David Wishart Hanna

David survived ground-breaking surgery after being wounded in France, but died in a motorbike accident while convalescing.

David Wishart Hanna was born in London on 19 December 1890, the son of James Wishart Hanna, a house decorator, and his wife Jane. He had an older sister, Marion, and brother, Benjamin. His parents were Scottish, but the family had moved to London in the 1880s, before David was born.

Hanna was educated at Sloane School in London. After leaving school he went to work for Parr’s Bank. He gained experience at the bank’s large and busy London Lombard Street Office, and in March 1913 was posted to the small branch at Teddington. He was still working there when war broke out in August 1914.

In his spare time Hanna was actively involved in the Boy Scout movement, and was an officer of the troop in Fulham, where he lived. He was on camp with the troop when war was declared on 4 August 1914.

In October 1914 Hanna volunteered for the army, joining the Royal Fusiliers. A month later he became a commissioned officer in the same regiment. After training at Shorncliffe, Folkestone and Aldershot, Second Lieutenant David Wishart Hanna was put in charge of a section of snipers. He went with his battalion to France at the end of May 1915.

In the early hours of 6 September 1915 Hanna was leading a party scouting in front of the trenches. They were crawling, low to the ground, when a bullet struck Hanna, passing through his heel and into the chest of the man behind. As his commanding officer later reported, ‘he assisted his man back to the trench (a no mean undertaking in the dark and wet) and saw him safely away before telling the other members of the party that he had been hit.’ For his conduct in this incident, he was mentioned in despatches by Field Marshall Sir John French, and was later awarded the Military Cross.

Hanna was taken to an RAMC hospital in France, where he was given an X-ray that showed his ankle bone was undamaged. After ten days he was moved to England, where surgeons undertook a technically advanced operation to replace the severed ankle nerve with a section of nerve from his leg. The operation was successful, and Hanna slowly began to regain feeling in his foot.

By June 1916 he was staying at a military convalescent home at Hythe, on the Kent coast. He was unable to walk without a stick, so was permitted to use his motorbike to get around. He was riding one day to Ashford, 12 miles away, when he collided with a car travelling in the opposite direction. His arm and leg were broken, and he suffered a severe head injury. He died in hospital soon afterwards. He was buried in Fulham with full military honours, with his troop of boy scouts following. His obituary in Parr’s Bank Magazine noted that his colleagues had ‘lost a loyal colleague whose memory will be gratefully cherished.’