Chapman, William Robert (Oral history)

Catalogue number
  • 7309
Production date
Subject period
  • whole: Duration 350, Number Of Items 12
Alternative names
  • object name: Oral history
  • object category: IWM interview


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Object description

British NCO served with Royal Army Medical Corps in GB and on Western Front, 1915-1916; served as officer with 12th and 15th Bns Durham Light Infantry on Western Front, 1917-1919

Content description

REEL 1 Background in Easington Lane, GB, 1893-1915: family; education; work with father's printing business; destruction of business in fire; involvement with Methodist Church; passing examination to attend Theological College, Manchester, 1914; exempt status as theological student and background to decision to enlist, 9/1915. Reception into Royal Army Medical Corps at Hillsborough Barracks, Sheffield, 9/1915. Recollections of training as theatre nurse at Camp Hospital, Belton Park, Grantham, 10/1915-1/1916: reception; reaction to sight of first operation. REEL 2 Continues: theatre duties; return to Hillsborough Barracks. Recollections of period with 3rd Stationary Hospital, Royal Army Medical Corps at Rouen, 3/1916-8/1916: journey out; treating casualties from Somme offensive; duties on appointment as senior ward orderly; story of dispute with nursing sister; post mortem on VD case; evacuation with attack of trench fever. Period in GB, 8/1916-10/1916: relationship with civilians during period in hospital in Glasgow; theatre entertainments available at Aldershot. Recollections of postings with field ambulance and dressing station in Somme area, 10/1916-12/1916: stable billets; rat problem. REEl 3 Continues: billets in old German dugout at Maricourt; journey into front line area to join dressing station at Combles; duties; question of becoming officer; success in public debate with atheist; interviews to assess suitability for commission and journey back to GB. Recollections of training at Officers Cadet School at Cookham, 12/1916-2/1917: success of initially unpromising cadet; syllabus; visits to Aldershot; question of cadets' right to salutes; exams; origins of cadets. REEL 4 Continues: Aspects of service with Royal Army Medical Corps and Durham Light Infantry, 1916-1918: question of quality of officers; opinion of other ranks and question of malingerers during attacks; personal morale and question of religion; story of attack as officer with 15th Bn Durham Light Infantry, 10/1918, including effects of having inaccurately synchronised watch, continuing to objective despite foot wound and advice to troops immediately before assault; drugs and equipment in front line dressing station; wounds received with 11th Bn Durham Light Infantry in Ypres area and evacuation to GB, 1917; period at Royal Herbert Hospital, Woolwich, 1917; story meeting future wife as nurse and possibility of her death in sinking of Lanovery Castle. REEL 5 Continues: threat of court martial due to dispute with officer over closing time of officers' mess and consequent attempt to join Royal Flying Corps; story of meeting future wife again; role as dressing station orderly; wounds and question of amputations; anaesthetics; prevalence and cause of gangrene; role of battalion stretcher bearers; effects of German gas shells; nature of terrain during approach to front line at Ypres, 1917; shell wounds at Sanctuary Wood; story of meeting Dean of Ypres. REEL 6 Continues: Recollections of period as officer with 11th Bn Durham Light Infantry in Ypres area, 1917: prior commission and journey out; training and story of being observed by Plumer; story of developing friendship with Captain Vaux during route march; nature of terrain during approach to front line and briefing from occupying battalion on organisation of relief; ;story of being wounded by shell and evacuation to Australian dressing station at Hooge crater. REEL 7 Continues: Evacuation to GB, 1917: theft of possessions by Australian dressing station personnel; treatment at casualty clearing station; presence of Lloyd George's son suffering from VD; prior lung operation at Wimereux Hospital. Period at Royal Herbert Hospital, Woolwich, 1917: story of Canadian pilot mistakenly reported as deserter; visits to theatre. Period at South Shields, 1918: attitude to role dealing with documents concerning possibility of invasion; patrolling coastline; visit to Whitburn Colliery. Period at Clipstone Camp, 1918: meetings with future wife. REEL 8 Continues: sudden posting back to front, 10/1918. Period at Infantry Base Depot, Etaples, 10/1918: officers' club; censoring letters; officer VD case. Recollections of period with 15th Bn Duhjam Light Infantry in Cambrai area, 10/1918: reception; move into line; attack on Hindenberg Line including prior briefing, effects of German counter-bombardment, casualties, accidental shooting of British officer, success in reaching sunken road despite machine gun fire, capture of German trench and difficulty in locating position on map; attack on suspected German strongpoint including difficulty in fording stream, meeting French civilian. REEL 9 Continues: attack on Hindenberg Line including occupying village and story of being mortared whilst attempting to locate neighbouring unit; personal morale; story of attack across bridge, street fighting in village, close escape from bombing group of French civilians, street fighting tactics and releasing French civilians from cellar; story of attack, diminished strength of company, preliminary barrage, effects of having inaccurately synchronised watch, continuing to objective despite foot wound and difficulty in crossing No Man's Land due to star shells; evacuation to GB. REEL 10 Continues: Period in Bristol hospital, 10/1918-11/1918: reaction to Armistice and subsequent celebratory concert, 11/11/1918; award of Military Cross. Story of period in Rome, 1943-1945: meeting Pope Pius XXII; Italian partisans' successful attack on squad of German troops and subsequent detentions of Italian civilians; visit to catacombs; question of responsibility of Pius XII for execution by Germans of Italian detainees. Demobilisation, 10/1919. Various aspects of service with Royal Army Medical Corps and Durham Light Infantry, 1915-1918 and as padre in Italy, 1943-1945: pay; question of national characteristics. REEL 11 Continues: pastoral role as padre; effects of drink; reaction to suicide at Belton Park, 1915; reaction to prospects of death; responsibilities and status as officer; visits to theatre; story illustrating differing conditions of service of officers and other ranks; relationship with other ranks; story illustrating attitude to German troops; visits to London; opinion of German troops. REEL 12 Continues: story illustrating reaction to being saluted; opinion of Australian and US troops; opinion of high command; perspective of situation during German offensive, 3/1918; opinion of Somme offensive, 1916, Plumer and Ypres offensive, 1917; personal morale; relationship with coal mining community in Easington Lane area; personal morale and responsibility as officer; disciplinary punishments.

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