yeovil at War
Albert Edward Hann
Killed in action during the Battle of Loos
Albert Edward Hann was born in Yeovil in 1880, the son of Railway Packer William Hann (b 1839) and Ann née Clark (b 1841). In the 1881 census William and Ann were recorded living at Jenning's Row with their children; Bessie (b 1870), Alice (b1873) and one-year old Albert. There were also two other Railway Packers and two sailors boarding with them. It must have been a real squeeze since the buildings of Jenning's Row were very tiny. Also known as 'The Colony', Jenning’s Buildings or New Prospect Place, it was a long terrace of small cottages, little better than slums and occupied by the very poorest families. The buildings were described as "simply huts with no foundations and originally having earth floors".
By the time of the 1891 census William and Ann, together with Alice and Albert, were living at 5 Pen Field. William was now working as a Bricklayer's Labourer while 11-year old Albert was still at school. After he left school Albert started working on the railways and in the 1901 census he was listed as a Railway Fireman and was boarding in Lambeth, London.
When war was declared Albert enlisted at Hounslow, giving his residence as Taunton. He joined the 3rd Battalion, Royal Fusiliers, Service No 15990.
Also known as the City of London Regiment, the Royal Fusiliers raised no fewer than 47 battalions for service in the Great War. This makes it the fifth largest after the London Regiment, Northumberland Fusiliers, Middlesex Regiment and King's (Liverpool Regiment).
The 3rd Battalion was a Regular Army Battalion stationed at Lucknow, India, in August 1914 but returned to England in December 1914 at which time it joined 85th Brigade, 28th Division. The Battalion went to France and landed at Le Havre mid-January 1915. The Division concentrated in the area between Bailleul and Hazebrouck, being joined by additional Territorial units. In 1915 they were in action in The Second Battle of Ypres and The Battle of Loos.
The Second Battle of Ypres, 22 April-25 May 1915, was a rare German offensive on the Western Front during 1915. It was launched with two aims in mind. The first was to distract attention from the movement of German troops to the eastern front in preparation for the campaign that would lead to the victory of Gorlice-Tarnow. The second was to assess the impact of poisoned gas on the western front. Gas had already been used on the eastern front, at Bolimov (3 January 1915), but the tear gas used there had frozen in the extreme cold. At Ypres the Germans used the first lethal gas of the war, chlorine. The gas was to be released from 6,000 cylinders and would rely on the wind to blow it over the allied trenches. This method of delivery controlled the timing of the attack – the prevailing winds on the western front came from the west, so the Germans had to wait for a suitable wind from the east to launch their attack. The line around Ypres was held by French, Canadian and British troops. The attack on 22 April hit the French lines worst and, not surprisingly, the line broke under the impact of this deadly new weapon. The gas created a gap 8,000 yards long in the Allied lines north of Ypres. The success of their gas had surprised the Germans who didn’t have the reserves to quickly exploit the unexpected breakthrough, allowing enough time to plug the gap with newly arrived Canadian troops. During the battle the British, French and Canadians suffered 60,000 casualties, the Germans only 35,000.
The Battle of Loos was part of the wider Third Battle of Artois, itself part of a wider Allied attack on the German lines in the autumn of 1915. 25 September saw the start of the Second Battle of Champagne, while in Artois the French attacked Vimy Ridge. The British attack was to be launched by six divisions from Douglas Haig’s First Army and the attack was preceded by a four day bombardment that would see the first use of poisoned gas by the British. The Chlorine gas would be a great disappointment. It was released at 5.50 am, giving it forty minutes to do its work before the infantry attacked at 6.30. However, much of the gas either lingered in No Man's Land or drifted back over the British lines. Despite this setback, the first British assault was a success. By the end of 25 September the British had advanced to within a thousand yards of the German second line to the north of Loos. The reserve divisions were needed to attack this intact second line of defences. However, poor communications and poor planning meant that the reserves didn’t reach the original British lines until the end of 25 September. The next afternoon the 21st and 24th Divisions launched an attack in ten columns across the open ground in front of the German second line. Largely unaffected by the four day bombardment, the barbed wire in front of this second line was intact. The British advanced to the wire, taking horrific casualties all the time, and were then forced to retreat. The battle had been so one-sided that many Germans stopped firing during the British retreat.
The battle continued for another three weeks. When the fighting finally died down, the British front line stood close to the line reached at the end of the first day, although the Germans had recaptured the Hohenzollern Redoubt. British losses at Loos were close to 50,000, with 16,000 dead and 25,000 wounded. Estimates of German casualty figures vary, but the most common figure is for a total of 25,000 losses, half the British figure. The autumn battles of 1915 all ended in a similar tale of Allied failure and heavy losses.
Albert was initially reported missing in the battle but was later reported killed in action on 29 September 1915. He was 35 years old.
On 25 February 1916 the Western Gazette reported "Private A Hann, of the 3rd Royal Fusiliers, who was reported missing in September of last year, is now stated to have been killed in action. The deceased private was a Yeovilian, but, had not been living in the town for some years, giving up employment in Essex to join the Army on the outbreak of war. His sister, Miss E Hann, resides at No 2 Victoria Buildings."
The Second Battle of Ypres, 22 April-25 May 1915.
British infantry advancing through gas at Loos, 25 September 1915.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission certificate in memory of Albert Hann.
Loos Memorial, Dud Corner Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France
The Loos Memorial forms the sides and back of Dud Corner Cemetery. Dud Corner Cemetery stands almost on the site of a German strong point, the Lens Road Redoubt, captured by the 15th (Scottish) Division on the first day of the battle. The name "Dud Corner" is believed to be due to the large number of unexploded enemy shells found in the neighbourhood after the Armistice. The Loos Memorial commemorates over 20,000 officers and men who have no known grave, who fell in the area from the River Lys to the old southern boundary of the First Army, east and west of Grenay. On either side of the cemetery is a wall 15 feet high, to which are fixed tablets on which are carved the names of those commemorated. At the back are four small circular courts, open to the sky, in which the lines of tablets are continued, and between these courts are three semicircular walls or apses, two of which carry tablets, while on the centre apse is erected the Cross of Sacrifice. The memorial was designed by Sir Herbert Baker with sculpture by Charles Wheeler. It was unveiled by Sir Nevil Macready on 4 August 1930.