Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Gallipoli's “suffocating heat and total lack of water”: Lieutenant Colonel Edward Henry Chapman, 7 August 1915


Image credit: http://www.ww1-yorkshires.org.uk/html-files/photos-c.htm

A locally-born casualty of the Gallipoli campaign was Lieutenant Colonel Edward Henry Chapman, Commanding Officer of the 6th battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment.  He was killed in action the day after landing with his men at Suvla Bay on Gallipoli.  


Troops landing at Suvla Bay on 25 April 1915

An officer of the battalion gave an account of the landing in a letter to The Times: 

“We arrived at Suvla Bay, a motley but workman-like fleet of cruises, monitors, destroyers, transports and trawlers, just before midnight on August 6. The night was dark, the sea calm, and the air tropical in its sultriness. The landing of troops took place almost immediately after the ships had anchored, and continued without cessation throughout the night.

There is a reason to believe that our arrival was not altogether unexpected, for after a brief delay, search lights from the ridges in front of Anafarta village were brought to bear upon the beach, thence forward until daybreak the enemy kept up a moderate rifle and machine gun fire. At daybreak the Turkish Shore batteries came into action, shelling our men who were now advancing both north and south of the Salt Lake and from Sea Beach, where landing had also taken place during the night, in the direction of the general objective, Kuchuk Anafarta. The troops operating south of the lake were thrown in a southerly direction in order that our right should keep in contact with left of the Australian position at Anzac.

The landing at Sea Beach was affected [sic] with very trivial losses, and those suffered by our forces during the night disembarkation at Suvla Bay were slight. As soon as it was light enough to obtain an accurate range the fire of the cruisers, monitors, and destroyers in the bay was brought to bear on Turkish batteries and one soon completely knocked out by shells from a cruiser.


British troops in trenches at Suvla Bay following the fighting in August 1915. Photograph by Edward Montgomery Miles.
Image credit: Imperial War Museum
http://www.iwm.org.uk/history/22-rare-photos-of-the-gallipoli-campaign    Image - HU 130203

Throughout the morning despite the suffocating heat and total lack of water, our troops continued to advance in the most gallant fashion. Our left tore over the sand and scrub in the direction of Kizlar Dagh, driving all before them by rifle fire and the occasional use of cold steel. Chocolate Hill was practically in our possession by 2 o’clock in the afternoon. Contact had been established with the Australians, and nowhere was our force en l’air

The general advance was in progress; our prospects looked very rosy indeed and we were certainly thought that this time we were going to get right across.

Suddenly there came a halt. It was evident that the enemy had brought fresh artillery and fresh infantry into action.

The fire of the Turkish batteries redoubled in intensity and volume, and we were painfully aware of the existence of a far greater number of machine guns than had hitherto been brought into play. It was afterwards reported that the Turkish forces had been largely reinforced by troops which, at the time of our landing, were proceeding along the main line of communication behind Anafarta to Achi Baba. These were stopped by there [sic] German officers and immediately brought into action against our front.

Thus the movement from which so much had been expected appeared thus early in the operations to have been brought to a standstill. The terrain consisting of sand, scrub, and stunted oaks, and which as we approached Anafarta, partook of a forest character, intersected by deep gullets gave every advantage to the enemy.

Anafarta itself is situated on the highest ridge in the vicinity, and from the village and surrounding hills the enemy kept up a heavy cannon, machine-gun, and rifle fire on our men who were exposed on the plain below. Here we suffered very heavy losses, and trenching was vigorously proceeded with.

Meanwhile, severe fighting was also taking place on our left, where we succeeded in driving the enemy out of all his positions on Kizlar Dagh, except at one point at the extreme end of the ridge. Had we been able to secure this particular point we should have been in a much better position to deal
with the enemy trenches about Turchen Keui. The Turks could then have been enfiladed by our guns.

We entrenched ourselves so strongly at Kizlar Dagh and generally along our front that prisoners and deserters have told us that both the Germans and the Turkish officers consider our positions practically impregnable. During our rapid advance we had unfortunately left many snipers behind us, most of them concealed in the trees (dwarf oaks) and scrub. They occasioned considerable losses to the advancing troops, and it became necessary to dispose of them. For this purpose picked Australian marksmen were brought up from Anzac to help us.

All through the day of the 7th large bodies of supports were been landed in the bay, but further advance was practically impossible, and we felt somehow when the sun went down that what promised at the outset to be a glorious
and triumphant advance had meet [sic] with a definite check.”

Edward Henry Chapman was born at 25 April 1875 at Budleigh Salterton. The eldest son in the family,he was christened with the same first names as his father; his mother, Elizabeth Eden Chapman, nee Walker, died when he was 13. 

Home was Carr Hall, Whitby in North Yorkshire; the family also owned Cobrey Park at Ross on Wye in Herefordshire.  He was educated at Aysgarth School in North Yorkshire and the United Services College at Westward Ho before entering Sandhurst. 


Above: TheYorkshire Regiment cap badge

A career soldier with the Yorkshire Regiment Edward Chapman was made Second Lieutenant in 1895, Lieutenant in 1897, Captain in 1901 and Major in 1911. He was appointed Commanding Officer of the 6th battalion at the onset of war.  “The raising of the 6th battalion was a task for which he was eminently suited,” wrote a fellow-officer. “ A thorough and conscientious soldier his chief aim was the welfare and correct training of his men”.


Above: RMS Aquitania in dazzle camouflage

He sailed with the battalion from Liverpool on 3 July on RMS Aquitania, landing at the Greek island of Lemnos. The ship was a Cunard Line ocean liner designed by Leonard Peskett and built by John Brown & Company in Clydebank, Scotland. She had sailed on her maiden voyage to New York on 30 May 1914, but by the spring of 1915 had been transformed into a troopship.

Further transport was arranged to the island of Imbros. Its proximity to the coast of Turkey made it an ideal staging post for the allied Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, prior to and during the invasion of the Gallipoli peninsula. A field hospital, airfield and administrative and stores buildings had been constructed on the island.

On 6 August Colonel Chapman received his orders and called an officers’ conference at 2.30pm when maps were issued and he outlined the battalion’s objectives.    

Following the landing at Suvla Bay on Gallipoli in the early hours of 7 August the troops moved inland and massed at the foot of Lala Baba hill. A charge was ordered on the Turkish positions during which bitter hand to hand fighting took place.

Edward Chapman led from the front and was heard to shout “Come on the Yorkshires”. Sadly, just before midnight, a message was received to the effect that the “CO was killed.” He was 40 years of age. The battalion chaplain was by his side soon after he was shot through the neck and wrote later to his father, “He died as he would have wished to die, a gallant soldier leading his men himself at the very front of his regiment”. 


Azmak Cemetery, Suvla, Turkey
Image credit: Commonwealth War Graves Commission
His body was recovered and today his grave can be seen in Azmak Cemetery at Suvla. A memorial tablet to him can be found in Richmond Parish Church, in North Yorkshire.  No memorial to him exists in Budleigh Salterton although he was born in the town.

The source for this account of Colonel Chapman’s life was Robert Coulson’s Yorkshire Regiment Officers Who Died in the First World War: A Memorial Roll of the Officers of Alexandra Princess of Wales Own Yorkshire Regiment Who Died 1914 – 1919.

‘The Great War at Fairlynch’ 2015 exhibition at Budleigh Salterton’s very special museum! Reviews included: “Wonderful display on WW1, informative, bright and relevant. Well done!! 



  1. My partner has a letter dated August 29th 1915 from Edwards Sister, Fanny Chapman, in which she delivers news of his death. i am in the process of digitising the collection and have just begun to transcribe the text.

  2. Many thanks James. It would be great to include the text of that letter in this post.