Profile: Jack Foreman Mantle VC





I mentioned in my previous naval post (here) that I was a member of the Sea Cadets as a teenager.

My unit? TS Mantle VC.

I believe there are/were only two cadet units in the country with a VC after our name. Us, and TS Newham Cornwell VC. If anyone knows any different, please let me know!

You may have guessed from the above title that this post is related, and it’s purely because the story of how Jack Foreman Mantle received his Victoria Cross is an amazing one. The story of Jack Mantle was one of the first things taught to us upon joining Yeovil Sea Cadets and it is one that has stuck ever since. We had an exact replica of his medal on our SCC Unit Main Deck along with his VC citation.

​The Victoria Cross, for those not in the know, is the highest award that British/Commonwealth service personnel can be awarded for bravery.

Leading Seaman Jack Foreman Mantle was a part of the ships company of HMS Foylebank, an ex merchant vessel purchased by the Royal Navy in a time of need, and re-purposed to become an anti aircraft ship.

On the 4th July 1940, during World War II, HMS Foylebank was moored in Portland Harbour, Dorset when she became the subject of an air attack.

​Jack Mantle died aged 23 and his official citation is below, explaining how and why he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

Leading Seaman Jack Mantle was in charge of the Starboard pom-pom gun when HMS Foylebank was attacked by enemy aircraft on the 4th of July 1940. Early in the action his left leg was shattered by a bomb, but he stood fast at his gun and went on firing with hand-gear only: for the ship’s electric power had failed. Almost at once he was wounded again in many places. Between his bursts of fire he had time to reflect on the grievous injuries of which he was soon to die but his great courage bore him up till the end of the fight, when he fell by the gun he had so valiantly served.

London Gazette, 3 September 1940

2 bombs hit HMS Foylebank and she sank the next day. Over half of the ships company were killed.  LS Jack Mantle VC was buried in the Royal Naval Cemetery in Portland, fittingly looking down over the harbour where he bravely defended the ship. His Victoria Cross is on show in the Royal Naval Museum at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.