Chant, George Frederick. Died 23rd Mar 1918

George Frederick CHANT was born on 28 January 1880, in Enfield, Middlesex, the son of Anthony Chant, a coachman from Yeovil, Somerset, and Ellen, née Vale, Chant who was born in Westminster.  George was baptised on 20 June 1880 at the Enfield Jesus Chapel, Enfield, when the family was living in Turkey Street.

In 1891 the family were living in ‘the cottage’ in Enfield, apparently not far from the ‘Spotted Cow’ beer house.  The family seems to have remained in Middlesex, but George was elsewhere and has not been found in the 1901 or the 1911 censuses.  It seems from a later report,[1] that he had served in the Army in the South African War, and may have still been a serving soldier overseas in 1911.

However, after his military service, he was one of the many workers who came to work in Rugby at the expanding British Thompson Houston (BTH) works in the years before the war.  Thomas moved to Rugby and went to work in the BTH Stores.  He married with Alice E. Welch, the marriage being registered in Rugby in Q2, 1915.  They later lived at 43 Union Street, Rugby.

Whilst his later obituary stated that he ‘… went out at once on August 15, 1914’, there is no qualification date on his Medal Card for when he went abroad, and he did not earn the 1914 or the 1914-1915 Star.  So this may be the date that he reported back, as a reservist, to the army in Rugby.  He was, latterly at least, Driver, No.88840 in the Royal Field Artillery.  There is no surviving Service Record, so the details of his service are unknown – and being in the Artillery it is less easy to plot his progress.  With no qualification date on his Medal Card, he probably remained in UK, and did not go abroad until 1916 or even later, although he had re-joined the colours in 1914.  It seems that George had a job with the Brigade looking after the Brigadier’s horses.  In March 1918, he was serving with the Royal Field Artillery, at the Headquarters, 4 Corps.

However, on 21 March 1918, the Germans launched a major offensive, ‘Operation Michael’,[2] against the British Fifth Army and the right wing of the British Third Army.  The German artillery targeted command and communications; then, the destruction of artillery; and then the front-line infantry.  The artillery bombardment began at 4.40am on 21 March 1918, and hit targets over an area of 150 square miles, the biggest barrage of the entire war.  Over 1,100,000 shells were fired in five hours.

Whilst the first bombardment of artillery positions was on 21 March, artillery attacks continued and George Frederick CHANT was ‘killed in action’ ‘by a shell which fell among a group of officers, men, and horses standing near the Brigade Headquarters’, on the third day of the battle, 23 March 1918, when he was aged 36.[3]  Because of the intensity of the battle, with the Germans moving forward in strength, and in the confusion of the retreat and rearguard action, the bodies of many of those killed were never found or indeed, were not identifiable.

George Frederick CHANT is remembered on Bay 4 of the Arras Memorial which is located at the entrance to the Faubourg d’Amiens Cemetery in France.  The memorial commemorates almost 35,000 servicemen from the United Kingdom, South Africa and New Zealand who died in the Arras sector between the spring of 1916 and 7 August 1918, the eve of the ‘100 days Advance to Victory’, and have no known grave.  [One of the] … most conspicuous events of this period … was the German attack in the spring of 1918.

The Rugby Advertiser reported his death in April 1918.
A South African Veteran Killed.   Mrs Chant, 43 Union Street, Rugby, has received news that her husband, Driver George Chant, R.F.A. has been killed by a shell which fell among a group of officers, men, and horses standing near the Brigade Headquarters.  In a kind letter conveying information, the Brigadier-General writes: – “I feel deeply for you and your young family in your great loss.  It is a great loss to me also, Chant had been with me since the early days of the War, and I had the greatest confidence in him.  He looked after the horses splendidly, and when I was busy with other things I felt I never need worry about them, and that Chant would do everything that was required.”  Driver Chant, who was 38 years of age, was employed at the B.T.H. when war broke out.  He was the first to volunteer from those Works, and went out at once on August 15, 1914, so that he had been all through the fighting.  He had previously served in the South African War, and gained two medals.[4]

His death was also reported in the Coventry Evening Telegraph,[5]

THE ROLL OF HONOUR.  Coventry and District Casualties. 
The following Coventry and district casualties are notified in the latest lists:
Killed.  … Chant, 88840, Dvr. T. (Rugby), R.F.A.

George Frederick CHANT is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gates, and his name appears also appears as ‘CHANT G F’ on the list of ‘BTH Employees Who Served in the War 1914 – 1918’; and as ‘CHANT George F’ on the list of names on the BTH War Memorial when it was unveiled in 1921.[6]

His Medal Card showed that he was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

The Army Register of Soldiers’ Effects, 1901-1929 showed that his back pay of £1-16-2d was paid to his widow ‘Alice E’ on 25 June 1918, and then his War Gratuity of £17, in two payments: £5-13-4d on 27 November 1919 and £11-6-8d on 25 February 1920.

 

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

 

 

This article on George Frederick CHANT was researched and written for a Rugby Family History Group [RFHG] project, by John P H Frearson and is © John P H Frearson and the RFHG, January 2018.

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[1]      Rugby Advertiser, Saturday, 13 April 1918.

[2]      See: https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2018/03/20/the-1918-spring-offensive-operation-michael/.

[3]      His age given by CWGC was 36, in fact, he was 38 as given in the Rugby Advertiser, and from his date of birth.

[4]      Rugby Advertiser, Saturday, 13 April 1918.

[5]      Coventry Evening Telegraph, Thursday, 16 May 1918.  The death in action of Lce.-Bdr. F. Ward, No.11115, (Rugby), who was also in the R.F.A., was notified in the same edition – he is not on the Rugby Memorial Gate.

[6]      Taken from the list published in the Rugby Advertiser, 4 November 1921.