Harry Beresford Mann
Served with Southend Borough Constabulary from Apr 1, 1914 and died on Nov 30, 1917.
Harry Beresford Mann was born on March 4, 1890, in Chelsea. On June 17, 1910, he joined Reigate Borough Police serving in that force as Constable 12. His parents were then living in Barrack Road, Finchampstead, Berkshire and prior to joining the police Harry had been employed for a while at Wellington College, Berkshire. In February 1914, whilst living at 7 St. John's Terrace Road, Redhill he responded to an advertisement and applied for a transfer to Southend-on-Sea Borough Police force. He described himself as being five feet eleven inches tall, weighing twelve stones two pounds with a chest measurement of thirty-eight inches. He had blue eyes, brown hair and a fresh complextion.
James Metcalfe, Head Constable of the Reigate Borough Police supported his application and wrote to the Chief Constable of Southend on February 27, 1914.
"I have to inform you that the above named has my permission to apply for the office of constable in your force. He has served in this force since 17th June, 1910, and in my opinion is quite eligible for the office he seeks. I have lost a number of fine young fellows in this way, but I am not surprised at those who have anything in them desiring to transfer to larger Boroughs where there is more going on. This loss is a rather serious inconvenience to me and my officers, but I am not at all disposed to in any way obstruct the freedom of such transfers."
Harry was duly accepted by the Southend force and was appointed Constable 75 on April 1, 1914. He was posted to the Leigh section.
On September 9, Harry was early turn duty and should have paraded at 5.50am but overslept. Sergeant 11 Arthur B Wiffen arranged for someone to "knock him up" and he arrived for duty at 6.35am. Asked why he was late Harry replied 'I wound my clock up last night but did not switch it off and the bell did not ring, I am sorry this has happened.' Sergeant Wiffen reported him for parading for duty 45 minutes late. Inspector William Carr endorsed the report 'This man has not been any trouble before, and I have no reason to doubt his statement.' Mr Kerslake, Chief Constable of Southend instructed that Harry be cautioned for this transgression.
On Sunday June 27, 1915, Harry married his girl friend Blanche.
On November 20, 1915, he applied for permission to join the Military Police for the duration of the war. Mr Kerslake granted his application and in the following month he was enlisted, not with the Military Police, but as Gunner 126548 Mann of L Battery, Royal Horse Artillery.
At the same time that Harry enlisted, Philip George Saban also enlisted as Gunner 126544 and was assigned to Y Battery, Royal Horse Artillery. He was a colleague of Harry Mann in Southend Police.
Philip George Saban was born on July 26, 1893, at Great Hallingbury, Essex. He was the youngest son of William, a labourer, and Emily Saban. He was baptised at the village church on September 13, 1893, and the family lived at 129 Harps Gate, Great Hallingbury. In September 1914, then twenty-one years old, five feet eleven inches tall, weighing eleven stones five pounds, with blue eyes, dark hair and a fresh complexion he joined Southend Borough Police and was attested as Constable 66. Philip was a single man who had previously worked as a labourer for F H Patten, Lodge Farm, Great Hallingbury.
Having made background enquiries in relation to Philip Saban, following his application to join the police, Sergeant 18 George Goody of Hatfield Broad Oak police station stated:
'I have made enquiries with reference to his character. I find he is a steady, sober, quiet, respectable young man and I have been unable to learn of anything to the prejudice of his character and believe him to be a suitable person to join the Police Force.'
Having joined Southend Police, Philip lived in the Westcliff area. It cannot have been pure coincidence that he enlisted with the Royal Horse Artillery on the same day in December 1915, as Harry Mann. It is highly probable the two men were close friends.
The Royal Horse Artillery, part of the Royal Regiment of Artillery, was organized into Brigades of two batteries, each of which had six guns and twelve wagons and an ammunition column. Whilst other weapons forming part of the Royal Artillery armoury were horse drawn, the Royal Horse Artillery was required to be more mobile than the Royal Field Artillery and was primarily concerned with the close support of cavalry. They were initially armed with the 13 pounder quick firing gun which was somewhat lighter in weight than the 18 pounder used by the Royal field Artillery. During the period of trench warfare the Royal Horse Artillery served in a similar capacity as the Royal Field Artillery, for most of the time giving support to the infantry.
In March 1916, the 29th Division arrived in France. It comprised: 15th Brigade Royal Horse Artillery - B, L and Y Batteries (each with 4 x 18 pounders). 17th Brigade Royal Field Artillery - 13th, 26th and 92nd Field Batteries. 132 Brigade Royal Field Artillery - 369th, 370th and 371st Field Batteries. 147th Brigade Royal Field Artillery - 10th, 97th and 368th Field Batteries.
Harry Mann was a member of L Battery and Phillip Saban was a member of Y Battery Royal Horse Artillery.
Following high losses suffered by the French at Verdun, General Joffre wanted a massive British thrust on the Somme. This was to commence on July 1 across a front of 25,000yds and was to last till November 18 that year. The Royal Artillery were engaged throughout this period in support of the infantry and 1,537 guns and howitzers were deployed along the front providing a combined density of one field gun per twenty yards and one heavy gun to 58 yards.
The 29th Division were positioned opposite Beaumont Hamel and Beaucourt.
The artillery provided a massive barrage on the enemy lines intended to cut through the barbed wire allowing access to the infantry and to damage the German trench system. This had limited success evidenced by the heavy losses sustained by the advancing infantry in the first days of "The Battle of the Somme". A "creeping barrage" was introduced with the artillery firing ahead of the infantry as they advanced with the trajectory being lifted as the soldiers moved forward. The theory was sound but success very much depended on the skill of the gunners, accurate intelligence as to troop movement, the effectiveness of the guns themselves and the ammunition. Sadly failure of one or more of these elements resulted in death or serious injury to many a soldier.
As the months progressed, the artillery became more effective despite the severe difficulties encountered; the guns were worn, a significant percentage of shells failed to explode, the Somme mud restricted movement of the guns and provided a poor firing platform, the men were weary and many reinforcements were inadequately trained. Notwithstanding this, it could be fairly argued that many lessons were learned from the Somme that were put to good use in later battles.
The cold winter months of 1916 and 1917 were devoted to holding firm the current positions and preparing for the battles, which it was hoped, would end the war in 1917. There was considerable re-organization of the Royal Regiment of Artillery.
In April and May 1917, 15th Brigade Royal Horse Artillery were deployed as part of the 12th Divisional Artillery in support of 36th Infantry Brigade during the battle of Arras. They were positioned near Monchy and suffered a number of direct hits on their guns during bombardments on April 16. In the second battle of The Scarpe (April 23/24, 1917) following infantry success, the Batteries galloped forward with their guns in spectacular fashion but met with heavy fire from German positions. In spite of sustaining casualties the action of the men in L Battery was recorded as "truly magnificent and in the very best tradition of the RHA". Three guns of 15th Royal Horse Artillery were hit and many men and horses wounded.
15th Brigade then moved north, once again part of 29th Division Artillery, to participate in the Third Battle of Ypres which was launched on July 31, 1917, and lasted till November 10, encompassing the battles of Pilckem Ridge, Langemark, Menin Road Ridge, Polygon Wood, Poelcappelle and the first and second Passchendale. The end came none too soon for the Gunners. The strain on the men and horses in the batteries was extreme, they had suffered constant bombardment for months on end and had hardly been out of the line.
Conditions at the guns were terrible, pouring rain, thick oozing mud capable of swallowing a man, a horse or even a gun, made hopeless platforms. For shelter, a piece of corrugated iron over a water filled shell hole was all that was available. Ammunition had to be carried forward by hand over duck-boards to the guns under constant shell and gas fire. Hundreds of bodies, British and German lay buried in the mud continually churned up by relentless shell-fire.
With little respite 15th Royal Horse Artillery (including L Battery) moved south to Cambrai as part of 29th Divisional Artillery. Y Battery Royal Horse Artillery were also present but as part of the 1st Cavalry Division Artillery. This was to be the first occasion that tanks were used in numbers large enough to effect the battle. Initially good progress was made with objective after objective being taken. The 29th Division, with the Cavalry close behind, reached the Masnieres - Marcoing canal and crossed it at Marcoing. 15th Brigade then took a position looking towards Masnieres.
By November 28, despite some good progress and initial success Bourlon had not been fully taken. Guns had become stuck up to their axles in mud and the 1st Cavalry Division Artillery were required to dismount and join the infantry in close quarter struggle.
The failure to take Bourlon left the British in a dangerous salient and orders were given to consolidate the ground won. The Germans counter attacked on 30th November - many British guns were lost that day, many were surprised and over run before they could fire a shot. It was the biggest single loss of British guns in one battle ever to that date. By 9.15am infantrymen had retired through the guns of 15th Royal Horse Artillery and no one stood between them and the German infantry advancing across Bonars Ridge. The guns opened fire and took heavy toll of the enemy but the advance continued. At 11.15am L Battery were ordered to open rapid fire to provide cover for the withdrawal of the detachments of the rest of the Brigade. This was done with L Battery finally withdrawing and reforming with the Brigade to defend against the German attack.
1st Cavalry Division were fully engaged in defending against the German attack at Bourlon. Great courage by the 56th Division, supported by the 1st Cavalry Division, is considered by some as one of the most outstanding defensive actions of the war by the British.
So ended November 30, 1917, - a day when so much gained was so nearly lost, but when so much gallantry saved the day. The British continued to defend their positions till December 4 when ordered to withdraw to the Hindenburg Support Line.
Harry Mann was recorded as missing presumed killed in action on November 30. His body, if ever recovered was never identified. He was twenty-nine years old when he died. His police colleague Philip Saban was mortally wounded and died later of his wounds at the 29th Division Casualty Clearing Station at Grevillers on December 2, he was just twenty-four years of age.
Harry Mann and Philip Saban had been colleagues in Southend Police Force, they had enlisted together to serve their country, they had fought in the same Brigade in the fields of France and Flanders and they died on the same battlefield.
Philip Saban is buried at Grevillers British Cemetery close to the location of the Casualty Clearing Station where he was treated.
His family arranged for his headstone to be engraved - He gave his life for his friends.
On December 12, 1917, Philip's mother wrote to the Chief Constable:
I heard from the War Office this morning that my son died in hospital Dec. 2nd through wounds received in action. I remain yours respectfully E Saban.
Harry Mann is commemorated on The Cambrai Memorial to the Missing at Louerval.
On January 10, 1918, Blanche E Mann, the widow of Harry Mann, who was then living at 9, Farm Avenue, Streatham, S. W 16 wrote to Mr Kerslake, Chief Constable of Southend Borough Police:
It is with great sorrow I must tell you my dear husband is feared killed. I have enclosed a copy of the letter one of his officers wrote for you to read and still hope that there is a possible chance of his being alive as so far I have had no official news from the War office. Yours truly Blanche E Mann.
The letter that Blanche Mann referred to was from 2nd Lieutenant S H Edgar of L Battery, Royal Horse Artillery:
I am writing these few lines to tell you how sorry I am not to be able to find any further traces of your husband. I have not written sooner as I hoped to have better news for you. I am afraid I can offer you but very little hope of his being alive but will tell you the circumstances. He together with three gallant comrades voluntarily carried a wounded man to the dressing station when a shell burst in the party and I am afraid killed them all. We were unable to find out as the Germans were only a few yards off and we had to retire. All this happened at Manieres. I should like to say had your husband lived I should have recommended him for a decoration for very conspicuous gallantry. I can only offer you my most sincere sympathy in your great loss and say how much we all miss him.
On February 13, 1918, the Watch Committee of Southend reported that Constable Mann had been officially reported as wounded and missing and that Constable Saban had been killed in action. They directed that the Council's sympathy be expressed to the relatives of the officers.
On March 15, 1918, the Chief Constable was directed to continue, till the next meeting, the payment of War Service Allowance to the wife of Constable Mann, who had been recently reported wounded and missing in France.
On April 12, 1918, the Chief Constable was instructed to discontinue, from the end of that week, any further payment to Mrs. Mann whose husband had been missing and was now presumed to have been killed.
In March 1927, Blanche Mann, then living at 78b High Road, Streatham, S.W.16 wrote to Mr Kerslake, who was still the Chief Constable:
I beg to apply for the superannuation money that was due to my late husband P.C. 75 Harry Beresford Mann late of the Southend Police Force (Leigh Section) who was presumed missing in France Nov.30th 1917....Owing to adverse circumstances and having to help support my mother I shall be glad to receive some (money) at your earliest convenience and cannot understand why it was not sent to me at the time.
In response she received the sum of 5.05.1d representing the amount of her late husband's pension deductions whilst serving with Southend Police.
Blanche Mann never married again and in 1957, following the changes to the police Pension Regulations, she was awarded a widows pension. She was then living at 67 Lesbourne Road, Reigate, Surrey.
Did they beat the drum slowly,
Did they play the fife lowly,
Did they sound the death march
As they lowered you down.
Did the band play the last post and chorus,
Did the pipes play the flowers of the forest.