Jump to content
The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Western Front - 23rd March 1918 - Battle of St Quentin?


Ewing75
 Share

Recommended Posts

After some amazing help from other areas of the forum I have managed to find out a great amount of information concerning my Great Grandfather.

It is with some hope that this section of the forum can guide me further in my quest for further information.

My Great Gandfather was Frederick Thomas Chapman, Sapper within the 63rd Divisional Signal Company RE. He was killed o 23rd March 1918, with a plaque being dedicated to him at Arras Memorial in France. Although no official record of where or how he died, I have managed to trace the 63rd Div to the Battle of St Quentin on the date of his death. I believe this was the last day of the German offensive.

I wondered if anybody with more knowledge then myself might be able to confirm this for me? I have heard from my Uncle that he was on horseback at time of death when he was shelled, hence no official grave site for him. Because of this I would dearly like to pinpoint a location as I plan to travel over the Channel to pay my respects, living near Dover this shouldn't be too great a trip.

I look forward to your replies and would like to thank the replying members in advance.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've spent an interesting few hours reading through other posts in ref to the RND and believe the 63rd Div might well have been at the Metz lines on 23rd March 1918. Would anybody be able to confirm this for me?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Ewing

63rd Division (RN)

1918

Cambrai----February They held the Ribecourt sector

Somme-----March 21st--23rd They fell back through Havrincourt and Bertincourt then on the 24th to 25th they fell back through Le Transloy and Thiepval to Aveluy. From The British Army Handbook (Andrew Rawson )

Gary.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

So Havrincourt and Bertincourt is the area my Great Grandfather lost his life... many thanks for your input Gary, give me another direction to aim my research prior to trip over the channel.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Have just come across the followin after researching 63rd RND after the Bertincourt tip from yourself Gary -

Dawn of March 23rd brought further orders for retirement. The 63rd Division was to go right back and to occupy the last line of defence—the "Green Line"—from Ytres on the right to Bertincourt on the left (those orders reached the Division at 7 a.m. March 23rd). The Pioneers marched back to that position and again worked hard on the defences (the "Green Line" defences existed on paper rather than on the ground. Little had been done before the Pioneers arrived. During the retirement German aeroplanes [the celebrated "Red" Squadron] attacked there treating troops, firing machine-guns from an estimated height of 35 feet. On the way to Rocquigny a deserted canteen at Bus yielded valuable spoils, including an excellent set of boxing-gloves). During the day the battalions of the 63rd Division arrived one by one at their new positions and took over the work of entrenchment. At dusk the Pioneers were ordered back out of the line and the whole Battalion was concentrated in reserve at Rocquigny (casualties, 14th Worcestershire March 23rd, 2/Lts. 3. Cox, W. H. Kevern and L. H. Kennedy and 10 men wounded, 8 gassed).

From the above I should be able to scale down a small area he would have been in at time of death.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ewing, if you want full detail it may be worth your while looking at the daily War Diary for the Signal Company. There is most likely a copy at Kew, but there will also probably be another copy at the RE Corps Library at Brompton Barracks, Chatham (not the museum but they can connect you). If you make an appointment they will let you read the original, which will probably (but not always....depends who wrote the day's activities, and some diaries for March 1918 got lost/destroyed in the retreat) give info on locations, actions etc.

Worth a look, Peter

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The 63rd (RN) Div were in retreat from 21st to 27th March 1918

The map section below covers the date in question here

[perhaps stating the obvious, but the map should be read from right to left]

63rdRNDivretreat23March19180001.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

ADM 137/3933 63rd (Royal Naval) Division: report on operations 1918 Mar 21 - Mar 29

This file at the NA might provide some information, but no guaranty

Douglas Jerrold in his history 'The Royal Naval Division' describes these events [chapter XV, pages 272>] but without (as far as I can see) mentioning the Divisional Signals Company

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You have to remember that the advance of the RND from Flesquieres towards the rear and the river Ancre, in those last few days of March 1918, was a very fluid operation. Although, as Michael's map shows, 188 and 190 Bdes were holding a line south of Bertincourt on 24 March , the RND brigades were falling back through each other over several days and were seldom static for very long. Where the divisonal troops were in this operation is a matter of conjecture. The Divisional HQ was certainly a few miles behind (i.e. to the west of) the fighting battalions and the Divisonal Signal Company could well have been employed preparing communications links to the rear of the HQ (in preparation for a further advance to the rear) as well as maintaining communications forward to the fighting units.

I think your chances of pinning down the area of operations where your man died are very slim. Somewhere between Havrincourt Wood and Martinpuich is my best guess. I would also not attach too much accuracy to the date of death given the circumstances of the battle (unless there is some positive witness statement). It could be a day either way.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Somewhere between Havrincourt Wood and Martinpuich is my best guess. I would also not attach too much accuracy to the date of death given the circumstances of the battle (unless there is some positive witness statement). It could be a day either way.

As H2 could well be right on this, below is the next section of the map up to Martinpuich

RNDretreattoMartinpuichMarch1918000.jpg

[please do not rely on the two scans being exactly the same scale]

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The uncertainty over date of death is supported by the fact that he was officially reported missing in action and his death in action is assumed to have occurred on 23 March 1918.

Postcript edit The above is in error. The only information is that the man was killed in action.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

First of all, many thanks for everybody's input into this thread.

horatio2, how did you come by this information that he was officially reported missing in action? I have obtained his records from the Fleet Air Arm Museum and none of it mentions he was missing in action. Infact the only reference I've managed to find concerning his death is that he was simply "killed". If there is an official report stating that he was missing in action then I'd dearly love to see it. I presume the person who reported him MIA would be his immediate superior?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...