by House Guide, Vicky Field.
Like many of their neighbours and work colleagues David and Mary Parr had family who served in the armed forces during WW1. David was too old for service in 1914 but his son, David Douglas and his son in law, John Mansfield both served in the Army during this time.
David and Mary’s daughter, Mary Emma Parr married John Summers Mansfield in 1908. John had a long and distinguished army career, joining the Territorial Force (TF) as a Corporal in the 3rd Cambridgeshire Volunteer Battalion, the Suffolk Regiment in 1908. The Territorial Force was created to augment British Land forces without resorting to conscription. Soldiers were part time and pledged to train one evening a week and attend 14 consecutive days of annual training and John would have received regular army pay for his rank during this training.
In 1914 John Summers Mansfield now aged 32 and with a young son, had risen through the ranks of the TF and had become a sergeant. The Volunteer Battalion was stationed in Cambridge at this time and became the 1/ 1st Battalion Cambridgeshire Regiment at the outbreak of war. In February 1915 the Cambs were mobilised for war, landing at Le Havre to join the 82nd brigade of the 27th Division.
John was now a Company Quarter Master Sergeant (CQMS). A non -commissioned officer (earning his position of authority by promotion) who was in charge of supplies, transport, weapons, ammunition and accommodation for his company of 227 Officers and men. As CQMS John probably spent a lot of time in Company HQ behind the front line alongside the Major or Company Sergeant Major. John would have been the second most senior NCO in the company.
It is poignant to note that John and Mary’s second child Elsie was born on the 5th March 1915 just after John had been deployed in France. A few days after her birth the Battalion saw action at St Eloi where they were ambushed after an explosion of a huge underground mine. The Cambridgeshires among the experienced soldiers suddenly found themselves in a full-scale battle on their first visit to the front line.
In April 1915, just 2 months after his arrival in France, John was taken sick with Pleurisy (a respiratory disease – easily treated with antibiotics now but a more serious condition in 1915) and was admitted to the Number 6 Ambulance train for treatment. It is not known if he came back to England for treatment and recovery (and perhaps the possibility of seeing his daughter Elsie for the first time) or if he was treated at a Base Hospital in France. However, it is presumed that he was back in action with his battalion once he had recovered.
Presumably John did receive some leave in early 1917 because his second son Harold was born in October of that year but these happy events must have been overshadowed by the fierce fighting across the channel. The Cambridgeshires saw action in the Somme, Joist Redoubt, Schwaben Redoubt and Nurlu. Some 77 officers and 789 other ranks were lost during the course of the war but they were awarded 27 Battle Honours and 300 gallantry medals during this time.
John Summers Mansfield was honoured with 2 awards – the Meritorious Service Medal for valuable service in France and Flanders for which he received an annuity and was mentioned in the London Gazette 18/01/1919 and the Distinguished Conduct Medal at Epehy on the 19/9/1918.
A note in the London Gazette 10/01/1920 stated:
“At Epehy, on the 19th September 1918, on arriving at company headquarters with rations, he found that the company was badly disorganised, having lost all its officers. He remained with the company for the next twenty-four hours, and succeeded in thoroughly re-organising it under very heavy shell fire. Later, under heavy fire, he gallantly led his ration party up to a captured position”
The DCM was awarded to J S Mansfield for gallantry in the field in the face of the enemy. J S Mansfield was also entitled to use the letters D.C.M. after his name. The Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) was a high-level award for bravery, being a second level, military decoration to Non-Commissioned Personnel of the British Army and Commonwealth Countries. The Distinguished Conduct Medal was regarded as second only to the Victoria Cross in prestige.
At the end of the war, The Cambs remained based at their billets in France until January 1919. They were kept busy with salvage work, route marches, parades and guard duty but as the weeks went on more men were sent home for demobilization. The exact date of John Mansfield’s demobilisation is not known, but it must have been a relief for Mary Emma and the children John, Elsie, and Harold to see their father’s safe return.