|Date of Birth
|October 3, 1892
|Place of Birth
|Next of Kin
|N.J. Hansen (father), Keewatin, Ontario
|Trade / Calling
|Link to Service Record
|Canadian Expeditionary Force
|Enlisted / Conscripted
|Address at Enlistment
|Date of Enlistment
|May 25, 1915
|Age at Enlistment
|Theatre of Service
|Prisoner of War
|Date of Death
|January 29, 1960
|Age at Death
|Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario
Private Hans Edward Hansen was one of four brothers from Keewatin, Ontario who served in the First World War.
Hans was the oldest son of Nils (Nels) Julius Hansen and his wife Ellen Nilson. Nils and Ellen both immigrated to Canada in the 1880s, Nils from Norway and Ellen from Sweden. They were married in December 1888 in Winnipeg and they settled in Keewatin where Nils had a long career with the Lake of the Woods Milling Company. By the 1920s he was superintendent of the flour mill’s heating and sprinkler systems. He was also very active in community affairs and he served on the Keewatin town council in 1920 and as Keewatin’s mayor in 1921. Nils and Ellen had seven children, their daughter Cleora (1890), followed by Hans (30 October 1892), Allan, Carl, John, Fred and Clarence.
The war started in August 1914 and Hans enlisted the following spring, signing up in Kenora on 25 May 1915 with the 52nd (New Ontario) Battalion. The 52nd was based in Port Arthur and recruited throughout northwestern Ontario. In June 1915 the Kenora volunteers were sent to Port Arthur to train with the rest of the unit. Early in November they left for St John, New Brunswick and from there they embarked for England on 23 November on the SS California. They trained at Witley Camp in Surrey then at Camp Bramshott in Hampshire, and on 20 February 1916 the battalion was shipped to France. The men spent the first night in tents in a snowstorm before being moved to Belgium by train the next day. They became part of the 9th Brigade in the 3rd Canadian Division on 23 February.
Early in March the 52nd went into the trenches for orientation. Later that month the Canadian Corps took up positions in the south part of the Ypres Salient, between St. Eloi and Hooge, and the 52nd was moved into the area in April. The Battle of Mount Sorrel started on 2 June with an intense bombardment of the Canadian lines followed by the explosion of underground mines. After the barrage German infantry advanced and captured Mount Sorrel and nearby areas. The 52nd was involved in the heavy fighting several times over the two next weeks. Most of the lost ground was recaptured and the battle ended on 13 June with little change to the front lines but at a cost of 8,000 Canadian casualties.
A month after the battle, in July 1916, Hans came under the command of a British unit that was cutting timber. He likely spent the rest of the war working in forestry and other activities behind the front lines. He had ten days leave in August 1917 and two weeks in January 1918, both times to the UK. One of the fortunate few, his service file records no injuries or illnesses for the four years he spent overseas. The Armistice ended hostilities in November 1918 but it was three months before Hans returned to England with his unit. After five more weeks there he embarked for Canada on the SS Olympic on 17 March 1919, arriving in Halifax a week later, and he was discharged in Port Arthur at the end of the month
Three of his brothers also served: Allan and Carl with the Canadian Field Artillery and John with the 34th Fort Garry Horse. John died of illness in Winnipeg at age 19, while he was in training, but Allan and Carl survived the war.
After his discharge Hans returned to Keewatin and he was honoured at a ceremony there on 4 August 1919, when medals were awarded to veterans and the families of fallen soldiers. At the time of the 1921 census he was living at home with his parents, his sister and three brothers and working as a truck driver for a local flour mill, the Lake of the Woods Milling Company. On 4 June 1924 he married 27-year-old Emma Harriet Minor at the United Church in Keewatin. Emma was the daughter of John and Isabel Minor and she was born and raised in Keewatin. Hans and Emma had two children, a son Ted and a daughter Marjorie who died as an infant in 1925. In November 1930 Hans’ father and brother Frederick both died of pneumonia and his mother passed away a year and a half later.
Hans lived in Keewatin for the rest of his life. He had started working for the Lake of the Woods Milling Company in 1909 and he retired from the company in November 1958. He was active in sports and community affairs and he served on the Keewatin town council. He was the fire chief in Keewatin for eight years and a member of the local branch of the Canadian Legion. Hans passed away on 29 January 1960 and he’s buried in Lake of the Woods Cemetery in Kenora. His wife died in 1986 and she’s also buried there, along with their infant daughter.
Hans, Allan, Carl and John are commemorated on the Municipality of Keewatin ‘For King and Country’ 1914-1918 Honour Roll. Hans is also commemorated on the Lake of the Woods Milling Company plaque.
By Becky Johnson
Photos courtesy of Marnie (Hansen) Karlberg