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Remembered Today:

Lance Corporal Wesley Charles Chapman


worlygigger
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I would really appreciate any help in solving a problem with respect to Lance Corp. Wesley Charles Chapman, who was a soldier in the 1st Battalion Cambridgeshire Regiment when he fell at Epehy on September 20th 1918. I'm fairly sure that Wesley was re-assigned to the 1st Battalion in May 1918 but I'm not sure if he was in the Cambs. or the Suffolks previously.

On Ancestry, it gives two service numbers for him - 'formerly 6674' and also 328032. His medal card affirms this and it would appear that he was not serving during 1914 or 1915 as the 'Star' is absent. I don't have access to any other information, although I've got the 'Epehy' Battleground book which gives me a good idea as to where exactly he fell.

Wesley is the sixteenth of the twenty soldiers on our war memorial that I have researched and so my book is nearing completion......

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If he'd served in a theatre of War with the Suffolk Regt it'd be on his medal card and it's not, he has a number pre "renumbering of the Territorial force" which took place in 1917 http://www.1914-1918.net/renumbering.htm so it looks like he went to France 1916 to early 1917 with the Cambridgeshire Regt prior to renumbering.

What's the wording on the photo and is there a date? In the photo he's wearing a Cambridgeshire Regt Cap Badge.

Sam

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Thanks for that excellent explanation. The writing says C.F. Downing Framlingham, which was the photographer's studio. I don't have a date for the photo as it was sent as a JPEG to me by a relative (who knows very little about Wesley). Thanks again for the help.

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The CWGC details state 1st/1st - so he was a territorial. The numbers would therefore probably reflect the mass renumbering of all the Terriers in early 1917.

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Not sure if it helps a great deal but Soldiers Who Died in the Great War says that his place of enlistment was Bury St Edmunds - where the 1st/ 5th Suffolks was based and where the 7th, 8th and 9th Battalions were formed so it is possible that he started out with the Suffolks. That said, as Sam points out above, he was certainly with the Cambridgeshire Regiment by the time he got to France.

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If the photo was taken in the UK then a date isn't needed, as he's wearing a Cambridgeshire Regt Cap Badge, it means he went to France to join the 1/1st as they were the only Bn of the Regt who served outside the UK.

You could try to find Service or Pension records for men with service numbers around his, they may give a clue.

Edited to add: If he enlisted in Bury St Edmunds as wollamc says, then 1/1st, 2/1st and 4/1st were all there at various times http://www.1914-1918.net/cambridge.htm he may have walked up to the gate and asked to join, or been recruited locally by a team sent into the town, was he from Bury St Edmunds?

Sam

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Good point. According to SDGW, he was born in Athelington, Suffolk and still living there for 1911 Census, working on his father's farm - Google maps say that's some 30 miles from Bury St Edmunds.

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As you are aware the 1/1st Cambridgeshire absorbed over 400 men from the Suffolk Regiment in May 1918 http://www.1914-1918.net/cambridge.htm, however these men came from the 7th (Service) Bn and were serving in France.

I don't think it's as straightforward as that and wonder what evidence you have that he previously served in the Suffolk Regiment?

Looking at the mics it seems that because the soldiers in the 1/1st were renumbered in a series allocated to the Suffolk Regiment if they had previously served in the latter both numbers and each Regiment are shown on the cards (if you have access to Ancestry a keyword search on the mics will demonstrate what I'm trying to say!).

The Suffolk Regiment website indicates the long association with the Cambridgeshire Regiment which was a TF unit http://www.suffolkregiment.org/Cambridgeshire_History.html or as the we site put it the Suffolk Regiment was 'invariably the parent unit' (for the Cambridgeshire) and there is evidence in the records of men enlisting in Bury St Edmunds and being posted to the Cambridgeshire Regiment, e.g. Pte Catling called up for service on 10th May 1916. There is a letter from his employer asking this be deferred so he can get the harvest in and he was placed on the Reserve. On 25 August he was mobilised in Bury St Edmunds and was posted to the 3/1 Cambs. One number 6734 is written at the top of the sheet and underneath Bury St Edmunds which suggests he was allocated this number on attestation but the meaning is not clear; he is indexed under 7907 though one again it's not clear when that number was allocated. On 25th December 1916 he was posted to the 1/1st Cambs and sent to France.

(He transferred to the Lincolns in April 1917 and 7907 is scored through on the record.)

However I also found in the records Pte 6832 Frederick Shallow he enlisted on the 11/12/1915 (Derby Scheme) and was 'posted to duty' on the 16/6/1916 at Bury St Edmunds, his full list of postings has not survived but we assume to the Suffolk Regiment. On the 11/10/1916 he was posted to the 11th Bn and sent to France. He would have gone to the IBD and on 26th October 1916 he was posted to the 1/1st Cambs on the 'Authority of AO 204/16 and ACI 1499/16' no idea what they say but were probably dealing with compulsory transfers. He was then allocated the number 6832 and on renumbering was 328143 which is not a million miles from your man. Although technically (and actually!) he landed in a theatre of war with the Suffolks his mic, like Pte Chapman's just shows the two Cambs. numbers. (Looks like his Suffolk number was 50058 but this is scored through.)

So two possible routes, but he definitely did not transfer to the 1/1st Cambs. in May 1918 for the reasons given above (i.e. he was serving with them in March 1917 when renumbered). If asked to choose I'd go for the Pte Shallow option - but your guess is as good as mine and it needs more work.

Ken

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Ken

While I see where you're coming from with Pte Shallow there's one gaping hole in the theory. As stated above the photo of Pte Chapman is taken in the UK and he's wearing a Cambridgeshire Regt Cap Badge.

Sam

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Ah Sam, the fatal flaw!

Although I could argue that if Pte. Shallow had his picture taken when he was on leave in the UK from 21/12/17 to 4/1/18 he too would have been wearing a Cambridgeshire cap badge and, given the time of year, probably a British warm as well! We know where the photograph was made but not when, though I accept they were usually taken as a keepsake before going overseas.

However accepting the hypothesis for option B is flawed Pte. Shallow's six digit number, which was issued in March 1917 confirms L/Cpl Chapman was also serving with the 1/1st then, and was not transferred in May 1918.

Some recruitment dates to the Cambridgeshire Regt.

6592 22/06/1916

6614 23/06/1916

6787 11/08/1916

They seem to have been Derby Scheme recruits, 6674 Chapman would seem to slot in around July and may have followed Catling's route (option A) but as I said before without a record it's only speculative.

Ken

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  • 4 weeks later...

Thoughts of everyone on this problem are much appreciated. I will leave out from my book any speculation on his initial army service and concentrate on his final few days at Epehy.

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