b. 13/01/1920 Pontlottyn, Wales. d. 03/02/2002 New Inn, Monmouthshire.
Edward Thomas Chapman (1920-2002) was born at Pen Y Graig, Pontlottyn, Glamorgan, on January 13th 1920. He was educated at Fochrhiw School and after leaving at the age of 14, started work as a miner at Ogilvey Colliery at Deri. Both his father and grandfather before him had worked in the mines. His grandfather – a pit manager – had been killed when the cage in which he was travelling plunged to the bottom of the shaft, a memory which caused Chapman later to discourage his own sons from following the family tradition.
On April 19th 1940 Chapman enlisted in the Monmouthshire Regiment, and he served in the North West Europe Campaign from June 25th 1944 to May 22nd 1946, during which time he fought in Normandy, the Low Countries and North West Germany, taking part in the Rhine Crossing. On April 2nd 1945 a company of the Monmouthshire Regiment crossed the Dortmund-Ems canal and was ordered to assault the ridge of the Teutoberger Wald, which dominates the surrounding country. This ridge is steep, thickly wooded and is ideal defensive country. It was, moreover, defended by a battalion of German officer cadets and their instructors, all of them picked men and fanatical Nazis.
Corporal Chapman was advancing with his section in single file along a narrow track, when the enemy suddenly opened fire with machine-guns at short range, inflicting heavy casualties and causing some confusion. Corporal Chapman immediately ordered his section to take cover, and, seizing the Bren gun, he advanced alone, firing the gun from his hip, and mowed down the enemy at point blank range, forcing them to retire in disorder. At this point, however, his company was ordered to withdraw; but Corporal Chapman and his section were still left in their advance position, as the order could not be got forward to them. The enemy then began to close up to Corporal Chapman and his isolated section and, under cover of intense machine-gun fire, they made determined charges with the bayonets.
Corporal Chapman again rose with his Bren gun to meet the assaults and on each occasion halted their advance. He had now nearly run out of ammunition. Shouting to his section for more bandoliers, he dropped into a hole in the ground and covered those bringing up the ammunition by lying on his back and firing the Bren gun over his shoulder. At this point the Germans attempted to eliminate Chapman with grenades but, with a reloaded magazine, he closed with them and once again drove the enemy back with considerable casualties. During the withdrawal of his company, the company commander had been severely wounded and left lying in the open a short distance from Corporal Chapman.
Satisfied that his section was now secure, at any rate for the moment, he went out alone under withering fire and carried his company commander for 50 yards to comparative safety. On the way a sniper hit the officer again, wounding Corporal Chapman in the hip and, when he reached our lines, it was discovered that the officer had been killed. In spite of his wounds, Corporal Chapman refused to be evacuated and went back to his company until the position was fully restored two hours later.
Chapman was gazetted for the VC, and was decorated with his VC by King George VI at Buckingham Palace on July 31st 1945. After the war Chapman worked first for Rhyny Engineering, and then for the Great Western Railway where he was employed in track maintenance. Later he worked as a nylon spinner at Pontypool for 25 years until his retirement in 1982. In 1948 he rejoined the Territorial Army, serving until 1957, by which time he had reached the rank of Company Sergeant Major. He was awarded a British Empire Medal for his TA service. In 1942 he had married Rhoda Frances Jean Watkins, of Belfast, and they went on to have three children.
An ardent fly-fisherman, Chapman fished for trout all over the British Isles. He was also the founder of the Ynyswen stud farm, becoming an expert breeder of Welsh mountain ponies. At one time he had 30 acres of land, plus access to more in mountain rights, where he kept 30 mares and two stallions. He was a life member of the Welsh Pony and Cob Society. Chapman died aged 82 on 3rd February 2002 at New Inn, Monmouthshire, and was buried in Panteg Cemetery, New Inn. In 2012, his medal group was purchased privately by Michael Ashcroft and are now displayed in the Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum, London.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM.
BURIAL PLACE: PANTEG CEMETERY, NEW INN, TORFAEN, WALES.
Thomas Stewart – Images of his VC BEM Group at the Imperial War Museum, the VC Board at the SWB Museum, Brecon, the memorial in Brecon Cathedral and the Chapman VC Building in Brecon.