Corporal John George Chapman, M.M.
John was a Freemason, member of Lodge Temperance 2557 and one of our forgotten war heroes. He is not listed in the Lodge Temperance WW1 Roll of Honour although the Lodge registers clearly show he was on war service. We can only speculate why he and several other members were omitted from the Roll.
John was the eldest child of James Chapman from New Delaval and Isabella Bell from Radcliffe, a mining community near Amble, who were married in 1885. James was a master shifter in charge of men who repaired the horse-ways and other passages in a mine, and kept them free from obstructions. They had seven children:
- John George (b 9 Feb 1888)
- Lavinia Adelaide (b 1890)
- Violet (b 1893)
- Margaret Eliza (b 1896)
- Wilhelmina Robina (b 1898)
- James (b 1903)
- William Valentine (b 1907)
John was born in Togston Terrace, Broomhill near Acklington, Northumberland. In the 1911 Census, taken on 2nd April he was living with his parents at Station Road, Broomhill, Acklington working as a Draper’s Assistant at the Co-op Store.
At the Lodge Temperance 2557 meeting held at the Assembly Rooms on the 21st April 1913 John was proposed by Bro. Roderick Urquhart and seconded by Bro. John Armstrong as a fit and proper person to be made a Freemason. He was a 25 year old Drapers Manager living at 83, Station Road, Broomhill, Northumberland. At the meeting of Monday 19th May 1913 a successful ballot was held. He was initiated into the Mysteries and Privileges of Ancient Freemasonry on the 16th June 1913 and was passed to the second or Fellowcraft degree the following month on the 21st July. He was raised to the Sublime degree of a Master Mason on 18th August 1913 and signed his Grand Lodge Certificate in open lodge on November 17th 1913 .
Private John George Chapman No 28987, enlisted with 8th Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers on the 20th November 1915 at Amble in Northumberland. He landed in Boulogne, France in September 1916 and a week later joined the 2nd Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding) Regiment and assigned regimental no 23773.
His service record shows he suffered multiple gunshot wounds on 3rd May 1917, during the 3rd Battle of the Scarpe, part of the Arras Offensive, and after two days in a Casualty Clearing Station and Base Hospital, was returned to England on 5th May 1917. His injuries consisted of wounds to his right hand, face and right shoulder with the loss of and damage to several teeth requiring extensive dental work. He spent three months in a home hospital then was posted to the military convalescent Command Depot at Ripon for 2 months of rehabilitative training. He was declared fit for foreign service on 20th February 1918. Interestingly, earlier in the month he was absent off leave by six days and was given 6 days of Field Punishment No 2 – being shackled in irons! – and the loss of 6 days pay.
He was posted to the 5th Battalion Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding) Regiment on 24th February 1918. This was a field assignment and his service record is unclear but it looks as though he returned to France and joined the Infantry Base Depot at Etaples. He was appointed Lance Corporal in June 1918 then promoted to Corporal a month later in July 1918. It was shortly after his promotion that he was awarded the Military Medal, announced in the London Gazette of 10th December 1918. The Military Medal was awarded to personnel of the British Army, below commissioned rank, for bravery in battle on land. Recipients of the Military Medal were entitled to use the post-nominal letters “MM”. He was demobilized from the army on 22nd February 1919.
He married Mary Elizabeth Brown at St John’s Church, Chevington on 1st June 1914 and lived at 77, Swarland Terrace, Broomhill, Acklington. They had at least one child:-
- James (b 1920)
*By 1939 John and his family are living at 11, Market Place in Morpeth, Northumberland and he is manager at a drapery dealers.
John is commemorated in the Alnwick Gazette Almanack 1918 which includes a photo of him on Page 6 and can be seen on the North East War Memorial Website (A11.56). He is also remembered on the Togston Terrace social Club roll of honour and the East Chevington Institute Roll of Honour both can also be seen on the North East War Memorial Website (T22.01) and (E7.02)
Despite his war time injuries, John died in Whitley Bay in January 1987 at the ripe old age of 98.
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