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William A Mann

Served with Essex County Constabulary from Jun 6, 1914 and died on Apr 26, 1915.

William A Mann, a single man, served in the army, probably with the Royal Field Artillery, before joining Essex Constabulary as Police Constable 456 on June 6, 1914. His police service was very short, lasting just two months, as he was recalled to the colours at the outbreak of war on August 4, reporting to 24th Brigade Headquarters Royal Field Artillery as Gunner 50631 Mann.

The Royal Field Artillery made up the largest proportion of the Royal Regiment of Artillery. Armed with field guns and howitzers they were primarily concerned with the close support of the infantry.

24th Field Artillery formed part of 6th Division, a division of regular troops who crossed to France in September 1914, as part of the British Expeditionary Force. The artillery, under the command of Brigadier-General W L H Paget, consisted of 2 Brigade Royal Field Artillery - 21st, 42nd, and 53rd Batteries; 24 Brigade Royal Field Artillery - 110th, 111th, 112th Batteries; 38 Brigade Royal Field Artillery - 24th, 34th and 72nd Batteries; 12 Howitzer Brigade Royal Field Artillery - 43rd, 86th, and 87th Batteries and 24th Heavy Battery (60 pounder).

By September 26, 1914, the 6th Division had moved south from the Channel ports and took part in the Battle of the Aisne following the German retreat from the Marne. A stalemate developed partly caused through the effective use of artillery, as a result of which the troops dug in thereby introducing trench warfare. Attempts to break the deadlock led to both sides attempting to get round the other's open flank to the north and west. These manoeuvres became known as the 'race for the sea' and without any great advantage being gained resulted in opposing trench lines being established from the Belgian coast to Switzerland. Less than twelve weeks after the first shots had been fired the war of movement was over and for the next four years troops were engaged in trench warfare along the Western Front.

Many lessons were learned by the artillery in the first month of the war including the need for better communication between the artillery and the infantry, the need for better cover from enemy ground, aerial observation, the requirement for anti-aircraft guns and better supply of ammunition. These lessons led to a new study of the techniques of attack by the artillery and the results were soon implemented.

As the out-flanking moves were attempted at the end of September and the beginning of October 1914, 6th Division moved north into the Ypres sector and took part in the First Battle of Ypres between October 18 and November 11. The Germans were attempting to break through to Calais and launched the 4th and 6th German Armies against what remained of the British Expeditionary Force. With fierce toe-to-toe fighting by the infantry, with support from the artillery, no real advantage was gained by either side and the German 'thrust for the coast' was stopped. Heavy rains brought the fighting to an end. British losses included 2,350 officers and 55,800 soldiers.

First Ypres is considered as one of the greatest defensive battles fought by the British in the war. Whilst the skill, courage and gallantry of all units was superb, German accounts explain their failure to break through being due to 'the devastating British artillery'.

6th Division remained in the Ypres sector over the winter period and took part in the Second Battle of Ypres; fought between April 22 and May 25, 1915. The Germans launched their first attack of this action on April 2 on the north-eastern edge of the Ypres salient, using poison gas in what is generally accepted as the first major use of gas in warfare.

It has been estimated that 30,000 cylinders of gas were brought up into the forward areas ready for the planned attack at 5am on April 22. The attack was delayed because the wind was blowing in the wrong direction and it was not till some twelve hours later that the nozzles of thousands of gas cylinders were opened and a fog of death rolled slowly across No Man's Land. The area most affected was just below the Pilckem Ridge where the 3rd Canadian Brigade and the French Algerian 45th Colonial Brigade were positioned.

A further attack was made by the Germans on April 24 when, after a one hour bombardment, a further gas cloud was released at 0400 hours. During the next two days the Germans made determined attempts to break through the British lines, they did make some gains, but were unable to break through. The struggle continued until May 25 with a series of engagements and with further German gains being made but without a major break through. Allied casualties were in the region of 60,000 with the German's loosing 35,000 men.

Gunner William Mann was deployed with 24th Headquarters Brigade, Royal Field Artillery when he met his death on April 26, 1915. The circumstances of his death are not known but it was later reported to the Chief Constable of Essex Constabulary that he had been 'accidentally killed'. He is buried in grave A.28 at Chapelle-d'Armentieres Old Military Cemetery, Nord, France. The cemetery is situated on a busy road in the village Chapelle-D'Armentieres backing on to fields with railway lines and the main town of Armentieres in the distance.

On June 2, 1915, The Chief Constable reported to the Police Authority 'Constable William A Mann was 'accidentally killed' in the rear of the fighting line in France on 26th April, 1915.'

On December 6, 1916, it was resolved - 'that £0. 5. 0. be paid to the dependants of Constable Mann who was killed in action, being the rateable deductions made from pay whilst a member of the County police force.' (This would equate to twenty-five pence today).

His mother, Mrs E Mann, was living in Wix Cross, Essex, at the time the Essex Constabulary war memorial was unveiled in 1920.

Who made the law that men should die in meadows?
Who spake the word that blood should splash the lanes?
Who gave it forth that gardens should be bone-yards?
Who spread the hills with flesh, and blood, and brains?
Who made the law.
Sergeant F L A Coulson.
(Killed 8th October, 1916.)

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