by the 1870's relocated to Bramham,
Edwin's father William Hannam, being recorded in the 1871 Census as a Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths. The 1881
Census at this juncture records that the family had now relocated to Charles Street, Worsbrough, William's occupation
now being recorded as a Book Seller & Newsagent.
A change in vocation is recorded
once again in the 1891 Census, William now being recorded as an Insurance Agent and employed by the Pearl Loan Company. Edwin,
now aged 22 years, he at this period had now found employment as a Coal Miner, the family now residing at Number 6 Park Road,
Worsbrough, a mid terrace stone built house.
It was in February 1894 that Edwin
married one Norah Brailsford, the daughter of Job Brailsford, also a Miner, of Princess Street, Worsbrough. Their first child,
Edith, however was registered as born in 1892, followed by Arthur, 1895, Ernest in 1897 and Nellie Hannam in 1898. In 1901,
the Census records the family residing at premises located in Havelock Street, Barnsley, however, Ernest is absent from this
census record. It transpires, possibly due to the increase in the size of the family, that Ernest, aged three years,
was now placed in the care of his Grandparents who resided in Park Road, Worsbrough.
family moved house once again to premises located in Queen Street, Thurnscoe, possibly due to work being available underground
at Hickleton Main Colliery. It was whilst residing at this address that Ernest's father, Edwin, died in August 1906, probate
records declaring that in his effects he left Norah his widow, the sum of £10.
The 1911 Census
records that at this juncture, Ernest was now residing with his aunt and uncle at premises located in Marriotts Terrace, Worsbrough
Bridge. At some point after the year of 1911, Ernest was sent north to reside with another of his aunt's, Annie Marie
and her husband Charles Henry Hodgson at Wetherby. A surviving newspaper article records that prior to the outbreak of the
Great War, Ernest had been employed at the Master Butchers of one John Edward Ellis located in North Street (Authors note:
Typo error and should in fact be Number 26, High Street) for a period of five years. With the war now over one year in duration,
Ernest enlisted along with his employer. (Authors note: John Edward Ellis enlisted in December 1915 and was eventually mobilised
in July 1918 into the ranks of the Road & Quarry Troops, Royal Engineers, and would not serve overseas).
Attestation & Mobilisation
for military service at Wetherby in early December 1915 under the auspices of the Derby Scheme i.e. voluntary enlistment,
as did his employer, John Edward Ellis. The terms of his enlistment were that of a Short Service Obligation, i.e. for the
duration of the War, with the Colours and in the Army Reserve. Upon being placed on the Reserve, Ernest was mobilised at York
possibly as early the month of February 1916 and allocated the serial number 29192 before being posted to the Depot of the
West Yorkshire Regiment. (Authors note: There is a suggestion of service with the 19th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment
and exact mobilisation dates are unclear). Originally intended as a draft to the 1st Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment, a
Regular Army battalion, an analysis of numerous surviving service documents indicates that a posting to his intended unit,
i.e. the 1st Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment, was changed when he was posted overseas in early July 1916. Arriving at the
33rd Infantry Base Depot/Detail (I.B.D.) located at Etaples, France, his designation was changed and Ernest was now transferred
to the 25th (Service) Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers (2nd Tyneside Irish) on or about the 20th September 1916 along with
a number of drafts from the West Yorkshire Regiment. (Authors note: There is no record of this draft in the Battalion War
Diary. Battalion located at L'Etoile between Amiens and Abbeville).
(Service) Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers (2nd Tyneside Irish)
were formed in November 1914 by the Lord Mayor and the City of Newcastle. In June 1915, the battalion were contained in the
103rd Infantry Brigade (Tyneside Irish), 34th Division, and were posted to France arriving at Le Havre on the 12th January
1916. The 103rd Infantry Brigade comprised of the following units:-
Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers (1st Tyneside Irish)
25th (Service) Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers (2nd Tyneside Irish)
Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers (3rd Tyneside Irish)
27th (Service) Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers (4th Tyneside Irish)
Brigade Commander Brigadier-General Neville John Gordon Cameron
Commander Major General Edward Charles Ingouville-Williams C.B., D.S.O.
Front: The Somme
After a period of trench familiarisation in the Bois-Grenier Sector, south
of Armentieres in February, the 34th Division entrained for Picardy, France in May 1916 in preparation for the Somme offensive.
Allocated to Third Corps, the objective of the division on the 1st July was the heavily fortified village of La Boisselle
and once this objective was captured, the men were to press on to the enemy's intermediate line (Kaisergraben) forward
of the enemy held villages of Contalmaison and Pozieres. Upon reaching this second objective, 101 and 102 Infantry Brigades
would consolidate the position whilst the 103rd Infantry Brigade would 'leapfrog' this line and continue the advance
and capture Contalmaison. The third and final objective was to be a line drawn from the eastern edge of the latter village
to Pozieres, this final objective it was planned to be reached by just after 10 a.m., an advance of about 2.5 miles, up hill
and under fire.
To assist the advance of 34th Division and the 8th Division on their left
flank, a number of mines would be detonated prior to the infantry assault by the 179th Tunnelling Company. One was placed
under an enemy sap jutting out into Mash Valley, referred to as "Y" Sap and contained a charge of 40,000
lbs of ammonal whilst another larger mine, 60,000 lbs of ammonal, was placed in two chambers, 36,000 lbs and 24,000 lbs respectively
under the enemy strong point known as the Schwaben Hohe, to the south of La Boisselle. Both of these mines
were to be detonated two minutes before "Zero" hour and in addition to these, two further mines of 8,000 lbs each
were to be detonated underneath the heavily contested area between the British and enemy front lines known as the Glory
Hole in an attempt to damage the enemy's underground system and trenches in this sector.
|Extract From The Official History
Prelude To The Attack
Dernancourt to the south-west of Albert on the evening of the 30th June and proceeding by route of march, the battalion, in
brigade, made their way into reserve positions in the Tara & Usna Line located to the west of the village of
La Boiselle. The 102nd Infantry Brigade (Tyneside Scottish) commanded by Brigadier-General Trevor Patrick Breffney Ternan
C.M.G., D.S.O. would advance on the divisional left flank along the confines of Mash Valley towards the "Y"
Sap position with attacking units of the 23rd Infantry Brigade, 8th Division, on their immediate left. Of the 101st Infantry
Brigade, commanded by Brigadier-General Robert Clements Gore C.M.G., they would commence their advance along Sausage Valley
to the south of the village to their objective, the line that stretched from Pozieres to Contalmaison with the 64th Infantry
Brigade, 21st Division, advancing on their right flank.
103rd Infantry Brigade (Tyneside Irish), the reserve, would take up their positions as follows; 27th Battalion, to the west
of Becourt Wood in the southern aspect of Tara Valley with the brigade extending their line northwards, 24th Battalion, 26th
Battalion and with the 25th Battalion in a position just to the north of the Albert-Bapaume Road.
The 25th Battalion were to advance in the following order; "B"
Company on the right with "D" Company on the left respectively. Each of these companies would advance in column
of platoons at a distance of 150 paces, in support of these leading companies, "A" Company on the left and and "C"
Company on the right would also advance in the same formation and at the same distance. Battalion Headquarters and the C.O.
Lieutenant-Colonel John Henry Morris Arden D.S.O. would commence their advance to the rear of the last platoons, the battalion
numbering a total fighting strength of twenty officers and 730 Other Ranks (Source, Battalion War Diary T.N.A. WO95/2467/1).
In the enemy trenches at
La Boisselle, the men of both the 110th R.I.R. and the 111th R.I.R. 56th Reserve Infantry Brigade of the 28th Reserve Division
waited. In the early hours of the 1st July, one of a number of Moritz Listening Stations located underground in the
southern environs of the village 'tapping' into British 'buzzer' telegraphy picked up a message.
Originally intended to be sent by runner, this message of 'good luck' was sent to one of the battalions in the 102nd
Infantry Brigade by Brigade Headquarters, concerned that the message would not be received if sent by the former medium. The
fate of the 34th Division was sealed and with the Germans now on a high state of alert, it was just a question of when the
attack was to commence.
a more detailed analysis of the events that transpired including eyewitness accounts, the Author highly recommends two excellent
books, 'Tyneside Irish' by John Sheen and a history of the 'Tyneside Scottish' by Graham Stewart and John
Sheen. Both books published by Pen & Sword Books Limited.
The Author will now attempt to summarise some key moments in the battle as
the 34th Division attempted to wrest control of this sector of the German line on this, the opening day of the Battle of the
As the final stages
of the bombardment reached an intensity, the noise of shells passing overhead was augmented by a hurricane bombardment by
trench mortars. Smoke was also discharged from British trenches adjacent to the Glory Hole in an effort to deceive
the enemy into thinking that there would be an infantry assault across this point where the lines were in close proximity.
At 7.28 a.m. the mines under "Y" Sap and Lochnagar (Schwaben Hohe) were detonated, the latter explosion
decimating a company of the 110th R.I.R. who were holding the position.
advance of the 25th Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers, the men of the 20th and 23rd Battalions, Tyneside Scottish (102nd
Infantry Brigade) commenced their attack along Mash Valley. Heading towards their objective, the position of "Y"
Sap five minutes after "Zero" hour, an intentional delay so as to avoid the dangers of falling debris from the explosion
of the mine, the men were hit almost immediately by intense machine-gun fire from the direction of Ovillers and the western
aspect of the village of La Boisselle. The men literally fell in their hundreds, a fate shared by the men of the 23rd Infantry
Brigade, 8th Division, as they attempted to press on under frontal and enfilade fire. Miraculously, a gallant few pressed
on into the enemy's trench system only to be killed or wounded. Both battalions lost their commanding officers during
the advance, Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Cecil Archibald Sillery, 20th Battalion, and Lieutenant-Colonel William Lyle, 23rd
the south of the village, the enemy, despite the detonation of the Lochnagar mine, had managed with great fortitude to occupy
the far lip of the crater. Due to the close proximity of the attacking troops of 101st Infantry Brigade to the site of the
detonation of the mine, the 10th Lincolns carried out their assembly for the attack in the reserve trenches. With the 15th
Royal Scots on their right and the 11th Suffolks and 16th Royal Scots left and right supporting battalions respectively, the
objective of the Lincolns was to penetrate the German line known as Bloater Trench which lay between the La Boisselle
Salient (War Diary and refers to the Schwaben Hohe) and the Heligoland Redoubt. The 15th Royal Scots with
its sister battalion in support was to capture the enemy strongpoint known as Sausage Redoubt. Their was however
a considerable distance for both attacking battalions to negotiate, the Lincolns for example having to cover a distance of
roughly about 900 yards from their starting point before even reaching the German line.
Advancing on a three company frontage and accompanied by a trench mortar
battery, the battalion, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Edward Kyme Cordeaux at one came under intense machine-gun
fire from La Boisselle and the Heligoland Redoubt. In addition to this cross-fire, German artillery now bombarded
the area with high explosive and shrapnel shell but still the men pressed on, their numbers dwindling by every yard forward.
As the War Diary records:
with the utmost steadiness & courage, not to be surpassed by any troops in the world, get the distance they were away
from the German trench [800 yards sic] & the intensity of the machine gun fire did not allow of the possibility
of reaching & penetrating the enemy's line."
Some men despite the severe casualties sustained did however manage to enter the German
trench system via the crater. Bombing their way up the trench, they then erected a trench block thus helping to protect the
right flank of the 102nd Infantry Brigade, of other survivors, they held and consolidated positions at the crater under heavy
fire no doubt sustaining more casualties in the process. One officer, Second-Lieutenant Harold Percival Hendin accompanied
by just three men penetrated up the line on the right via the front held by the 21st Division and consolidated a strongpoint
in the enemy line assisting in the protection of the latter division's left flank. (Authors note: After bombing his way
along the line and collecting a number of men separated from a variety of units, Second-Lieutenant Hendin held the position
for twelve hours until he withdrew with his gallant band of men to another position which they held for three days. For his
actions Hendin, a native of Southampton, would be awarded the Military Cross only to die in action the following year at Arras
in an attack close to the notorious Chemical Works located at Roeux aged 23 years).
The Grimsby "Chums" had gone into action numbering 20 officers
and 822 Other Ranks. After being relieved in the early hours of the 4th July the battalion had lost in officers, 4 killed,
10 wounded and one missing, in O/R's the losses were 66 killed, 259 wounded and 162 missing. (Source: T.N.A. WO95/2457/1).
|Extract From The Official History
In support of the Grimsby "Chums," the 11th Suffolks
suffered a similar fate as they rose to the advance. Hit by intense machine-gun fire from La Boisselle from the off, only
a few men even made it as far as the German front line positions. Despite severe losses, a message was received around noon
at the 101st Infantry Brigade Headquarters from Captain Osbert Harold Brown, "B" Company, 11th Suffolks. This message
reported that he and about 20 men of the battalion in addition to another 200 men of various units from the brigade, were
holding positions in Wood Alley ( Author: Round Wood Alley) and here Captain Brown ably assisted by Lieutenant Leonard
Seardison Robson of the 15th Royal Scots consolidated the position despite a number of counter-attacks by the enemy. For their
actions, Brown would be awarded the Distinguished Service Order, Robson, the Military Cross.
To the left of the Lincoln's, the 21st (Service) Battalion (2nd Tyneside
Scottish) of the 102nd Infantry Brigade would assault the German front line trenches between the Schwaben Hohe and
the Glory Hole to the north, right and left flanks of their advance respectively.
The battalion's tenure of the front line had already got off to a bad
start when on the 30th June, Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Percy Dunbar Carmatt Stuart was incapacitated by shell fire.
Command of the battalion now devolved on Major Frederick Christian Heneker of the 20th Battalion who was sent over forthwith.
A Canadian by birth and attached to the Northumberland Fusiliers from the Leinster Regiment, Heneker had already had an outstanding
military career. Serving in France with the 2nd Battalion, Leinster Regiment from September 1914, he was wounded on the 14th
January 1915 near Armentieres and after recovering from these wounds was posted to France in January 1916.
Delaying their advance to allow for the fall of debris from the explosion
of the mine the men rose to the assault. Immediately men began to fall as withering machine gun fire obliterated the ranks.
The survivors however pressed on somehow despite the decimation of the battalion, some managing to gain a foothold in the
enemy trenches, some pinned down in No Man's Land.