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Albert John Smith Chappell

Albert John Smith-Chappell




Albert was born on 11 October 1898, the youngest child of John George (known locally as George) and Mary Anne Smith-Chappell; he had an older brother William George (born 1896), and an older sister, Emma (born 1892). The family lived in one of the terraced cottages facing the Green,on the opposite side of the road to the Leeds Arms public house. Albert, his father John George, and brother William, all fought in the First World War.

Albert was earning 20 shillings (£1) a week as a farm labourer for Mr George Topham of Eltisley, when he was called up on 9 April 1917 at the age of 18. Albert had initially been enlisted in the 3rd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment and completed his basic training with them, but was transferred into the Machine Gun Corps around 10 October 1917.

The Machine Gun Corps had been created in October 1915 and there was a Machine Gun Training Centre at Belton Park, near Grantham, which is probably where Albert undertook his six weeks of intensive training. would have been one of a team of, ideally, six men operating each Vickers machine gun. It is said that the fittest and best of the men were taken into the Machine Gun Corps, where they needed intelligent men to man the guns. Albert was a Private, so he wouldn’t have been No. 1 in the team, the man who actually fired the gun and who was usually a Lance Corporal. No. 1 carried the tripod into action (it weighed 48 lbs) and decided where to site it, No. 2 carried the gun (which weighed 42 lbs including seven pints of cooling water), No. 3 was a range-taker, using a Barr & Stroud optical instrument, No. 4 was a signaller/scout and Nos. 5 and 6 were ammunition carriers. All members of the team were trained to fire the gun and could take over in emergencies.

Albert’s front line service was brief – he was killed within four months of the end of his training. In the spring of 1918 the Allies were expecting a German offensive against the heavily outnumbered British, French and Allied troops. On 7 March 1918 the four Machine Gun Companies within the 59th Division were amalgamated to form the 59th Battalion. There were 64 heavy Vickers machine guns in the battalion and their task in the expected German attack was to delay the onslaught, giving the infantry and artillery units time to fall back to new positions. The Vickers crews were told that they must hold out until the last.

Albert was killed on 21 March 1918, the first day of the German Army’s attack.

Albert died in this fierce fighting, aged 19, the youngest of Eltisley’s men to die. He is buried in Ontario Cemetery at Sains-les-Marquoin Nord, just outside Cambrai.


Albert John Smith-Chappell
Private 122988, 59th Battalion, Machine Gun Corps
formerly 21761, 3rd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment

11 October 1898 – 21 March 1918
(aged 19)






Albert died in this fierce fighting, aged 19, the youngest of Eltisley’s men to die. He is buried in Ontario Cemetery at Sains-les-Marquoin Nord, just outside Cambrai.






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