An Interesting Life

This article written by Alan Capon was in a local newspaper in Prince Edward County.

In an earlier post about Digital Magic, there is a picture of Dad in Nipigon where there was a POW camp.
Unfortunately, several gifts given to him by prisoners were lost. They included a pencil box, carved to scale, of the HMS Louvain, as well as several water colour paintings of the prison compound at Bowmanville.
Dad also played the bass drum in the army band during these years.
In the years after the war I often went with him when he was on commissionaire duty at Mountain View airport. Mountain view airport was a training facility during the war, and after became known as #6RD, (number 6 repair depot attached to Trenton Base). I had the rare privilege to taxi around the runways in various aircraft that were being repaired. They included Bristols, Lancasters, Westland Lysanders, Harvard Trainers, and others.

Jim Hanna’s ship was torpedoed in WW1
On October 1, 1914 James Hunter Hanna joined the Royal Navy.
On January 21, 1918, the Royal Navy ship James (Jim) was serving in during the First World War was torpedoed in the Aegean Sea. He was one of the few survivors of those on board HMS Louvain. Reports indicate 224 deaths with fewer than 20 survivors. The former “Dresden” (renamed when requisitioned by the navy) had been converted to an armed boarding steamer and was stationed at Malta. On that fatal day two torpedoes from a German submarine struck in quick succession and in less than five minutes his boat had sunk. Jim Hanna had just come off duty and was lying on his bunk reading when the first torpedo struck the ship’s hold near his cabin. The second torpedo struck the engine room. He jumped overboard from the listing vessel just as the boilers blew up. As he jumped his feet were touching the ship’s steel hull and the force of the explosion threw him clear. Without a life preserver, he and others clung on to pieces of wreckage floating in the water. They then found and clung an upturned lifeboat. They remained in the shark- infested waters until a British destroyer rescued them two hours later. The destroyer took the survivors to the Greek Island of Milos. A naval sloop returned them to Malta and, a few weeks later, Jim Hanna was repatriated to the United Kingdom. Discharged at the end of 1918, Hanna still sought adventure and joined the British merchant navy service sailing from Leith, Scotland to Galvaston, Texas on a small tramp steamer carrying pig iron and canned goods. After a number of such trips he stayed on in Galvaston and, in 1919, joined the Rice and Dorman Circus in Shrevesport, Louisiana. His job was to pump air into a tank where an escape artist supposedly underwater was in a strait-jacket and pretending to escape. From the circus he moved on to the oil fields of Louisiana and then to Detroit where he joined his father, mother and family who had emigrated there in 1921. Later, he worked in Alberta where he met Ross Valleau and joined his ranch. This family had moved to Alberta from Picton and this was the connection that eventually led Jim Hanna to move to Picton after he married Mr. Valleau’s niece Edna Hughes. Here he farmed and on Oct. 1, 1941, during the Second World War, he joined the Veterans Guard of Canada, made up of former First World War servicemen. It was exactly 27 years to the day since he joined the Royal Navy. He spent the war years guarding prisoners of war in various camps in Canada including Nipigon and Bowmanville, as well as escorting prisoners who had landed at Halifax. He was discharged in Kingston in 1945. Returning to farming he also joined the Canadian Corps of Commissioners and served at RCAF Mountain View, Camp Picton and Point Petre, retiring in 1964. Jim Hanna died on March 27, 1982. His wife, Edna, had died in 1968. Three of their five boys are still living: George of Picton, Keith, RR 1, Bloomfield and Lloyd of Oshawa. Passed on are Ronald, who lived in Picton, and Paul, who lived in Yellowknife.

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