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George William Chapman and Mabel Ann Blanchard
George William Chapman and Mabel Ann Blanchard
George William Chapman was born 12th August 1880 in Romsey, Hampshire, the eldest of three children born to George Chapman and his wife, Harriet, formerly Collins. He Married Mabel Ann Blanchard, on 2nd December 1901, in the church of St Matthew, Otterbourne, Hampshire. Mabel was born 21st April 1884 in St Dennys, Southampton, the daughter of Captain George William Blanchard, a Master Mariner, and his wife Jane, fomerly Wood. Apparently, Mabel's father, objected to their marriage and Mabel lied about her age in order to marry George without her father's permission, which would have been necessary at the age of 17. They lived, at first, in Romsey in a cottage on the Broardlands estate, where their first child, George Alfred, was born in 1904. Later they moved to Southampton and had another six children, Mabel Blanche Frances, b. 1909, Edward Roy William, b. 1910, Gladys Emma, b. 1912, Aileen Louisa, b. 1914, Cyril Blanchard, b. 1921 and Edmund Philip, b. 1923. By 1920 George and his family had moved to 22 Firgrove Road, Freemantle, Southampton where they lived until 1937 when they moved to 3 Vincent Avenue, Shirley, Southampton, where George and Mabel lived for the rest of their lives. Before the First World War, George worked in the ship building industry as a ship's painter, he was also a member of the Territorial Force. Following the war he at some time worked as a custom's watcher at the docks and also as an insurance agent for the Liverpool Victoria Insurance Company. During WWII George and his wife, Mabel served as air raid wardens. His son, Ted, used to tell the story that when his father returned from India in WWI, George brought with him a pet monkey, that used to climb up the curtains and get up to all sorts of mischief. George died on 21st August 1951 at his home in Vincent Avenue in the arms of his son, Ted. His health had never been good since his return from France, his death certificate gives the cause of death as (a) Heart failure, (b) Myocardial degeneration, (c) Chronic Bronchitis, this last cause, most likely a result of his being gassed whilst serving on the Western Front. The informant was his wife, Mabel, his occupation is given as retired insurance agent. He was buried in Holybrook cemetery, Southampton.
Mabel was a notable figure in Southampton, she founded, and was chairman of the Womens Section of The Royal British Legion in Southampton. She did much charitable work especially for wounded servicemen and the wives and families of those who were killed in the second world war, often visiting them herself to offer comfort and condolence. She met many notable personages including King George VI and Lord Maybray King.
Mabel died on 15th July 1968 and is buried with her husband in Holybrook Cemetery.
Unfortunately, George's service records were amongst those destroyed in the blitz, but his military history can be deduced by the other records that do survive. The National Roll of The Great War gives the following record of service;
"Chapman G.W., Corporal, RAMC
He was serving when war broke out and in the same year was sent to India. In 1915 he was transfered to Mesopotamia, where he took part in the Advance on Basra, and in November of the same year was drafted to the Western Front. There he was present at the battles of the Somme, Arras and Ypres. He was also stationed for a time at Rouen, and was wounded in action. He was discharged in December 1919, holding the 1914-1915 Star and the General Service (British) and Victory, Long Service and Good Conduct medals. 22 Firgrove Road, Freemantle, Southampton." The National Roll of The Great War, volume IV Southampton.
Two medal index cards exist for George, showing his entitlement to campaign medals. These give his name, rank, corps and number and show which medals he was entitled to receive.
Armed with this information and by researching the history of his Division, we can deduce the following -
George joined the Territorial Force, Wessex Division, (which had been formed in 1908 to replace the militia) signing on, 19th September 1910. In July 1914 the units of the Division, had moved to their annual summer camp on Salisbury Plain, when War Office instructions arrived for precautionary measures to be taken. All units were mobilised for full time war service on 5th August 1914. It was proposed by Lord Kitchener, to send the Wessex Division to India, in exchange for 32 British and 20 Indian regular army battalions.
George had signed the Imperial Service Obligation, agreeing to serve overseas in the event of a national emergency. In 1914 those who had agreed to foreign service formed the "First Line" TF units
Initially, George served with the 1/4th Battalion The Hampshire Regiment, sailing from Southampton on 9th September 1914, via Malta and Suez, landing in India on 9th November. On arrival the units reverted to peace time conditions, but remained on alert.
In March 1915 the 4th Hampshire Regiment left for service in Mesoptamia (Iraq) and George saw action here, taking part in the Advance on Basra. In November he was drafted to the Western Front, where he served with the Royal Army Medical Corps, 26th (1/3rd Wessex) Field Ambulance. The Wessex RAMC had not gone to India but had joined the 8th Division in France in 1914.
The Royal Army medical Corps was not a fighting force, it's members carried no weapons or ammunition, nor did they take part in the fighting, yet were subjected to the full horrors and dangers of war. This explains why George was "present" at the Battles of the Somme, Arras and Ypres, whereas he "took part" in the Advance on Basra (with the 4th Hampshire Regiment). A Field Ambulance was a front line medical unit, (not a vehicle) responsible for establishing and operating a number of points along the Casualty Evacution Chain. Each Division of the army had 3 Field Ambulances, the 24th, 25th and 26th Field Ambulances (1st, 2nd and 3rd Wessex) came under the command of the 8th Division, with the special responsibility to care for one of the Brigades of the Division.
The Base Hospital, part of the Casualty Evacuation Chain, was manned by the RAMC with attached Royal Engineers and men of the Army Service Corps. George was stationed, for a time, at the Base Hospital in Rouen. "Family lore" states that he "drove an ambulance" but this could have been confused with the fact that his unit was a Field Ambulance. The RAMC relied heavily on horses for transport, although each Field Ambulance did include seven motor vehicles. It is possible that George was an ambulance driver, at some point, but this is not indicated on any surviving records.
It is not known how or where George was wounded in action, (The National Roll of The Great War seems to indicate that this was when he was serving at the Base Hospital in Rouen, but this is by no means certain) but this did not prevent him from serving for the duration of the war. "Family lore" states that he was gased and suffered the debilitating effects for the rest of his life. This may be the reason he was awarded the Silver War Badge, issued to those who were discharged because they could no longer serve due to ill health or disabilty as a result of enemy action.
The First of the medal index cards for George, shows that he served, initially, as Private 1268. This was his Territorial Force number, issued to him when he joined the TF in 1910. This card also shows that he was entitled to receive the British War Medal and Victory Medal and also the Territorial Force War Medal. The National Roll of The Great War states that he received the 1914-1915 Star, which his service in France in 1915 entitled him to, but a man could not receive both the star and the TFW Medals, so he may have been awarded the Star instead of the the TFWM, but the index cards do not indicate this.
The second medal index card shows that he had been promoted to the rank of Corporal at some point during the war and indicates that he served with a TF unit of the RAMC. This card shows that he was awarded the Silver War Badge and that he "Time Expired" during the course of the war. On joining the Territorial Force, a man signed on in blocks of four years, so for George, who enlisted on 19th September 1910, meant that his term of engagement expired at the start of the war in 1914 and he signed on for another four years. His time would expired again in September 1918, just before the end of the war and he signed on once again for another four years. Georges health, however, did not permit him to continue to serve and he was honorably discharged, holding the Kings Certificate, on 1st February 1919 under Kings Regulations par XVI as being no longer fit for service.
In 1917 the service numbers of the Territorial Force were changed and this new number, 461177, is given on both index cards. The new numbers were allocated in blocks to each unit, and George's number was one of those allocated to the 3rd Wessex Field Ambulance. His early service in India and Mesopotamia, with the 4th Hampshire Regiment, indicates he was in a "First Line" unit, which must have been, therefore, the 1/3rd Wessex Field Ambulance, that is the First Line 3rd Wessex (designated the 26th Field Ambulace in 1914)
George also received the Territorial Force Efficiency Medal, this was not a campaign medal, but was awarded by the Territorial Force, for at least twelve years, exemplary service, war service counting as double.
Mabel Ann Blanchard Chapman