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Sgt F O'Hanlon. From Boer War to Porton 1918

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Sgt F O'Hanlon. From Boer War to Porton 1918

Postby Rob Mac » Mon Oct 20, 2014 4:57 pm

I would be very grateful for some help in researching my wife's grandfather Francis (aka Frank) O'Hanlon - born in Scotland in 1876 and died in London in 1921 "as a consequence of being gassed in the war".

I have found the following facts:- Enlisted in Royal Artillery 1898 in Belfast. Service in South Africa and India Discharged 1910 Rank Sergeant No. 28745 (Chelsea Pensioner's Army Service record).
Dock Policeman living in Rotherhithe 1911 (Census and Marriage Cert)
His MIC is the only record available for WW1. It gives his number 69049 RFA and shows his Victory, British & Star (1915) medals and "entry theatre" to be Egypt 1/4/15

Family held documents:- 1. Army Form Z18 Cert. of Employment during War. Regt. RFA Unit Experimental Bty RA Porton.. Nature of Employment 19/1/15 to 20/1/15 Gunner, 20/1/15 to date Sergeant.Signed by Captain commanding Experimental Battery RA Porton. (Form not dated but must be after 21 Oct 1918 from printed info on form).
2. Generic letter from War Office, 18/1/19 expressing "gratitude of the Army to members of the Chemical Warfare Dept & especially the self sacrificing services, often at risk of permanent disablement, of the RE Experimental Station at Porton."
3. Letter from the Lord Lieutenant of London, 19/1/21, inviting him to be presented with the OBE "for conspicuous courage in connection with very dangerous experimental work in a poisonous atmosphere often causing great physical discomfort and ill health"
4. Undated letter of condolence from Buckingham Palace "gratitude for a life so nobly given in the sevice of his country"

I don't think he ever received his OBE because he died 7 days after the invitation letter from "Acute congestion of the lungs" No medals remain in the family's possession. The familty story was that he had been gassed in the war but the significance of Porton has previously not been noted (Perhaps the Official Secrets Act prevented him telling his wife his story?)
Document WO/277 at TNA may help in defining his time at Porton but is there any way of finding where he went before then. War diaries would help, but which? His "entry" in Egypt coincides with the arrival of the 2nd Mounted Division which subsequently (Dismounted) went on to Gallipoli, leaving behind some men to look after the horses and maintain artillery defence of the Suez canal. The constituents of 2nd Mounted division do not mention a specific RFA brigade.

It may be impossible but if anyone has any ideas I would be very grateful (NB I have no axe to grind about Porton Down - just interested in his wartime service). BTW I have also posted this ? on the Great War Forum if any of you visit that site as well.

Rob Mac
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Joined: Tue Oct 14, 2014 10:07 am

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