Earl McNabb Hand DFC CdeG was born at Sault Ste Marie, Ontario. On April 7, 1916 he enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force and was soon at the Western Front in France.
By the summer of 1915, the war on the Western Front had stalemated into one of attrition. After the second Battle of Ypres there followed sporadic frontal attacks on both sides without any result other than the slaughter of tens of thousands of men. Conditions were appalling. The troops lived in the squalor and dankness of the trenches, often knee deep in water and mud.
From July 1, 1916, to December 30, 1916, Canadians along with the French and other Allies were involved in the "Slaughter of the Somme", also called the Battle of the Somme. For a pitiable gain of only six miles, 836,000 soldiers were killed, including Germans and 24,029 Canadians.
By the beginning of 1917, a brief respite ensued while plans were laid for an Allied seizure of the formidable German fortification of Vimy Ridge.
On April 3, 1917, while Allied ground forces were preparing for their April assault on Vimy Ridge, Hand transferred to the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) with the rank of Temporary 2nd Lieutenant and then took pilot training at Camp Borden, Ontario.
On August 15, Hand was posted to No. 71 Squadron and by the end of August 1917, was graded as a flying officer and confirmed in the rank of 2nd lieutenant.
On October 10, 1917, he was posted to No. 45 Squadron, based in Italy. On April 1, 1918, the RFC merged with the Royal Naval Air Service to become the Royal Air Force.
On May 31, 1918, he was posted to No. 28 Squadron, Royal Air Force based in Italy. His file indicates that the very next day, June 1, 1918, he was wounded that day, in Austria and became a Prisoner of War in Austria. It seems that he crashed during a flight over Austria and was wounded at that time. He was not released from being a prisoner in Austria until November 14, 1918, three days after the end of WW1.
There is no indication in his file as to when he earned a Distinguished Flying Cross and Croix de Guerre, but it must have been some time during the period October 10, 1917 to June 1, 1918 i.e. prior to him becoming a Prisoner of War in Austria.
Postwar he attended the University of Toronto and graduated in Law. In 1932, he was placed on the RCAF Reserve Officers list but saw no service.
Also his file indicates that in 1927, he was one of the organizers for the Toronto Flying Club and was president for three years and was elected an Honorary Life Member.