Wednesday, 19 August 2020

Arthur James Mann (1884 - 1933) - British WW1 airman and soldier poet

With grateful thanks to Historians Paul Simadas and Debbie Cameron for their help in researching this post and to Alison T. McCall, Genealogist who found Arthur James Mann’s date of death and what he did after the war, along with details of his sister’s brilliant medical career.

Arthur James Mann was born on 15th August 1884 in Hampstead, London, UK.  His parents were Frederick William Mann, a civil servant, and his wife, Ellen Mann, nee Packham. Arthur had a sister, Ida Caroline (1893 – 1983), who went on to study medicine and achieve renown as an Opthalmologist and a writer*.  In the 1901 Census and the 1911 Census, Arthur is listed as a student, living with his parents and sister Ida at 13 Minster Road, Hampstead, London.

Arthur seems to have joined the Royal Aero Club and presumably learnt to fly, though I have not yet been able to find evidence of a pilot's licence.  Arthur studied at Oxford University and was about to take up a post as a Professor in Canada when war broke out in 1914.  According to his military record, Arthur was a Captain in the Army Service Corps 2902036 and then a Captain, later Recording Officer, in 22 Balloon Company 23767, when he was posted to the Balkans and served during the Salonika Campaign.  He had two books published after the war: "The Salonika Front" by Arthur James Mann, illustrated by William Thomas Wood and a collection of poems “Balkan Fancies and Other Poems by Captain A.J. Mann, RAF”.

On 29th April 1916, Arthur married Marie Henrietta Berthon (1 August 1893 – 11 May 1940), who was born in Birmingham in 1883, where her Father, Henry Edward Berthon (1862 – 1848), was assistant master at King Edward VI High School.  Henry Berthon went on to become a Professor of French at Oxford University and was tutor to the Prince of Wales from 1912 – 1914.

According to the British National Archives records, Arthur and Marie Henrietta’s address was 22 Charlbury Road, Oxford.   On 3.1.1919 Arthur was admitted to Central Hospital and on 18.3. 1919 Arthur relinquished his Commission due to ill health contracted while on active service.  Under the section Special Qualifications are French and Spanish, so Arthur must surely have studied those languages.  Arthur and Marie Mann had a son and a daughter. Their son, James Edward Ludlow Mann was born on 17th July 1923.   In 1939. James Edward Ludlow was at St. Lawrence College, College Road, Ramsgate, Kent .  In 1962,he married Madeline J. Commander.  He died on 27th November 2008 in Truro, Cornwall.

During the 1920s and early 1930s, Arthur worked in school management and when he died on 28th April 1933, he had managed Craigend Park Schools in Edinburgh for seven years.   Before that, he worked in school management in Australia and Fiji.

In the 1939 Census, Marie Henrietta Mann was living in Manchester (next door to the Pankhursts) and by then she was a widow.  She died in 1940 and left her estate to Arthur’s sister Ida Caroline.  


A poem by Arthur:

“Onward and Upward” by Arthur James Mann

NOT Goethe nor yet Shakespeare will I take

As this life’s final form wherein to pour

The molten richness of my young mind’s ore,

Now that to manhood’s powers my soul’s awake.

Rather will I the beaten track forsake

That such as these have trod.  Gone on before,

They teach us how we too at length may soar

If we for our own selves new paths will make

Girt round with freedom, led by purpose high,

For ever pushing forward to their goal,

These faltered not but raised the battle cry,

“Onward and upward.”   Thus the human soul

Learns slowly all  life’s weakness to defy

Ere its predestined glory shall unroll.

From:  “Balkan Fancies and Other Poems by Captain A.J. Mann, RAF (A. and C. Black Ltd., London, 1919) p. 48.

According to Paul Simadas, Arthur commissioned the British artist William T. Wood to illustrate his work about their Balkan experiences during the First World War.  "The Salonika Front" by Arthur James Mann and William Thomas Wood was published in 1920 by A and C. Black, Ltd., London. It is available as a download here


Find my Past

National Archives Catalogue Reference: AIR-76-332

Free BMD

Catherine W. Reilly "English Poetry of the First World War: A Bibliography" (St. Martin's Press, New York, 1978) p. 216. NOTE In her entry Reilly seems to have mixed up the WW1 soldier poets Arthur James Mann and Alexander James Mann - see separate posts about that and about Alexander James Mann.

And information supplied by Alison T. McCall, Genealogist, who found a copy of Arthur’s death certificate and of his obituary from “The Scotsman” newspaper of 29 April 1933 and details about Arthur’s sister Ida -

* Professor Dame Ida Caroline Mann, Mrs Gye, DBE, FRCS (6 February 1893, West Hampstead, London – 18 November 1983, Perth, Western Australia)