Private Lawrence Eugene Manning

This essay is about the single First World War casualty commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in Utah.

72nd Canadian Infantry Battalion (Seaforth Highlanders of Canada), May 1918

Lawrence Manning served in France with 72nd Canadian Infantry Battalion (Seaforth Highlanders of Canada), taking part in its final actions in late 1918. Greatly affected by his experiences, he took his own life after he returned to Utah after the war.

Lawrence Eugene Manning was born on 30 October 1895 at Farmington, Utah one of the eight children of Joseph and Kate Manning; he also had two half-siblings.[1] The family lived in Wilford, Idaho at the turn of the century, where his father was a labourer and peddler (notably, his father would live to be 105 years old). By 1910 the family had settled in Salt Lake City, Utah. Later Lawrence found work as a smelterman at the International Smelting Co. in Tooele and as a motorman in Kaysville. Prior to the war, he had served for two years in the Utah National Guard Artillery.

Lawrence Manning enlisted on 17 December 1917 at Victoria, British Columbia—giving his pace of birth as Toronto—and joined the Canadian Forestry Corps; he was allocated the number 2204566. Private Manning embarked on SS Justica for England from Halifax, Nova Scotia on 12 January 1918. On his arrival, he joined the Canadian Forestry Corps Base Depot at Sunningdale until he was posted in March to No. 127 Company at Birkenside in Scotland. He was not to be there long, however, before he was posted back to the Base Depot in May and from there to 1st Reserve Battalion at Seaford for re-training and posting to an infantry unit. He was posted to 72nd Battalion (Seaforth Highlanders of Canada) in 12th Infantry Brigade, 4th Canadian Division, which he joined on 11 September 1918, five days after landing in France.

The Battalion was out of the line at a Wailly Huts, south-west of Arras, training when he joined but two weeks later it was ordered to move south to Rancourt. The journey began at Arras but the trains were not ready and the Battalion had to wait in the station. Unfortunately, this resulted in the men being caught in an accurate air-raid by German aircraft, which bombed the station, wounding 38 men in ‘B’ Company. The Battalion entrained at 6.00am and by early afternoon had arrived at its destination. At 1.15am on 27 September the Battalion moved into its assembly positions at Inchy-en-Artois in preparation for its part in the Battle of the Canal du Nord.

This very successful attack saw 72nd Battalion in support for the second phase of the 4th Canadian Division’s attack—which was on the right of the Canadian Corps attack alongside the 1st Canadian Division on its left and 52nd (Lowland) Division on its right—and then in the lead for the final assault. The initial advance was very successful but the latter part of the attack by the Battalion on 29 September stalled at Blecourt, north of Cambrai. The Battalion suffered 71 killed, 299 wounded and 17 missing over these four days. What role Private Manning played is not known.[2]

Early October was spent refitting and training and in the latter part of the month the advance continued but the Battalion was not engaged. On 1 November, however, it attacked over the Canal de l’Escaut and over the next three days continued the advance towards Valenciennes. This was the final action of the war for the Battalion, which cost it another 18 killed and 73 wounded. Again, the role played by Private Manning is not known.

72nd Canadian Infantry Battalion (Seaforth Highlanders of Canada), Ohain, Belgium, April 1919

After the Armistice, the Battalion was billeted at Mesvin, south of Mons in Belgium, and then at a series of towns closer to Brussels until it reached its final destination at Ohain (with two companies in nearby Ransbech), where it would remain until 30 April, when it began its journey back to Canada. Those who had not been dispatched for home already, including Private Manning, finally embarked at Le Havre for England on 5 May 1919. A month was spent in Bramshott before everyone returned to Canada on 13 June on the SS Olympic and travelled by train that night to Vancouver.

Private Manning was discharged there on 20 June and returned to Salt Lake City where he lived with his parents at 354 West 7th South Street. There he found work helping his father sell potatoes from a truck that toured the city and nearby towns. At some time that summer he became engaged to Bertha Speirs, a young drug store clerk from Tooele.

Lawrence Manning was evidently troubled by his war experience—one newspaper report indicated that he returned home ‘with his nerves shattered.’[3] On 9 November, following a quarrel with his fiancé, he became despondent and threatened to kill himself. In the early afternoon he was alone in the family home with his young brother Walter when he pulled out a German Luger automatic pistol that he had brought back from France and told his brother to leave the room. Soon afterwards, Walter heard a shot and, investigating, found his brother dead, shot through the heart. Beside him was a series of farewell notes to his family and his fiancé asking them not to blame themselves.

Private Manning’s grave; his parents are buried to the right

He was buried on 12 November in Salt Lake City Cemetery;[4] later, his parents were buried alongside him. In 1925, his death was ruled as ‘related to service’ and a Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone was erected; it is engraved: ‘Our soldier boy gone but not forgotten.’

Private Lawrence Eugene Manning is commemorated on page 539 of the Canadian First World War Book of Remembrance; that page is displayed on 15 November.

1. (Back) Joseph Charles Manning (25 May 1845-2 December 1950) married Kate Evelyn Dalyrimple (30 July 1865-1 August 1925) (her second marriage) on 8 June 1889; Caroline Leandra (later Davey, later Wells, later Benson) (8 January 1890-25 December 1975); Joseph Andrew (31 March 1892-NK); William Thomas (8 November 1893-2 December 1951); Elsie Isabelle (later Troxler, later Black) (3 January 1899-13 November 1981); Myrtle Leona (later Tietjen) (26 September 1900-12 January 1987); Kate Evelyn (later Dunn) (12 April 1902-31 August 1978); Walter James (13 July 1908-21 March 1969). His half-siblings by his mother’s first marriage were: George Dennis (Walker) (16 December 1883-27 January 1925); and Leah Adaline (Walker) (2 January 1886-4 April 1910).
2. (Back) A full account of this action may be found in the Battalion war diary at Library and Archives Canada. See also: McEvoy, B & Finlay, A H. (1920). History of the 72nd Canadian Infantry Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders of Canada. Vancouver: Cowan & Brookhouse. Lawrence Manning appears in the nominal roll on page 262.
3. (Back) ‘Lawrence E. Manning Kills Himself in Salt Lake City’. (14 November 1919). Tooele Transcript. p 1.
4. (Back) The grave is in the centre-east of the cemetery in Plat R, Block 20, Lot 11, Grave 3 East.

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