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3888 SGT. W. MANSELL 5TH DRAG GDS PoW 15/08/1900 1 week 21 hours ago #72943

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Queen’s South Africa Medal 1899-1902, 3 Clasps: Relief of Ladysmith, Transvaal, South Africa 1901; (3888 SGT. W. MANSELL. 5TH. DRAGOON GUARDS)

Hansell W H 3888 Sergeant Missing - released at Volksrust. 15 Aug 1900.
Source: Natal Field Force Casualty Roll, page 2 line 14
Mansell W 3888 Sergeant QSA (3). Missing - released, Volksrust, 14 Aug 00.
Source: QSA medal rolls

Queen’s South Africa Medal 1899-1902, 3 Clasps: Relief of Ladysmith, Transvaal, South Africa 1901, awarded to Sergeant W. Mansell, 5th Princess Charlotte of Wales’s Dragoon Guards, who saw service during the Boer War on operations leading to the relief of Ladysmith in late February 1900, and was later present in the Transvaal, and was taken prisoner of war on 15th August 1900, and released on 13th September 1900 at Barberton.

William Henry Mansell was born in Finchley, London, and having worked as a clerk, then attested for service with the British Army at London on 15th November 1892, joining as a Private (No.3888) the 5th Princess Charlotte of Wales’s Dragoon Guards. Posted out to India on 6th September 1893, he was promoted to Corporal on 1st December 1894, and to Sergeant on 20th June 1895, before being appointed Orderly Room Sergeant on 20th June 1895. Having then returned to duty as a Sergeant on 1st May 1898, he was posted to South Africa after the outbreak of the Boer War on 4th December 1899.

Mansell then saw service during the Boer War on operations leading to the relief of Ladysmith in late February 1900. Subsequently present on operations in the Transvaal, Mansell was taken prisoner of war on 15th August 1900, and released on 13th September 1900 at Barberton. Mansell was posted home on 2nd June 1901 and transferred to the Army Reserve, being fully discharged on 14th November 1904.

The regiment arrived in Natal from India before the war broke out. They took part in the battle of Elandslaagte on 21st October 1899l. The regiment was not present at Rietfontein, 24th October, but on the 30th in the battle of Lombard's Kop they were engaged. Lt. Norwood gained the VC on that day for galloping back 300 yards for a wounded man, carrying him on his back, at the same time leading his horse, all under a heavy and incessant fire. After the investment of Ladysmith was complete the regiment was frequently engaged, particularly on 3rd November 1899 and on 6th January 1900, the day of the great attack. In his dispatches of 2nd December 1899 and 23rd March 1900 General White mentioned 3 officers.
In the northern advance from Ladysmith to the Transvaal the 5th Dragoon Guards were brigaded with the 1st Royal Dragoons and 13th Hussars under Brigadier General Burn-Murdoch. When General Buller moved north towards Lydenburg from the Standerton line Burn-Murdoch's brigade was employed in the south-east of the Transvaal. In General Buller's final dispatch of 9th November 1900 4 officers and 3 non-commissioned officers and men of the 5th Dragoon Guards were mentioned for gallant work while the regiment was under him, the cause of mention in the case of Captain Reynolds being, "on 15th August with a party of 20 men of the 5th Dragoon Guards surprised and routed a commando of 400".
In Lord Roberts' dispatch of 4th September 1901 8 officers and 5 non-commissioned officers and men were mentioned.
In the first quarter of 1901 the regiment had arduous work in the south-east of the Transvaal while General French was driving Botha's forces into that angle. They frequently had skirmishing, but perhaps their hardest work was the escorting of convoys from the railway to French's men during a time when the weather scarcely ever faired up for weeks at a time, and the endless spruits could only be crossed with great difficulty. The regiment was afterwards taken to the Western Transvaal, and did much work in the Klerksdorp district. They were for a time in columns under Colonel Western and Brigadier General G Hamilton, and they afterwards operated under Brigadier General G Hamilton east of Pretoria. The regiment sailed for India shortly before peace was declared.

History of the 5th Dragoon Guards in the Boer War
The regiment were stationed in India from 1893. They were one of the last regiments to sail from Portsmouth to India as a complete unit on a Government transport, because in the following season the use of transport was discontinued. In 1899 they were sent direct to South Africa, arriving in Natal before war broke out. They were posted to Ladysmith, the first arrivals being C and D Squadrons, arriving on 12th Oct. The remaining two squadrons arrived on 26th Oct making a total of 18 officers and 476 other ranks. The commanding officer was Lt. Col. Robert Baden Powell but he was kept busy at Mafeking. Major St. John Gore was the actual commander and was regarded by Sir Henry Rawlinson as, 'a long-nosed jabbering ass, with none of the qualities for a cavalry leader'. The journey from Bombay had been a difficult one because of storms, and the three trains that they had to take from Durban were even worse because wet weather caused the horses to slip around disastrously in their open carriages. Several animals were lost through injury in this way.

Elandslaagte 21st Oct 1899
The role of the 5th Dragoon Guards at Elandslaagte was that of pursuing the defeated Boers at the end of the battle. Elandslaagte, situated northeast of Ladysmith was occupied by 1,200 Boers under the aged General Kock. Major-General French was sent out with a force from Ladysmith to clear the Boers from the area. This force was made up of Imperial Light Horse, half a battalion of the Manchester Regiment plus gunners and sappers. But the force was too small and French called for reinforcements. These included the Devons, Gordon Highlanders, two squadrons of the 5th Lancers and two squadrons of the 5th Dragoon Guards. The mounted troops had the task of riding alongside the train that transported the infantry to Elandslaagte. They were kept busy driving large numbers of Boers away from the track.
The Boers entrenched on the heights were subjected to an assault by the infantry which turned into a horrendous ordeal for the Manchesters, Gordons and the dismounted Imperial Light Horse who were pinned down by accurate rifle fire and were also soaked in a tremendous thunderstorm. Theirs was a flanking attack which was intended to distract the Boers from a frontal assault made by the Devons who went in vigorously and achieved success but the Boers regained the heights again in a desperate fight. More hand-to-hand fighting took place and the British finally forced the retreat of the Boers who took to their horses and fled as the light of day began to fade. It was here that the Lancers and Dragoon Guards began their pursuit of the enemy. The ground was difficult for the cavalry at first, as St John Gore relates:
'At last I saw the Boers apparently coming down...by twos and threes: great uncertainty in the bad light as to what they were doing. Then "They're off!" "No, they're not!" "Yes, they ARE!" I sent back word to my two squadrons to "advance in line at extended files" [ie. 4 yards interval between each horse]. After half a mile our heads rose over a fold in the ground, and showed us a long stream of Boers going leisurely away from the position at right angles to my line of advance, and about 300 yards off. I gave the word "gallop". When they saw us, the Boers broke in every direction and galloped away. The ground was very stony in most parts, but there were some good grassy bits along which I was able to pick my way (being one single man), while most of the men had to go over the bad places as they happened to come to them in their line.'

They made three charges against the Boers. There was much blood spilt in these charges and the Boers harbored a deep hatred of the British after this 'massacre', especially the Lancers. They swore that any lancers they captured in the future would be killed. But there are conflicting accounts from those that took part in the charges at Elandslaagte. One lancer wrote home: 'They threw up their arms and fell on their knees for mercy; but we were told not to give them any, and I can assure you they got none. We went along sticking our lances through them - it was terrible thing: but you have to do it in a case like this.'


The accounts written by men of the 5th DG all talk of taking prisoners. Troop Sergeant Savage said, 'The pace increased, on and on, until we could see and pick out our man. After this I no longer tried to follow my Troop leader, but rode as hard as I could for that one man. As I approached him, he dropped off his pony (a grey) and fired at someone to the right. I overtook him and rode on for another who was some little distance in front. This fellow, by the time I got up to him, was laid on his back, and looked so helpless and so much like a civilian, that I took his arms and ammunition, and as by this time the troops were rallying, I marched him up a prisoner and handed him over to Corporal Howard, who was taking over the prisoners. This man, whilst I had my lance to his breast, asked for no mercy, but handed over his arms like a soldier who could do no more. I took the precaution to make him hand me the butt first. There was nothing of the coward about him.' This narrative is interesting as it indicates that the 5th DG were using lances. Lieut Philip Reynolds wrote, 'Men were dismounted by twos and threes to make a single Boer prisoner, and our ranks were soon thinned out. At last we came to a spruit and the whole line halted. A few Boers here were dismounted, and fired a few shots without doing any damage. I took a few men, and we surrounded them and made prisoners of them.' Thus it becomes obvious that the taking of prisoners was detrimental to the pursuit.
Lombard's Kop 30th Oct 1899
The battle of Ladysmith, or Lombard's Kop was General White's attempt to take the offensive against the combined forces of General Joubert's Boers, General Lucas Meyer's force, and a commando from the Free State. The British were outnumbered and the Boers had powerful artillery building up to besiege Ladysmith, especially their Long Tom positioned on Pepworth Hill. White's forces were split into three and concentrated their attacks on the hills ranging around Pepworth in the north and Lombard's Kop 5 miles east of the town. The cavalry was made up of the 5th DG, 5th Lancers, 18th and 19th Hussars and the Natal Carbineers. They were all jammed into a nullah one and a half miles long and 10 or 20 yards wide and came under heavy fire from the Boers who had out-maneuvered the British completely. They were forced to retreat in a disorderly manner described by an infantry officer as 'very nearly a stampede' It was only the brave and efficient actions of 53rd Battery RA under Major Abdy that saved the cavalry from serious casualties. As it was, they came off lightly compared to the infantry who had many men taken prisoner, 954 in all, and 320 casualties. It was during the scramble to get away from Lombard's Kop that 2nd Lt John Norwood won the VC and Private William Sibthorpe was awarded the DCM. Norwood galloped back 300 yards under fire to help the wounded Private Mouncer. He carried him on his back and led his own horse. Sibthorpe came to assist him and helped carry Mouncer, still under heavy fire. Norwood made a report about Sibthorpe's bravery but omitted his own part in the action. When Sibthorpe was asked by the Squadron commander why he did what he did he said, "I only followed my officer's example." thus revealing Norwood's part. When the Squadron commander sent in his report he wrote, 'It is against the expressed wish of 2nd Lt Norwood that I report his share in this act of gallantry'.


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3888 SGT. W. MANSELL 5TH DRAG GDS PoW Volkrust 15/08/1900 1 week 6 hours ago #72952

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Thank you azyeoman for a very interesting write-up.

I really like your pictures which look fantastic on that solid black background.
Dr David Biggins

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3888 SGT. W. MANSELL 5TH DRAG GDS PoW Volkrust 15/08/1900 1 week 36 minutes ago #72976

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Hi Azyeoman
Cpl Feast's DCM group for the incident on 2 August 1900 features as Lot 182 in the current City Coins' Auction 71. The DCM is officially dated "2-8-00"
Henk
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3888 SGT. W. MANSELL 5TH DRAG GDS PoW Volkrust 15/08/1900 6 days 23 hours ago #72979

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djb wrote: Thank you azyeoman for a very interesting write-up.

I really like your pictures which look fantastic on that solid black background.


I have to agree...... The Black really brings out the contrast and details of the medal......

Mike
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3888 SGT. W. MANSELL 5TH DRAG GDS PoW Volkrust 15/08/1900 6 days 14 hours ago #72994

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When I saw this I did wonder if you would buy it. I took a long hard look at it.

I'm afraid the assumption by London Medals that Mansell may have been captured on Aug 2 is, I believe, wrong. The casualty rolls list all those POW on the 2nd. The regiment lost a number of men POW in this period. They were protecting the railway and had a number of skirmishes with the Boers. On the 14th August a small patrol conducted a night attack on a Boer laager of about 100 men. They fired over 600 rounds into the Boers sitting around fires enjoying coffee, casualties estimated at at 30-40. The officer commanding was wounded and one man "missing-released" - not Mansell.

Mansell's POW is not shown in Surrenders WO108-372.

I wrote to London Medals yesterday advising them of this.
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3888 SGT. W. MANSELL 5TH DRAG GDS PoW Volkrust 15/08/1900 6 days 11 hours ago #72995

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Thank you very very much for this info. So we know he was captured at some point, but not as thought and most likly a few days later. Thank you again for clearing this up. I'll definitely edit tbe entry. John

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