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Blue Plaque Unveiling for Robert Hill Hanna VC

21 September 2017, 11:30, Kilkeel Presbyterian Church, Newcastle Street, Kilkeel, BT34 4AF

Runs to 21 September 2017

The Ulster History Circle will commemorate Robert Hill Hanna VC (1887 - 1967) with a blue plaque unveiling on Thursday 21st September at 11.30am.

The plaque will be unveiled by the VC’s nephew, Robert Hill Hanna.

Robert Hill Hanna, a man from Mourne, was born on 6th August 1887 in the townland of Aughnahoory, Kilkeel, to parents Robert H. Hanna and his wife Sarah.

In I905 he emigrated to Canada, settling in British Columbia, and worked in a lumber camp. At the age of 27, he enlisted on 7th November 1914 in the Canadian Infantry, and was posted as a private to the 29th (Vancouver) Batt.  His Service No. was 75361.

On 21st August 1917, at Hill 70 Lens, France, Company Sergeant-Major Hanna’s company met with most severe enemy resistance at a heavily protected strong point, which had beaten off three assaults and all the officers of the company had become casualties. Under heavy machine-gun and rifle fire, Robert Hill Hanna coolly collected and led a party against the strong point, rushed through the wire and personally killed four of the enemy, capturing the position and silencing the machine gun. This courageous action was responsible for the capture of a most important tactical point. 

The notice of Robert Hill Hanna’s bravery was cited in the London Gazette on 8th November 1917, and he was awarded the Victoria Cross at the investiture at Buckingham Palace on 5th December 1917.   Also at the Palace on that day were five other Canadian soldiers who had won Victoria Crosses at the Battle at Lens, August 1917.

Robert Hill Hanna visited Kilkeel immediately after the investiture and received a rapturous reception at a public meeting in the Square attended by upward of 3,000 people.

At the end of the war he returned to Vancouver where he was manager of a logging camp until 1938.  In 1957, he was one of the six holders of Victoria Crosses in Canada to act as pall-bearers at the funeral of Lt.-General Byng, who himself won his  VC in the fighting for Hill 70, August 1917.

Sadly at the age of 80, Robert died in 1967 and is buried in British Columbia, Canada.  Relations of Robert Hill Hanna still live in the area of Mourne, where he was born and also in the surrounding area.

Chris Spurr, Chairman of the Ulster History Circle comments,

‘Robert Hill Hanna left Mourne for Canada to seek a new life, but it was in France, as a company sergeant major, that his valour brought him lasting honour. One hundred years after CSM Hanna won the Victoria Cross, the Ulster History Circle is delighted to commemorate this heroic soldier with a blue plaque in Kilkeel.  The Circle would like to thank the Ulster-Scots Agency for their financial support towards the plaque, and Kilkeel Presbyterian Church for their assistance.’

A biography on Robert Hill Hanna VC can be accessed on


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