Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

Handel Hassall

Handel Hassall : Photograph of Handel from the 11th War Supplement of the Oldham Evening Chronicle, 15th April 1916.  Held in Oldham Local Studies and Archives.

Photograph of Handel from the 11th War Supplement of the Oldham Evening Chronicle, 15th April 1916. Held in Oldham Local Studies and Archives.

Handel Hassall : (L to R) Military Cross; Allied Victory Medal with 'Mentioned in Despatches' oak leaves; 1939-45 Defence Medal

(L to R) Military Cross; Allied Victory Medal with 'Mentioned in Despatches' oak leaves; 1939-45 Defence Medal

Handel was born in Oldham between April and June 1890. His father's name was James and his mother was Emily. He was the oldest of three children; Henry was 3 years younger and Annie 9 years younger.

Handel was a student at Hulme Grammar School in Oldham and then went to Manchester University, where he studied Theology. Handel intended to become a minister in the Moravian Church. He taught for a term at Fulneck Boy's School near Leeds, but his plans to move to Edinburgh to train to be a Moravian minister were ruined when the First World War broke out in August 1914.

On the 5th September Handel enlisted as a private in the Public Schools Battalion, a 'pals' unit that soon became the 16th Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment. His time there was very short though, as he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant into Oldham's new Territorial Force unit; the second 10th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment (2/10th) in October.

On the 30th June 1915 Handel married Annie Etchells at the Moravian Church in Westwood, Oldham. The wedding was a significant occasion for the local community and was very well attended. Handel's brother Henry was his best man.

The couple's did not spend very long together. Handel was one of 300 men sent overseas to join the original 10th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment (1/10th) in July 1915. They were in Gallipoli and had taken heavy losses in the fighting there. Handel fought in Gallipoli until the 26th October, when he was evacuated to a hospital in Malta because he had become sick with typhoid. During this time he was Mentioned in Despatches by General Sir Ian Hamilton, on the 11th December 1915.

Handel's bravery in Gallipoli was recognised further when he was awarded the Military Cross. News of his award was published in The London Gazette on the 2nd February 1916. The Gazette does not contain a description of a specific act Handel carried out to earn the medal, but as the Military Cross was only to be awarded for 'distinguished and meritorious service in times of war' we can be sure he was extremely brave.

By February 1916 Handel had recovered and rejoined the 1/10th Battalion in Egypt. He was promoted to Temporary Lieutenant at around the same time. The 1/10th were based in the Sinai Desert to defend Egypt from a Turkish invasion, so Handel spent much of the time he was with them living in primitive conditions amongst the sand dunes. He spent the month between the 18th June and 19th July 1916 on leave in the UK.

Handel left the 1/10th once again on the 30th September to attend an 'Officer's Course' until the 22nd October. We don't know what he was taught on this course.

Handel and the 1/10th Battalion's time in Egypt ended in early 1917. They sailed to Marseilles and arrived at the Western Front on the 11th February. Handel does not seem to have adjusted to the new climate well, as by the 25th April he had been admitted to the 126th Brigade Hospital suffering from influenza.

Handel didn't recover quickly from his illness, and he was sent back to the UK on 5th June 1917. He was living at 25 Edward Street in Werneth, Oldham during this time. King George V awarded him his Military Cross on the 30th June.

In August 1917 Handel was promoted from Temporary Lieutenant to Captain, although to recognise his experience he was given precedence from the 1st June 1916. During this time Handel and Annie moved out of Oldham to 21 Church Street in Southport.

We don't know when Handel went back to the Western Front, but we do know that the 4th May 1918 edition of the Oldham Chronicle contains an article reporting that he had been severely wounded in the head and taken to hospital.

Handel relinquished his commission as an officer on the 28th May 1919. As well as his Military Cross and Allied Victory Medal with the oakleaf spray representing his Mention in Despatches Handel was also awarded the 1914-15 Star and the British War Medal for his service in the First World War.

After the War Handel went back to his original plans and became a Minster in the Moravian Church. He was also involved with the 10th Battalion Old Comrades Association (OCA) during this period, he attended some reunions. In June 1933 he even went to Kinmell Park near Rhyl in North Wales with the current 10th Battalion and joined in their annual training.

The 10th Battalion was converted into the 41st Battalion of The Royal Tank Corps in October 1938 and Handel was at their last reunion.

When the Second World War broke out Handel rejoined the Manchester Regiment, this time in the Home Guard. He served as a Lieutenant in the 51st Home Guard Battalion based in Ashton-under-Lyne. He was awarded the Defence Medal for this service.

Handel died at the Moravian College on Fairfield Square in Droylsden on the 25th June 1953. He was 63 years old. His medals were donated to the Museum of The Manchester Regiment nine years later, in 1962.

Museum of the Manchester Regiment
c/o Portland Basin Museum
Portland Place
Heritage Wharf
Ashton-under-Lyne
OL7 0QA

Telephone: 0161 343 2878
Email: Portland.Basin@tameside.gov.uk
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Trustees of the Manchester Regiment Museum & Archive and Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council