Date of birth: 1888
Date of death: 14.11.1918
Area: Outwood, Wakefield
Regiment: Army Service Corps 2nd/3rd (South Midlands) Field Ambulance
Family information: Husband of Catherine Mitchell nee Kinson
Service number: M2/103204
On 2nd June 1915 Herbert Mitchell enlisted in the army, joining the Motor Transport Section of the Army Service Corps as a driver. Prior to enlisting he was a chauffeur for Dr McLeod of Outwood House and living with his wife at Henry Street, Wakefield.
In the absence of his service record, it is not certain when he was posted to the western front. However he was drafted to the 2/3rd (South Midland) Field Ambulance, serving with the 61st (2nd South Midland) Division. The Field Ambulance units were responsible for transporting the sick and wounded to the Casualty Clearing Stations, where well equipped medical facilities were available.
The 61st Division was a second line division and went to France in May 1916, initially concentrating around the Merville area. On the 19th July the Division was deployed in an attack against Fromelles and suffered very heavy casualties. The Division was not used again, other than a holding unit, until 1917 when it was deployed in operations on the Ancre and during the German withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line. Later that year the Division was deployed at Langemarck, during the Battle of Ypres and at Cambrai to help stem the enemy counter-attack.
After being involved at St Quentin and again at Le Bassee Canal during the Battle of Lys, the 61st Division was involved in the final advance in Picardy. On the 3rd November, after crossing the River Sambre, which was the German last line of defence, the 61st (2nd South Midland) Division was relieved. At the time of the Armistice, on 11th November, the 61st Division was south of Valenciennes.
At this time Driver Herbert Mitchell had been admitted to No 25 General Hospital, Etaples, suffering from broncho-pneumonia. On the 14th November 1918 he died from his illness and was buried in the Etaples Military Cemetery. The cemetery now contains 10,773 Commonwealth burials of the First World War.
In 1918 – 1919 a worldwide influenza pandemic resulted in the deaths of millions of people. The initial source of the pandemic is not known, but one of the first outbreaks of influenza was thought to have appeared at Fort Riley in Kansas. Later that year the virus spread into Europe, where it became known as Spanish Flu. Symptoms of the virus included a blue tint to the face and coughing up blood, due to the lungs being obstructed. In some case the virus caused uncontrollable haemorrhaging that filled the lungs. Although most people infected with the virus recovered within a week, following bed rest, some died within 24 hours of being infected. Those who died usually had the cause of their death shown as broncho-pneumonia.
Herbert Mitchell was born on 2nd July 1888, the son of Walker Mitchell and his wife Elizabeth, formerly Cairns, of New Leeds, Outwood. He was baptised on 5th August 1888 at St Mary Magdalene Church, Outwood, where his parents had married on the 5th July 1869. His father worked at the local colliery and on the 1901 census the family was living at Middlefield Place, Outwood. Later the family moved to Finkin Lane at Stanley and Herbert found employment as a colliery labourer, working on the surface. In the spring of 1914 Herbert Mitchell married Catherine Kinson, a domestic servant, at Wakefield.