William Gansell was the son of David Gansell of Leyton, Essex. He was baptised
at the parish church on 5th October, 1715. Gansell's uncle, Joshua Ward, (a notorious
quack doctor) managed to secure him a set of colours for the Coldstream Guards, and
he embarked on a military carreer on 11th February, 1734. Gansell was promoted to
Lieutenant and Captain on 17th November, 1739, and served as junior adjutant in the
Guards from February of 1742-April 1743. He was appointed senior adjutant a few years
later, and was promoted to captain and lieutenant-colonel on 28th November, 1751.
He acted as a major to the Brigade of Guards in the British expedition against Cherbourg
and St. Malo in 1758, and was promoted to Colonel of the army on 4th May, 1761. Gansell
was given command of the 55th regiment on August 20, 1762 while the regiment was
still in America at the close of the French & Indian War. By 1765 Gansell had
attained the rank of major-general to the Army, and was appointed lieutenant-general
on 26th May, 1772.
William Gansell had a long history of financial troubles. In September of 1769 he was arrested for indebtedness, and presuaded the Guard at the Tilt Yard at St. James' Park to "rescue" him from the sheriff's officers. This incident is described as follows:
"Serjeant Bacon of the first [guards] regiment, and Serjeant Parke of the Coldstream regiment; William Powell, William Hart, James Potter, and Joseph Collins, private soldiers in the first regiment of foot guards, were more or less concerned in the rescue of Major General Gansell, in Sept last; the King hopes, and is willing to believe, they did not know the Major General was arrested, and only thought they were delivering an officer in distress : However, his Majesty commands, that they should be severely repromanded for actinf in this business as they have done ; and strictly orders for the future that no more comissioned officer or soldier do presume to interferewith baliffs, or arrests, on any account or pretence whatsoever, the crime being of a very atrocious nature ; and if any are found guilty of disobeying this order, they will be most severly punished. This order to be read immediatelt at the head of every company of the brigade of guards, that no man may plead ignorance for the future."
He later surrendered himself to the sheriff. Four years later, he was indicted
on charges of shooting at bailiff's men, who had again come to arrest him for debt.
He was found not guilty in this affair, but less than a year later he was being held
in deptors prison.
William Gansell finally died of an apoplectic fit in the Fleet Prison for Debtors on 28th July, 1774. He is interred in the family vault at East Donyland Church near Colchester.
SOURCES: Record of Service, pp 3-4, JSAHR, #21, 1942, p 186, Gentleman's Magazine, May 1770, p 233.
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