James Arthur Hannah was born at Rathwell, Manitoba on 8 May 1913 moving to the Erickson district in 1926. He worked as a farm hand in the Cardale and Newdale districts until the dirty 30’s saw him head east to the gold mines of Little Long Lac, Ontario. He married Ada Greenaway of Newdale in 1938 and they had two sons, the eldest born in Geraldton, ON and the younger born in Newdale, MB.
In 1941, Jim felt the call to arms strongly and enlisted at Brandon, MB on 31 March 1941. He joined up on 2 September 1941, initially going to #2 Wireless School in Calgary, then to Trenton, ON to complete the MMMT C and B trades training for Military Motor Mechanic. He was then sent to #4 Wireless School in Guelph. On 24 May 1943, Jim arrived at Topcliffe England. On 23 February 1944 he was sent to RCAF District Headquarters New Delhi with 4 Wing (435/436 Squadrons) then on 4 May 1944 to Calcutta where he completed the MMMT A trades training. He was attached to #221/222 Group of the RAF based in Ceylon on 17 Nov 1944 and started working in Public Relations.
Although he spoke very little of what actually happened in the war, he did love to talk about the places he had been, the good times, as it were and to speak in Hindu. I recall stories of him crossing the Brahmaputra River, skiing at Kashmir Nepal in the Himalayas, flying “the hump” from Mandalay Burma to Kunming China, visiting the city of Lhasa in Tibet. He managed a few pictures which he was able to snap seeing as he was in the PR business at that time in the war. The most terrifying story that I recall him telling me is him being strapped to the front of a jeep, repairing it, while navigating the Burma Road. He also loved to tell of a time when he was a ‘kicker’ in a DC3, kicking packets out of the aircraft. He literally crisscrossed Burma and India, north and south from Ceylon to China.
1 September 1945 found him in Worli, Bombay at the sea shore. He did love his time doing PR. He got to transport senior officers, travel to Egypt, meet Lord Mountbatten at Canada House in Calcutta and actor Melvin Douglas with whom he has a picture of them together. His release documents credit him with 1597 days of service with 933 being served overseas. Jim saw many atrocities and suffered greatly with shell shock and after effects of malaria. He told my son that he was known in parts as the ‘Cowboy’ because he could shoot his revolver from the hip, once killing a snake. He received the following medals: 1939 – 1945 Star, Burma Star, Defense Medal, General Service Medal and CVSM with Clasp. Jim was released on January 15, 1946.
Life at the home front for my mom raising the two babies with the help from many relatives, working the tomato fields in southern Ontario sometimes next to POWs, travelling home to Newdale, running to a near by house at a train stop to warm a baby bottle are just some of the stories I remember her telling. My brother who was born just after Jim enlisted in 1941, had never seen his dad and remembers hiding behind Grandpa Greenaway’s cook stove when this strange man walked in. With two sons to help raise at home now with the addition of a new baby daughter, and his continued interest in the Air Force, Jim re-enlisted in 1956 as a Flying Officer with the RCAC working with 320 Squadron in Rivers, MB while continuing to farm near Oak River. Times were hard when the memories reared their ugly head and this became more difficult as he aged. Little help was available until the mid 1980s when finally PTSD was recognized by VAC but even then, there was not much in the way of real help.
Jim and Ada retired off the farm at Oak River in 1973, moving to Brandon and then to Portage la Prairie in 1985. Jim passed away 10 May 2004 at the age of 91. Strong to the end. They are buried in the Oak River Cemetery.
Submitted by daughter
Barb (Hannah) Bradley MGS #2498