Captain, John ‘Punk’ Gerald Manuel, D.S.C., Killed in Action.

Sopwith Camel, similar to the one in which John Manuel fought and was killed.

210 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, 10th June 1918

Edmonton Journal dated 30 November 1935

Story of bravery of an Edmonton youth – a thrilling story unequalled by the most imaginative of fiction writers – a story every word of it true has slowly found its way around the world after 17 years, from the battlefields of France.

The story reached Edmonton this week in a soldiers’ magazine from Sydney, Australia, and is related in a signed article by Major. B.C.Bell, D.S.O., D.S.C.

“I have always wished to pass on one of my most vivid memories of a boy named John Gerald Manuel, better known in the flying squadron as ‘Punk’ Manuel,” the major related. “To my mind his bravery and self-sacrifice were outstanding. …..Manuel had come from 127 Street, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, to give his services to the Royal Naval Air Service.”

The young Edmontonian quickly proved his capabilities as a fighting pilot and in December, 1917, a few weeks after joining the squadron, was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for conspicuous gallantry and skill in attacking and destroying five enemy aeroplanes and an observation balloon while under very heavy anti-aircraft gunfire.

During the summer of 1918 John Manuel had his thumb seriously injured by an exploding revolver. When he learned he would be sent back to England, he escaped from the French hospital and returned to his squadron.

“Early one morning,” Major Bell recalled, “I was awakened by a knock at my door, and, on opeining it I was more than surprised to see Manuel’s smiling face. Saluting, he said, ‘I have come back, sir, as I have at last persuaded that crazy doctor that I am quite all right, and well able to fly. Besides, sir, I don’t want to quit and go back to England now.'”

So a metal thumb was fitted to the Edmonton hero’s hand and he climbed into his fighting machine again.

That afternoon Manuel shot down an enemy machine and sent down another out of control; and during the next three days he was in the thick of every scrap, himself shooting down four more German machines.

“His keen optimisum and splendid example had undoubtedly done much to put new heart into the other pilots,” Major Bell wrote.

One day Manuel went out on an offensive patrol with the squadron, 18 aeroplanes in all. Two hours later the squadron came back with two aeroplane’s missing. Manuel had been killed when a new pilot in the British squadron had dived into a German ship and in extricating himself pulled off straight into Manuel’s machine. “There was an awful crash. The two machines fell to earth in pieces,” Major Bell concluded.

The central figure in the above story of the Great War was a member of a well-known Edmonton family. His father was George Manuel, familiar in business circles when the war opened. John Gerald, better known as “Jack,” was the younger of two brothers, and on the opening of hostilities his brother Larry (Correct name – Vane Carrington Manuel) and he enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, later on being transferred to the Royal Air Force, in which service both lost their lives. Mr. Manuel died several years ago, Mrs. Manuels death following a year and a half ago. Mrs. Allan Petch and Miss Rita Manuel, both residing in Edmonton, are sisters.

Edmonton Journal, November 30, 1935

Further Military Research

John Gerald Manuel was born on 29 March 1893 at Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

Prior to enlisting into the Royal Naval Air Service / Royal Flying Corps, John had served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. His Canadian records specify the following:-

On 27 November 1914, he enlisted at Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, he was single and had been working as a Civil Engineer. His address was given as 10841st-127th Street, Edmonton. During his medical at this time his description was given as:-

  • Height – 5’6″
  • Chest expansion 36″-39″
  • Complexion – Medium
  • Eyes – Grey
  • Hair – Dark
  • Religion – Church of England
John Gerald Manuel

On enlistment John Manuel was placed as a Private into the 2nd Reserve Battalion, Canadian Field Artillery, as number 87203, reaching the rank of Lance-Corporal.

  • 8 October 1916 – admitted to 3 Canadian General Hospital, Boulogne with (Slight) Shotgun Wound to left arm and back.
  • 9 October 1916 – at Norfolk War Hospital, Norwich with the injury.
  • 21 October 1916 – discharged from Norfolk War Hospital.
  • 21 October 1916 – admitted to hospital at Great Yarmouth.
  • 13 November 1916 – admitted to Canadian Convalescent Hospital, Woodcote Park, Epsom from Great Yarmouth.
  • 27 November 1916 – discharged from Woodcote Park, Epsom.
  • 4 March 1917 – discharged from the Canadian Expeditionary Force at Hastings, England and entered into the Royal Naval Air Service.
  • 7 April 1917 – moved from Crystal Palace to Eastchurch.
  • 9 June 1917 – moved from Eastchurch to Cranwell.
  • 23 July 1917 – moved from Cranwell to Dover.
  • 20 August 1917 – Shot down a German M/C, which crashed, and another which fell out of combat.
  • 8 September 1917 – attended at No.50 Casualty Clearing Station (Mont des Cats) with Scabies.
  • 26 September 1917 – he attacked alone the Abeele Aerodrome, dropping his bombs from about 1,500 feet with good results. A machine gun then opened fire on him, but he dived down low and silenced it by firing fifty rounds from his machine gun.
  • 4 November 1917 – Drove down a Scout, which he followed, and it crashed.
  • 15 November 1917 – Drove an Albatross Scout down out of control, and it crashed.
  • 19 December 1917 – Awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
  • 1 April 1918 – Promoted Lieutenant (Honorary Captain).
  • 8 May 1918 – Injured when Very Pistol or Revolver exploded in his hand while leading an offensive air patrol. Admitted at Hospital St. Omer.
  • 10 June 1918 – Went missing while flying over Neuve Chapelle, France.
  • Was buried by the Germans at Lestrem Communal Cemetery, German Extension along with 2nd Lt. F.C. Dodd whose both planes collided.
  • 6 January 1919 – Mentioned in Dispatches for his war service published in the Edinburgh Gazette.
  • circa 8 February 1923 he was exhumed and reinterred at Y Farm Military Cemetery, Bois-Grenier, Nord France.

John Gerald Manuel was credited with a total of 13 victories, these can be found on the attached link – Victories against enemy aircraft.

A Sopwith F.1 Camel similar to the one flown by John Manuel.

Distinguished Service Cross Citation

London Gazette dated 19 December 1917

The King has been graciously pleased to approve of the award of the following decorations and medals to officers and men of the Royal Naval Air Service – Distinguished Service Cross –  Flt. Sub-Lieut. John Gerald Manuel, Royal Naval Air Service – For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in air fights and bombing raids, particularly on the 26th September, 1917, when he attacked alone the Abeele Aerodrome, dropping his bombs from about 1,500 feet with good results. A machine gun then opened fire on him, but he dived down low and silenced it by firing fifty rounds from his machine gun.

Family

John Gerald Manuel was born on 29 March 1893 at Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

In his Canadian Record, Register of Soldiers Effects and news articles, his family is shown as:-

Addresses

On his enlistment, the address of his parents was shown as 10841-127th Street, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Medals

John Gerald Manuel was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for bravery and the following medals for his service, 1914-15 Star, the Victory and the British War Medals for his service in the Great War.

Memorials

John Gerald Manuel and his brother John is honoured and remembered on a family memorial stone within a cemetery in Edmonton.

Links to Additional Information

References

  • Commonwealth War Graves Commission – John Gerald Manuel.
  • Canadian Expeditionary Force Military Record – John Gerald Manuel.
  • Register of Soldiers Effects.
  • R.A.F. Museum – Casualty Cards – John Gerald Manuel
  • Royal Naval Air Service – Registers of Officers Services.
  • Air Ministry – Department of the Master General of Personnel: Officers Service Records.
  • London Gazette dated 19 December 1917 – Distinguished Service Cross.
  • Edinburgh Gazette dated 6 January 1919 – Mentioned in Dispatches.

Contributors:-

  • Vincent Stuart
  • Kristen Den Hartog
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