Private Jack Chapman

Jack Chapman worked as a shipping clerk in Montreal until the Military Service Act of 1917 came into effect and he became one of 400,000 conscripted and registered as fit for service. Like many Canadians serving in the First World War, Jack had come to Canada from England a few years before. After his medical examination on January 5th, 1918, Jack was posted to the 1st Depot Battalion, 1st Quebec Regiment. He was 20 years old, 5-foot-8 and weighed 132 pounds. He had fair hair and skin and blue eyes. After a little local training in Montreal, Jack boarded the steamer Scandinavian which arrived in the United Kingdom on April 3rd, 1918. After posting to the 23rd Reserve Battalion in Bramshott for additional training, Jack joined the 24th Battalion (Victoria Rifles of Canada) near Croisilles, south of the main Arras-Cambrai road, on September 7th, 1918. Being fresh from England and with no battlefield experience, Jack must have been terrified at what he saw: broken vehicles, horses in various stages of decomposition, blasted tree stumps, scrap iron and here and there the rows of Canadian dead, awaiting burial parties.

Jack was likely assigned to a carrying party as he found himself in a relatively quiet part of the trench system, near Tilloy-lez-Mofflaines, on the evening of September 21st, 1918. This village, just outside Arras, was about 10 miles west of the main body of his battalion, then serving in close support positions near Inchy-en-Artois. Just before dawn on September 22nd, 1918, a shell exploded beside Jack, killing him instantly. His battalion's War Diary for that day states simply: "Nothing unusual to report...casualties two killed and two wounded..."

By 1918, so many had died that battalions had a routine for dealing with the dead. Typically, a soldier would be buried in a temporary grave near where he was killed with the location recorded using trench map grid coordinates. When it came time to bury the men permanently, their remains were located using the map coordinates and exhumed. While Jack's "Reported Location of Grave" report states that he was "buried close to where he was killed," for some unknown reason the location was never recorded. His body may have been found after the war when the Imperial War Graves Commission (now the Commonwealth War Graves Commission) gathered up the hastily buried soldiers and concentrated them in tidy cemeteries. There are many of these cemeteries close to Tilloy-lez-Mofflaines, all of which have unidentified Canadians. Or his remains may still lie under a farmer's field in the French countryside.

Because he has no known grave, Jack's name is inscribed on the Vimy Memorial erected at Vimy Ridge, France along with the names of over 11,000 Canadians who fell in France and who lie in unknown graves.

This account was provided by Earl Chapman, nephew of Jack Chapman.

home battlefields resource centre the archive culture & war collector's forum