Thomas Hanson enlisted in 1939. This photo was taken after almost five years of Army service in Nijmegen, Holland. February 1944.
The Sackville House in East Grinstead, Sussex, England, was a busy social club much used by Canadian Servicemen. It was operated by local citizens. 1943
The King George and Queen Elizabeth Victoria League Club in London was a university dormitory converted into a hostel for troops visiting London. The building was destroyed by a bomb on May 11, 1941. Many servicemen were killed.
Letter of appreciation from King George VI to Signalman Thomas Hanson for being part of the first contingent of Canadian Forces to arrive in England on December 17, 1939.
Thomas Hanson (top row, far right) and 1 Operating Section, 1st Canadian Corps of Signals in England. April 5, 1940.
"It was kind of noisy and very lit up, which gives you the impression the whole German Army are looking over your shoulder."
My name is Tom Hanson. I was born in Montreal and joined the Army in Montreal in early September 1939. I was trained as a commercial telegraph operator before the war, so I joined the Signal Corps, naturally.
I went overseas with 1st Corps Signals, and served with them in England until mid-September of 1943, at which time we were sent to Sicily with the 2nd Contingent, including the 5th Division and a number of core troops, artillery regiments, to reinforce the 1st Division which were already there. To support them and create, in effect, a full Canadian corps.
I served in Italy, coming up as far as Ravenna on the Adriatic coast and taking along the way the action at Cassino. From Ravenna we moved down to Naples and then to Marseille to join the Canadian Army in northwest Europe. I was with them until the end of hostilities, and then volunteered for action in the Pacific. I came home, but the war in the Pacific ended before the proposed 6th Canadian Division was mobilized and could be moved there effectively.
Because my wife and my children have asked me very often about the war, and not willing to be fatiguing about it, I started to write about it, and I've written so far about three particular incidents. The death of a young soldier while he and I were talking. Another one concerns a line patrol to repair a ruptured communication line with my Corporal, who received the Military Medal for that particular action. Also, one about the experience of being bombed out in a soldiers' hostel in London in 1941.
In this one incident, I was a Sergeant in the signals section attached to the 1st Canadian Medium Artillery Regiment, and included in this section was a component known as the 'Line Section'. They were responsible in the signals for laying telegraph lines. One night when we were in Ravenna, and getting a fairly heavy counter battery fire, a Corporal of the Line Section – a chap by the name of Percy Gunn – came up to me and told me that he was out of manpower. His men were all employed, and we had to go out and find break in the communication line to some other artillery regiment, and could I find a man for him. I couldn't find one, so I went with him. While I was senior in rank to him, I was acting under his direction because it was his trade, not mine. Anyway, it was pretty busy. We got caught in fairly heavy shellfire at the point where the line had been burned out, because a truck loaded with ammunition or fuel or something had been hit and burned. It was kind of noisy and very lit up, which gives you the impression the whole German Army are looking over your shoulder. So we got the job done, got it fixed and went back, and a result of that, Perce Gunn got the Military Medal.