Today we mark the 101st Anniversary of the death of Billingborough man John Edward Chapman, who died of wounds whilst serving with the 1st/4th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment on 27th April 1917.
John was born in Bourne in 1890 to Joseph Chapman, an Innkeeper born in Lincoln and his wife Sarah Jane Clarke. They were married in 1889 in the Bourne district and went on to have 4 children:
John Edward Chapman, 1890, Bourne
Amy Ruth Chapman, 1892, Bourne
Bertha Chapman, 1897, Horbling
Herbert William Chapman, 1900, Billingborough
The young family lived at 21 Woodview Bourne but by 1901 they can be found living at the Crown Inn, Billingborough.
The 1911 census has them still living at the Crown Inn but by now John is working as a Drayman, Innkeeper.
John enlisted in the Territorial Force in Bourne and was posted to the 1st / 4th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment, although it is currently not certain when. John’s medal records do not show a 14/15 star and so we can assume that he didn’t see active service abroad until at least 1916.
John’s younger brother Herbert also enlisted and served in the 3rd Leicestershire Regiment although never saw active service abroad.
As it is uncertain when John joined we will only look at his movements through the Battalion Diary of the 4th Lincolns for his final month.
The 1/4th Lincolnshire Regiment fought in the 46th (North Midland) Division and within that the 138th Brigade which consisted of the 1/4th Lincolns, 1/5th Lincolns as well as the 4th and 5th Leicestershire Regiment. For many months at the beginning of 1917 the 4th Lincolns would relieve the 5th in the front line and vice versa and so the movements of the two Battalions were inextricably linked.
1st April 1917 – Estree Blanche
We hold church service in the Sucerie (Sugar House). The building makes a spacious improvised cathedral and there is plenty of room even when the 4th Lincs Regt, R.E’s, M.G’s and T.M.B’s have marched in.
We cease wearing the Bose Respirator and smoke helmet, which before, had always been carried on the person whilst on parade.
2nd April 1917
Platoon Training under platoon commanders
3rd April 1917
Platoon and Company drill.
4th April 1917
Reorganisation of sections. Parades are as strong as possible and at 11.15am the companies are ready for inspection by the C.O.
The second in command and one officer per company carry out tactical exercises under the brigadier.
The Brigadier has kindly offered to present a cup, to be called the Febvin Cup for an inter-company football cup-tie. Battalions will play inter-company matches to arrive at the best team.
5th April 1917 – Estree Blanche
We pass the starting point at 10am to take part in a Brigade Route March. We join beyond Cuhem and thence we pass through Laires, Boncourt, Flechin and return to Estree Blanche, having covered a distance of roughly eleven miles.
6th April 1917
The Battalion marches to the training area allotted to the 138th Brigade and carried out tactical exercises. The large wood proves too much for some platoon commanders and readjustment is needed before exit is made on the farther side.
D company prove the victor in a well contested match with A company and have to meet C company, who have already vanquished B Company.
7th April 1917
The Battalion practices the Trench Attack on B training area, men remaining in Estree Blanche march to the mine at Flechinelle where are excellent shower baths.
8th April 1917 – Estree Blanche
Church parade in the Sucerie. Easter Sunday is favoured with a warm bright sun. The first spring day of the year.
9th April 1917
A Divisional route march. The Battalionjoins the 138th Brigade at Flechin and the Division at the cross roads 1 mile South East of Febvin Palfart. They march us then by Westerhem, Auchy, Rely and Estree Blanche. At Rely the whole Division marches past the corps commander, who expresses his pleasure at the marching and general appearance of the men.
10th April 1917
The Battalion spends the day on the training ground. Open warfare, under rules laid down in S.S 144 is practiced.
11th April 1917
The 4th Lincolns take part in a Brigade attack across open country the breaking up into artillery formation by platoons and diamond formation by sections is very successful as is also the extension formation of waves. In the later stages of the attack however, the leadership by platoon section commanders is severely ostracised.
The G.O.C attends and addresses the officers after the practice.
12th April 1917 – Estree Blanche
Companies under company commanders. Specialists at their subjects. 2/LT H.R.Greenwood arrives from the base and is posted to A company.
13th April 1917
The Battalion marches to Le Cornet Bourdois, 2 miles North of Lillers.
Estree Blanche is left at 8am and we arrive at our new billets at 12.30pm. Le Cornet Bourdois is remarkable for the quantity and quality of its waters. There are springs at every house and the doctor is enthusiastic in its praise.
14th April 1917
Parade under company commanders: companies will be ready to move at short notice.
15th April 1917
Church parade is ordered but owing to the wretched weather the parade is cancelled. Very little rain is needed to convert the fields into marshes. The Battalion has the Thresh Disinfector for 2 days and makes full use of it.
16th April 1917 – Vendin Lez Bethune
The Battalion marches to Vendin Lez Bethune a distance of less than 9 miles. The route is by Lillers and Chocques. We leave Le Cornet Bourdois at 9am and arrive at Vendin shortly after midday.
17th April 1917 – Vendin Lez Bethune
Platoons under Platoon Commanders. Special attention paid to small tactical exercises and solutions as laid down in S.S. 143
18th April 1917
Companies under Company Commanders. Bad weather prevents carrying out of tactical schemes on training ground South West of Chocques.
19th April 1917
Starting at 1pm the Battalion marched from Vendin Lez Bethune to Cite St Pierre. The Iron Gates, Maroc, were passed at 7.30pm and the Battalion reached its destination soon after 8pm. The total distance was about 14 miles.
20th April 1917 – Cite St Pierre
A fairly quiet day. Ignorant of the country and of the exact enemy positions we exposed ourselves needlessly.
21st April 1917
The enemy bombarded the place intensely from 2pm until 8pm. Over 200 8” and 5.9” shells fell on the railway just south of buillets. It was evident that the enemy were searching for 4.5 inch battery immediately West of our billeting area. He had no success.
22nd April 1917 – Cite St Pierre
On the 22nd, we supply carrying parties to the 4th Leicesters who are the left Battalion on the Brigade front. They are successful in capturing Copper Trench with 10 Prisoners.
23rd April 1917
We relieve the 5th Lincs Regiment in the right battalion sector. The method of holding the line is entirely new to us and most interesting. Trenches serve only as a means of approach and advanced posts are concealed in houses which occupy commanding positions. There is little protection in the way of wire and obstacles, this necessitates a super alertness. The men are helped much by knowing that they are top dog and are ready to seek encounters.
24th April 1917
It is evident that the enemy is very nervous. We are the witness on this night of a magnificent display of red, green and white enemy lights followed by and intense defensive barrage which must have stretched two or three miles to the south.
On this night also NCOs patrol of A company attacked enemy sentries in a strong post and were successful in killing one man.
25th April 1917 – Cite St Pierre
The enemy continues his plan of intermittent shelling with some success. A carrying party under 2/LT Baker, in Corkscrew trench were unlucky with a shell, one wounded and 2/LT Baker half buried.
26th April 1917
We side step to the right and take over the front hitherto held by one battalion of the Staffords and for the last two days by the 5th Lincs Regiment. C and D companies take their place in the line, A and B companies are in support.
A telegram of support from the G.O.C on the good work of A company’s patrol of the night of 24th/25th.
27th April 1917
We do not have our advanced posts in any definite system of trenches and too many visitors during the daytime only invite disaster. We see hardly and movement in the enemy line and it is our intension that he shall see little of us.
With a view to farther operations four battalion scouts rcoonnoitre by night a number of houses beyond our advanced posts.
They return with information that 3 or 4 of the enemy are patrolling these houses. This confirms information already gained by 2/LT B.S.Halliday.
It is on this day the 27th April that a telegram arrives at the crown Inn stating that John is dangerously ill with a gun hot wound to his right thigh.
We estimate that this gun-shot wound would have been received around the 23rd or 24th of April. John Chapman was moved to a hospital in Boulogne following this wound and later succumbed to his injury on the 27th April, the day that his father received the first telegram. A second telegram arrived at the Crown in on the 30th April notifying Mr Chapman of his sons death.
Grantham Journal Saturday 5th May 1917
KILLED, WOUNDED AND MISSING:- Another of our brave boys has made the great sacrifice. We refer to Pte Ed. Chapman (Lincolnshire Regiment, T.F.) aged 27, whose father Mr J E Chapman, Crown Hotel, on Saturday received an official telegram stating that his son was dangerously ill aboard suffering from severe gunshot wound in the right thigh. This was followed on Monday by another wire stating that he had succumbed. Pte Chapman was well known and much liked. He assisted his father, the local agent for Messrs Warwicks and Richardsons Ltd., and was at one time secretary of the Town F. C.
Commonwealth War Graves Commission:
In memory of Private J E Chapman, 202117, 1st/4th Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment who died on 27 April 1917 Age 27
Son of Joseph E and Sarah J Chapman, of Crown Hotel, Billingborough, Lincs
Remembered with honour, Boulogne Eastern Cemetery.
We will remember them.