The hand grenade explosion

Image above: A female worker inspects Mills hand grenades in a British factory during the First World War. Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain. 

Dover Express 3 Nov 1916

Yesterday afternoon the Borough Coroner (Mr. Sydenham Payn) held an inquest on the body of the little girl, Edith Ellen Hanson, who was on July 19th last injured by the explosion of a hand grenade thrown by a little boy in Churchill Street. She died at the Hospital on Tuesday night, Mr. F. Holman was foreman of the jury.

Mrs. Alice Hanson, of 15, Churchill Street, said: The body at the Hospital is that of my daughter, Edith Ellen Hanson. She was twelve years of age. On July 19th she went out at about two o’clock to see a procession that was going up the London Road. At quarter to three I heard an explosion just outside.

I went to the door to see if I could find her. I could not find her, and helped with the other children who were hurt. I was then called to a shop to my daughter, and Dr. Koettlits said that she had only fainted. She said that her chest hurt her. My lodger carried her home, and a Medical Corps man said that Dr. Koettlits had better be sent for. I did so. He had already seen her. He advised her to be kept quiet.

Later, as she became worse, Dr. Koettlits was again called, and, after examining her, he ordered that she should be taken to the Hospital. This was done, and Dr. Howden stated that she would probably die during the night.

On July 25th she said that she saw a little boy with a hand grenade like an egg. Another boy said, “You are afraid to throw it.” The boy said that he was not, as it was not loaded. He pulled a pin, and it caught alight, and there was an explosion, and she knew no more. She was standing about six yards away at the time. She had remained in the Hospital ever since, and was operated on on August 25th. She gradually grew worse until she died on Tuesday, at 11:30 p.m.

In reply to the Coroner, witness said that she had lost three of her children, including a son killed recently at the Front. (This would have been Private John Thomas Hanson who killed in action 15 Aug 1916 at the Battle of the Somme while serving with the Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment), 12th Battalion.) She had seven children living.

Albert King, twelve years of age, living at 10, Churchill Street, said: On July 19th, after school, I went up the valley at the back of St. James’ Cemetery, opposite the Danes, with two boys.

We look for pieces of hand grenades near the trenches. They are usually little tiny bits. In the grass we found a whole one. I had never seen one before. I put it in my pocket.

We went to the top of the hill, and I threw it through the air down the hill. I picked it up again, and kept on throwing it about. It did not go off. A man had a look at it, but said nothing. I then went home and showed it to a neighbour, and threw it over the garden. It did not go off. I picked it up again.

The boy’s mother said that the boy cleaned the grenade with brass polish when he got home.

Witness, continuing, said: I then took it out into the street, and told several of my mates that I had found a bit of a hand grenade. They said that I was frightened to throw it. I did not take the pin out of the grenade. I had a loose pin in my hand which I had found up in the trenches.

There were half a dozen boys around, I then threw it up in the air, and it fell in the road not far from me. It then exploded. I was hit in two or three places, and two or three of the others were also hit. I did not see the little girl hit, but I saw her just before. The other boy was named Parkes.

In reply to the Coroner, witness said that they often went up to the trenches to look for bits, but had never picked up a grenade before. One boy said that it was dangerous. He had been up there and seen the grenades thrown. They collected pieces to change with other boys.

The Coroner cautioned the boy to be careful in future not to play with such dangerous things.

Dr. W. Fairlie Clark said that the deceased was brought to the Hospital on July 19th, and remained there till her death on October 31st. She was under his charge part of the time.

She had a wound just above the right breast which had penetrated the lung. It was a very small wound. Some small particles had entered the lung, probably carrying bits of clothing, setting up inflammation, causing matter to form. The operation was to remove that. It was impossible to remove the fragments, and the inflammation continued. At the best, the deceased was a frail child, and she died from the effects of the injuries.

Inspector Moll said that every enquiry had been made, but none of the units of Dover Garrison admitted having lost a bomb. The bomb might have been taken as a curio by a man, who had left it behind.

The Coroner said that the bombing officer present said that the greatest care was taken to remove all bombs that did not explode, but it would be very easy for one to have got hidden away in the green.

The boy said he had never found one before or heard of one being found, and one little one might easily have got mislaid. He thought that there was no reflection on the Military Authorities.

The jury returned a verdict of accidental death, and expressed their sympathy with the mother.

Dover Express 10 November 1916

Dover Express 10 Nov 1916

Edith was our 3rd cousin 2x removed as was her brother John. They were the children of Thomas William Hanson and Alice West and both had been born in Dover, Kent.

HANSON_JOHN_THOMAS

See John Thomas Hanson on Lives of the First World War.

See John Thomas Hanson on The Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

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