Petty Officer Gerald Chapman R.N.


London Z/461, Petty Officer Gerald Chapman, R.N., died in Belgium aged 28, two weeks before the British secured the village of Passchendaele in the Third Battle of Ypres. The Oxford Times (17 November) recorded his enlisting in the Royal Naval Division on 22 September 1914. He came from the Royal Naval Reserve, presumably bringing his senior NCO rank with him. The Royal Naval Division was formed in 1914 from Royal Navy and Royal Marine reservists and volunteers who were not needed for service at sea. He was posted to Benbow Battalion and trained with them at Crystal Palace and Blandford Camp, Dorset. (In 1916, following heavy losses at Antwerp, Gallipoli and Salonika, RND was transferred to the British Army as 63 (Royal Naval) Division, re-using the number of a disbanded Territorial division. It fought as an Army Division in ‘France and Flanders' until 1918).

Gerald was still with Benbow Battalion RND, in March 1915, when the Division was ordered to land on the Gallipoli peninsula, Turkey, in late April. Benbow landed with the second wave in May, but took such serious casualties in the fighting under Achi Baba hill that in June it was merged with Anson Battalion until it regrouped in France in September 1916. When the Gallipoli peninsula was evacuated in January 1916, the battalion went on to Salonika to fight in Macedonia in the reluctant campaign against Bulgaria. After sick leave, Gerald re-joined Anson Battalion in France and Flanders on 5 December 1916, serving with it until his death on 26 October 1917. He died at ‘Third Ypres' - also known as Passchendaele, but his body was not recovered. His name is commemorated on Tyne Cot Memorial, (ref. Panel 2 to 3 and 162 to 162A). The Oxford Times, 17 November 1917, cited letters of condolence to Gerald's parents and family, including one from his company commander:

‘He was leading his platoon when a shell burst at his feet and killed him at once ... I could not have wished for a better Petty Officer ... a leading sportsman, very popular with everybody. His death is a severe blow to the company and we miss him very much'.

He was granted home leave in February 1917 and on return to the front met his brother Hubert of the Royal Engineers. Gerald had refused a commission, ‘not caring to leave his friends in Anson Battalion'.

Born in Wheatley on 30 September 1892 and baptised at St Mary's Church on 4 December, Gerald was the fourth son of John Chapman, plumber and builder, also of Wheatley, born in 1849, and Helen Mary Cousins, born 1856 in Nottingham. In 1901 the family were living on High Street. Gerald was the younger brother of Arthur, Hubert and Hurrell Chapman who all served in the war, and returned. He had attended Wheatley Elementary and Oxford Technical Schools, after which he joined the Railway Clearing House at Euston Station and was helping edit a book when war broke out. At the 1911 Census, he had been listed at 34 Shalstone Road, Kingsway, Mortlake, London, SW, where, as a railway clerk aged 18, he had been residing with his brother Hubert and Hubert's wife Maud. He was a keen footballer and played centre-forward for Barnes United Football Club. See also reference to him in the Wheatley in a World at War chapter.

He had lived at Mott House, 80 High Street with his brothers Arthur Augustus and Hurrell george, both of whom survived.

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