Can you shed light on ‘biscuit tin soldier’?

Distant relative: A name written on the back of the photo reads 'Harry Hansard'. NA
Distant relative: A name written on the back of the photo reads 'Harry Hansard'. NA

For years a photo tucked away in a wartime biscuit tin had raised many questions for David Mitchell.

He had often wondered about the history of the young Boston man in the soldier’s uniform.

Written on the back of the photo, in his mother’s handwriting, were the words: ‘Harry Hansard, a distant relative’ - but he had no more information.

Inspired by the First World War Centenary, Mr Mitchell set out to discover more about the man in the picture and contacted the Boston Standard following our coverage.

He said: “I had always asked my mother about the photo and she just said he was a relation. Leading up to the First World War centenary I wanted to know more about what happened to him. I found one Hansard in the Lincolnshire phone book and this was my first clue. He was known in the family but just as a memory.”

Mr Mitchell, who was evacuated from Boston during the Second World War and now lives in Lincoln, began his journey by visiting Eastville Church to try to trace a link from the gravestones of his own relatives, including that of his mother’s great uncle Newby Hansard.

When details about a young Harry proved almost non-existent, he then turned to the phone book.

He said: “After that first call the news has spread as far as Australia and people have been calling me with information.”

Following this up with enquiries at Lincoln Central Library, Lincolnshire Archives, Lincolnshire Remembrance and a historian at Durham Light Infantry he has begun to piece together the history of the young soldier.

Mr Mitchell, 71, continued: “It sounds awful but Harry was a body identified by his dog tags when he was killed. It was hard finding out more about him because so many records were destroyed in bombings during the Second World War. Through research we have pieced together Harry’s short but valuable life. He was born in New Leake in 1893 to Henry and Mary Ann Hansard, one of eight children.

“He was educated at Eastville School and joined the army in 1916 aged 22. He was assigned to the 15th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry and went to France in 1917. On the morning of September 9, 1918, his troop was moved to a forward position and he was killed by machine gun fire.”

The soldier’s name is on New Leake and Eastville War Memorial and Mr Mitchell is now liaising with New Leake County Primary School in the hope they will be able to commemorate a local lad on November 11 this 

If anybody has any more information about the soldier in the photograph they can contact Mr Mitchell on 01522 525189.