David George Mansell and his war service as 'Evans'
Many men joined the army under an assumed name, for some this would have been to run away from a past that may have involved brushes with the law. Others may have done so hide a 'foreign' sounding name. However, for others the reason for the enlistment under an assumed name is now impossible to work out. The following is an example of one of the men whose reason for using an alias is un-fathomable.
10106 Sergeant David George Evans (this is his alias) of the 6th Ox & Bucks Light Infantry is an interesting case as a conflict in the official records casts doubt on the existence of a soldier of that name with that service number.
Soldiers Died in the Great War database
Soldiers Died in the Great War 1914-1919 (SDGW) covers eighty volumes published In 1921 by His Majesty's Stationery Office on behalf of and by authority of the War Office and lists details of 'other ranks' who gave their lives in the First World War.
The SDGW details are as follows:
Name: George Evans
Birth Place: Bow, Middx.
Residence: East Ham, Essex
Death Date: 10 Sep 1916
Death Place: France and Flanders
Enlistment Place: Woolwich, Kent
Regiment: Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry
Battalion: 6th Battalion
Regimental Number: 10106
Type of Casualty: Died of wounds
Theatre of War: Western European Theatre
Commonwealth War Graves Commission records
A search of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) records for Sergeant David George Evans reveals the following:
Service No: 10108
Date of Death: 10/09/1916
Cemetery: Corbie Communal Cemetery Extension
Additional Information: See MANSELL, the true family name
And so there are already two conflicting issues facing researchers:
the service numbers do not match – ‘10106’ according to SDGW and ‘10108’ according to CWGC. Looking at other official documents 10106 appears to be the correct army number and the CWGC number appears to be incorrect. CWGC will be informed of this and evidence sent in order to amend the record.
the name David George Evans appears to be an alias.
Another search of the CWGC records using the name ‘David Mansell’ reveals the following:
Service No: 10108
Date of Death: 10/09/1916
Regiment/Service: Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry, 6th Battalion
Grave Reference: Plot 2. Row C. Grave 117
Cemetery: Corbie Communal Cemetery Extension
Additional Information: (Served as EVANS). Son of David and Ann Mansell of St Albans, Herts
For the purposes of this research the soldier known to the British Army as David George Evans will now be referred to by his given name of David George Mansell.
Using the information in official records we can start to build up a picture of the life of David George Mansell.
Birth and 1881 Census
David George Mansell was born in St Albans, Hertfordshire, the birth being registered in the first quarter (Jan – March) of 1872.
He was baptised on 21 July 1880 – Abbey parish of St Albans (ie Cathedral and Abbey Church of St Albans) - at the age of 8, on the same day as his siblings Charles Henry (then 10), William James (3) and Elizabeth Jane (2).
At the time of the 1881 Census, conducted on 3 April 1881 and registering people living at a particular address on the night of 2 April, David – then aged 9 and at school - was living with his family in Spicer Street, St Albans.
The other members of his family registered were as follows:
David Mansell - (aged 32) – father – bricklayer’s labourer.
Ann Mansell – (32) – mother.
Charles – (11) brother – scholar.
William – (4) – scholar.
Elizabeth – (2) daughter.
Jane – sister (11 months).
But there was another person living in the house as a lodger. This was 20-year-old St Albans born bricklayer Daniel Evans. There can be little doubt that when choosing an alias when it came to joining the army more than 30 years later David Mansell remembered the surname of the man who had lodged with the family in the early 1880s.
On 22 December 1888, David’s father placed an advertisement in the situations wanted columns of the Hertfordshire Advertiser and St Alban’s Times newspaper – see below bottom. The age of the ‘lad’ in 1888 (16) meant that this could only have been an appeal for someone to employ David Mansell Jnr.
It seems as though David was successful in getting a job, although not entirely ‘indoors’. At the time of the 1891 Census, conducted on 5 April 1891 and registering people living at a particular address on the night of 4 April, David – then aged 19 and employed as a coachman ie driving horse drawn vehicles - was still living with his family in Spicer Street, St Albans.
The other members of his family registered were as follows:
David Mansell - (aged 42) – father – bricklayer’s labourer.
Ann Mansell – (42) – mother.
Charles – (21) brother – blacksmith.
William – (14) – clerk.
Jane – sister (10).
Rose – sister (8).
Daisy – sister (6).
James – brother (3).
There is no mention of Daniel Evans in this Census.
David’s father – also David - died in March 1895 in West Ham, London. By the time of the 1901 Census his mother had remarried a man called Frederick Doyle and was living with him at 27, Jephson Road, East Ham, London. David (now aged 29) and several of his brothers and sisters are recorded as stepsons and stepdaughters of Frederick Doyle. Doyle’s occupation was listed as ‘plaisterer’ - the archaic spelling of plasterer - and David’s occupation was also listed as plasterer.
At this point David George Mansell seems to disappear from the official records. Exhaustive searches of the 1911 Census and marriage records using a variety of spellings of ‘Mansell’ and even using the name ‘David George Evans’ proved fruitless.
War Service - official records
Every one of the approximately 5 million men serving in the British Army in the First World War and did not re-enlist in the Army prior to then Second World War had a service record held by the War Office. In 1940 there was a bombing raid on the War Office in London where the records were held. During this raid, a large portion (approximately 60 percent) of the 6.5 million records was destroyed by fire. Although many of these records suffered water damage following the bombing raid, all surviving service and pension records were microfilmed by The National Archives, where both collections are held, as part of a major TNA conservation project. These service records became known as the ‘Burnt Documents’ (WO 363) and the pension records, containing service records of non-commissioned officers and other ranks who were discharged from the Army and claimed disability pensions for service in the First World War, - became known as the ‘Unburnt Collection’ (WO 364).
Unfortunately neither a full service record nor pension record exists for David George Mansell but the basics of his service prior to his death can be pieced together from other official primary documents.
We do not know when exactly David Mansell enlisted in the army or exactly which regiment he enlisted in but his service indicates that he must have joined at some point in late 1914 or early 1915.
It is at this point that we address the fact that he enlisted in the army under an assumed name – David George Evans which on many records simply appears as ‘George Evans’ –almost certainly adopting the surname of the man who had lodged with the family in Spicer Street in St Albans during the late 1880s. We do not know why he did this but it was not uncommon. Many men joined the army under an assumed name for any number of reasons: escaping marital problems, evading family responsibilities and paternity issues, evading the law, bankruptcy, disguising former military service or having a criminal record. Another reason was to avoid having a Germanic, 'enemy' sounding name or one that might be ridiculed in barracks. ‘Mansell’ does not seem to sound Germanic or open to ridicule so it must have been for another reason. Sometimes a man was simply trying to hide enlistment from the family but this was often the case with younger men. David Mansell was 42 years old when war broke out. We do not know if he was married or whether he had children. We may never know why he chose an alias when he attested to serve in the British Army. What we do know is that the name – and the place of birth (‘Bow, Middlesex’) which he gave at attestation – ie on his enlistment – was the name and place of birth which appeared on all his army paperwork thereafter and as far as the army was concerned he was ‘George Evans’ of ‘Bow’.
Official medal rolls indicate very strongly that he was only ever in one unit – 6/Battalion - of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, although quite why a man born in St Albans and living in East Ham London joined and was posted quite early in the war to a New Army Kitchener battalion of a regiment which recruited in the Midlands and was formed in Oxford in September 1914 will remain a mystery. Perhaps the geographical shift was linked to David Mansell’s decision to enlist under an assumed name? There were recorded cases which fitted this pattern of enlistment but in David Mansell’s case – due to a lack of evidence – it is not solid history but speculation and interpretation and should be treated as such.
Official medal roll and war diary
Information from his Medal Index Card (MIC), which shows his service medal entitlement, reveals that David Mansell entered a ‘Theatre of War’ (ToW) on 7 August 1915. The ToW Code shown (1) refers to France and Belgium. This means that he was eligible for the 1914-1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals.
The MIC does not give a date of death but simply records ‘died’. Further research into the 1914-1915 Star medal roll confirms the information on the MIC in that he entered ToW - France and Flanders - on 7 August 1915 and that he was recorded as died on 10 September 1916.
David Mansell landed in France on 7 August 1915. By then he was already a sergeant – a senior non-commissioned officer with responsibility for assisting a junior officer to lead other men in his company of the 6th Battalion Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (6/OBLI).
6/OBLI was one of five battalions – 5th to 9th - of the OBLI formed as a result of Secretary of State for War Lord Kitchener’s call for volunteers for his New Armies. The 6th Battalion had been raised in Oxford in September 1914 and was part of K2 – the second New Army of 100,000 men. It was placed in 60 Infantry Brigade of the 20th (Light) Division
After training in the UK it left Amesbury in Wiltshire on 21/22 July 1915 and sailed for France in the summer and arrived at Boulogne at midnight on 22 July. It had only been in ToW for a few weeks by the time David Mansell landed in France.
A search of the Battalion War Diary (WD) – the official written record of the battalion on active service - from 7 August 1915, reveals that the battalion was moving towards the battle zone at this time and officers and men were being detached for training/instruction at, for example, machine-gun and bombing (grenade) schools.
On 9/10 August 1915 this ‘green’ battalion was attached by platoons to an experienced unit - 2nd Battalion Scottish Rifles – for instruction in trench warfare in a what was seen as a relatively ‘quiet’ sector of the British front near Fleurbaix in French Flanders. This sector was often used as a ‘nursery’ sector where units fresh from Britain underwent an ‘induction programme’; every new unit out in France went through it – small unit tasters of the trench experience before being allowed to take over a stretch of the line as a full battalion in its own right. Relatively quiet perhaps, but it was still war!
6/OBLI had its first ever war casualties at this time. 12163 Corporal A Ludlow was killed at a listening post on 16 August and Private Neville was wounded in the eye at the same time. Corporal Ludlow today is buried in Rue Petillon Military Cemetery, Fleurbaix, Grave I.F.28
There is no record of David Mansell arriving with the battalion, although some sergeants are named in the WD. There is no mention of any drafts of reinforcements until 27 August when 30 NCOs and men arrived. This was 20 days after David Mansell had landed in France so it is entirely possible – given that the battalion had only recently arrived and was in a phase of ‘learning and instruction’ that he joined the battalion with this draft.
On 1 September 1915 the strength of the battalion was as follows:
28 officers, 6 warrant officers Class I and II, 4 staff sergeants, 40 sergeants, 43 corporals, 52 lance corporals and 843 privates. David Mansell was one of the 40 sergeants.
At the end of August the battalion took responsibility for the front line trenches in its own right a little further south at Fauquissart and was involved in holding the line by rifle fire during a British diversionary attack in support of the major British offensive which opened at Loos on 25 September 1915.
David Mansell was involved in static trench warfare on the same French Flanders sector until mid-January 1916 when the battalion began to move north to the Ypres sector arriving on 5 February. It went into the line on the Yser Canal bank north of Ypres on 15 February 1916. Here he stayed, rotating in an out of the line on various sectors of the Ypres Salient.
The Battle of the Somme
When the Somme offensive opened on 1 July 1916, David Mansell was in the trenches near Zillebeke south of Ypres. He stayed in the Ypres area for another three weeks before the battalion moved south on 25 July to take part in the Somme offensive. By 29 July David Mansell was in the trenches opposite Serre which had been the scene of the bloody destruction of so many northern ‘Pals’ battalions on 1 July 1916.
Towards September 1916
Relative success on the southern sectors of the Somme battlefield on 1 July had led the British to focus their efforts on the German line south of the Albert-Bapaume road. The fighting of early September 1916 had the objective of capturing German held woods and villages in order to secure a position from which to launch another large scale, set piece assault on the German main third line position on 15 September – the Battle of Flers-Courclette. But first the German stronghold of Guillemont – a village fortress to the south of the battlefield, a few hundred yards east of Trônes Wood – had to be captured and so too would its neighbour to the north – Ginchy. Throughout late July and August 1916, the Germans defending Guillemont had defied repeated British attacks. These bloody encounters led only to partial and temporary occupations of shattered ruins as determined German counter-attacks and continuous artillery fire forced later withdrawals.
The Battle of Guillemont - 3 – 6 September 1916
Another major attack was planned for late August, though heavy rain delayed the operations until 3 September. Preliminary bombardments began on Saturday 2 September and, at 8.50am on Sunday morning the main assault on Guillemont began.
Orders issued towards the end of August had laid down that the 20th Division would capture Guillemont and then establish and hold on the Wedge Wood-Ginchy road. According to these orders, an important part was to be played by the 60 Brigade – of which 6/OBLI was a part - but before the final arrangements were made it was found that this brigade had become so depleted in numbers due to the cold, wet and continual German gassing and bombardment that it was necessary to take it out of the 20th Division temporarily and instead substitute the 47 Brigade of the 16th (Irish) Division. The attack on Guillemont on 3 September was handed to the 59 and 47 Brigades. 6/OBLI was the only battalion of 60 Brigade anywhere near ‘strength’ so it was attached to 59 Brigade.
The 6/OBLI was deployed as in the map below – circled in red - in the field just southwest of the site of Guillemont Road Cemetery today.
The following is the official account of David Mansell’s commanding officer – Lieutenant Colonel E D White - of the operations during the Battle of Guillemont - 3-6 September - in which 6/OBLI took part. It is taken from the battalion War Diary.
‘The Battalion was attached to the 59th Brigade for the above operations, and, in accordance with 59th Brigade Operation Orders, left the craters at 11 pm, 2nd September, and moved into the position of assembly in Arrow and Sherwood Trenches. In accordance with 59th Brigade Operation Orders the Battalion advanced from its trenches at noon on the 3rd September to attack Guillemont. B Company, from Arrow Trench, was in the centre, and, from the position of the starting-point, somewhat in advance of A and C Companies on the Battalion's left and right respectively; D Company followed in rear of the centre. The Battalion was to follow the 10th and 11th RB [Rifle Brigade] to the first Sunken Road (the first Divisional Objective).The three leading companies lost all their officers and all their Company-Sergeants-Major before reaching the second Sunken Road. The fourth company (D) also lost its captain at the first Sunken Road. B Company, in the centre; found the Rifle Brigade battalions clearing dug-outs, and appear to have stopped a short time to assist, and then pushed on to the second Sunken Road. A and C Companies passed right on. A got on beyond the second Sunken Road to the edge of the village, which was the 2nd Objective-of the Battalion. Their officers had gone, and in some places the Sunken Road was not easy to locate, being much knocked about. At 1pm the advance continued. As a matter of fact men were going forward about 4 minutes before the hour, but the barrage ruled the pace. Casualties from our own barrage were slight, if any at all. By the time the eastern side of the village was reached units were much mixed. There were, besides my own Battalion and the 10th and 11th RB some of the 10th KRRC [King’s Royal Rifle Corps] and Somerset Light Infantry, as well as some of the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry (5th Division). Units were reorganized here as far as possible. The Somerset Light Infantry, at my request, kept back a portion of the battalion in this position, when the advance was continued up to Ginchy-Wedge Wood road, to look after the right flank, as a number of Germans were visible in the open, southwest of Leuze Wood, and our contact with the 5th Division on our right did not seem complete. At 2 pm the whole line went forward up to the Ginchy-Wedge Wood road, and reached it with very little opposition, but a number of prisoners were taken from dug-outs on the road.
Consolidation of the position at once began, but there was a shortage of tools. It was evident that the 5th Division had not been able to advance up the spur south-west of Leuze Wood, and that that spur and the wood were still in the hands of the Germans. I therefore decided not to move forward from the road to the final objective ordered, that is, with the right flank of the 59th Brigade line just outside the south-west corner of the wood. The 1st Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry were now in touch with us on the road-line, on our right; the 8th Munster Fusiliers were on our left, at the Cross-Roads. There were then in the 59th Brigade area on the Ginchy-Wedge Wood road the following troops under Lieut. Colonel E D White: 200 10th RB, 200 11th RB 100 10th KRRC and 300 6th Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry. The Somerset Light Infantry were digging themselves in, in support, close behind.
An officer's patrol went up by the Quarry to the south-west edge of Leuze Wood and found no one there. During the night (3rd/4th September) patrols were working in the valley below us, but could not work up to the ridge and wood in front owing to our artillery fire. The enemy made no attacks. Nearly all the losses suffered by the Battalion were from shell and machine-gun fire before reaching the second Sunken Road, and more especially before reaching the first Sunken Road.
During the clearing of dug-outs at the final position one case occurred of a ‘P’ [phosphorous] bomb being thrown in at one door of a dug-out and the smoke coming out at the other door without dislodging the Germans, who, however, did come out when Mills bombs were thrown in.
Eight Company Officers, 72 NCO's, and about 200 men were casualties, mostly early in the attack, and I think that much credit is due to the men and to the few leaders left in getting on the right objective.
During the 4th September the consolidation of the position was continued, and not interfered with except for a few shrapnel. The 5th Division was, during the afternoon, working up the ridge opposite us, to Leuze Wood. At about 7 pm battle patrols were established from our line by the 7th Somerset Light Infantry, ie, from the southwest corner of Leuze Wood to the Guillemont-Combles road. The night of the 4th/5th September was very quiet. About 5am on the 5th the Battalion and others in the line were relieved by the 49th Brigade, and the Battalion withdrew to Sherwood Trench, where it remained until the afternoon of the 6th September, when it was relieved by the 6th KSLI [King’s Shropshire Light Infantry] and moved back to the Craters [at trench map reference] A.8.b.6.3.’
The maps which follow – official post action documents from the records of the 20th Division - show the situation at 4.00pm on 3 September 1916 and 12 hours later at 4.00am on 4 September.
6/OBLI can be seen clearly marked on Map D in the ‘second sunken road’ mentioned by the commanding officer in his report again at centre right, bottom on Map E.
Above: Map D
Above: Map E
After leaving the battlefield the battalion moved back to rest, reorganise and refit in billets in Corbie, about 30km to the west of Guillemont. We know David Mansell died of wounds on 10 September 1916 and as the battalion was not in action on 10 September 1916 he must have been wounded between 3-6 Sepember. It is most likely, however, that he was wounded in the initial assault as most casualties occurred ‘early in the attack’ according to the commanding officer.
Recovery and burial
David Mansell was probably still alive when he was recovered from the battlefield. We can assume this because he was transported back through the medical evacuation chain to the town of Corbie where large scale medical faciliies were located. These were called Casualty Clearing Stations (CCS), much larger and better resourced than aid posts with tented wards, doctors, nurses and Royal Army Medical Corps staff. Corbie had been about 20km behind the front when Commonwealth forces took over the line from Berles-au-Bois southward to the Somme in July 1915. The town immediately became a medical centre, with Nos 5 and 21 CCS based at La Neuville (a suburb across the River Ancre) until October 1916 and April 1917 respectively. Although emergency surgery could take place at a CCS, their role was to treat a man to enable him to return to duty or, in most cases, to stabilise him so that he could to be evacuated to a large Base Hospital on the coast.
Of course many men died whilst being treated and cemeteries sprang up around the CCSs.
The communal cemetery at Corbie was used for burials until May 1916, when the plot set aside was filled and the extension opened. The majority of the graves in the extension are of officers and men who died of wounds in the 1916 Battle of the Somme. The remainder relate to the fighting of 1918.
The communal cemetery contains 249 First World War burials; the extension - designed by architect Charles Holden – contains 918.
The illustration below shows the CWGC headstone schedule 'P' for the cemetery. It details those men buried who used aliases. What is also interesting is that it notes several other men – including an officer – who also served under an assumed name. Note that this is just for the same cemetery as that in which David is buried: there are many more men buried in other cemeteries who served under assumed names.
Soldiers’ effects, war gratuity and pension entitlement if any
David Mansell appears on the Register of Soldiers’ Effects which was created to account for the settlement of a man’s estate upon his death. They detail the money owed to soldiers of the British Army who died in service from 1901 to 1929. These registers show settlement of a man’s wages but more importantly they show the amount of war gratuity which was paid.The inclusion of the next of kin (NOK) makes these records particularly valuable to historians. Payments went first to widows, or, if the soldier wasn’t married, to a parent (often a mother) or siblings.
Interestingly, in David’s case, it is obvious that the army were able to trace his real family as several members appear as beneficiaries and are listed as NOK.
The sum of £1 – 16 shillings and 8d was authorised to be paid to Martha Ann Doyle (mother), James R Mansell (brother) and Elizabeth J Cubitt (sister) on 21 January 1917. A penny less was authorised to be paid to Edith D[aisy?], Jane and Rose – all sisters and all with different – married – surnames. (The sums are roughly equivalent to £146.00 in 2017.
David was also entitled to a War Gratuity – introduced in December 1918 - an amount based on both the rank of the man who had served in the First World War and the length of his service (home and/or overseas) for a period of 6 months or more home service or for any length of service if a man had served overseas up to a maximum of 60 months between 4 August 1914 and 3 August 1919.
Details of gratuities paid to deceased soldiers are shown in the soldiers’ effects registers. These indicate that a war gratuity of £ 15.00 – was authorised to be paid to his mother Martha Ann Doyle on 3 October 1919. (Due to post-war inflation this sum is roughly equivalent to £782 today).
The Pension Records
The Pension records (saved by the WFA) for David are shown below. They are in his 'assumed' name of Evans, and also show his mother's name (after she married Mr Doyle). The imlication on the card below is that the pension claim was denied. Presumably because Mrs Doyle (his mother) was not finanically dependent on David.