Aircraftman 2nd Class William Mansell

Thank you to Jemma Offley for the following research.

William Mansell 1881 Census ©

William Mansell was born to Michael and Sarah Mansell (previously Sturt) on the 26th June 1873. Michael Mansell was working as a labourer on a yard (Sarah not in employment), although it appears William was born out of wedlock, with their marriage taking place on the 12th September 1874 in Ewhurst. Living in 29 Peaslake Lane, just south of Shere in the borough of Guilford (William’s birthplace), the 1881 census shows him as a scholar with four younger siblings also living at that address.

William and Alice Mansell’s Wedding Certificate ©

William grew up to be a bricklayer and gardener, marrying Alice Mary Wood on Christmas Day 1894 in Shere, St James Church. Alice was living at 144 Peaslake Lane according to the 1891 census, which also tells us that William’s family were living at number 140 (although William is not listed to be living with them), showing it is likely the couple met by living so close. William is registered as a labourer, possibly in the same line of work as his father, who is registered as the same.

1901 Census
William Mansell 1901 Census ©

Alice is not working, but her father, Benjamin Wood is listed as a carpenter. The couple go on to have 5 children: Ernest Jesse (born 29th December 1904), Alice Dora (15th January 1907), Cyril Robert (26th January 1909), Evelyn Maud (3rd June 1911) and Edith Mary (9th January 1914). The 1901 census shows the couple living at 166 Hoe Lane in Shere and Peaslake, just 6 miles from central Dorking.

William Mansell 1911 Census ©

In 1911, the couple have moved to St John’s Road in Westcott, with William still working as a bricklayer, and showing no military involvement. This is most likely because the age criteria for enlisting in the army were 18-38, William being aged 41 in 1914 and thus not eligible for conscription. He continues his life with his wife and children until 1918 where he then decides to enlist into the newly formed Royal Air Force (created 1st April 1918).

William attested on the 24th August 1918, possibly as a result of the 1918 Conscription Crisis and the threat of the German Offensive after the defeat of the Russians in 1917. He is described as being 5’5’’, with dark hair and complexion. His service number was 288455, which confirms his enlistment between July and September 1918 as a Second Class Airman of the RAF, the lowest rank in the Air Force (previously the air mechanics of the RFC). It appears he never entered active service, completing training at Catfirth in Shetland (RAF base used from June 1918 to September 1919) and transferring to Crystal Palace Discharge Centre on the 10th February 1919.  He died on demobilised furlough on the 17th February 1919, possibly of illness or old age.

William Mansell is buried in Dorking Cemetery, his name engraved on a headstone commissioned by his wife, Alice along with the words “Until We Meet Again”. His wife continued to live in Dorking in 9 Spring Cottage, South Holmwood, dying on the 29th November 1958.

Born Shere, Surrey
Lived Westcott, Surrey
Son of Michael and Sarah Mansell (nee Sturt) of 29 Peaslake Lane, Shere
Husband of Alice Mary Mansell of 9 Spring Cottages, South Holmwood
Father of Ernest, Alice, Cyril, Evelyn and Edith
Regiment Airman’s Command Squadron, Royal Air Force
Number 288455
Date of Death 17th February 1919
Place of Death Dorking
Age 45
Cemetery Dorking Cemetery
William Mansell Grave. Photograph courtesy of Royston Williamson
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