Gunner Albert John Manners, Royal Garrison Artillery, d. 29 May 1918, age 24 years.
Albert was born in Lydiard Tregoze in 1894, the son of Frank Manners and his wife Lydia Maundrell, née Hall. Albert served as Albert James, but on his birth register and his memorial in the Cemetery he is named as Albert John. He was the youngest of five. Frank and Lydia had three daughters, Edith, Daisy and Mabel, and two sons, Frank Henry and Albert. Only Harry and Edith are mentioned on his attestation papers.
Albert lived at Marsh Farm, Lydiard Tregoze, until at least 1905, when he was about 11 years old. His mother Lydia died in 1905. By the age of 17, he and his family were at Cotmarsh Farm, and he was working on the farm.
On 11th December 1915 21 year old Albert attested in Swindon. He was single, 5 feet 10 inches and his chest fully expanded was 37 inches. He was placed on reserve, until, on January 6th 1916 he was posted to the Army Veterinary Corps (14182). However, he was claimed back for agricultural work by his employer on 17th February 1916.
On 31st May 1916 Albert was released and became a gunner in the 249th Siege Battery of the Royal Garrison Artillery (87469). It seems likely that he regretted losing the opportunity to join the Army Veterinary Corps. However, he qualified first class in signalling and telephony at Hipswell Camp (probably in December 1916). His first RGA posting was to Bere Island off the coast of Ireland and he then went to Catterick Camp.
The 249th were posted to France on March 22nd 1917, and the battery sailed for France, arriving on March 23rd 1917. In February 1918 he had 14 days leave in England, then returned to his battery. The 249th Seige Battery War Diary at the National Archives ends in January 1918, when they transferred into the 53rd (Mixed) Brigade. On May 12th 1918 the 53rd Brigade set up headquarters in a farm in front of Oosthoek (28.H.39.a.7.7). The brigade were supporting operations to take back control of Ridge Wood in the Battles of the Lys. The wood was on high ground between the Kemmel road and Dickebusch Lake. The diary from the 28th to the 29th gives very little information about the particular role of 249 Siege Battery, who were operating 6-8″ Howitzers. It reads only:
28th 6am – 29th 6am: 249 Siege Battery fired 240 S Harrassing Fire and Counter Battery.
Some officers and NCOs from the 53rd (Mixed) Brigade were decorated for their actions on the 28th May, during which the French were driven out of Ridge Wood. On the next day the war diary reads:
29th 6am – 23th 6am: 249 Siege Battery fired 216 S Harrassing and Counter Battery.
Details on the events of the 29th May are supplied by Brigadier Hanway Robert Cumming in his book “A Brigadier In France – 1917-1918”.
The artillery activity of the enemy, which had been gradually increasing in its intensity, culminated on the 29th in a terrific bombardment of the G.H.Q. line, Bedford House area, Ridge Wood, and all battery positions and approaches to the line. This bombardment started at about 3am, and at 6am the infantry assault started. This was chiefly concentrated on Ridge Wood and the GHQ Line as far as Kruistraathoek cross roads, and a subsidiary attack also developed on the outpost line along the Canal from Lock 8.
Albert was killed in this action, on May 29th 1918. He was buried at Brandhoek New Military Cemetery No 3, grave reference IV B 7, 6.5 km west of Ypres. Brandhoek was used mainly for burials from the local Field Ambulance and Casualty Clearing Station. 75 of the graves are Royal Garrison Artillery due to the many gun positions in the vicinity.
Albert’s legateee was his father Frank. On 10th September 1918 Albert’s personal possessions were returned to his father via Dover. They included letters, photos, two pipes, two wallets, certificate of discharge, tobacco pouch, silver cigarette case, Ingersoll watch (broken), penknife (broken), key, and purse.
Albert is remembered on his parents’ grave in Wootton Bassett cemetery. He was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.
Additional notes relevant to Cotmarsh Farm
In May 1917 Herbert Manners, age 18, met the tribunal. He was a milker for Robert Maundrell of Wootton Bassett. His relationship to Lydia has not yet been identified. He was given an exemption until September 1st 1917. George Brown, a retired farmer age 82 years, died at Cotmarsh on August 11th 1915.