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William George Smith Chappell

William George Smith-Chappell


William was the son of John George and Mary Anne Smith-Chappell. He was born in Eltisley on 16 March 1896 and he had a younger brother, Albert, who also fought in the War, and an older sister, Emma. Their father also served in the War, in France, Egypt and the Middle East.

He was working as a labourer for Mr Topham, farmer, of Eltisley, before he joined the army, earning 16 shillings a week. He was married to Martha Mary and they had a daughter, Vera May, born on 24 May 1915.

William enlisted in the Huntingdon Cyclist Battalion in November 1915. The Hunts Cyclist Battalions had been formed in February 1914 and the men were carrying out home defence duties in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire. In July 1916, following the great loss of life during the first day of the Battle of the Somme, men from the Hunts Cyclists were sent to France and were transferred into other Regiments.

William went to France and was transferred to the 1st Battalion Cambridgeshire Regiment, Lewis Gun Section. The Lewis Gun was an early light machine gun which could be carried and fired by a single soldier, firing rate ranging from 500-600 rounds per minute and effective to some 600 metres; it weighed 12 kilograms and was supported on ‘bipod’ supports when being fired.

The 1st Cambridgeshires served in France and Flanders throughout the War, one of their most famous Battle Honours being the taking of the Schwaben Redoubt, near Thiepval, on 15 October 1916.

On 1 October 1917 William’s Regiment was out of the Front Line, resting at Inkerman Camp, south of Ypres. They engaged in musketry, drill and specialist training and then moved to Kruisstraat, where they worked on railway construction until 16 October. On 17 October the Regiment marched to Camp Number 1 at Vierstraat and on 23 to Murrumbidgee Camp, and engaged in training in musketry, bombing, and gas drill, from 24 to 27 October. On 28 they relieved the 2nd Warwickshires in the Canada Street/Hedge Street area; and between 28 and 31 October the battalion was in reserve in the Canada Street and Hedge Street area, and providing working parties carrying rations, water and stores up to the Front Line.

William was killed in a gas attack on the night of 29 October, the only death in the 1st Cambridgeshires that night, in addition to three other men who suffered gas poisoning.


William George Smith-Chappell
Private 328240, 1st Battalion, Cambridgeshire Regiment

16 March 1896 – 29 October 1917
(aged 21)

  William is buried at the Voormezeele Enclosures No. 1 and 2, four kilometres south-west of Ypres town centre.

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