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Hannay in the Relief of Mafeking and the Western Front 1 month 1 week ago #95458

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Henry Desmond Hannay

Wounded in Action near Mafeking on 31 March 1900
Mentioned in Despatches – 30 December 1918 - WWI

Lieutenant, British South Africa Police – Anglo Boer War
Captain, North Staffordshire Regiment – WWI
Major and Officer Commanding, Bechuanaland Protectorate Police – post WWI

- Queens South Africa Medal (RoM/OFS/TVL) to Lieut. H.D. Hannay, B.S.A. Police
- Kings South Africa Medal (South Africa 1901/1902) to Lt. H.D. Hannay, B.S.A. Police
- 1914/15 Star to Capt. H.D. Hannay, N. Staff. R.
- British War Medal to Capt. H.D. Hannay
- Victory Medal with Mentioned in Despatches Oakleaf to Capt. H.D. Hannay
- Defence Medal 1939/45 (unnamed as issued)

Henry Desmond Hannay, sometimes Henry Clement Hannay, was born on 28 May 1871 at Spring Hill House, Moreton in the Marsh, Gloucestershire the son of Edward Alexander Hannay, a Lieutenant Colonel with the Antrim Artillery Militia and Justice of the Peace for Antrim, and his wife Martha, born Godbey.

Although it was claimed that he was born in England, this is at variance with the 1881 England census which informs us that he was born in Port Rush, Antrim, Ireland. At the time the enumerator called round, the family were living at 11 & 12 Suffolk Square in Cheltenham. The family was a large one with a 9 year old Henry enjoying the company of older siblings Eleanor Martha (23); Mary Ann (18); Marion Elizabeth Petronel (17); James (16); Edmund Alfred (14); Helen (12) and younger siblings Victor (7); Florence (6); Edith Sinclair (4) Blanche Alexandra (2) and Claude Patrick (1). As could be expected in the household of a man of considerable means; there were no fewer than five servants to cater for the large family’s needs.

From an early age Henry was sent to boarding school, first to attend Victoria College in Jersey and then on to Dinan College in Lanvallay, France, the town in which his father died on 26 October 1895. Family legend has it that schooling for the children was cheaper in France.

At some point Hannay made the decision to head south to warmer climes and, like many Victorian men before him, to quench his thirst for adventure. Heading for the southern tip of Africa, he made his way to the northern reaches of the Transvaal where, entering Rhodesia in 1896, he enlisted with the British South Africa Company Police. Hannay did not take part in either the Matabele or Mashona Rebellions of 1896 and 1897 and was thus not eligible for any medals for those campaigns.

As he went about his duties, he would have been unaware that, as the end of the 19th century drew near, he and many of his comrades-in-arms would soon be embroiled in a major military conflict - the Anglo Boer War, between the two Boer Republics of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State and Great Britain burst onto the world stage on 11 October 1899. With the dawn of the next day the Boer Commandos were already in the saddle cantering towards the strategic towns of Ladysmith in Natal and Kimberley and Mafeking in the northern Cape. Mafeking the dusty township in which we have an interest was besieged by a numerically superior Boer force on 13 October 1899 – within 48 hours of the declaration of war.

It was now up to its defender, Baden-Powell, and his motley assortment of Imperial troops and Colonial volunteers to hold out whilst the focus of the war shifted to conflicts in other parts of the country where the Boers were threatening to overwhelm the meagre British forces pitted against them.

The B.S.A.P. as an entity were fragmented, some of them were caught up with Baden-Powell in the siege of Mafeking, others remained behind in Rhodesia for Home Service and to act as a buffer to any prospective Boer incursion to the North. Others still were with Colonel Plumer who had, with his small force, travelled down from Tuli to join up with Mahon’s column coming from the south. Before the outbreak of war the then existing Bechuanaland Border Police had been formed into companies. The 1st Company became No. I Division of the British South Africa Police and the others became the Bechuanaland Protectorate Police and British South Africa Company Police.

It was attached to Plumer’s force that Hannay was to see action. The plan was that Colonel Mahon was to proceed with his force from the south whilst Plumer, with his force, was to approach from the north. They would then link up, join forces, and come to the relief of the Mafeking garrison.

After a number of skirmishes along the way, by 11 January 1900, Plumer's Column was just north of Mochudi. Taking direct command of all troops in the field, he reached Gaborone, about 161km from Mafeking, on the 14th. On 17 February Plumer reported having a total 988 officers and men with 502 horses (Rhodesian Regiment, BSAP and Volunteers) including the sick, the lines of communication troops and men with the armoured trains. Crucially he remained short of artillery.

He planned to take the offensive, drawing Boer forces away from Rhodesia and Mafeking, creating a nuisance value and probing towards Mafeking and its possible relief. There was a clash with Boer forces trying to destroy the railway bridge over the Segoditshane River, 1.6km north of Gaborone, which Plumer's forces, supported by armoured trains, finally reached on 14 February; the Boers retired the same day. On 15 February, an advance towards Boer positions was halted by the flooded Metsemaswaane River, over which the bridge had been destroyed.

The junction of the Metsemaswaane and Ngotwane rivers at this point formed the border between Bechuanaland and South Africa. On 7 February, Plumer moved his men south of Gaborone, establishing a base camp on the banks of the Tlwane River, closer to Boer positions, occupied Fortress Kop and fortified Basuto Kop (Fort Butters). The Rhodesians worked at repairing the Metsemaswaane River bridge only to have their efforts destroyed repeatedly by Boer shelling. Between 16 January and 26 February, Plumer's force was engaged in skirmishes with Boer patrols and in artillery duels near the strategically vulnerable Crocodile Pools area of the railway line, about 16km south of Gaborone

Map of Plumer's Campaign BMF.jpg

On 23 January, a large Rhodesian patrol successfully attacked Boer positions on Mogagabe Hill but were forced to retreat with the arrival of Boer reinforcements and heavy shelling. An unsuccessful attack was launched on Boer positions on 2 February. Further attacks were planned but cancelled due to torrential rain and flooding. Fierce fighting took place with an unsuccessful Rhodesian night attack, 11-12 February, against Fort Eloff on Sepitsi Hill. Plumer sustained his most serious losses so far in the campaign, five killed, 21 wounded and five taken prisoner. The Boers strengthened their defences on Mogagabe Hill and began a concerted shelling of Rhodesian positions.

With some 200 reinforcements from Mafeking a planned surprise Boer attack was aborted when discovered by a Rhodesian patrol. The Boers then evacuated their position on 25 February, retiring southward some 72km to Lobatse thereby ,foolishly, abandoning the most serious barrier to Plumer's advance. The Rhodesians then occupied Sepitse Hill, completing repairs to the Metsemaswaane River bridge and railway line, allowing the armoured trains to proceed to Ramoutsa and taking Lobatse on 6 March, where Plumer received reinforcements from Bulawayo including an armoured train.

Plumer’s advance was aided by a reduction in Boer forces opposing him which were required as reinforcements at Mafeking and Derdepoort. However, poor intelligence work suggested that the way to Mafeking was open. A two-day patrol south along the railway on 9 and 10 March to Pitsani- Pothlugo, 45.7km from Mafeking, found the Boer lager deserted. A patrol on the 12 March reached close to Ramathlabama, 21km from Mafeking, where a large Boer force, reinforced from Mafeking and later Derdepoort, was concentrating. Plumer divided his forces into three columns, to confuse the Boers about his intentions, and advanced on 13 March towards Pitsani-Pothlugo, the same day as it was re-occupied by the Boers. In a fighting retreat the Rhodesians were pushed back to Lobatsi.

Plumer now decided to withdraw from Lobatse. Leaving about 350 dismounted men to hold the railhead at Crocodile Pools, he moved his mounted troops westwards about 48km, away from the railway line and Lobatse to Kanye. Here, he had prepared a well-supplied depot with a 1,770km supply line back to the port of Beira. The Boers retook Lobatse but had evacuated it by the 28 March. On 21 March Plumer moved to Sefhikile, about 48km west of Mafeking with supplies being transported 96km by wagons from Gaborone station.

Using the armoured train, the Rhodesians moved south from Ootsi, reoccupied Lobatse and patrolled south close to Mafeking. Brevet Colonel R.S.S. Baden-Powell had hoped ‘to join hands’ with Plumer at the end of March. Plumer reported, 23 March, that his scouts had found no Boers at either Ramathlabama or Jan Massibi's, both less than 16km from Mafeking. However, the Boers were concentrating around Mafeking with their numbers increasing from about 800 to at least 2,000. By the end of March, the joint forces of Baden-Powell and Plumer, probably, for the first time outnumbered Boer forces around Mafeking.

On the 26 March, in the hope of drawing Boer forces away from Mafeking, Plumer took a patrol into the Transvaal to within 19km of Zeerust but, having covered 180km in just over two days, was forced to retire due to a shortage of food and fodder. On 31 March, with a stronger force of about 300 men, Plumer reconnoitred the open country towards Mafeking with the purpose of testing Boer strength to determine whether an attempt to relieve Mafeking was possible. Leaving 30 dismounted men at Ramathlabama, Plumer moved south to within about 6km of Mafeking.

During the afternoon, at Oakland's Farm, contact was made with strong Boer forces from the Marico and Rustenburg Commandos. The engagement that followed was the first time Plumer fought the Boers in open country. Fighting over probably a two-mile front the small Rhodesian force gained some initial success but were forced into fighting a rear-guard action back to Ramathlabama as the Boers tried to envelop their flanks. Plumer then retired to Sefhikile. His casualties were heavy with eight killed/died of wounds, 32 injured, and 11 missing. Plumer was informed by Baden-Powell and Lord Roberts (Field- Marshall Lord Roberts, Commander-in- Chief South Africa) that he was not to risk any further moves to relieve Mafeking with such a small force.

It was in this contact that Hannay was Wounded in Action.

Cresswell, in Volume IV of his History of the Transvaal War, reported on the incident thus: -

“Early in the morning of the 31st Colonel Plumer, with 270 mounted men, some infantry, and a maxim reached Ramathlabama, where the Boers were said to have made their headquarters the advance guard under Colonel White proceeding within six miles of Mafeking, encountered a Boer commando, whereupon Captain Kensman on the left and Major Bordman on the right simultaneously became engaged. Desperate fighting ensued, the Boers almost doubling the British. The Dutchmen formed a semicircle, vainly endeavouring to outflank the party east and west, while Colonel Plumer’s small force, fighting “tooth and nail”, retired slowly, the squadrons covering the retreat of the unmounted men for a good ten miles before the force reached its base. Owing to the close proximity of the Boers laagers, reinforcements of Dutchmen and guns were constantly at hand, while Colonel Plumer was entirely at a disadvantage. Little cover was available, and the railway embankment, which was his only protection, was barely two feet high.”

Some interesting particulars of the fighting outside Mafeking came from a trooper.

"On our latest patrol we had a real exciting lime. We went to have a look at Mafeking, and actually saw the promised land, but we had to pay dearly for the sight. We marched from here (halfway between Kanya and Mafeking) on March 30th, and arrived at Ramathlabama on the 31st at 9 A.M. Between 300 and 350 men went, with one Maxim, all under Colonel Plumer himself. We were all mounted except thirty men of C Squadron. We formed a camp at Ramathlabama, and at 11 A.M. all the mounted men moved off towards Mafeking, our unmounted men and the Maxim remaining in camp. Our troop and Crewe's scouts formed the advance guard under our skipper, Colonel White. We rode on about eight miles, and then we got our first glimpse of Mafeking. We raised a bit of a cheer on spotting the place. Very soon we saw a large body of Boers coming up in front at a fast pace, while others were working round our flanks. We started firing at 1000 yards, with hardly anything to see to fire at. Their fire was high at first, but some of them soon got the range. We had to retreat, as we were far outnumbered, and the Boers were working away at our flanks. Moreover, they had an unlimited supply of ammunition, their base being a mile or two away, while we had to go slow with ours. So we retired by alternate squadrons. "We were nearly caught once. The Boers were coming round on our flank, and were making for some Kaffir kraals whence they would have had us fairly on toast. Our skipper, however, spotted the move in time, and we raced them for the first place and won. Crewe's men, who were sent to the second kraal, also got there first. We made them turn tail and bolt, and they were never afterwards quite so keen in getting round our flank. Our skipper worked splendidly. It was a running fight for about eight miles, lasting from 1 p.m. till 6 p.m.

When we reached the camp we found that Colonel Plumer had decided to abandon it, and had already sent the waggons off an hour before. We had to cover the retreat of the unmounted men, who had been in turn covering the retreat of the Maxim. There was a very warm time over that business. The unmounted men nearly got caught. Our casualties were pretty heavy—52 in all—12 killed, 26 wounded, and 14 missing. Altogether 75 horses were killed, wounded, and missing. Don't get the idea that we were disgracefully licked. We retreated certainly and were chased by the Boers, but we retreated in perfect order without any confusion. Moreover, in retreating we were doing as we were intended to do. Colonel Baden-Powell had some move he wished to make at Mafeking, and we were to draw away as many Boers as possible, and we certainly were successful in that. There must have been at least 600 or 700 against us.”

The Evening Post of 12 April 1900 carried an insert wherein the casualties of the 31 March were named – among them was Corporal H.D. Hannay of the British South African Police, 1st Division.

During April, the Boer forces around Mafeking probably numbered some 3,000 burghers. Plumer's force, weakened from the action at Ramathlabama, from malaria and horse fever, played a static role during April, building supplies at Kanye to support an exodus of some 1,200 natives from Mafeking and attempting to get cattle into Mafeking. On 9 May, a Boer force detrained at Pietersburg with the object of proceeding to Seleka's to cut the north-south line of Plumer's communications and his means of reinforcement. However, these orders were countermanded, and the force turned back.

Plumer was only able to muster about 500 healthy men until receiving some 150 reinforcements from the BSAP and from Carrington’s Rhodesian Field Force, 100 dismounted men of the 3rd Queensland Bushmen Mounted Infantry, and “C” Battery (with only four of its guns) Royal Canadian Artillery. On 12 May Plumer was informed the Mafeking Southern Relief Column under Colonel Mahon, about 1,150 strong, was expected on the Molopo River (Molepolole Valley west of Mafeking) by 15 May.

On 14 May Plumer departed Sefhikile with about 800 men (450 mounted) and eight guns, marching some 45km and making contact with Mahon early on 15 May, about 32km west of Mafeking at Jan Massibi's farm.

Plumer's gallant attempt to relieve Mafeking

As the senior officer Mahon took command of the combined force, which he split into two columns either side of the road alongside the north bank of the Molopo River. Plumer’s column took the right flank along the river side. On 16 May the columns moved off towards Mafeking. At the same time, a 2,000 strong Commando, under Commandant Koos de la Rey, advanced to intercept them, taking up positions on the high ground to left, right and front of the Relief Column’s advance. Except for a slight British superiority in artillery the two forces were evenly matched. On Plumer’s right the Boers were positioned along the higher ground along the Molopo River above his line of advance. Mahon, having anticipated Boer tactics, kept a strong reserve in hand thus thwarting de la Rey's attempt to envelop his flanks. The action on Plumer’s front was hard fought until eventually, with reinforcement from Mahon’s Column, the Boer line was broken and fell back, redeploying north of Mafeking; retiring completely on 17 May. The relief force formally entered Mafeking on 17 May 1900. The siege was over. Hannay was one of those who rode into Mafeking – he features in a group photograph of all the officers involved in the siege – both the Defence and the Relief.

Hannay is No. 78 in this photo

Following the relief of the town, Plumer and his men got little rest and were resentful of being sent so quickly back into the field. De Montmorency, serving with Plumer’s artillery, wrote, 'they were in bitter mood. I have never known men so sulky or march with such bad grace’. Departing Mafeking on 19 May via Ramathlabama and Lobatsi, they supported gangs repairing the railway as they moved northwards, occupying Zeerust in the Transvaal on 28 May and Rustenburg on 14 June. The greater portion of the Regiment accompanied Plumer during July, August and September (when it was disbanded), operating to the east of Rustenburg and to the north of Pretoria in the guerrilla campaign against de la Rey and Grobler.

Hannay soldiered on until the cessation of hostilities on 31 May 1902. He was awarded the Queens and Kings medals with the clasps relevant to his service.

Remaining in southern Africa he recommenced service with the Bechuanaland Protectorate Police in which force he had been promoted to Sub-Inspector in 1901. As was frequently the case with commissioned police officials at the time, Hannay fulfilled a dual role – that of Assistant Magistrate – along with his normal policing duties. Stationed at Mafeking, the scene of so much distress not too many years before, he joined the Austral Lodge of the Free Masons on 14 March 1904. An active sportsman, he was a regular in the British South Africa Police Hockey team in 1906

1906 BSAP Hocket Team Blue Star

Bechuanaland’s politics were fraught with tensions between warring factions, each laying claim to being the predominant power in the region. The main protagonists were Sekgoma and Mathiba. In March 1908 it was reported that a large section of the Tswana people had revolted against Mathiba’s rule and that European residents there were in danger of being killed. “Whereupon Lieutenant Hannay, the Magistrate, arrested four ringleaders and disarmed Sekgoma’s supporters.”

1907 Bechuanaland Civil Service Hannay 6th from left BMF.jpg

The crisis being averted life carried on and was disturbed only by the outbreak of the Great War on the international stage. This conflict, which would last until 11 November 1918, commenced on 4 August 1914 and, without much ado Hannay who was granted a leave of absence from his employment, made his way to England aboard the steamship Gascon, arriving at the port of Marseilles on 16 July 1914 whereafter he made the short trip across the Channel and proceeded to enlist with the 4th Battalion, North Staffordshire Regiment. Completing the Application for Appointment to a Commission in the Special Reserve of Officers at Guernsey on 15 August 1914, he provided his address as Serowe in the Bechuanaland Protectorate where, by way of occupation, he was the Assistant Magistrate for Serowe, seconded from the Bechuanaland Protectorate Police in which he held the rank of Inspector (local rank of Captain).

Appointed as a Captain, Hannay embarked at Southampton for France with the 1st Battalion, North Staffs., disembarking at Havre in the theatre of war on 17 March 1915.

On 14 May 1915 he was admitted to the 17th Field Ambulance at Armentieres with Lumbago. The complaint was serious enough to necessitate his admittance to No. 3 General Hospital (in the field) on 5 June and, having been treated at the 6th Infantry Base at Rouen, he rejoined his battalion at Poperinghe in Flanders on 6 July 1915.

It wasn’t long before he was in the thick of it, the Regimental History recounting the following action (and incident) in which he was involved:

'At 3-30 a.m. on July 30th (1915) the 14th Division had been heavily attacked and driven out of their trenches and had fallen back to the edges of ZOUAVE and SANCTUARY WOODS. Counter attacks having been unsuccessful in recapturing the lost ground, orders were given that the 6th Division was to be withdrawn from the line with a view to undertaking the recapture of HOOGE.

Accordingly, on August 9th, the 16th and 18th Brigades attacked HOOGE, with the 17th Brigade in reserve. The attack succeeded and all objectives were gained without the 17th Brigade being called upon to take any active part of the fighting. This Brigade, however, was soon employed in the arduous task of consolidating the captured positions. On August 10th the 1st North Staffords moved to the ramparts at YPRES, between the MENIN and LILLE Gates, and found a working party of 600 men each night to help consolidate and clear the battle field.

This consolidation proved an important and unpleasant task. The recapture of the positions lost at HOOGE had left the 6th Division clinging desperately to the slopes of the hill north of the YPRES-MENIN Road. The front line, on which the 1st North Staffords worked, was at all points in close touch with the enemy, while a trench on the left was uneasily shared with him. Between them and the 14th Division in Railway Wood there was a large re-entrant unheld by either side, and on this flank there was considerable confusion. The Division was holding on precariously to the shattered trenches and it was obvious that all efforts must be concentrated on consolidation. Except at night, when the bombs were flying, the enemy were not vigorously offensive, and to avoid provocation it was arranged that our Artillery should not fire unless asked to do so. This policy paid, and consolidation progressed rapidly.

On one occasion, however, matters went wrong. It happened that one day when the Brigade Commander, Brigadier-General Harper, was paying a visit to the 1st North Staffords' trenches, our Artillery began their usual daily registration, but instead of being content with a few rounds, as was their custom, for some undiscovered reason they continued and increased their fire to such an extent that the Germans took fright and retaliated with a heavy bombardment of the front line. As the Brigadier knew of no reason for the unusual Artillery fire he was justly indignant, and telephoned to his supporting Artillery not to fire another round without his personal permission.

Our Artillery ceased fire but the German bombardment continued and increased in intensity, and so thickly were the shells falling that General Harper, who was being shown round the trenches near the crater by Captain Hannay, commanding "D " Company, was compelled to take refuge in a splinter-proof shelter on the side of the crater. The bombardment continued and all communication being cut, it began to look as if an attack would follow. Lieut. Chew, who was commanding the Platoon holding the crater, sent repeated messages to Captain Hannay as to the situation.

The messenger, Private Sillito, was a cheerful soul, and every now and then would pop his head inside the dug-out and say, "They're not coming over yet Sir, Sir! " greatly to the relief of all present. Meanwhile our guns, having received General Harper's message, maintained an obstinate silence, and it was not until the Brigade on the right, thinking an attack was imminent, sent up the S.O.S., that they could be persuaded to retaliate. Once they did so the enemy bombardment soon died down. General Harper took the name of the messenger, and Private Sillito subsequently received the D.C.M. as a reward for his cheerfulness and courage.

The above incident occurred after the 1st North Staffords had relieved the 2nd Leinsters in the captured trenches at HOOGE, which they did on August 17th.

Next day the HOOGE crater was heavily shelled. This crater was the result of a mine blown on July 19th, 1915, and the 14th Division, who were in the line at the time, had successfully occupied it. When newly blown the crater was 120 feet wide and 20 feet deep, and the height of the lip above the ground level was 15 feet, so that the holding of the lip was of great tactical importance to those occupying the trenches in its vicinity. The bottom of the crater was full of dead Germans killed by the explosion, and the Battalion carried up tons of quick lime with which to cover the bodies and earth was thrown on top. The position otherwise would have been untenable. There were also many of our own and the enemy dead lying still unburied.

The Battalion remained in these trenches till August 24th and did very good work in clearing the battle field, improving the communication trenches, digging a new support trench, and linking up with the 14th Division on its left. Casualties were heavy, amounting to 18 other ranks killed and Lieut. Startin and 2nd Lieuts. Richards and Worthington and 65 other ranks wounded.'

1st batt. North Staffs near Cassell April 1917 BMF.jpg

On 22 August 1917 Hannay was admitted to 4 Field Ambulance with Pyrexia (raised body temperature or fever), being discharged to his unit on 29 August. On 21 September 1917 approval was given for his employment in the status of P.B. Officer. (Permanent Base, Details) which meant a classification as Staff Lieutenant III Class. A P.B. Officer was a chap who, normally between postings or on account of a medical downgrade or wounds, took charge of reinforcement camps, convalescent depots, training camps, entrenching battalions.

He served in this role until a posting to command 224 Divisional Employment Company, Labour Corps on 1 June 1918 which is where he remained until being posted back to the United Kingdom on 5 May 1919 for demobilisation. The following month, on 21 June 1919, he received a communication from the War Office advising him that, “as you have exceeded the age limit, it is regretted that it will be necessary to relinquish your commission in the Special Reserve of Officers”. This was sent to his address – 17 Queens Gate Place, S.W.

Hannay was Mentioned in Despatches for distinguished services in France in Field Marshall Haig’s despatch in the London Gazette of 30 December 1918. Later that year, on 10 December 1919, at Christ Church in Mayfair, London, he wed Gethin Hester Payne. The address he provided was 29 Half Moon Street, Mayfair. For some obscure reason he gave his name as Henry Clement(s) Hannay. His bride was the daughter of a Captain in His Majesty’s Army. He was 48 years old whereas she was 29.

His medals were sent to the Bechuanaland Protectorate Police, Francistown, South Africa in 1921, by which time he had returned to his employment as a Civil Servant with the Government of the Bechuanaland Protectorate. At Pretoria on 24 December 1924 the Official Gazette of the High Commissioner for South Africa announced that, “His Excellency, the High Commissioner has been pleased to confer the local rank of Major upon Captain Henry Desmond Hannay, Bechuanaland Protectorate Police.”

1914 Bechuanaland Civil Service Hannay 1st row 1st from the left BMF.jpg

Life continued on for Hannay in the idyllic surrounds of the African interior but, as alluded to earlier, trouble was never far away with the warring tribes of the region in which he lived and worked. A correspondent with The Star newspaper (Johannesburg) described, on 8 April 1926 under the heading “Tribal Feud”, the events which led to the attempted assassination of Tshekedi Khama, the Regent of the Bamangwata, saying that civil war among Chief Khama’s people had been narrowly averted, at least for the time being.

“Serowe is now divided into two camps, as the three wealthy Ratshosa brothers, the recognised heads of the opposing faction, have been cut off from their followers, and have been forced to accept the protection offered at the Resident Magistrate’s camp. No clash has occurred. Tshekedi Khama, despite the fact that he had been wounded by a bullet which penetrated his side, kept his regiments well in hand. It was however, feared that the two armed camps would break lose, and although Colonel Daniel, Assistant Commissioner at Francistown, and Major Hannay, commanding the Bechuanaland Protectorate Police, yesterday went to Serowe on urgent orders from the Protectorate Government at Mafeking, the position was considered so critical that Colonel J. Ellenberger, the Resident Commissioner hurried to the scene of the trouble yesterday.

“We will lay aside our arms and see what is decided,” was the decision of both camps on the news reaching them that the Resident Commissioner was on his way to Serowe.”

It was shortly after this that Hannay retired from Government service.

On 18 January 1936, Hannay, described as a Retired Colonial Official, and his wife arrived in London aboard the Derbyshire, destined for Burnt Hill, Poole in Dorset. Tragedy struck a few years later when, on 28 April 1939, his wife passed away. This must have come as rather a shock as she was twenty years his junior. A wealthy woman in her own right, she bequeathed the sum of £15 267. According to the 1939 Register, just prior to the outbreak of World War II, Hannay was still at that address – now widowed, he was kept company by the Cook, Pauline Pollack, and her daughter Ernestina, the House Parlourmaid. He was described as “Late 4th battalion, North Staffs. Regt. also Bechuanaland Protectorate Police (Retired)”.

With time on his hands he joined the Home Guard and was rewarded for his efforts with the award of the Defence Medal 1939/45.

At some point after the end of the war Hannay moved to Rhodesia where he lived in the Umtali district. He passed away on 1 May 1948 at the age of 77 at the Hillside Golf Course, Umtali Golf Club where he was playing 18 holes on the day. The cause of death was sudden – a massive heart attack.

According to a contemporary who had worked with Hannay, his Tswana name was “Melora” (soap) – dubbed thus because of his unhygienic habits. His nephew, Walter Lennox Hannay, wrote the following many years later: -

“I well remember my Uncle Henry who always said that once you were bitten by the mystery and charm of Africa, you always wanted to go back.”


- Zimbabwe National Archives for photos featuring Hannay
- History of the 1st Battalion, North Staffordshire Regiment
- History of the Transvaal War, Vol IV – Creswick
- The Boer War as seen from Gaborone by Denzil Will and Tommy Dent
- Personal correspondence from Walter Lennox Hannay
- Personal correspondence from E.H. Midgley
- Various newspaper articles accredited within the body of the work

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