- Second World War (1939-1945)
- No. 83 Squadron, Royal Air Force
- Awarded on:
- October 1st, 1940
"On the night of 15th September 1940, Sergeant Hannah was the wireless operator / air gunner in an aircraft engaged in a successfull attack on enemy barge concentrations at Antwerp. It was then subjected to intense anti-aircraft fire and received a direct hit from a projectile of an explosive and incendiary nature, which apparently burst inside the bomb compartment. A fire started which quickly enveloped the wireless operator's and rear gunner's cockpits, and as both the port and starboard petrol tanks had been pierced, there was a grave risk of the fire spreading. Sergeant Hannah forced his way through the fire to obtain two extinguishers and discoverded that the rear gunner had had to leave the aircraft. He could have acted likewise, through the bottom escape hatch or forward through the navigator's hatch, but remained and fought the fire for ten minutes with the extinguishers, beating the flames with his log book when these were empty. During this time thousands of rounds of ammmunition exploded in all directions and he was almost blinded by the intense heat and fumes, but had the presence of mind to obtain relief by turning on his oxygen supply. Air admitted through the large holes caused by the projectile made the bombcompartment and inferno and all the aluminium sheet metal on the floor of this airman's cockpit was melted away, leaving only the cross bearers. Working under these conditions, which caused burns to his face and eyes, Sergeant Hannah succeeded in extinguishing the fire. He then crawled forward, ascertained that the navigator had left the aircraft, and passed the latter's log and maps to the pilot. This airman displayed courage, coolness and devotion to duty of the highest order and, by his action in remaining and successfully extinguishing the fire under conditions of the greatest danger and difficulty, enabled the pilot to bring the aircraft safely to its base."
Sergeant John Hannah is the youngest recipient of the Victoria Cross for aerial operations;
Sergeant Hannah’s Victoria Cross is publicly displayed at the Royal Air Force Museum in Hendon, Great Britain.
Published in the London Gazette of 1st October 1940. Decoration presented on 10th October 1940 at Buckingham Palace.