Born: 1887, Stratford, Essex.
Died: 27th January 1917; age 29; KiA – He was proceeding out with a stretcher bearer party in search of wounded, as a successful attack had been made. A shell fell into the midst of the party. Harry was 1 of the 3 who were killed, his death being instantaneous.
Residence: 21, Holywells Road, Ipswich.
Occupation: a Dock Labourer.
Enlistment Location: Ipswich.
Date of Entry Therein: 19th August 1915 – Balkans.
Rank: Private; Service Number: 1390.
Regiment: Royal Army Medical Corps, T.F., 88th Field Ambulance.
Medals Awarded: Victory, British War & 1915 Star.
The body was later exhumed, identified from a cross on the grave, and reburied.
1891 18, Henniker Road, West Ham, Essex.
Harry was 4 years old and living with his parents & siblings.
Harry Chapman, 32, a Turner, born Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
Harriett Chapman (nee Bendall), 31, born Notting Hill, London.
Ethel Daisy Chapman, 2, born Stratford, Essex.
William Chapman, 3 months, born West Ham, Essex.
1901 18, Henniker Road, West Ham, Essex.
Harry was 14 years old, an Office Boy. He was living with his parents & siblings.
Harry, 40, an Iron Turner.
Bertram Chapman, 6, born West Ham.
Albert Chapman, 5, born West Ham.
Gertrude Chapman, 3, born West Ham.
1911 21, Idmiston Road, Forest Lane, Stratford, Essex.
Harry was 24 years old, an Iron Turner. He was living with his parents & siblings.
Harry, 52, an Iron Turner – Great Eastern Body Works.
Ethel, 22, a Dress Maker.
William, 20, an Apprentice.
Bertie, 16, an Apprentice.
Albert, 15, an Apprentice.
Arthur Chapman, 7, born West Ham.
In 1913, Ipswich, Harry married Alice Elizabeth Madder, born November 1886, Ipswich.
They had 3 children:
Henry Douglas Chapman, born October 1913, Ipswich.
Stanley George Chapman, born September 1915, Ipswich.
Francis Edwin Chapman, born July 1917, Ipswich.
Soldiers’ Effects to Alice Elizabeth Barber – widow.
Suffolk Chronicle & Mercury Newspaper
Birmingham Mail – 16th March 1940
FOUND IN OLD BILLET
BRITISH SOLDIER’S LETTER WRITTEN IN 1916
In 1916, an English soldier billeted in an old house somewhere in France received a letter from home. He hid it beneath the floorboards. What happened to him is not known, but he never returned to his depot.
The other day Lance-corporal F.E. Williams (with the B.E.F. in France) discovered the great war soldier’s letter, still intact.
To-day the Mayor of Ipswich, Mr. E.L. Hunt, appealed for news of the sender, a Mr. H. Chapman, whose address in 1916 was Holy Wells Road, Ipswich. There is no longer a Mr. Chapman living in Holy Wells Road, where to-day only two houses remain occupied.
28th March 1940 The Ipswich Evening Star
Echo Of 1916 War Letter
IPSWICH WRITER FOUND FOR B.E.F. MAN
Nearly twenty-six years ago Harry Chapman, a young dock worker, living in Holy Wells Road, Ipswich, responded to the call to resist German aggression and joined the R.A.M.C.
Pte. Chapman was sent to France. Three times he came home to Ipswich on leave. His wife continued to write regularly to him when he went back to France after his third visit. Suddenly his letters to her ceased. Nothing was heard until a notification from the War Office that he had been killed.
On September 1st Poland was attacked by Germany, Britain and France declared war two days later, and another British Expeditionary Force crossed the Channel. With it went L.-cpl. F.E. Williams, of the Durham Light Infantry.
Shortly before Easter L.-cpl. Williams found a letter in an old house “somewhere in France.” It was tucked away in an odd corner. To his surprise he found it had been written in 1916 but he could decipher only a name and an address in it. So he wrote to “Chapman, Holy Wells Road, Ipswich.”
“I hope my writing to you will not bring back any sad moments,” he said, explaining his idea of trying to find the person who wrote it. “I hope and trust the recipient arrived back home quite safe after his adventures, and that he will read this letter of mine, too, for it will show him some of his kinsmen are going over the same ground that he did in 1916” he added.
UNTOUCHED FOR NEARLY QUARTER CENTURY
But it was not so easy as that, for all but two houses in Holy Wells Road are vacated under a clearance scheme. The addressee could not be traced by the Post Office, so the letter was sent to the Mayor of Ipswich, as L.-cpl. Williams had requested.
From the Town Hall it was sent to the Ipswich “Evening Star” and “East Anglian Daily Times.”
Further efforts to trace the writer of the letter were made, with the result that an “Evening Star” reporter called at 18, Great Whip Street, Ipswich, where Mrs. Alice Barber lives.
Mrs. Barber was formerly Mrs. Harry Chapman, wife of Pte. Chapman – she has since remarried. She now believes that the letter may refer to one she wrote during the last war.
“It seems that it must be Harry,” she said to-day, “But it is so remarkable that a letter like this should have remained untouched until another war twenty-four years later. I do not know of anyone else of that name who lived in Holywells Road.”
Her husband, Mr. Arthur J. Barber, has written to L.-Corpl. Williams asking him to send the letter he has found.
“My husband has thanked him for his kindness and trouble in writing, and told him to keep smiling while over there,” added Mrs. Barber.
“When the letter arrives from France I shall know at once for certain from the writing whether it is one of mine or not.”
KILLED WHEN 22
Pte. Harry Chapman was awarded the D.C.M. during the Dardanelles campaign.
“He was only 22 when he was killed during a bombing attack by the Germans while assisting some wounded soldiers,” said Mrs. Barber. “About nine in his party were killed. He is buried in France.”
Newcastle Journal – 29th March 1940
D.L.I. MAN FOUND 1916 LETTER
A 1916 22 year old stretcher-bearer’s last letter from home, which he hid beneath the floorboards of his French farmhouses billets a few hours before he was killed by a shell, has been found by D.L.I. Lance-Corporal F.E. Williams, now billeted in the same farmhouse, and will soon be in the hands of the woman who wrote it.
It was from his wife, then Mrs. Harry Chapman, now Mrs. Barber, of Great Whip Street, Ipswich. It warned him, “Take good care of yourself, Harry…there is going to be an addition to the family.” The “addition,” their son, was born soon afterwards.
Lance-Corporal Williams wrote first of all of the letter to the address on it-“Chapman, Holy Wells Road, Ipswich.”
He wrote on the back. “If undelivered, pass on to the Lord Mayor of Ipswich.”
“I hope it will not bring back unpleasant memories,” he said in the letter, “but I know that the 1916 ‘Tommy’ would be glad to know that a countryman is trending the same ground as he.”
There is to-day no Chapman living in Holy Wells Road, and the Mayor of Ipswich appealed for news of the ‘Tommy’ who in 1916 hid his letter from home.
Mrs. Barber saw the appeal and answered it. Yesterday she told a “Newcastle Journal and North Mail” representative. “That was my letter to my husband.”
SON IN ARMY
“He volunteered in 1914 and won the D.C.M. in the Dardanelles campaign. Soon after the news of his death came his third son was born.
“Harry would be proud to know that his eldest boy, Henry, now 27, is a sergeant in the Army to-day and expected soon to be promoted again.
“My husband helped me to write the letter to Lance-corporal Williams, and so that his feelings would not be hurt we put, ‘Keep smiling, Tommy,’ on the bottom.”
Above the mantelpiece in the Barbers home souvenirs of Stretcher-bearer Chapman are still kept.
Daily Herald – 29th March 1940
HER LAST LETTER TO FRONT
Just before he was due to move up into the front line in 1916, Private Harry Chapman, a stretcher bearer in the R.A.M.C., had a letter from his wife. “Take good care of yourself, Harry, ” he read. “You see, there is going to be an addition to the family.”
Chapman hid the letter under the floorboards of the old farmhouse in which he was billeted.
IN NO MAN’S LAND
A few hours later, rescuing the wounded in No Man’s Land, he was killed by a bursting shell. They buried him in France.
To-day, Harry Chapman’s wife – now Mrs. Alice Barber, of Great Whip Street, Ipswich, wrote to an English soldier who is treading the same ground as her husband trod then.
“Please send back to me my husband’s last letter.” she asked.
For Lance-corporal F.E. Williams is billeted in the farmhouse where Chapman had his letter. Williams had found it and had written to the sender “Chapman, Holy Wells Road, Ipswich.”
” I hope it will not bring back unpleasant memories,” he said, “but I know that the 1916 Tommy will be glad to know that a kinsman is treading the same ground as he.”
There is no Chapman in Holy Wells Road to-day. The Mayor of Ipswich appealed for news of the soldier who his his letter. Mrs. Barber saw the appeal and answered it. She told me, “That was my last letter to my husband. Soon after the news of his death came his third son was born. his eldest boy, Henry, who is 27, is already a sergeant in the Army and hopes soon to be promoted again.”
IWMP editors note:
There is a slight artistic licence to Harry’s war record, as we could not find any Mentions in Despatches, or record for his D.C.M. Yet still a hero in his family’s eyes. RIP.
The Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) is part of the British Army providing medical services to all British Army personnel and their families in war and in peace. Together with the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, the Royal Army Dental Corps and Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps, the RAMC forms the British Army’s essential Army Medical Services. In combat the men followed the troops over the top into no man’s land suffering losses of 743 officers and 6130 soldiers killed, while delivering medical care to wounded exposed to enemy fire.