John Worthy Chaplin VC

b. 23/07/1840 Ramsdell, Hampshire. d. 18/08/1920 Market Harborough, Leicestershire.

John Worthy Chaplin (1840-1920) was born on 23rd July 1841 in Ramsdell, Hampshire, the son of William James Chaplin, M.P. for Salisbury, and Elizabeth, nee Alston. He was educated at Harrow and entered the 67th Regiment on 13th April 1858.

John W Chaplin VC

When, in 1860, the Chinese emperor declined to reply to a note demanding an apology for firing on British ships and his government’s failure to act on the provisions of the Treaty of Tientsin, a combined Anglo-French task force was sent to enforce compliance. The aim of the expedition was to force the Chinese from the Taku Forts positioned at the mouth of the Pei-ho river. In overall command of the assault was Major General Sir Robert Napier whose task was to expel the Chinese from the well defended Small North Fort.

At 06:00 on 21 August 1860, Napier gave the signal for the asault to begin. The attackers surged forward crossing a dry ditch and pouring through the abatis that had been smashed by the artillery. Two wet ditches were then crossed with great difficulty and upon reaching the fort’s wall the French erected ladders only to have them thrown down by the defenders. The troops, whose units had inevitably become intermingled, were crowded together at the base of the wall, being pelted with grenades, cannon shot, jars of quicklime and ‘stinkpots’ that gave off clouds of smoke. Desperate measures were needed urgently if the assault was to succeed. Close to the gate was Lieutenant Nathaniel Burslem and an Irishman, Private Thomas Lane, both of the 67th Regiment, who scrambled up to a narrow embrasure which they proceeded to widen, both sustaining serious wounds.

Not far away were Lieutenant Robert Rogers and Private John McDougall of the 44th Regiment who had swum the wet ditches, together with Lieutenant Edmund Lenon and Ensign John Chaplin both of the 67th, the latter carring the Queen’s Colour of the regiment. Lenon pushed his sword deep into the mud wall, supporting the hilt while Rogers used it as a step, fighting his way into the embrasure above. More men pushed their bayonets into the wall, creating a ladder up which Lenon, Chaplin and McDougall and others clambered up to join Rogers. At about the same time Burslem and Lane broke through their embrasure on to the ramparts. Men from both regiments then swarmed through the embrasures fighting their way at the point of the bayonet up the tower’s ramp enabling Chaplin to plant his Colour on the summit. The will of the Chinese, who until this point had fought stubbornly, suddenly collapsed and it was estimated that of the fort’s 500-strong garrison, 400 were either killed or wounded.

John Chaplin became a Captain in the 8th Hussars in 1864, and a Major in 1878. From 1868 to 1874 he was an extra aide-de-camp to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland. He married Isabel Thompson at Bishopsthorpe, Yorkshire, on 22nd August 1871.

John Chaplin was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel in 1879 and commanded the 8th Queen’s Royal Irish Hussars in the Afghanistan Campaign of 1879-1880, He 1883 he became a Colonel on half-pay, and in 1887 was created a Companion of the Order of the Bath. He retired in 1888, taking up residence at Kibworth Hall, where he lived for over 30 years. John Chaplin was the founder and first President of Kibworth Golf Club in 1904/05. He is commemorated by the ‘Chaplin Room’ in the club-house in Weir Road. He died in Market Harborough on 19th August 1920. He is buried in Kibworth Cemetery, his grave marked by the largest memorial in the cemetery. His Victoria Cross was presented to the Hampshire Regiment on 19th March 1964 by his grandson, and is kept in the Regimental Museum at Winchester.