CHADWICK James 1898 – 1919

JAMES CHADWICK 1898 – 1919

125542 Corporal James Chadwick, 18th Battalion, The Machine Gun Corps (Infantry) died of wounds in Edinburgh War Hospital 20 May 1919, aged 22.  He is buried in Bishop Auckland (Escomb) Cemetery[1] and commemorated on Witton Park War memorials.

Family Details

James Chadwick was born in 1898,[2] at Witton Park, the son of John Thomas and Annie.  In 1901, the family lived at Thompson Street, Witton Park.  There were 7 children:[3]

  • Samuel aged 16 born at Darlington
  • Robert aged 13 born at Darlington
  • John aged 10 born at Darlington
  • Annie aged 8 born at Scotland
  • Thomas aged 6 born at Bishop Auckland
  • Alice aged born at Bishop Auckland
  • James aged 2 born at Witton Park

James’ father 36 years old John Thomas worked as a pedlar (hawker) and 16 years old Samuel was a coal miner (putter).  In 1907, John Thomas Chadwick died, aged 41.[4]  The 1911 census records the younger siblings, namely John, Thomas, Alice and 12 years old James living at 26 King Street, Witton Park.  John and Thomas worked as coal miners (putters).[5]

James Chadwick in the centre with his brothers,

Left to right: John, Thomas, James, Robert and Sam

Military Details [6]

30 December 1914: James Chadwick enlisted, probably aged 17,[7] into the Durham Light Infantry and was allocated service number 125542.[8]

  • 18 to 25 February 1916:  He was at hospital being treated for scabies.
  • 24 February 1916: He was posted to 3/6 DLI (3rd line 6th Battalion, DLI).
  • 13 July 1916: Appointed Lance Corporal
  • 8 August 1916: Promoted to Corporal
  • 1 November 1917: Transferred to Machine Gun Corps (MGC), appointed acting Corporal
  • 23 February to 26 February 1918: He was at Belton Park Military Hospital; Grantham being treated for scabies.
  • 29 March 1918: Entered France.  Promoted to Corporal, 18th Battalion, MCG.
Machine Gun Corps Cap Badge

The German Offensive, Spring 1918: an overview [9]

3 March, Soviet Russia made peace with Germany and her allies by virtue of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk.  As a result, Germany could now transfer troops from the Eastern Front to the Western Front.  More importantly, these Divisions included the original elite of the German Army – the Guards, Jaegers, Prussians, Swabians and the best of the Bavarians. In all, 192 Divisions could be deployed in the West.  The Allies could field 178 Divisions.  A single division numbered about 19,000 men.  Ludendorff could call upon about 3,650,000 men as opposed to the Allies 3,380,000.  Thus, the Germans now held superiority in numbers.   The German High Command needed victory to be gained before the American Forces arrived in Europe in huge numbers.  America entered the war 6 April 1917 and in the July, Pershing, The General of the Armies of the United States, asked for an army of 3 million men.  The first of her troops arrived in France 26 June 1917.  The training and build-up of troops obviously took time but eventually by June 1918, the Americans were receiving about 250,000 men a month in France.  This amounted to 25 divisions in or behind the battle zone and another 55 in the United States ready to join the action.  Elsewhere in the Alliance, the French were able to draw on a new annual class of conscripts after a year of inactivity but the British were worn down by continuous fighting during the summer of 1917 with major offensives at Arras, Messines, Passchendaele and Cambrai.  The strength of the British infantry had fallen from 754,000 in July 1917 to 543,000 in June 1918 producing a manpower crisis.

21 March 1918:  the German Offensive was launched.  There were 5 phases:

  • 21 March – 5 April: Operation Michael, against the British, the Battle of Picardy (otherwise known as the First Battle of the Somme 1918)
  • 9 – 11 April: Operation Georgette, against the British, the Battle of Lys sector near Armentieres
  • 27 April: Operation Blucher-Yorck, against the French sector along Chemin des Dames, the Third Battle of Aisne
  • 9 June: Operation Gneisenau, against the French sector between Noyan and Montdider, the Battle of the Matz
  • 15 – 17 July: Operation Marne-Rheims, the final phase known as the Second Battle of the Marne.

The Germans enjoyed spectacular territorial gains particularly during the initial phases of the offensive.  23 March, the Kaiser declared a “victory holiday” for German schoolchildren. 

The cost in manpower was enormous:

  • Between 21 March and 10 April, the 3 main assaulting armies had lost 303,450 men, a 1/5th of their original strength.
  • The April offensive against the British in Flanders was eventually computed to have cost 120,000 men out of a total of 800,000.

The German High Command calculated that it required 200,000 replacements each month but only 300,000 recruits stood available taking into account the next annual class of 18-year olds.  There were 70,000 convalescents available from hospitals each month but even counting them, the strength of the German Army had fallen from 5.1 million to 4.2 million men in the 6 months of the offensive.  It could not be increased on the estimated scale required.  To add to this dilemma, in June 1918, the first outbreak of “Spanish Flu” laid low nearly 500,000 German soldiers.  This epidemic was to reoccur in the autumn and wreak havoc throughout Europe and the wider world. The poor diet of the German troops, battle fatigue, discontentment with the military leadership, social unrest at home and a general realisation that their great effort was beginning to wane were problems the German hierarchy had to contend with.  The Allies counter attack in mid-July began to seize the initiative.  Sweeping victories over demoralised German forces eventually led to the resignation of Ludendorff 27 October, the abdication of the Kaiser, 9 November and the signing of the Armistice 11 November 1918.

29 March: Corporal J. Chadwick entered France and was posted to the 18th Battalion, Machine Gun Corps.  The 18 Bn., MGC was formed 16 February 1918 and attached to 18th (Eastern) Division.  It originally consisted of 53rd, 54th and 55th MG Companies until it was joined 9 April 1918 by 278th MG Company which became D Company.  It was also supplemented by 265th MG Company which joined the Division on 17 April 1918.  The 18th (Eastern) Division took part in the following engagements up until May 1918 when Corporal J. Chadwick was wounded.[10]

  • 21 to 23 March: Battle of St. Quentin
  • 4 April: Battle of the Avre
  • 24 and 25 April: Actions at Villers Bretonneux.   

Following this, the Division was not involved in any “official” battles until the Battle of Amiens in August.  The Divisional History states:[11]

“During May, June and July, the Division held the line opposite Albert.  There was much patrol work and a few minor raids and the 54th Brigade in particular made a serious effort to oust the Germans from the defences at the north west corner of Albert, known as the “hairpin” system.  Generally speaking, British and Boche were testing each other’s strength, preparing for the great battles that were to set the world ablaze later in the year.”

The War Diary for 18 Bn., MGC[12] reports that at the beginning of the month of May, the battalion was resting at ALLERY.  On the 5th, they were transported by bus to the following positions:

  • HQ was at EBART FARM, 1km NE of BEAUCOURT
  • A & D Company were at BEAUCOURT
  • B Company at WARLOY
  • C Company was in the line E of LAVIEVILLE

7: 18th Division took over the sector of the front with C Company on the right, B Company on the left and D Company in support.  Battalion HQ moved to BAIZIEUX.  The companies were carrying out harassing fire during the nights.

18: 54th and 55th Infantry Brigades carried out raids with the Australian Corps on the right.  Evening B Company relieved A Company in the right Brigade sector which was complete by 12.15am, 19th.  A Company returned to EBART FARM.

19: 2am, “raids as above otherwise operations nil, harassing fire during the night.”   42500 rounds were fired.

20: BAIZIEUX, “No change – operations nil – harassing fire during night”.

Appendix 42 records the casualties incurred by the battalion during the month of May 1918 and shows that between the 16th and 31st May, a total of 13 casualties were suffered, 2 killed and 11 wounded including 4 men wounded on the 19th.[13]  On this day, Corporal J. Chadwick suffered a shell wound to his back.[14]  He was treated at No.41 Casualty Clearing Station and the following day, 20 May, he was transferred to No.6 General Hospital.  He was then sent to the UK for further treatment. 

From 26 May, he was at the Edinburgh War Hospital.   It was recorded that:

“Patient is a paraplegic from the 6th dorsal vertebrae.”  [15]

11 June 1918: He underwent surgery, following which it was stated that he was:

irreparably damaged” and furthermore it was declared that he was:

“permanently unfit for further military service of any kind”.  [16]

3 April 1919: Corporal J. Chadwick was discharged from the Army.[17] At this time, the family address was recorded as Lark Hill, Woodside, Witton Park.[18]  His army service was as follows: [19]

  • Home: 30 December 1914 to 28 March 1918: 3 years 89 days
  • France: 29 March 1918 to 25 May 1918: 58 days
  • Home: 26 May 1918 to 3 April 1919: 314 days
  • Total: 4 years 96 days

20 May 1919: James Chadwick died at the War Hospital, Edinburgh.[20]


Corporal J. Chadwick was awarded the War Badge (number B.269467), the Victory and British War medals.[21]

The War Badge


125542 Corporal J Chadwick, Machine Gun Corps (Infantry) is buried at grave reference UD 21, Bishop Auckland (Escomb) Cemetery.[22]  The text of a newspaper report is provided below: [23]

A MILITARY FUNERAL: Large crowds pay tribute to late Corporal Chadwick

Many hundreds of people from the village and district attended the funeral of Corpl. James Chadwick, late of Witton Park, which took place with military honours at Escomb yesterday.

The streets along which the sad procession passed were lined with crowds of sympathisers and there were many moist eyes as the Bishop Auckland Salvation Army Band played, “Abide with me” before the coffin draped with black and covered with the Union Jack was brought from the house.

The Bishop Auckland branch of the N.F.D.D.S.S.[24] was well represented and their banner was carried in the procession.  In addition, there were several soldiers in uniform and many demobilised who had come to demonstrate their sympathy with the relatives of a departed comrade.

The services in the Salvation Army Hall and at the graveside were conducted by Capt. White, who has charge of the Witton Park district.  To the pathetic soul-stirring strains of the “Dead March in Saul” the cortege moved slowly towards the cemetery.  A firing party consisting of DLI men from the Depot at Newcastle was in attendance and after the, “Last Post” had been sounded, fired three volleys over the grave.

The principal mourners were Mrs. A. Chadwick (mother), Messrs. S. Chadwick, R.W. Chadwick, J. Chadwick, T. Chadwick (brothers, all of whom are ex-soldiers) and Mrs. A. Cooper (sister).

Amongst the many beautiful wreaths were a cross of flowers from the sisters and nurses of Bangour Hospital, Edinburgh and a globe sent by fellow patients of the deceased soldier.

A pathetic incident occurred when the military firing party arrived at the house prior to the commencement of the funeral service.  One of the constituents of the party was a corporal who seeing the photograph of a soldier on the wall in the room where the coffin was, remarked interestedly that that was the likeness of an old pal in the Army whom he had lost sight of for some time.  Great was his amazement on learning that the picture was a portrait of the dead soldier.

It appears the corporal and Corporal Chadwick had been firm friends, having joined up almost at the same time and having completed their training together.  They were in action about the same time and were both wounded the same night.  They were taken to different hospitals and had been unable to learn anything of each other since.”

Corporal J. Chadwick’s headstone


No details have been traced for Corporal J. Chadwick.


In 1914, aged 17, James Chadwick enlisted but he did not see service overseas until March 1918 when the German spring offensive was taking a massive toll on British forces.  19 May 1918, while serving with the 18th Battalion, the Machine Gun Corps in the vicinity of Albert, France, Corporal James Chadwick suffered a shell wound to the back.  He was treated at the Edinburgh War Hospital but despite surgery, 11 June, he was paralysed from the 6th dorsal vertebrae down. Corporal J. Chadwick was discharged from the Army and died 20 May 1919, aged 20.  He is buried at Bishop Auckland (Escomb) cemetery.


Howard Chadwick, great nephew and Dale Daniel


[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] England & Wales Birth Index 1837-1915 Vol.10a p.216 Auckland 1898 Q3

[3] 1901 census

[4] England & Wales Death Index 1837-1915 Vol.10a p.128 Auckland 1907 Q2

[5] 1911 census

[6] Army Form B.103 Casualty Form – Active Service

[7] Medical History Form: His declared age was 17 years 60 days

[8] Medal Roll card index & Roll of individuals entitled to the War Badge, 19 August 1919

[9] Various sources including,, “The First World War” Keegan J. 1999, “First World War” Gilbert M. 1994


[11] “The 18th Division in the Great War” G.H.F. Nichols

[12] 18th Battalion, Machine Gun Corps War Diary May 1918 National Archive reference WO-95-2028-2

[13] 18th Bn. MGC War Diary May 1918 Appendix 42 National Archive reference WO-95-2028-2

[14] Other sources record GSW (gunshot wound)

[15] Army Form B.178A dated 18 March 1919, Edinburgh War Hospital

[16] Army Form B.178A

[17] Medal Roll card index & Roll of individuals entitled to the War Badge, 19 August 1919

[18] Army Form W.3907 Cover for Discharge Documents dated 3 April 1919

[19] Note: These total don’t tally with the form, total 4 years 95 days

[20] Commemorative card

[21] Medal Roll card index & Roll of individuals entitled to the War Badge, 19 August 1919 & Roll of individuals entitled to the Victory and British War medals, 11 August 1920

[22] CWGC

[23] Publication and date unknown

[24] National Federation of Discharged and Demobilised Sailors and Soldiers which merged with other charities to become the British Legion.