MANTLE, ALFRED FRANK, journalist, office holder, and army officer; b. 5 Feb. 1882 in South Hornsey (London), England, son of George Freeston Mantle, a manufacturer of leather goods, and Sophia Isabella Dobson; m. 13 April 1904 Ethel R. Speer in Belmont, Man., and they had two sons and one daughter; d. 26 Sept. 1916 near Courcelette, France.
Reportedly educated at an orphanage in Watford, England, Frank Mantle worked as a clerk in a contractor’s office in London before immigrating to Winnipeg in 1898. In 1902 he applied for a homestead in the vicinity of what is now Alameda, Sask., but the following year he requested that the application be cancelled because he had rented a farm in the Belmont district of Manitoba. Not a typical homesteader, Mantle became a correspondent on agricultural topics for the Belmont Star and its successors and in 1908 assumed the post of agricultural editor with the Manitoba Morning Free Press.
Mantle’s journalistic career came to an end in 1909 when he was appointed secretary of statistics in the Saskatchewan Department of Agriculture. Quickly demonstrating his leadership talents, he was named deputy minister of agriculture in 1910, and in that capacity he served in a variety of other positions over the next few years – secretary of the Agricultural Credit Commission in 1913 and of the Grain Markets Commission in 1914, chairman of the stallion licensing board, and a director of the winter and summer fair boards. During this period Mantle’s administrative skills and intellectual ability earned widespread respect. One person who particularly admired him was the minister of agriculture, William Richard Motherwell*, who praised his deputy both for his administrative gifts and for an approach to agriculture in which the “practical and theoretical sides” were “properly balanced.”
In August 1915 Mantle joined the 68th Infantry Battalion of the Canadian army. Though holding the rank of major, he soon requested a temporary reversion to the rank of captain and a transfer to the 28th Infantry Battalion in order to be dispatched overseas. The request was granted, and Mantle left for Europe on 8 July 1916. On 24 September the 28th Battalion relieved the 1st near Courcelette, France, on the Somme front, and two days later Mantle was struck down by a sniper’s bullet. He was in his 35th year.
The report of Mantle’s death greatly distressed many of his former colleagues in the Saskatchewan government. Motherwell said that “when the sad news ran through the various governmental departments . . . all were shocked and grieved. But the department over which he presided as deputy minister . . . with such pre-eminent success and universal acceptance was simply stunned and dazed. . . . Everyone is now saying . . . that such indispensable men as Frank Mantle in a new land like Saskatchewan should not be permitted to enlist.” Similar statements were made by other ministers of the crown and by Charles Avery Dunning*, manager of the Saskatchewan Co-operative Elevator Company.
Mantle had been an active member of the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Regina, and on 8 October a memorial service was held there in his honour. The service was attended by representatives of the provincial government, the city of Regina, the Saskatchewan Co-operative Elevator Company, the Saskatchewan Grain Growers’ Association, and the Regina Board of Trade.
Long after his death, Mantle was still remembered. In 1923 Francis Hedley Auld, the deputy minister of agriculture in Saskatchewan, formed a committee in his department to procure subscriptions to a scholarship fund in Mantle’s memory. Designed to assist farmers’ children in obtaining a higher education at the University of Saskatchewan, the Mantle Memorial Scholarship Fund was officially established under legislation of 1926. It remained in operation until 1983 and by that time had assisted more than 100 students.
Two years before the scholarship fund was closed down, its trustees had authorized the erection of a plaque commemorating Mantle. Placed in a boardroom of the Department of Agriculture, the plaque refers to his accomplishments as deputy minister and to his tragic death in World War I.
General Register Office (London), Reg. of births, Hornsey (Middlesex), 5 Feb. 1882. NA, RG 150, Acc. 1992–93/166. Saskatchewan Arch. Board (Regina), Homestead files; R-1049 (records of the Mantle Memorial Scholarship). Morning Leader (Regina), 4–5, 9 Oct. 1916. Western Producer (Saskatoon), 24 Sept. 1981: A29. The path of the pioneers, 1889–1989, Belmont and district (Belmont, Man., 1989). Sask., Statutes, 1925/26, c.76. Who’s who in western Canada . . . , ed. C. W. Parker (Vancouver), 1911.