First World War Project
William Thomas MANN (of Newnham)
b. 11th February 1898
Private, Service Number G/23626
Grandparents, Henry and Mary Ann, were both born in Heathfield Sussex (Agricultural Labourer) and raised their large family of nine children there and in Burwash (1891 census). William's parents, William Thomas and Emma (née Rook), married in June 1897 and appear to have raised only two children - also named William and his younger brother Alfred. The 1911 census has an intriguing deletion of "4" in the widow's statement of surviving children - this may just be a mistaken understanding of that column - the alteration is quite frequent?
It appears that William's father died in early 1906, registered at West Ashford. We can see he was an iron-foundry labourer but cannot be certain of the place and we know nothing of the nature of his death. In 1911, William is living with his widowed mother, Emma who is working as a charwoman in Newnham Street. Living in Newnham was a return to Emma's birthplace where she would have received some comfort. Newnham was his mother's family home before her marriage in June 1897 to William Thomas (William's father).
According to De Ruvigny's Roll of Honour, before enlisting, William was a waggoner and ploughman locally. He went to school at Doddington's Council School's. He was not married. It was on 10th May 1916 that he enlisted in the Middlesex Regiment before transferring to the Royal West Kent Regiment on 19th November 1916 in order to serve in the Expeditionary Forces in France and Flanders. Following his transfer to the R.W.K., he soon travelled to serve in France around Albert until he was "killed by a shell while working with a party". His Commanding Officer wrote: "He will be greatly missed by the company as a volunteer and steady lad. A cross has been erected over his grave with his name and number and regiment, by the side of one of his fellow-mates."
'Working parties' at the time of William's death were mostly night operations with wire-laying, trench repair, or tunnelling. On the night of his death (either very early morning - most likely - or very late at night), he was probably either wiring (placing and repairing barbed wire) or patrolling no-man's land. It does appear there was heavy machine-gun firing from time to time overnight (24th/25th January). We have added War Diary extracts below.
William's death was reported in The Faversham and North East News dated 10th March 1917: "Private W. Mann, son of Mrs. Mann, of Newnham, has been killed in France by a shell which burst in the midst of a working party of which he was one. Although not 19 years of age Private Mann volunteered for foreign service."
Soldier's effects amounted to £2 10s. 8d and War Gratuity of £3, both of which went to his mother Emma as sole legatee. [See Appendix 2]
He earned the Victory and British War Medals. [See Appendix 1]
7th Battalion Queen's Own (Royal West Kent) Regiment
In November 1916, the 7th Battalion, Queens Own (East Kent Regiment) began in billets in WARLOY from which they marched to ALBERT and into trenches at FABICK TRENCH but plans to attack DESIRE TRENCH on 15th November were postponed. By the close of November the Battalion had moved to DOMVAST. December was spent training and participating in sports before moving for more intensive training at MILLENCOURT and LA MOTTE BULEUX.
January 1917 War Diary is sparse and the Brigade Diary adds nothing
1st – 10th January: LAMOTTE. Training.
11th January onwards, a series of marches: DOMLEGER – LE MEILLARD – RAINCHEVAL – HEDAUVILLE where the Battalion went into huts on 16th January.
At HEDAUVILLE, training was undertaken from 18th through to 10th February. So this begged the question, what were the circumstances of William Mann's death? Fortunately, De Ruvigny's Roll of Honour does tell us he was assigned to a Working Party at this time - and died under shell fire - confirmed in a newspaper report (above).
Looking at the other diaries for those serving alongside 7th Battalion Queens Own (East Kent Regiment):-
- 8th Battalion, East Surrey Regiment, have working parties digging Cemetery at VARENNES. William's Work Party may have been assigned to help this work? Although his burial place is Aveluy.
- 7th Battalion, West Kent (The Buffs) Regiment, are only training.
- 7th Battalion, Queen's (Royal West Surrey Regiment), are only in training.
The EKR Diary for January includes an extract from a letter of a man of the draft which arrived on the 22nd. "One thing I can be thankful for, and that is, that we have joined a smart Battalion; I guess it is one of the smartest in the British Army.
Even just behind the line we have to clean our equipment, buttons etc., and as for changing the guard, I guess it would beat the Guard changing at Whitehall easy. The full band turns out every day at Guard Mounting and retreat. It looks great and personally I am very proud of them."