I first met Arthur Mansell when I joined ‘C’ Squadron of The 4th Queen’s Own Hussars in August 1943.
The Regiment was encamped at Beni Yousef just west of the Nile Delta level with Cairo. Each squadron had 5 troops and in ‘C’ Squadron 4 troops were commanded by officers and one troop by Sgt Mansell MM.
He was an experienced armoured soldier, having fought in the desert battles and had been decorated for gallantry. Our squadron leader, Major Peter Crichton, had had him in his own tank crew sometime before, knew Mansell very well and had a high opinion of him.
He continued to command 2nd troop until the end of the Gothic Line battle in October 1944. ‘C’ Squadron was then reorganised to carry infantry in Armoured Personnel Carriers called Kangaroos.
I had 3 sergeants each commanding a section of APCs, Sgt Poole MM, Sgt Mansell MM and Sgt Kincaid MM, all of them leaders and fighting soldiers of the highest quality.
I got to know Arthur Mansell really well at this stage of the war, from October 1944 to the end of hostilities. He was in his early 20s, and I saw for myself that he was brave, cool, intelligent and articulate. He would certainly have been recommended for a commission had he put his name forward, but he set the greatest store by comradeship, and he would not have wanted to leave his friends.
In the last battle in the final advance to the River Po and beyond we were carrying a battalion of the 2nd New Zealand Division. I sent Mansell’s section forward with their platoon of Infantry to dismount and deal with some enemy opposition. Unfortunately, they were prevented from driving home their attack by an irrigation ditch which proved to be a tank obstacle and Sgt Mansell’s APC got bogged and came under direct fire.
Fortunately, he was protected by the ditch he was in, but he cooly withdrew the rest of his troop and dismounted his Kiwis and sent them back by a covered route.
After trying to get his tank out of the ditch for some time, the enemy mortars began to range on him, so he cooly asked my permission to switch off and abandon his APC and make his way back to my position. After a comparatively long time, I got worried about him, thinking that he might have been wounded, and as nothing was required of me at the time, I decided to try and find him.
I had gone about 300 yards and was crawling at the time when I nearly bumped head-on into Mansell who was crawling back. He had gone back to his APC to retrieve the New Zealand platoon commander’s map, which was marked with all the codewords, axis, bounds etc. which would have been of value to the enemy. He had used his own initiative which was typical of him.
I saw him half a dozen times after the war. He reached a very responsible position in the civil service and during his holidays he and his wife drove their caravan all over Europe, North America and four times, I believe, to Australia.
He looked little changed from his younger days and was a man of abstemious habits so the news of his death was entirely unexpected.
Arthur Mansell was a very fine Englishman and he is a sad loss to all his friends.