5 September 2009

17272 Pte Hugh Bannon

Hugh Bannon was born in 1878/9 in Stepney and was raised at 21 Albert Square.

In 1901, aged 22, he enlisted in the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, and was given the number 9324.

He stood five foot ten, with brown hair and eyes and was covered in tattoo's: Brittania on his chest and various birds and ladies on both his arms.

Hugh served in South Africa in 1902, giving his London address as 28 Upton Avenue, Forest Gate, before moving to 40 Lucas Avenue, Upton Park.

On leaving the Guards he wanted to become a Metropolitan Policeman and was described by the Army as being 'smart, sober and trustworthy'. At some point he ended up working in the West India Docks on the Isle of Dogs as a dock labourer.

His one story in later life of the War was of being one of only two survivors of his Platoon or Company. The attack was quite possibly at 'Oppy Wood', where the Hammers lost 240 men. The Germans got in behind and on the flanks of both the West Ham Battalion and the 17th Middlesex (Footballers). It was a disaster.

Hugh served his whole time with the Hammers. On the 28th March, 1918, after he had been posted to the 2nd battalion Essex Regiment, he was shot through the jaw, losing a number of teeth and gaining a scar on the right cheek. The day before he had been hit in the arm.

From the War Diary of 2nd Battalion, on the Front Line outside Arras:

28th March.

3am - 7am Heavy hostile bombardment on flank, support & reserve lines. Trench mortars cut wire on our front. Bombardment increased and is very severe. Still in communication with other Coys & B HQ

7:05am - 7:35am. Enemy seen massing on front lines. Communicatons cease, all wires cut. All Coys send up SOS rockets. Very severe fighting in support & reserve lines.

7:40am. Enemy breakthrough flanks and advance down Chili Trench. Bn HQ withdraw to the junction of Chili, Harry & Hussar trenches and with about 35 ORs form a strong point to block enemy. B HQ moved to 2nd lancs Hqdrs and remainder of men come under the command of 2nd Lancs Fusiliers.

By April 1st 1918, Hugh was out of France and in hosptal at Finsbury Square in the City. At the end of Ww1 he returned to his wife and five children at 40 Lucas Avenue, Upton Park.

He was a lifelong Hammers supporter, and his large family are still regulars, some with season tickets.

Images used are Courtesy of the Bannon Family, especial thanks to John Cumming for making contact