John Mannion originated from Bollington, Cheshire but, at the time of the 1901 Census, he and his family were living at 38 Simpson Street in the Bradford area of Manchester. He was then aged 39 and worked as a pavior. His wife, Mary, was also 39 and they had five children living at home - John (18), Mary (16), Catherine (13), Martin (12) and Elizabeth (5).
When war was declared on 4 August 1914, Martin was amongst the first to enlist. He originally joined one of the Pal's Battalions of the Manchester Regiment (service number 23614). However, it would seem he was quickly transferred to the North Lancashires and would be killed several weeks before his old comrades even arrived in France in November 1915.
The 1st Battalion was one of two of the Regiment's regular army Battalion's. Even though the War was only a year old, many of the original regulars were now dead or wounded. Their places were taken by new recruits, like Martin, who enlisted for the duration of the war only.
On 15 August 1915, Martin was near the village of Sailly Labourse (about 5 kilometres south east of the French town of Bethune). During the afternoon, the Battalion took over a section of the nearby front line. The unit's War Diary notes that the area had a bad reputation amongst the troops. This is, perhaps, not surprising as their trenches were only 20 - 30 yards away from those of the Germans. "The line is very irregular and, in front, the whole ground is cut up by numerous craters; the eastern edge of which are occupied by the Germans. We have a large assortment of trench mortars, bombs, rifle grenades, spring guns, etc, all of which we use continuously and with great effect against the enemy." (Note: The West Spring Gun was a rudimentary mortar for throwing grenades (bombs). It had a range of about 250 yards.)
The Diary continues for the next day "A continuous bombing duel day and night and very sharp sniping on the part of the enemy. We have two batteries who open fire when ordered in retaliation to the enemy's shelling which is not heavy. We have three West Spring Guns which throw ordinary hand bombs most effectively. We also make use of a large number of rifle grenades. By these means and with the aid of several trench mortars the enemy is kept under, but he has far the upper hand in sniping. This is entirely due to our lack of real bullet-proof iron loop-holes with shutters. Those now in use in the trenches are not proof and give no security to a man firing through them, hence the German picked shots can match the whole of line with absolute security and whenever a head, hand or periscope shows above our parapet, it is fired on at once and, in most cases, hit".
The Diary entry for the day concludes "Heavy thunder storms make the trenches muddy and wretched in the evening. A normal day on the whole and nothing unusual to report."
There is no mention of casualties, although regimental records published after the war show that Martin was the only man to be killed that day. Perhaps the Diary-writer's comments about snipers gives some clue as to how he met his death.