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Readers respond to request for Great War soldier's story

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: June 12, 2014

By Gavin Jones

  • The only surviving photograph of

  • Frank Mansell listed with other local lads on the Rowley Regis Roll of Honour

  • Frank's final resting place in Belgium. In recent years, photographs of many graves have been posted on war graves websites.

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CAN you help family find out what happened to Frank? ... we asked on page 17 of our May 29 edition.

And we've had quite a response from our small army of sleuthing readers who have been busily trawling the available records. At the time of writing, Mr J. Willetts of Netherton, C. Smith and a couple of anonymous correspondents had forwarded information to us, as had Lisa Gibbons, Angie Robinson and Barry by email. All agreed that Private Frank Mansell of 75 Corngreaves Road, Cradley Heath, service number 41478, died at the age of 19 on August 16, 1917. Though he had originally been in the South Staffs, he was as nephew Carl had told us in the original feature, with the Lincolnshire Regiment at the time of his death, in the 2nd Battalion, part of the 8th Division. Records show that his number in the South Staffs had been 35809.

Frank is listed as having died of wounds and was buried in Lijssenthoek Military cemetery in West Vlaanderen, Belgium, with the grave reference XVII A A7. C Smith has also provided a list of men who died who lived in the same street as Frank, and the length of it gives some idea of the scale of the deaths in that conflict. Charles Allen of number 47 Corngreaves Road, Joseph Bate of 123, Frederick Blakeway of 65, Caleb Clarke of 93, David Haden of 127, Alf Hodgetts of 27, Horace Homer and Wesley Homer of number 94, Robert Rock of 146, Harry Timms of 26, George Wellings of 142, L Wilmot of number 7, and F.J. Woodhouse of 106 all lived in that one Cradley Heath street, and none came home.

We've also received a visit from Liz Cope of the Savoy Family History Group, based at the Savoy Centre in Netherton. Liz tells us that Frank Mansell is listed on the war memorial at Netherton's St Andrew's Church; which is unusual given that his address was Corngreaves Road in Cradley Heath.

The group are in the process of researching every name on the memorial, and had already unearthed what is officially recorded of Frank Mansell's story.

The Military Cemetery which became Frank's final resting place is sited near the village of Lijssenthoek, which during the First World War was situated on the main communication line between the Allied military bases in the rear and the Ypres battlefields.

It was within fairly easy reach of the battle front, but out of the range of the German field artillery, and became an obvious site for casualty clearing stations.

Given the location of his grave and his date of death, it seems likely that Frank Mansell was killed during what became known as the 'Third Battle of Ypres'. The Battle of Langemarck was a brief but intense phase of this larger conflict and was fought between August 16 and 18, and Frank is known to have died of wounds the day after. The Lijssenthoek clearing station was just a few miles from the site of that battle, and the 8th Division are known to have fought there.

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