Lt. Leonard Allan Chadwell MC
Leonard's death.... IVER TRAGEDY... found dead on the Railway line between Iver and West Drayton
'The Advertiser and Gazette', 15th and 22nd November 1936 the following:
Leonard Allan Chadwell, M.C. (By a Friend - Nigel De Grey)
WE ARE REMINDED PAINFULLY FROM TIME TO TIME THAT THE GREAT WAR HAS NOT, EVEN AFTER MANY YEARS, CEASED TO TAKE ITS TOLL ON US. THE DEATH OF ALLAN CHADWELL HAS BROUGHT IT HOME TO US WITHIN THE LAST FEW DAYS. FOR WHO CAN DOUBT HIS EXPERIENCES AS A YOUNG MAN, AS A BOY ALMOST, HAD SAPPED THE STRENGTH THAT WE, AS HUMAN BEINGS, ARE GIVEN TO STAND UP TO THE DIFFICULTIES OF LIFE? AMONG THE IVER BOYS OF HIS OWN AGE THERE WAS NONE THAT SHOWED GREATER PROMISE. HIS BIG FRAME AND MUSCULAR STRENGTH MADE HIS LOVE OF OUTDOOR LIFE READILY UNDERSTANDABLE, BUT IT HID ALSO AN INTELLIGENT MIND AND LOVE OF MUSIC. HIS GALLANT SERVICE DURING THE WAR NOT ONLY WON HIM COMMISSIONED RANK BUT THE MILITARY CROSS ALSO. A KEEN SCOUT AS A BOY HE BECAME A KEEN AND INTELLIGENT SOLDIER. MY FIRST INTRODUCTION TO HIM WAS WHEN, IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE WAR, I BECAME HIS FATHER'S TENANT. AN OVERFLOWING TANK IN THE ROOF CALLED FOR URGENT HELP, AND TO MY SURPRISE MY CALL WAS ANSWERED BY A SPLENDID YOUNG OFFICER, WHO STRIPPED OFF HIS TUNIC AND GOT TO WORK. THAT SEEMS TO ME TO HAVE BEEN TYPICAL OF HIM, FOR I NEVER KNEW HIM TO PUT ON "SIDE" OR BE UNWILLING TO HELP IN ANY WAY THAT HE COULD. I USED TO REJOICE TO SEE HIM BEFORE THE ANNUAL IVER FLOWER SHOW, WORKING TO GET THE SPORTS GROUND READY, DOING THE WORK OF THREE MEN AND ALL WITHOUT FUSS. HE MADE NO DIFFICULTIES HIMSELF, AND HAD LITTLE PATIENCE WITH THOSE WHO DID. "LET'S GET ON WITH IT" HE USED TO SAY WHEN DIFFICULTIES AROSE, AND HE DID. INTHE YEARS I WAS AT IVER I SAW MUCH OF HIM, AND I ALWAYS FELT HE HAD IN HIM THE POWER FOR MUCH GOOD, BUT ALSO A RELUCTANCE TO TAKE THE LEAD - AS IF HE HAD PASSED THROUGH TOO MUCH AND TOO EARLY IN LIFE FOR THE MORE ORDINARY OPPORTUNITIES TO MAKE MUCH APPEAL TO HIM. I HAVE WRITTEN THUS INTIMATELY OF HIM, FOR HE WAS AN IVER BOY, AND AN IVER MAN, AND I FEEL THAT ALL OF US WHO KNEW HIM WILL LIKE TO THINK OF HIM AT HIS BEST - A YOUNG MAN OF PROMISE, A GOOD COMPANION, A LIKEABLE FELLOW, WHOM CIRCUMSTANCES STRONGER THAN THE STRENGTH OF ANY ONE OF US, BROUGHT TO FULMENT TOO EARLY FOR HIS OWN HAPPINESS.
The medals below are the 1914-15 Star (awarded to anyone who went overseas on active service before 1st January 1916); the 1914-18 War Medal and the Victory Medal. they are the usual trio that most soldiers had and they are usually known by their nicknames of 'Pip, Squeak and Wilfred'.
My late mother, Pamela Channon, Leonard's daughter-in-law (they never met) was indebted to Roger Pritchard for his research into 2nd Lieutenant Leonard Allan CHADWELL's war record, aided by a Mr Nigel Farrance, an expert on the Somerset Light Infantry, who took a detailed look at his own records. Pamela was passionate about all aspects of history see: http://www.chadwellseeds.co.uk/chadwells-of-iver
Leonard Chadwell joined the Army in the first wave of recruiting in the Autumn of 1914. The early transfer to the Somerset Light Infantry was not uncommon. There was a lot of shuffling about in the late Autumn of 1914 to make up battalions etc. The 8th Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry (Prince Albert's Own) were formed at Taunton on 20th October 1914 (so Leonard was one of the original drafts). They were a so-called K3 battalion (Kirchener's Third Army), one of volunteer units formed specially at the beginning of the war for the duration only.
Corporal Leonard CHADWELL, 15101, 8th Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry, was reported wounded on 11th August 1916 (there is a report on this in the Western Daily Press, the Bristol local daily paper). Other sources indicate that the casualties reported on that date actually occurred on 1st July 1916, the opening day of the Battle of the Somme. Because of this it was fairly easy to pinpoint that Corporal Chadwell must have been wounded with the 63rd Brigade of the 21st (Light) Division north of the village of Fricourt; it took 5 days for him to be evacuated from France (typical time period in those days). An excellent book to read for further information is 'First Day on the Somme (Martin Middlebrook).
Where Leonard was wounded on the first day of the Somme (Becourt-Becordel, near Fricourt). These villages were behind the lines for the battle. It was the location of a large artillery depot and many troops bivouacked here as they made their way up the lines. The village lies in a valley, protected from the lines to the east by the contours of the land. Because of this it was also used for medical facilities of the Army; the 14th Field Ambulance were based here for the start of the battle, along with Advanced Dressing Stations - so at least Leonard was close to help for his wound(s).
See the following:
The 8th Somersets were allocated to the 63rd Brigade of the 21st New Army Division. The Division assembled at Halton Park near Tring and from November 1914 until September 1915 was in training in and around the Leighton Buzzard area. K3 battalions tended to be at the end of the line for equipment and officers and when the 21st Diviison went to France in September 1915, they were undoubtedly insufficiently prepared for the conditions. In Particular, the division had done little training with artillery and vey few exercises above battalion level. The normal practice was for such units to spend a long period of acclimatisation with spells in quiet sectors of the line.
However, on 25th September 1915, the British Army took part in the major Allied Autumn offensive, which is usually known as the Battle of Loos. The battle opened reasonably successfully by First World War standards with troops breaking through the German defences around the village of Loos (north of the mining town of Lens). The 21st Division and also the 24th Division, another K3 formation which had just arrived in France, were the Army Reserve for the battle but they had been kept back some 5-8 miles behind the front line. On the evening of the 25th September, somewhat belatedly, the two divisions were ordered to move up to relieve the original assault troops and resume the attack on the German second line. Unfortunately, the roads behind the front line were chaotic and the two divisions had great difficulty getting forward. Inexperienced officers had little idea what they were doing and there are stories of battalions getting lost etc. Eventually, the two divisions arrived at the front line at 11am on 26th September, by which time the Germans had brought up reserves and heavily reinforced their second-line positions.
The two divisions were sent over the top to assault these positions some time after 11am. The attack was a complete disaster. The countryside around Loos is very flat but dominated by slag heaps which the Germans had fortified. The assaulting troops were shelled and enfiladed by machine gun fire. Most battalions had little idea what they were doing and any notion of support from our own artillery collapsed. Eight battalions took part in the 21st Division's attack and some 60-70% casualties were incurred by all of them. The British troops reached the German wire but none got through it and at some time after midday, the two divisions (or what was left of them), retreated in disorder. The disaster had some important consequences. The British Expeditionary Force's GOC was sacked, and a number of changes in organisation and training of the New Army divisions was instituted. It is safe to assume that Leonard Chadwell's promotion to Corporal followed the heavy casualties of Loos when there would have been the need to create many new NCOs.
WWI Army Officers
The 21st Division spent the winter of 1915/16 in France training and holding quiet sectors of the line. In the Spring of 1916, along with the rest of the British Army in France, they set about preparations for the 'Big Push' - the opening of the Battle of the Somme. As stated above, in the second paragraph of this account, the 21st Division took part in the opening of the battle.
The 8th Somersets attacked a section of the German line just to north of the village of Fricourt (they actually attacked a section of the German front line known as the Empress Trench). By 1st July 1916 standards, the attack was reasonably successful. The Somersets took the German line and advanced towards the German reserve trenches before the 10th Green Howards leapfrogged through them to continue the attack. Nevertheless, casualties were still heavy including the battalion CO, Lt. Col. JW Scott, who was wounded. This must have been when Corporal Chadwell was wounded.
However, as he was back in France by mid-September, one may assume that his wounds were relatively light - gunshot or shrapnel seems most likely. His return to the 8th Somersets would have been to a different division as on the 8th July the whole of the 63rd Brigade had been transferred to the 37th Division. He would have served with this division until his second evacuation from France at the beginning of July 1917. If this was the second time he was wounded, it would have been before the opening of the Third Battle of Ypres. At present it is not known which sector the 37th Division were serving in at the time. It was probably a relatively quiet sector and that by then Sergeant Chadwell's wound was just one of those daily casualties (hundreds every day) suffered in the 'normal' course of trench warfare.
Leonard's commission was into the Lincolns. The 3rd Lincolns were the so-called Militia or Special Reserve Battalion which did not see active service but which acted as a holding unit from which drafts were posted overseas. His Military Cross strongly suggests that Temporary (this simply means a wartime commission) 2nd Lt Chadwell must have seen active service again as MCs were only awarded to officers or senior warrant officers. He probably returned to France in the late Spring of 1918. There were ten battalions of the Lincolns serving in France at the time; from the records available it has not been possible to tell which one he went to. However, the date of discharge from the Army is late and consistent with 2nd Lt Chadwell having spent some time with the Army of Occupation in Germany - this is indeed the likely explanation (the other being him having been wounded and having spent some time after the war in hospital) in light of the possession of a shell case engraved (using a nail) by a German POW (presumably in appreciation of civilised treatment, which would be 'consistent' with the main himself). See 3 images below:
Recommended reading: 'History of the Somerset Light Infantry, 1914-1919' (Everard Wryall) is a must; it is a standard Regimental History but gives the background to Loos and the Somme and fill in some details of where the 8th Somersets were in July 1917. For Loos, 'Loos' (Phillip Warner).
The Military Cross was gazetted on 1st February 1919. It reads:
"FOR CONSPICUOUS GALLANTRY AND DEVOTION TO DUTY WHILE LEADING A PATROL EAST OF GOUZECOURT ON 28TH SEPTEMBER 1918. HE PUSHED WELL INTO THE ENEMY'S OUTPOST ZONE, CAPTURING SEVENTEEN PRISONERS AND THREE MACHINE GUNS. HE DID FINE WORK."
At the time, Leonard Chadwell was serving with the 1st Battalion of the Lincolnshire Regiment which was part of the 62nd Brigade of the 21st Infantry Division. Gouzecourt is a village on the Peronne to Cambrai road about 8 miles SSW of the later. The British Army was advancing towards the main German defensive positions in France, the so-called Hindenburg Line, which in this area ran along the Canal du Nord about three miles to the East. The advance had been progressing steadily since 8th August when the main British offensive which eventually led to the end of the war began to the East of Amiens. Presumably the award was given for an action during the advance when Leonard Chadwell pushed ahead of his battalion to capture part of the German rear guard.
Leonard's MC is not engraved on the back - which is unusual but according to S.A. Marrison, P.R.O., Stevenage Branch, The Royal British Legion, it is likely that it was presented as an immediate award "In the Field", of which there are several cases. He had taken the matter up with the Royal Licolnshire Regt. Museum at Sabraon Barracks, Lincoln - who confirmed they had a record of the award. By 1977, when Mr Marrison wrote to my mother, the Royal Linc. Regt. had been embodied in the Royal Anglian Regiment.
Military Service of Lieutenant Leonard Allan CHADWELL - The Lincolnshire Regiment
Enlisted into the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry 3.9.14
Transferred to the 8th Somerset Light Infantry 13.10.14
Promoted Corporal 1.12.15
Appointed Lance Sergeant 8.5.17
Discharged to a Commission 12.2.18
Granted a Temporary Commission as 2nd Lieutenant in
the 3rd Lincolnshire Regiment Regular Army 13.2.18
Released from duty 13.10.19
(Overseas Service: British Expeditionary Force [France] 8.9.15 to 5.7.16 and 13.9.16 to 5.7.17)
Details supplied by Department Record Officer, Ministry of Defence, Hayes, Middlesex (in 1987)
Metal box (had been in his chest pocket) which saved Leonard's life - note bullet mark bottom left
Leonard Allan CHADWELL M.C. (Lincolnshire Regiment) dressed for Victory Parade (1921) at 'Crumlin', Bangors Road, Iver.
I am not a war-monger, indeed very much a pacifist (even having a relative who co-founded CND and his own political party with the intention of a fair distribution of property and wealth in the UK) but feel rightly proud of my grandfather. I hold him in high regard and being a thoughtful and considerate person (like he was), can appreciate just a little of what he went through. He was the first young man (more accurately innocent boy) to volunteer from his village to join Kitchener's New Army, responding to the call that "Your Country Needs You".
From the above, you can see he was unquestionably a brave man - under circumstances few of us nowadays can begin to imagine or know how we would have coped under such pressure. Despite his Military Cross, could he have survived mentally had WWI dragged on much longer? I cannot but wonder - though presumably they didn't execute soldiers awarded such a distinguished award of gallantry? Might he have snapped? And gone AWOL? Well, he survived the war physically and honourably but it had taken its toll on the BEST man the village of Iver ever had. He did, eventually crack, 16 years after his war service landed.