John was born in St Wenn 1877, the second son of James Chapman and Margaret (nee Rowe).

John had eight brothers and two sisters, James born 1875; Reuben, born 1881; Rose, born 1883; Stephen, born 1885; Walter, born 1887; Sidney, born 1889; twins Charles and William, born 1892; Matty, born 1893; Thomas, born 1894.

The census of 1881, John is with his mother,  father,  brothers James and Reuben in Rosenannon.

Similarly, the census of 1891 shows the family, growing larger in Rosenannon. Father James is described as a rabbit trapper and both James and John are described as trappers.

The census of 1901 and 1911 shows the family still living in Rosenannon but there is no mention of John.

The book by John James  ‘St Wenn And Its People’ states that over the years the nine Chapman brothers went to work overseas like so many Cornishmen, particularly working in the mines.

The St Wenn Chronicle states that Cornish Wrestling enjoyed a revival in 1904 having fallen into disrepute in

consequence of bad behaviour by both competitors and spectators. At the forefront of this rise in popularity were the Chapman Brothers, particularly Reuben, Sidney, Stephen and Walter who all were successful in this sport winning many competitions.

The travelling Chapmans also took this sport to the USA and South Africa where they again became champions.

Four of the Chapmans returned home to Britain being James, our John, Reuben and Sidney.

John married Janie Crews on the 24 February 1915. They had two children Rona, born 25 August 1915 and Jack, born 3 September 1916.

John and Janie Chapman

John enlisted in Bodmin on the 6 September 1916 and, probably due to his age of nearly forty, he was drafted into the Labour Corps, regimental number 9258. His service records,although difficult to discern, give his occupation as a rockdrill miner.

The Labour Corps was formed in January 1917 and was made up of men that had been in the front line and who had been either wounded or taken ill and could not return to the front. Also men who on enlistment were found to be too old or did not pass fit enough to be sent to the front. This would have been our John. Their duties were quite varied and basically they did what had to be done! By the Armistice, the Corps had grown to some 390,000 men, around 175,000 served on the home front and the rest in the theatres of war.

The outbreak of war saw agricultural labourers joining up and horses being purchased by the Army. By the end of 1914 it was estimated that 1 in 8 skilled farm workers had joined up along with a larger proportion of valuable casual farm labourers. Fortunately good harvests in 1914 and 1915 helped to allay food shortages. However, the situation deteriorated in 1916. The Army had grown in size, German submarines were starting to take a toll of shipping crossing the Atlantic and the North American wheat and British potato harvests were poor. The Ministry of Food was created in December 1916 to take control of land use and crops through regional War Agricultural Committees. Farmers could not object to instructions to use their land for whatever purpose the Regional Committees chose. Land was put to the plough whether field, pasture, lawn, cricket pitch or golf course! Labour was always in short supply despite pressure on farmers to produce more. By harvest 1917 the farming industry was in dire straits and the Government acted to improve the situation by fixing prices, wages and rents. To help the labour shortage lower grade soldiers were transferred to the Labour Corps and Agricultural Companies were formed to manage those soldiers working on farms. The target was to have 11,500 soldiers in 46 Agricultural Companies across the country and this was enhanced by the formation of the Women’s Land Army. By and large, these measures and reorganisation proved reasonably successful.

Recruitment poster Women’s Land Army

So it was in June 1917, John was transferred to the 425th Agricultural Company of the Labour Corps. He was given a new regimental number 241245. The 425th AC was based in Surrey and not John’s native Cornwall. John was discharged from the Army on the 13 February 1919.

John and Janie had three further children, all girls, Margaret, born 1920, Rachel, born 1922 and Rose, born 1928.

John died in 1929 and was buried in St Wenn Churchyard on 7 January 1930. His mother, father and brother Reuben are also buried in St Wenn Churchyard. They died in 1918, 1929 and 1930 respectively. His four brothers who made their homes in the USA died there, Stephen in 1948, Walter in 1966 , Charles in 1936 and Thomas in 1956. I think it was William who might have gone to South Africa. Brothers James died in 1959 and Sidney in 1972. His sister Rose died in 1962 and Matty in 1979. His wife Janie died in 1960.

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