The story of Charlie and John Hand, two brothers from Dublin who died while fighting in the British Army in France in WW I.
My grandmother Annie Hand was one of a large working class family living in Dublin. She had three brothers who fought in WW I – Charlie, John, and Michael; and this is their story.
Charles Hand in Uniform | Source: Angela Walsh
Charles (Charlie) Hand was born in Dublin on 23 January 1892. My grandmother, Annie Hand, was next to him in a large family and they were very close growing up. Their family had no army tradition but Charlie grew up in a tenement house with eleven siblings and the idea of becoming a soldier must have been very attractive to a young boy from his background.
In July 1909 at the age of 17 he enlisted with the Connaught Rangers in Dublin. After three months basic training at Renmore Barracks he was sent to the Curragh Camp in Co. Kildare before being posted overseas in 1911 to Ferezepore in Northern India, where he joined the 1st Battalion of the Connaught Rangers. In August 1914 he embarked with the 1st Battalion at Karachi and arrived at Marseilles in September that year. The 1st Battalion joined the fray at Messines, south of Ypres, on 24 October 1914. They were involved in some tough action before being moved south to the Battle of Festurbet in November 1914, where they suffered huge losses. It seems he and two colleagues were killed by shelling while working on repairing trenches on Wednesday, 10 February 1915. He was aged just 23. Charlie is buried in Le Touret Military Cemetery, Richebourg L’Avoue, France.
John Hand's Obituary in newspaper | Source: Angela Walsh
His brother John Hand was born in Dublin on 21 June, 1896. John was just 14 years old when Charlie enlisted in the British Army. My grandmother told me that John always wanted to be a soldier like his older brother, but their widowed mother had pleaded with John not to join the army. John was working as a miller at the time, but it seems he went to Liverpool, where his aunt was living, and while there enlisted on the 7th October 1915 with the King’s (Liverpool) Regiment 8th Battalion. I know very little about his military history, which was very brief as, less than a year later, John was dead. He was killed on the 1 August 1916 at the Somme. There was no trace of his body so he is simply remembered at the Thiepval Memorial in France. The items returned to his mother after his death included 1 letter, 2 photos, 1 pack of cigarettes, 2 rosaries and a cap badge.
Their younger brother Michael Hand was born in Dublin on 28 February 1898. In 1915 Michael, aged just 17, was working as a labourer when he enlisted with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers on 11 October 1915 in Sutton, Dublin. I cannot imagine their mother’s despair at that time to have lost one son and to see her other two both join the army within a few days of each other. Michael went on to have a chequered army career including action in France but luckily he survived the experience and lived to return to Dublin where he married and raised a family.
My grandmother went on to have two sons, Andrew and Thomas, both of whom joined the army and served in WW II. Thankfully, both survived the experience. My grandmother died in 1990 and she spent the last twenty years of her life living with us so I grew up with stories of her two beloved brothers she had lost in the war and the effect their deaths had on her family. They had both sent postcards from France home to their mother and these are treasured mementos for our family still. There is no-one alive today who knew either Charlie or John Hand.
To honour them I felt it was important to take part in this project to have their names spoken one hundred years on.