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Finding Private Hanna

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From Belgium to Ballymoney: an appeal for information about World War One soldier Private John Hanna

A graveyard document and a memorial plaque have sparked an appeal for information about a World War One soldier from Ballymoney.

The plaque, known as a Death Penny, and the Pond Farm Cemetery certificate belonged to Private John Hanna. They were recently handed over to the Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council Councillor Brenda Chivers and are set to go on display in Ballymoney Museum.

The items were found in Brookeborough, County Fermanagh by Andrew Barrett, who was clearing out his uncle Tom McIlroy’s house after his death.

They made their way back to Ballymoney after Andrew contacted local members of the Royal British Legion. Now researchers and those at the Museum would like to find out more about Private Hanna, who is commemorated in St James’ Presbyterian Church.

The story so far

Tom McIlroy married Jane Elliot in 1986 when she was living at Bann View House in Drumaheglis outside Ballymoney. Her belongings were taken to Brookeborough after her marriage. This included Private Hanna’s items which she had received from her next door neighbour Dan Hanna. At the time Dan lived alone but had a brother Jim living in Belfast

The Hanna family in the 1911 census included 4 boys and 3 girls living with their mother Margaret, a widow at Artigoran, Seacon. The father was Robert Hanna, Stationmaster. The four sons were John, James, Robert and Daniel.

John Hanna signed up early in Ballymoney (12th Battalion RIR 36th Ulster). At the time of enlistment the family were living in Drumaheglis.

On the first day of the Somme, he witnessed horrendous fighting. The 12th Battalion was then taken out of battle to be brought up to strength and returned to Wulverghem in Belgium near Messines. During preparations for the Battle of Messines, Private Hanna was killed along with two others from Ballymoney, Lance Corporal James McCoubrey and Rifleman William Wade, all now buried beside each other at Pond Farm Cemetery. Also from Ballymoney and injured at the time was their friend Rifleman George Wales, who had lived around the corner from William Wade. He would survive this event, only to be killed at Cambrai in November the same year.

Local historian Robert Thompson has been unable to find out any more about the family and there is no known connection at this stage to the Hanna families who currently live at Drumaheglis.

If you think you could provide any further information on John Hanna, his friends or his family please ring 028 2766 0230 or email [email protected]uk<mailto:[email protected]causewaycoastandglens.gov.uk>

The Death Penny and Pond Farm Cemetery certificate are on display in Ballymoney Museum and will be part of the 1918 exhibition which opens on November 5th – 29 December 29th.

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