The members of one South Shields family who lost their lives in the First World War

Captain Fred Chapman.
Captain Fred Chapman.

Today Peter Chapman reveals more of his South Shields family’s history and the wartime service three members gave to king and country.

He starts with Captain Fred Chapman who had a legendary rugby football career before the First World War, having played for Westoe, Durham County (often as captain), Hartlepool Rovers – and England, winning seven caps.

Marion Dorothy Chapman.

Marion Dorothy Chapman.

He even scored the very first try in 1911 at the new ground at Twickenham.

“Fred qualified as a doctor at Durham University’s College of Medicine,” said Peter, “and in August 1914 signed up as a surgeon ‘for temporary service in His Majesty’s Fleet’.

“He was assigned to the steamship Rohilla, which became a hospital ship. Unfortunately she ran aground on a reef east of Whitby, with 83 fatalities. Fred was assumed to have been one of them, until it emerged that he had earlier been transferred to HMS Neptune.

“In May 1915 he switched services and joined the Royal Army Medical Corps as a lieutenant. He saw action in Gallipoli, and was promoted to captain, and transferred to the Western Front, where he was attached to the Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment, then heavily involved in the Battle of the Somme. He was slightly wounded in November 1916 and again in February 1917.

Lieutenant-Commander Wallace Annand.

Lieutenant-Commander Wallace Annand.

“He almost certainly continued RAMC service until 1919, when he resumed his medical practice in Hartlepool, and was fit enough to play rugby for Durham County one last time, in November 1919. He died in 1938.”

In 1915, Dorothy Chapman decided to become a Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) nurse with the Order of St John of Jerusalem. At the outbreak of war VADs were instructed to set up and staff 60 bed ‘Auxiliary Home Hospitals’ in their areas.

“One of them was at Holborn House, Mill Dam, South Shields, where Dorothy joined its staff, and received training at the Ingham Infirmary.

“She subsequently served at the Alnwick Military Convalescent Hospital, in Northumberland, and towards the end of 1916 applied for foreign service.

“In the summer of 1917 she was posted to the military hospital base of Alexandria in Egypt to serve as a nurse in the ‘Other Empire Force Voluntary Aid Detachment’ at 17th General Hospital.

“Dorothy arrived safely in October, thanking her lucky stars retrospectively. For two months later, the troopship Aragon, with several large groups of nurses on board, was torpedoed near Alexandria. There were 600 casualties.

“She served at the hospital for 10 exhausting months. Then in August 1918, just three months before the Armistice, she was taken seriously ill and died. Her service record gave the cause of death as pneumonia, but she was probably an early victim of the Spanish flu pandemic, which had started sweeping through Europe and Africa, and which would eventually cause many millions of deaths.”

Her parents, Henry and Dora, placed a plaque in her memory in the Church of St Michael and All Angels in Westoe, while her name is inscribed on the VAD Memorial screen in York Minster.

Lieutenant-Commander Wallace Annand was the son-in-law of Henry and Dora Chapman, having married their daughter (also called Dora) early in 1914. He had been made a Director of the Shields Gazetter, where his father Robert Cumming Annand was Managing Director, shortly before the outbreak of war.

“Having been a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve, he had hoped for a posting at sea. Unfortunately for him, the Navy had a huge surplus of reservists and decided to form the Royal Naval Division – an infantry division – to make good use of them. Wallace was attached to the RND’s Collingwood Battalion in London.

“In December 1914 Wallace was promoted to Adjutant in what was by then called the 4th (Collingwood) Battalion of the 2nd Royal Navy Brigade, and early in 1915 they moved to Blandford Camp in Dorset.

“In May, Wallace was promoted to Lieutenant-Commander, and the Collingwood Battalion set sail for the Dardenelles, via Gibraltar and Malta. Its task was to reinforce the Royal Naval Division, which was hopelessly bogged down on the Gallipoli peninsular, in trenches near Krithia.

“The Collingwood Battalion’s task was to help take Krithia. It went over the top at noon on June 4 and was immediately exposed to deadly fire – and Wallace was among the first to be killed.

“Wallace’s son, Richard Wallace Annand, would win the Victoria Cross in the Second World War and became a Freeman of South Shields .”