University of Oxford
Browse
78d5f9f8690c98796f0effc12d43f17f413ad99f.pdf (4.6 kB)

Staff Sergeant Walter Philip Mann's Story During WWII

Download (4.6 kB)
online resource
posted on 2024-06-05, 19:46 authored by Their Finest Hour Project Team

Walter Philip Mann enlisted in Hounslow in September 1939 at the age of 20. After recruit training, he was posted to the Royal Fusiliers in Tonbridge. He got a week's leave, then crossed to France in February 1940 as a Fusilier with the British Expeditionary Force. By April, he was a clerk in the HQ of the 12th Infantry Brigade. He returned to England in June during the evacuation from Dunkirk. He got out his mess tin after being evacuated when offered a drink, but it was given back to him with the point that it had a hole in it. It had stopped a bullet that would have killed him.

After this, the Brigade remained in Britain on anti-invasion duties and further training. During this time, Walter rose through the ranks to Sergeant. There is a photo of him taken in Hawick with an arm badge of an anchor, the badge of the HQ 12th Independent Infantry Brigade Formation, and the 3 chevrons. So this was taken after 9th February 1941. During this period in Britain, he also met and married Doris.

In January 1943, he was mustered as Clerk (Supply) in the Royal Army Service Corps, then on 12th March, he embarked with the British North Africa Forces, arriving in Algiers on 23rd March 1943. As part of the 1st Army, the brigade saw action in the Tunisian Campaign, in the Battle of Medjez Plain and the Battle for Tunis, the final battle in the liberation of North Africa. There was a service sheet for the 1st Army's Thanksgiving Service, followed by a victory march through Tunis on 20th May 1943. He was promoted to Acting Staff Sergeant the day before this, and on 15th November to Staff Sergeant.

The brigade remained in North Africa until February 1944, although he had 7 days leave in Algiers in December 1943 and 48 hours in Cairo in January 1944. On 6th March 1944, the Brigade sailed into Naples and in April moved forward to Cassino. Brigadier Algernon Heber-Percy took command of the Brigade and they fought in the final offensive at Cassino, which began at 23:00 on 11th May. After 4 days, the German defence line was broken and on 18th May Cassino fell. Staff Sergeant Walter Mann was awarded the British Empire Medal for "unselfish action which materially influenced the administration of the Brigade at a critical time in Cassino."

He had 4 days leave in Positano before the Brigade pushed north, and a further 7 days at Lake Trasimeno after the capture of Florence. By October 1944, the Brigade was taking part in the British 8th Army's attack on the Gothic Line and saw action in the battles of Coriano, Cesena, and Forli. In November 1944, the Brigade was withdrawn from Italy and spent the rest of the war in Greece, as part of the Allied force tasked with preventing civil unrest following the German withdrawal. He had 3 spells of leave in Greece in the Corinth area.

On 27th December 1945, Walter wrote home to say he hoped to be back within a week, and on 22nd January 1946, he was demobbed at Aldershot. In Walter's testimonial, Brigadier Heber-Percy said, "in Africa, Italy and Greece, he has always seen front line action" and that "the position (of Chief Clerk) which this Sergeant holds is one of extreme exactitude, for he is responsible for operation orders in battle. It is on him I rely for the production and dissemination of every written order."

History

Person the story/items relate to

Staff Sergeant Walter Philip Mann BEM

Person who shared the story/items

Anon

Relationship between the subject of the story and its contributor

She is the person's daughter

Type of submission

Shared at West Meads Community Hall, West Sussex on 11 November 2023. The event was organised by Bognor Regis u3a.

Record ID

105305 | BOG011