- Queens South Africa medal with clasp Cape Colony to 156 Tpr. A. Chapman, Orpen’s Horse
Alick Campbell was born in the small hamlet of Hopetown in the Cape Colony on 7 July 1880 the son of William Henry Chapman and his wife Susan Maria, born Parkins. The Chapman’s were farmers by way of occupation and Chapman was to spend his entire life in the district of his birth. Hopetown is on the main route between Cape Town and the Witwatersrand and is situated between Beaufort West and Kimberley.
As was customary, families of farmers in late Victorian times, were necessarily large. The Chapman clan was no exception and Alick would not have wanted for playmates with siblings Kenneth Matthew Chapman, Florence Cornelia Chapman, Colin Thomas Chapman, Donald Kennedy Chapman, Reubina Grant Chapman, Norman Peter Chapman and Wilhelmina Henrietta Chapman.
Life for a young man in this backwater would have been tedious and it was probably no surprise that, on 26 January 1900, Chapman and his brother Colin, enlisted for service with Orpen’s Horse at Upington. The Boer War had been raging for over four months at this point in time and nearby towns such as Kimberley and Mafeking had been besieged. News of these events, and their relatively close proximity, would have reached the Chapman family and, with Sir Alfred Milner declaring Martial Law in the districts of Hopetown and Philipstown in mid-January 1900, this could well have been the catalyst leading to the Chapman brothers’ decision to enlist. The newspapers of the time reported that this step had been “long expected, the neighborhood having notoriously rebel tendencies”.
That Hopetown was considered a hot-bed of rebel activity was no exaggeration – the majority of the farmers in this region of the Cape were of Dutch descent with many teetering on the brink of deciding to throw their lot in with the Boers. Alick Chapman was assigned the rank of Trooper with no. 156. His attestation form, completed at Upington on 26 January 1900 recorded that he was a Clerk by occupation and 19 years old. He swore to faithfully serve Queen Victoria in “Orpen’s Light Horse for three months”.
Orpen’s Horse was a corps, 300 strong, raised by Major Orpen early in 1900 in the Hopetown neighbourhood for service on the Lower Orange River and in the extreme west of Cape Colony. They were of great use, when the enemy was making serious efforts to stir up rebellion in that outlying district, as a protection to the loyal inhabitants; while as assisting to restrain the waverers from joining the rebels, the presence of the corps was invaluable.
When Lord Roberts was launching his movement to relieve Kimberley he had to take measures against the rebels. In the despatch of 15th March 1900, he said that in the "Prieska-Britstown and Carnarvon districts of Cape Colony, west of the railway, between De Aar and Orange River, I regret to report that signs of organised disaffection have been apparent during the past fortnight".
Two columns were got ready, one including three companies of mounted infantry and 400 of the City Imperial Volunteers; another under Major General Settle, which assembled at Hopetown, embraced about 80 of Orpen's Horse, one company of mounted infantry, a field battery, and half a battalion of infantry. Lord Kitchener was sent down from Paardeberg to direct the operations.
After a little fighting these were successful, and the district, for a time, was fairly quiet and clear of the enemy, but disaffection soon broke out again. The enemy's bands scattered in one neighbourhood to reappear in another. A portion of Orpen's Horse were engaged about 11th March 1900 and inflicted some loss on the enemy. The corps had one casualty.
Orpen's Horse remained at Upington as garrison of that place, and as the balance of the regiment came up from Hopetown they, along with the Cheshire Yeomanry and the Royal Australian Battery, held Kenhardt, Draghoender, and Dopas Poort. In his telegram of 17th April 1900 Lord Roberts said: "Settle reports from Kenhardt on 14th that 200 Transvaalers made determined attack on Dopas Poort, held by a party of Orpen's Horse; our loss 2 killed and 9 wounded. Enemy's must have been heavy, as they applied for doctors and ambulance".
Two other deaths from wounds on this occasion were afterwards reported. This was the regiment's first serious fight.
In order to get a more descriptive picture of the actions Orpen’s Horse were involved in, we turn to the popular press – the Shields Gazette of 13 March 1900 reported from: “Hopetown on Monday, that Orpen’s Horse has had an engagement six miles to the west of Karee Kloop at Schefferspan. The enemy lost six killed and wounded. Orpen’s Horse had one man slightly wounded”.
The Gloucester Citizen of 4 April 1900 reported, under the headline “The Colonial Dutch Rebellion” that: “General Settle is now in command of the various forces operating between De Aar and Upington. It was expected that Upington would be occupied on the 2nd instant.
Draghoender is being held by some cavalry, and a detachment of Orpen’s Horse is stationed at Dach Bois, a point on the Orange River. The farmers who belong to the most primitive Dutch class, say they have no special grievances, and are now very bitter against the Free State for deceiving them”.
The London Daily News of 18 April 1900 reported that, “A party of Orpen’s Horse has been attacked at Dopas Poort in the Kenhardt district by a body of 200 Transvaalers. Twi of our men were killed and one wounded”. The Eastern Evening News, a day later, carried a far more detailed account of the above action: -
“A sharp engagement occurred yesterday at a point over the Orange River near Draghoender, which was held on the north side by Captain Green and 40 of Orpen’s Horse. The fighting lasted from eleven to six. There were 200 Transvaalers but our men, several of whom were dead shots, beat them off with a loss on our side of one killed and two wounded, one mortally. The enemy were collecting their dead and wounded all night”.
Having seen plenty of action in the short time he was with the unit, Chapman (and his brother) took his discharge at Upington on 3 May 1900 – after 3 months and 8 days. His character was described as Very Good.
Chapman’s war was over – he received the Queens Medal with Cape Colony clasp for his efforts – this was awarded on 13 February 1903.
Returning to civilian pursuits, he met and married Jane Johanna Maria Marsh at Paarl in the Cape. She was to bear him one child – Gwen Marsh Chapman.
Alick Chapman passed away at his dwelling house, 3 Spring Street, in Hopetown on Sunday, 17 June 1956 at the age of 75 years and 11 months. A wealthy man – he bequeathed over £10 000 to his wife and daughter.