Ted Chapman VC

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The Independent Online

Edward Thomas Chapman, soldier: born Pontlottyn, Glamorgan 13 January 1920; VC 1945; BEM 1953; married 1942 Rhoda Watkins (two sons, one daughter); died Abergavenny, Monmouthshire 3 February 2002.

Corporal Ted Chapman was awarded a Victoria Cross for extraordinary bravery in the face of overwhelming odds.

By April 1945 the German army was falling back in the west under pressure from the Allies. Resistance was still fierce, however, and in defence of the Fatherland Hitler had ordered some of his strongest and most zealous units to the Teutonburger Wald. This steep and thickly wooded ridge was an ideal defensive position which dominated the surrounding area. It also had a place in German history, for it was here that, in AD 9, that the Germans had defeated the Roman legion of Varus. Chapman and his company of the Monmouthshire Regiment would have known little of the history that was to stiffen the resolve of the enemy as they crossed the Dortmund-Ems canal on 2 April.

The Monmouths were ordered to assault the ridge. As Chapman was advancing with his section along a narrow track, the enemy opened fire at short range inflicting heavy casualties. Chapman ordered his men to take cover and look after the wounded. Grabbing a Bren gun he advanced alone, firing from the hip and mowing the enemy down at point blank range, forcing them to retire in confusion.

He was now joined by some of his section, but in their advance they did not hear the order to withdraw. The enemy, seeing Chapman's section now totally alone, under cover of machine gun fire made a determined bayonet charge. Chapman stood his ground and with his Bren gun halted each assault. Running out of ammunition, he shouted for more bandoliers. As he did so, Chapman dropped down into a fold in the ground and covered those bringing up the ammunition by lying on his back and firing the Bren over his shoulder. The enemy ran at him hurling grenades, but he again drove them back, causing many casualties.

During the withdrawal, Chapman's company commander had been severely wounded and left lying in the open. Satisfied that his section was for the moment secure, Chapman went out alone under fire and carried his commander over his shoulder for 50 yards until he reached comparative safety. On the way, both the officer and Chapman were hit, the officer fatally. In spite of a severe wound in his thigh Chapman refused all help until the position was restored two hours later. The citation for his Victoria Cross reads:

Throughout the action Corporal Chapman displayed outstanding gallantry and superb courage . . . His magnificent bravery played a very large part in the capture of this vital ridge and in the successful development of subsequent operations.

Ted Chapman was the son of a miner and left school at 14 to follow his father at the Ogilvy Colliery. He enlisted in the Monmouthshire Regiment in April 1940 and served in north-west Europe from three weeks after D-Day until May 1946. On leaving the Army he worked for the Great Western Railway as a station porter at Pontlottyn, Glamorgan. He rejoined his regiment in 1948 and was finally discharged in 1957. He spent the next 25 years with ICI.

Max Arthur

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