Major John Hanson, M.C.
John Philip Hanson was born in Salisbury, England on June 24, 1916 and was one of 7 children. His father was Lieutenant-Colonel Paul Hanson, OBE. The Hanson family immigrated to Canada and settled in Quebec, where Hanson became fluent in both English and French. He attended Herbert Simon Public School in Montreal, Westmount High School and Sir George Williams University. He was very much a well-rounded athlete, being actively involved in several sports such as football, boxing, water polo, tennis, swimming, track & field, hockey and skiing. Hanson was employed as a construction foreman just prior to enlisting in the military.
In 1938, Hanson enlisted with the Sherbrooke Regiment (MG) and later qualified as a Lieutenant at 149 Officer Cadet Training Unit in Farnborough England. He then completed his Infantry Company Commander Course at Barnard Castle, England. He would carry on completing several more courses such as the Officers’ Boxing Instructor’s Course at Netheravon in 1941. He also qualified on the Commando Course attached to the Royal Navy, 1941 and then the Small Arms course in 1942. Hanson felt it was time to take on some greater challenges, so he completed his Parachute Course at Ringway, UK on May 5, 1942 and later requested a transfer to the newly formed 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion.
Hanson went on to complete his Jump Master Course at Fort Benning, Georgia in 1943. He then graduated from the Airborne Battle Drill Course at the Canadian Battle Drill School in Vernon, BC in May of 1943 to augment his long list of accomplishments. When the time came to put this training into action, Hanson parachuted into Normandy during Operation Overlord on June 6, 1944. Hanson recalls that C Company was flown into action in Albemarle bombers that had been converted to troop carriers. They were flown from Harwell Airport, separately from the remainder of the Battalion and dropped 40 minutes ahead of the main body.
C Company was tasked with eliminating the German garrison and radio transmitter at Varaville, which was heavily fortified and supported by a 75mm anti-tank gun. Captain Hanson was initially the 2 i/c of the unit however with the death of Major Murray McLeod at first contact with the enemy at Varaville, Hanson became the Company Commander. Hanson was awarded the Military Cross for his gallant actions at Varaville and was promoted to the rank of Major on June 12. He later parachuted into Germany during Operation Varsity on March 24, 1945 and was wounded a second time.
Hanson's Military Cross Citation
At Varaville on 6th June 1944 in an attack on a strongly fortified position this officer's company commander was killed. Captain Hanson immediately took over Command showing exceptional leadership and courage attacked the position inflicting casualties and taking 40 prisoners. He immediately consolidated this position and held it under enemy mortar fire until relieved. Captain Hanson was wounded in this action but continued to command his company.
At the end of WW2, Hanson retired from the military and returned to civilian life. He passed away on April 9, 1987.
Hanson can be seen in the photo wearing a webbing style holster on his right hip. This would have contained a Webley revolver as seen here. You will notice he has the revolver tethered to himself with the use of a lanyard in order not to lose his sidearm.
Pictures of Hanson being awarded the Military Medal courtesy of Ken Joyce.