Methodist minister’s son
Francis James Hanby was born in 1887 in Hay, Breconshire, where his father was a Methodist minister. He was educated at Bradford Grammar School, and won a ‘Welsh Exhibition’ in Classics at Jesus College, Oxford, which favoured applicants born in Wales. He began his studies in 1906, but his subsequent academic achievement was modest, with a Third in both his first year and his final exams.
Taught in Cheshire
In 1911 Francis was a schoolmaster at the residential Willaston School, at Nantwich in Cheshire, which had been founded to educate the sons of impoverished Unitarian ministers. He joined an Officers’ Training Corps in 1914 and in due course became a Second Lieutenant in the 12th Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment. This battalion formed part of a brigade which landed at Le Havre in March 1916 and on 30 June led a diversionary action prior to the battle of the Somme.
Cut off from reinforcements
The attack was on an exposed salient known as the Boar’s Head at Richebourg. It began at 3 am, and the 12th Battalion succeeded in seizing and holding a stretch of front line for four hours. Cut off from reinforcements, however, their supply of grenades and ammunition ran out, and they were forced to withdraw in the face of counter attacks. When relieved they had lost 412 men, many of whose bodies were not found. Francis was one of the missing, and he was recorded as having died on 30 June 1916. He is commemorated on the Loos Memorial.