CHAPMAN, William Murray

Chapman, WM135 Lance Corporal, 1st / 5th Bn. London Regt. (London Rifle Brigade).

Born

1887 in London.
Second son of Dr. Charles W. Chapman of Harley Street and Mrs. Chapman of Highwood Coombe, Mill Hill, London.

Education

Winton House, Winchester.
Blundell's School, “School House”, from age of 15, May 1902 - Christmas 1904.

Career

After obtaining a Diploma of the London Chamber of Commerce, at the age of 18 he entered the service of the Hudson’s Bay Company in Canada and in a short time went up North, where, with the exception of two short visits to England, he remained until 1914. In July of that year he came home with the intention of spending at least six months with his family. In a short time, however, war was declared and Chapman at once offered his services.

Service

He enlisted in August 1914 and was speedily enrolled in the London Rifle Brigade. His battalion progressed so rapidly at Bisley that they were sent to France the following November on active service. He was wounded the next month and spent his Christmas at Cambridge, returning to the front the following year. A second wound was received in April 1916 and a third one in September 1916 whereupon he was sent to Havre where he was to have remained until the end of October. However, he was so anxious to return to his regiment that he volunteered for the advance on the Somme.

Trench Diaries

The 1st / 5th Bn. London Regt were part of 169th Brigade, 56th (1st London) Division. On 1st July the battalion attacked on the left of the division’s attack at Gommecourt and were driven out of German trenches with great loss. During the rest of July and much of August they moved between Hannescamps, Bienvillers and St. Armand. In September they saw action in the Somme areas again and were moved to Corbie on the 3rd and then into Happy Valley on the 4th Chimpanzee Valley on the 6th and to trenches around Falfemont farm on the 7th attacking Leuze Wood on the 8th. Bombers attacked and took 200 yards of Combles trench but were driven out by a counter attack at 5.15 the next morning. Their attack against Loop trench was repulsed on the 9th September but further attacks on Loop Trench, Down Combles and Angle Wood continued that month. At the start of October the regiment was moved to the Lesboufs area and were bivouacked between Bernafay and Trones Wood on the 4th October from where they made an attack onto Hazy and Dewdrop Trenches on the 8th October.

Col Francis Maxwell later wrote of Trones wood, “To talk of a ‘wood’ is to talk rot. It was the most dreadful tangle of dense trees and undergrowth imaginable, with deep yawning trenches criss-crossing about it; every tree broken off at top or bottom and with branches cut away so that the floor of the wood was almost an impenetrable tangle of timber, trenches, undergrowth etc., blown to pieces by British and German heavy guns for a week. Never was anything so perfectly dreadful to look at… particularly with its addition of corpses and wounded men – many lying there for days and days …so dense is the tangle that if you find a wounded man… then leave him, you have lost him, simply because you can’t find you way back to him.”

Death

9th October 1916, aged 29.
He received his fatal wound on 8th October during an attack on Hazy and Dewdrop trenches, Trones Wood. He died on the 9th October 1916 in the arms of his sergeant.

Burial/Commemoration

L/Cpl Chapman was buried in the field but the grave was lost in subsequent fighting and so he is commemorated on Theipval Memorial Pier 9, face D., Somme, France.

Memorial

Theipval Memorial is on the D73, off the Main Bapaume to Albert (D929)
The Memorial, 150 feet high, was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and can be seen from many of the battle sites in the surrounding area. It has sixteen piers on whose faces the names of all the men who have no known grave, is inscribed. An excellent interpretation centre has been built nearby with research facilities and an “on line” memorial to the missing which contains much valuable information.

Research

Commonwealth War Graves Commission - www.cwgc.org
“The Blundellian”, Nov 1915, p 196 and December 1916 p 271
The National Archives, Kew WO363 C345. No records remain after being destroyed by an incendiary bomb during WW2, 1939-45.
“The Register of Blundell's School, Part II 1882 – 1932” (1932) MAHOOD, A.S., Ed. Entry No. 4868
“Cemeteries & Memorials in Belgium & Northern France” (2004) Commonwealth War Graves Commission. 25/490
“British battalions on the Somme” WESTLAKE, R. (2004) p 297, Pen and Sword
Field visit (JEA & GRY 28/7/2006)

 

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