The following research was carried out prior to a trip to Ieper (formerly Ypres) in Belgium to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the death of my great uncle Reggie, my Grandmother's brother. He was killed in The Battle of Passchendaele (also known as the Third Battle of Ypres)
Sergeant 295115 REGINALD JOHN CHAPMAN of 1/4th battalion London Regiment ( Royal Fusiliers) was killed in action on 16 August 1917. He had previously served as private 3662 and as sergeant 631446 with the 20th Londons.
Above: With his wife Irene Berta Dixon on their wedding day, 2nd December 1916. [He has a stick, was he temporarily home from the war injured, on leave?]. (Click image for high-res version)
Here he is a sergeant with the 20th Londons, as shown by the three chevrons on his shoulder and his cap badge:
Above Left: Detail of cap badge
Above Right : The same cap badge from web search. The badge reads "20th The London Regiment Battalion." "INVICTA" (meaning undefeated or unconquered)
Above: Reggie with his chums, Brockley lads ready for war, Reggie is the tall one at the back. Here he is a private with the 20th Londons. (Click image for high-res version)
According to the Army Service Numbers 1881-1918 website, Reggie (3662) joined up between 5th April 1915 and 10th May 1915:
20th (County of London) Battalion, The London Regiment (Blackheath and Woolwich)
Here are some sample numbers and joining dates for the 20th Londons.
3290 joined on 5th April 1915
3774 joined on 10th May 1915
Reggie was born on 6 July 1897, so he was still 17 when he joined, two months shy of his 18th birthday.
Above: May 1915 poster by E. J. Kealey, from the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee. Reggie may have seen this poster on his way to volunteer
Volunteer Army, 1914–15
The British had about 5.5 million men of military age, with another 500,000 reaching 18 each year. The initial call for 100,000 volunteers was far exceeded, almost half a million men enlisted in two months (see the graph below). Around 250,000 underage boys also volunteered; either by lying about their age or giving false names which recruiters often turned a blind eye to. Naturally thereafter there were fewer, though volunteering was still ardently promoted by the most effective recruiting poster ever drawn (pictured below), newspaper reports of German barbarities that were supported later by eminent historians,pressure from employers who promised to keep jobs open, some Poor Law Guardians who refused to support fit military-aged men, and orations by politicians and public figures.
One early peculiarity was the formation of 'pals battalions': groups of men from the same factory, football team, bank or similar, joining and fighting together. The idea was first suggested at a public meeting by Lord Derby. Within three days, he had enough volunteers for three battalions. Lord Kitchener gave official approval for the measure almost instantly and the response was impressive. The drawback of 'pals' battalions was that a whole town could lose its military-aged menfolk in a single day of battle.
The women's suffrage movement was sharply divided, the slight majority becoming very enthusiastic patriots and asking their members to give white feathers (the sign of the coward) in the streets to men who appeared to be of military age to shame them into service. After assaults became prevalent the Silver War Badge was issued to men who were not eligible or had been medically discharged.
It is likely then that Reggie lied about his age when he signed up. If he gave his date of birth as 6 July 1895 (which would correspond with his age on his marriage certificate, making him two years older than he actually was), then in May 1915 he would have given his age as 19 to the recruitment officer. (Soldiers had to be 19 to be sent 'overseas')
His name is among those on the war memorial outside Saint Mary Magdeleine's RC Church, Brockley, London. (on corner of Comerford and Howson Roads). Reggie was also baptised and married in this church.
Location: St Mary Magdalen Church, Howson Road, Brockley SE4 2BA
Description: Cross of wood on stone base with image of Christ Crucified in stone and a metal plaque giving names of those who died in WW1 beneath
Papal Seal, O Crux Ave Spes Unica. (a Latin holy expression or motto meaning "Hail to the Cross, our only hope.")
“God Forbid That I Should Glory Save In The Cross Of Our Lord Jesus Christ” Gal. VI 14. (This quote from the Bible is about fighting against tyranny, glorying first of all in the Cross Of Christ. I.e. They were not there to settle any private grudge or national quarrel; they were there to free enslaved people, and the military victories were the triumph of the Cross of Jesus Christ over evil.)
To The Memory Of Men Of This Mission Who In The Great War 1914 - Gave Their Lives For Freedom & Justice. This cross is dedicated ... E.P. Finnessey, B. Phillips, B. O’Connor, F.B. Bartlett, C.P. Bartlett, E. Milton, Cpt F.G. Fraser, J. Horrigan, J.F. Kelleher, R.J. Chapman, M. Gispert, J. Hickey, Lieut F. Corrigan. Requiescant In Pace.
They appear in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission database of war dead, as follows: (http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead.aspx?cpage=1)
|FINNESSEY||E P||30||07/02/1916||Bombardier||Royal Horse Artillery||"D" Bty. 14th Bde.||France||'32389'||QUARRY CEMETERY, MONTAUBAN||VI. A. 5.||Son of Edward Peter and Elizabeth Finnessey; husband of Mabel May Pinnessey, of 11, Lindore Rd., Battersea Rise, London.|
|PHILLIPS||B||16/09/1916||Private||London Regiment||1st/23rd Bn.||France||'5032'||THIEPVAL MEMORIAL||Pier and Face 9 D 9 C 13 C and 12 C.|
|O'CONNOR||BERNARD JOSEPH||B J||33||08/05/1917||Private||Queen's Own (Royal West Kent Regiment)||2nd/4th Bn.||Israel and Palestine (including Gaza)||'203367'||GAZA WAR CEMETERY||XXX. D. 10.||Son of Thomas Maurice O'Connor; husband of Edith Alice O'Connor, of 48, Meadow Rd., Bromley, Kent. Born at Brockley, London.|
|BARTLETT||FRANK BASIL||F B||03/05/1917||Private||London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers)||1st/2nd Bn.||France||'230229'||ARRAS MEMORIAL||Bay 9.|
|BARTLETT||GEOFFREY||G||33||11/06/1917||Serjeant||Royal Fusiliers||"A" Coy. 26th Bn.||Belgium||'B/19387'||YPRES (MENIN GATE) MEMORIAL||Panel 6 and 8.||Bronze Medal for Military Valour (Italy). Son of the late Harry George Bartlett, of Streatham, London.|
|MILTON||E||24/04/1917||Private||Royal Fusiliers||32nd Bn.||Belgium||'11074'||DICKEBUSCH NEW MILITARY CEMETERY||BB. 15.|
|FRASER||FREDERICK GORDON||F G||29||14/06/1917||Captain||Queen's Own (Royal West Kent Regiment)||11th Bn.||Belgium||YPRES (MENIN GATE) MEMORIAL||Panel 45 and 47.||Son of Harry Gordon Fraser and Margaret Fraser. Enlisted in London Scottish.|
|HORRIGAN||J||09/10/1916||Private||Royal Fusiliers||8th Bn.||France||'7897'||HEILLY STATION CEMETERY, MERICOURT-L'ABBE||III. B. 43.|
|CHAPMAN||REGINALD J.||R J||16/08/1917||Serjeant||London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers)||1st/4th Bn.||Belgium||'295115'||YPRES (MENIN GATE) MEMORIAL||Panel 52.|
|GISPERT||MODESTO||M||24||11/11/1917||Able Seaman||Royal Navy||H.M.S. "M15."||United Kingdom||'J/35356'||PORTSMOUTH NAVAL MEMORIAL||25||Son of Arthur and Remedio Gispert, of 80, Breakspears Rd., Brockley, London.|
|HICKEY||JOHN DENNIS||J D||31||29/08/1918||Saddler||Royal Horse Artillery||"I" Bty.||France||'43953'||BROUILLY CHURCHYARD||Near West end of Church.||Son of Dennis and Emily L. Hickey, of 54, Whitbread Rd., Brockley, London.|
|CORRIGAN||FRANCIS STANISLAUS||F S||27||31/08/1918||Lieutenant||The King's (Liverpool Regiment)||13th Bn.||France||ECOUST-ST. MEIN BRITISH CEMETERY||D. 21.||Son of Francis and Margaret Corrigan.|
Reggie was born on 6 July 1897 so at his death on 16 August 1917 he was just 1 month over 20. Eight months earlier, on 2nd December 1916 Reggie married Irene Berta Dixon.
He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Menin Gate in Ypres, panel 52. The Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial bears the names of more than 54,395 Commonwealth soldiers who died in the Salient but whose bodies have never been identified or found. On completion of the memorial, it was discovered to be too small to contain all the names as originally planned. An arbitrary cut-off point of 16 August 1917 was chosen and the names of 34,984 UK missing after this date were inscribed on the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing instead.
'UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919' register:
Name: Reginald John Chapman
Death Date: 16 Aug 1917
Death Place: France and Flanders
Enlistment Place: Blackheath
Regiment: London Regiment
Battalion: 4th (City of London) Battalion (Royal Fusiliers)
Regimental Number: 295115
Type of Casualty: Killed in action
Theatre of War: Western European Theatre
Comments: Formerly 3662, 20Th London Regt.
(Source Information: Military-Genealogy.com, comp. UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008.: Original data: British and Irish Military Databases. The Naval and Military Press Ltd. : In 1921 His Majesty's Stationery Office published, on behalf of and by authority of the War Office, two lists of those who died during the Great War. One volume, packed with minute typescript, gave the basic details of nearly 42,000 officer casualties. It required an additional eighty volumes to list all the 'other ranks' who gave their lives. Each of the original volumes represented one or more regiments, corps or other units of the British Army. Most were subdivided into battalions or similar groupings. There were often thirty or more of these per volume, each in alphabetical order.: This database contains information extracted from these volumes and includes over 703,000 individuals.)
Sergeant REGINALD JOHN CHAPMAN was awarded, posthumously, the Victory Medal and the British Medal. It is assumed they were delivered to his wife, who later remarried, and their whereabouts are not know.
Below is a copy of his Medal Index Card and photos of the Victory Medal and the British Medal
(Source Citation: Description: Surname Sub-Range : Chapman, Isaac - Chapman, Wilfred: Source Information: Ancestry.com. British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008.: Original data: Army Medal Office. WWI Medal Index Cards. In the care of The Western Front Association website. : Source Description : This database contains the Medal Rolls Index, or Medal Index Cards. The collection currently contains approximately 4.8 million people, which is nearly all of the total collection. The records can be searched by first and last name and Corps, Unit or Regiment. These cards were created by the Army Medal Office (AMO) of the United Kingdom in Droitwich near the close of World War I (WWI).)
Above: colour version of his Medal Index Card
The index card refers to this entry in the Medal Rolls, which states that he joined the 4th London Regiment on 27/6/17, less than two months before he died: (Theatres of War: 1(a) :France and Flanders (also known as The Western Front) (http://www.greatwar.co.uk/places/ww1-theatres-of-war.htm)
(Source Citation: The National Archives of the UK; Kew, Surrey, England; WWI Service Medal and Award Rolls; Class: WO 329; Piece Number: 1911: Description
Piece Description : Piece 1911: 4th London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers): Source Information: Ancestry.com. UK, WWI Service Medal and Award Rolls, 1914-1920 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.: Original data: War Office and Air Ministry: Service Medal and Award Rolls, First World War. WO329. The National Archives of the UK, Kew, Surrey, England. : Source Description: Find your heroes and veterans from the Great War in this collection of medal and award rolls.)