Private 78892 Bert Mansell

Mansell Bert 96 439x600Mansell Bert 96 397x600
Photograph courtesy of Brenda Hawkins

Killed in Action on Tuesday, 26th March 1918, age 19.
Buried in Grave "Special Memorial 14" at Brie British Cemetery, Somme, France.

1st/5th Bn., Durham Light Infantry. 151st Brigade of 50th Division.
Formerly TR/5/65995 in 52nd Graduated Training Battalion.

Son of James and Maria Mansell of 248 Toll End Road, Tipton, Staffs.
Born: Wolverhampton, Enlisted: Tipton, Resident: Tipton.

First landed France & Flanders, 17th January 1918.
Medal entitlement: British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives survived and transcribed.

Commemorated on the Tipton Library Memorial.
Commemorated here because he appears on a Tipton memorial.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/265215/

Genealogical Data

Birth of Bert Mansell registered March quarter 1899 in Dudley; he was actually born 22nd December 1898.

1901 Census
165 Toll End Road, Tipton, Staffs.
James Mansell (35, Puddler in Iron Works, born Tipton), his wife Maria (32, born Derbyshire), and their 4 children: William (11, born Tipton), John E. (9, born Tipton), James (7, born Tipton), and Bertie (2, born Tipton).

1911 Census
246 Toll End Road, Tipton, Staffs.
James Mansell (45, Iron Worker Roller, born Tipton), his wife Maria (42, born Tipton), and their 6 surviving children of 7: William (21, Labourer in Forge, born Tipton), John E. (19, Tube Screwer, born Tipton), James (17, Tube Screwer, born Tipton), Bertie (12, born Tipton), Eva (9, born Tipton), and Florrie (7, born Tipton). The child who had died was Elizabeth (age 14).

Personal Data

Bert attested at Tipton on 29th September 1916 when he was 17 years and 281 days of age, he was allocated to the Army Reserve and sent home. Four months later on 15th February 1917, Bert was mobilised and reported to Lichfield; he was then aged 18 years and 2 months. Bert was 5 feet 7 inches tall with a 36-inch chest, had perfect eyesight and good physical development, and weighed 124 pounds. He was a single man, Church of England, and stated his employment as a "Tube Worker".

Bert was posted to the 86th Battalion of the Training Reserve which became the 273rd Graduated Battalion before finally becoming the 52nd (Graduated) Battalion, Durham Light Infantry in October 1917. The Battalion was 'graduated' as the trainees were around the same age so they would all 'graduate' at an appropriate age, ready to serve overseas.

Towards the end of his training Bert had 8 days in hospital at Waltham Lodge suffering from Scabies, part of his treatment involved the 'sulphur cabinet'. This was from the 8th to 12th January 1918, but he was still able to embark in Folkestone and disembark in Boulogne on 17th January 1918. After arriving at Etaples on the next day, 18th January, he was allocated to the 1/5th Durham Light Infantry and joined them in the field on 26th January. On 27th February he seemed to forget his training, and was caught without his Box Respirator; for this he was given 6 days 'Confined to Barracks'.

After Bert's death, his outstanding army pay and allowances amounted to £5/4/4d (5 pounds, 4 shillings and 4 pence); this was paid to his father, James, in September 1919. His War Gratuity was £6/0/0d (6 pounds exactly), this was also paid to his father in September 1919. The value of the War Gratuity suggests that Bert had enlisted in October 1916.

Action resulting in his death

On 21st March 1918 the Germans launched their massive Spring Offensive called Kaiserschlacht ('Kaiser's Battle') or 'Operation Michael', the initial thrust of which fell mainly on the British Fifth Army holding positions in the Somme area. The 1st/5th Durham Light Infantry (DLI) were about 6 miles to the south-east of Albert.

From 22nd March to 26th March, the 1st/5th DLI conducted a fighting retreat, holding positions for some time before withdrawing to new positions, occasionally making counter-attacks. On 26th March positions were held east of the road from Estrées to Assevillers but the battalion's strength was then under four hundred men, few serviceable Lewis guns remained and contact with troops on its right could not be established. The German attack in this area became known as the Battle of Rosieres.

Bert went missing on the 26th March, and his death was presumed on 1st May as there was no further trace of him. On 22nd December 1922 his parents were informed that he was buried at Brie Military Cemetery. As there is no record of exhumation and re-interrment it seems likely that this was his original burial place, although his gravestone records "known to be buried in this cemetery". Brie Military Cemetery is about 4 miles south of Péronne.

Newspaper Cuttings

Evening Despatch 24th May 1918
Pte. Bert Mansell, Durham Light Infantry, who lived with his parents at 248 Toll End Road, Tipton, is officially repored missing since 25 March, and his parents will be grateful for any news of him. He was formerly employed at the Wellington Tube Works, Great Bridge.

Midlands Chronicle 14th February 1919
Mr and Mrs J. Mansell, 248 Toll End Road, Tipton, will be extremely grateful to any repatriated soldier who can give any information concerning their son, Private B. Mansell (78892), No. 2 Platoon, A Company, 5th Durham Light Infantry, who was last heard of on March 25th of last year.