Mansel, Mervyn Lascelles
Mervyn Mansel was the youngest son of Algernon Lascelles Mansel (B1882), of Holm Place, Windlesham, Surrey, and Isita Rodger Mansel (daughter of William Wilson, of Princes Gate, London). His older brothers also attended Winchester: they were John William Morton Mansel (B 1922-1928), who was mentioned in despatches for his services as a POW in Germany from 1940, and Edmund Clavell Mansel MC (B 1928-1933).
He came to Moberly’s from Horris Hill in January 1931, leaving for RMC Sandhurst in July 1936. He was commissioned to the Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment in January 1938. After a few months in the Isle of Wight with 2nd Battalion, he joined 1st Battalion at Allahabad in India. In the early years of the war he was stationed in Waziristan, at Ambala and at Peshawar, being promoted to Captain and serving as Adjutant from January 1941 until July 1943. In 1943 he was promoted to Major, and took over HQ Company.
In 1943 the Battalion went to the Arakan area of Burma. Major Lowry, Officer Commanding B Company wrote a detailed diary of the Battalion’s fighting (“An Infantry Company in Arakan and Kohima”, Gale & Polden 1950) and Mansel features in several entries. In April 1944 the battalion flew to Dimapur for the Kohima front.
A hill town in Assam, in north east India, Kohima was the scene from April to June 1944 of one of the most bitterly fought battles of the Second World War. Earl Mountbatten described it as probably one of the greatest battles in history. Under the command of General William Slim, the British and Indian XIVth Army had been building up bases at Dimpapur and Imphal in preparation for an offensive into Burma. The Japanese, under the command of Lieutenant General Mutagachi, were ordered to put a stop to these preparations.
Fought in three stages from 4th April to 22nd June 1944, it is sometimes referred to as “The Stalingrad of the East”. In the early part of the conflict the Japanese attempted to capture Kohima ridge, an area consisting of features such as Garrison Hill, Jail Hill along with the Deputy Commissioner’s Bungalow and the tennis court, which went on to play such a pivotal role and is now the site of the Kohima War Cemetery. This area dominated the road by which the besieged British and Indian troops of IV Corps at Imphal were supplied. On 13th April the Japanese had the advantage of the British and Indian troops on the ridge, with the troops defending the District Commissioner’s residence coming under increasingly heavy artillery and mortar fire. This area was the scene of some of the hardest, closest and grimmest fighting with grenades being hurled across the tennis court. In the end the attacks were beaten off with the help of remarkably accurate fire from the Royal Artillery positioned at Jotsoma ridge and the siege was lifted by mid-April.
On 13th May the Japanese abandoned the Kohima ridge, having come under sustained attack from the British and Indian troops who eventually regained much of the area previously lost.
Mansel’s battalion, under the command of 2nd Division, was given the task of re-capturing Jail Hill. On May 7th they took it, but at such cost that they could not consolidate and were forced to withdraw. On May 10th/11th, at their own request, they took it again and, reinforced, were able to consolidate. Lowry’s account in his book of the attack on Jail Hill by ‘B’ Company on May 10th reads as follows:
“At 2200 got the order to move out at 2215… This night approach, in my opinion, was most difficult – very tricky navigation and altogether rather nerve-racking, something I shall never forget… I had to navigate the column – in fact, I had to lead it. Very tricky, no defined tracks, thick undergrowth, down hundreds of feet round spurs and up hundreds of feet and across re-entrants, hacking, pushing, stumbling, and through ruined bashas and so on… The gist of this local attack on to this position was an assault in line under covering fire. Pen and I started the ball rolling by whistling over some grenades… But the terrain was not easy, there being many shell-holes, horizontal tree stumps and the odd trench to negotiate. As we were going down the slope we caught the full blast of about three light machine guns and rifle fire and, of course, grenades as we tried to negotiate the obstacles. This, I am afraid, resulted in many more men dropping… After this there followed a sniping duel, and then things happened the like of which I had never seen before. It was the nearest approach to a snowball fight that could be imagined. The air became thick with grenades, both theirs and ours, and we were all scurrying about trying to avoid them as they burst. This duel appeared to go on non-stop for an unreckonable time… For the rest of the day we dug like beavers – everything we could find, plates, mugs, bayonets and entrenching tools – not so much digging as is normally done, but by making a hole and burrowing and tunnelling ourselves forward below ground level. By the evening we were completely dug in and all section posts linked up…”
It was in this attack that Mansel was seriously wounded by a sniper. He died, aged twenty-six, while being removed to hospital on May 13th, and was buried in grave 7.G.24, Imphal War Cemetery.
He was mentioned in despatches in April 1945. A memorial service was held for Mansel at Windlesham Parish Church on June 3rd 1944 at 1145, and he is commemorated on his parents’ grave in the open cemetery adjoining St. John the Baptist Church there.
- Surname: Mansel
- Forenames or initials: Mervyn Lascelles
- House: B
- Years in School: 1931-1936
- Rank: Major
- Regiment: Queen's Own Royal West Surrey Regiment
- Date of Birth: 2nd November 1917
- Date of Death: 13th May 1944
- How Died: Died of Wounds
- Location in War Cloister: Inner G2
- Decoration: NA
- Burial Site: Imphal War Cemetery: Grave 7.G.24