C.S.M. Albert Edward Chapman (5248910) - 7th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment

CSM Bert Chapman of Wollaston, Stourbridge, was killed in action (age 30) at Dawete, Burma on the 8th February 1945. He was serving with the 7th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment. His war grave is at the Taukkyan War Cemetery, Rangoon, Burma.

By the beginning of February 1945 the 7th Battalion had felt its way forward to the line of the Irrawaddy River, “B” Company being on the banks in two hamlets, Tadaing and Dawete, “D” Company half a mile to the north-west at Shwele, and Battalion H.Q. in a pleasant grove of trees among some pagodas a few hundred yards back from “B” Company. On the right 20th Indian Division were just across the Mu River. It almost seemed that enemy opposition north of the Irrawaddy had melted away. But such hopes, if they existed, were to be rudely dispelled when on the night 7/8 February 1945 the two platoons of “B” Company in Dawete were heavily attacked. The telephone line to Battalion H.Q. had been cut, and it was with difficulty that the Commanding Officer with “A” and “C” Companies could move to their assistance. With first light an attack was put in on Dawete, “A” Company taking up a position west of the village and “C” Company moving round the east flank, hoping to pinch the enemy out. The latter ran into heavy machine-gun fire so that “A” Company took the initiative and attempted to rush in, firing their weapons on the move. By 1120 hours “A” Company, after two attacks, were held, and had suffered heavy casualties: not only that, but the Commanding Officer (Lieut.-Colonel Arthur Charles Street) and three other officers (one of which was Captain R. Young the Intelligence Officer), had lost their lives. Late in the morning the village was set on fire by the Japs. Accordingly “B” and “A” Companies withdrew to a position between Dawete and Tadaing, which covered the approaches to the river from the north. Lieut.-Colonel T. Irvine of the Cameronians arrived to assume command, and the Battalion was relieved by the Dorsets and withdrew to an area north of Legyi.

For the next fortnight the Battalion was busy reorganizing and preparing to take its place again in the first flight in the crossing of the Irrawaddy. The 1st Royal Welch Fusiliers had come over from 6th Brigade to augment the strength, and the Brigadier had decided to cross with three Battalions up, 7th Worcestershire being on the right.

C.S.M. Albert Edward Chapman
(photo courtesy of his daughter Irene Merrick)

C.S.M. Albert Edward Chapman grave in the Taukkyan War Cemetery, Burma
(photo courtesy of his daughter Irene Merrick)
Grave Reference: 25. A. 3.

Accordingly, after practising the plan intensively, on 24th February 1945 once more a march was made back to Dawete, and at 2030 hours the first flight, “A” and “B” Companies, carried their craft forward through the heavy sand. But their luck was out. Any hopes that the crossing would be accomplished without detection were to be disappointed. After paddling for a few minutes silently in the moonlight, a sudden burst of machine-gun fire from the opposite bank splashed around the leading boats. It had been previously decided in the event of opposition to lash boats together in groups of three, the middle boat which had a motor then taking on the motive power for the other two. But when the order was given only one motor sprang to life. Boats became waterlogged and began to sink; and swimming in the Irrawaddy in full equipment in the night proved unpleasantly cold and confusing. There was nothing for it but to call off the crossing and return to Tadaing.