Albert Hanson grew up on a homestead near Calgary, Alberta and graduated with an engineering degree just prior to the start of the Second World War.
Albert enlisted with the Army Corps of Engineers as a Lieutenant and landed in France just after D-Day. He led a platoon that was responsible for finding and destroying land mines from newly captured forward positions. He travelled with the Canadian Corps through Caen, Falaise and Fontenay-le-Marmion where he was made an Acting Captain.
While clearing a mine field, he was severely injured when another soldier triggered a mine that killed several members of his platoon. He was hospitalized and sent back to Canada to recover. He was awarded the Military Cross for his courage and leadership in leading his platoon.
Albert's family of originated in Czarist Russia where the family name in Russian was "Handzin". Several members of the Handzin family immigrated to Canada between 1905 – 1907, almost certainly as a result of anti-Jewish pogroms that had swept Russia after the 1880's.
Members of the Handzin family settled in the West and began homesteading. Several of the men worked for the CPR, but after some difficulties with their foreman, the family decided to change their name to "Hanson", which sounded the same as their original name.
Sam Hanson earned enough money to bring his wife over from Russia in 1910, and together they started a dairy farm on the eastern outskirts of Calgary. Sam and his wife Henya had two daughters and four sons, including Albert.
In 1926 Sam died during the flu epidemic that decimated the prairies in the 1920's. Henya was left to raise her family and managed to put all four boys through university and professional school. Each son also served in the military during the Second World War.
Army Corp of Engineers
Albert was the second youngest in the family. He attended the University of Alberta Engineering School and graduated before the start of the Second World war. Once war broke out he volunteered for the Canadian Army and became a Lieutenant of the Army Corp of Engineers.
Albert arrived in Normandy soon after D-Day and served in Caen to Falaise and Fontenay-le-Marmion, heading a platoon responsible for finding and destroying land mines from newly captured forward positions. It was at Fontenay-le-Marmion that he earned the Military Cross for his exceptional efforts, and was promoted to Acting Captain.
It was Capt Hanson's role to precede his sappers leading them as safely as possible into suspected mine fields. On this occasion he recalled he was prodding forward with a walking cane which he had found earlier. He regarded it as his good luck charm and indeed it had protected him this far. Fearlessly flourishing his cane he whistled a tune as he urged his platoon to follow his example. Suddenly the young Captain felt himself lifted high into the air with a deafening blast and searing pain in his back. By the time his body crashed to the earth he was unconscious.
He regained his senses to find himself attended by stretcher bearers. The medical people administered pain killers and attempted to stop the bleeding. He was then prepared for air evacuation to England. It was only then that he learned he had not triggered the mine, but a sapper behind him had not been so lucky. Several of his platoon were killed and others wounded on that day.
It took several months before the deep craters in his back were healed. He returned to Canada the blinding image blasted into his memory was never erased. He talked little of his experiences and chose not to celebrate his return to Canada. Albert was awarded the Military Cross for his effort during the attack on Fontenay-le-Marmion.
Citation: Military Cross
Lt A Hanson
RCE (11 Cdn Fd Coy)
29 November, 1944
During the night 7/8 August 1944, Lieutenant Hanson with his platoon of engineers was supporting the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada in their attack on Fontenay-le-Marmion. His task was to clear a safe lane through mined roads and tracks for the passage of anti-tank guns and carriers to support the newly won positions. The only possible approach was littered with derelict enemy vehicles, studded with mines and under constant mortar and artillery fire.
Despite relentless fire and mounting casualties Lieutenant Hanson steadily lead his platoon forward, encouraged and inspired his men to greater effort, personally directed the work, and finally cleared the three mile route to the battalion forward position. He then made his way to battalion headquarters and ascertained the planned location for each anti-tank gun. Still in darkness and under harrassing enemy fire he lead his mine-clearing parties to each proposed gun-site where additional mines were located and removed.
Through Lieutenant Hanson's outstanding courage and steady leadership the battalion's supporting weapons were brought up without loss, put into position before daylight and the subsequent enemy counter-attack defeated.
After the war, Albert met and married Ethel Torchinsky from Calgary. He went on to complete a Masters in Engineering from the University of Cincinnati in 1947 and a PhD in Metallurgical Engineering from the University of Toronto in 1950. After graduation, Albert and Ethel returned to Calgary. There the couple had four sons (Sam, Bernie, Sid and Norman). It was not until the oil pipeline boom hit Alberta in the late 1950’s that Albert could find work in his field. He was excited by the opportunity to finally work as an Engineer so he moved the family from Calgary to Edmonton.
After a few years of work for Phoenix Pipe (IPSCO), Albert opened his own consulting firm. The firm provided Engineering consulting on metal failures. Ultimately, and with his hard work and Ethel's assistance the firm expanded to include inspection on pipe and welding work and grew to become to the largest in its field in Canada with branches in Calgary, Vancouver, Ontario and Eastern Canada. The company became known as Hanson Materials Engineering. He retired in 1980 and turned the firm over to two of his sons, Sid and Norman.
Albert was an academic as well as a consultant. He loved to educate. In fact, he wrote many published articles in his field and had a text successfully published called "Failures I have loved". He also authored two well known texts on Metallurgical Engineering that became a standard in University Classrooms.
Albert loved his family. He took every opportunity possible to spend time with his own and his extended family. The bonds were strong. Ethel and he attended every important family event. He loved to read and was able to recite many works of different poets and many famous Shakespearian lines. But perhaps most important were his sons and their well being. He always did his utmost to ensure they strived for success. His motto could have been "Good enough never is". He did what he had to do to make sure his sons and others around him followed that approach.
Albert and Ethel were both active members of their community. Be it Calgary, Edmonton or their retirement home in Vancouver, they were always busy with different community organizations. In Vancouver he helped found and became President of a local chapter of Canadian Friends of the Technion University.
Albert Hanson passed away on April 5, 1985. He was 65 years old. Albert loved life. He was a wonderful husband, father, grandfather, family man and friend. He is to this day sorely missed by all who knew him. May he always be remembered.