Major (later Colonel) Bryan Henry CHETWYND-STAPYLTON Senior Major, Awards: M.i.D., C.B.E.
Captured: 24 August 1914 Repatriated: 16 November 1918 (?)
Personal: Bryan was born on 10th June 1873 at Monkstown, Dublin, Ireland. He was the son of General Granville George and Barbara Emily Maria (née Leeson) Chetwynd-Stapylton (below, left), married at Blessington, Co. Wicklow, on 8th December 1864 [see Footnote below].
He had an older sister, Barbara Margaret, an older brother, Granville Joseph (Joe) [see Footnote below] and a younger brother, Richard Cecil, who died, aged 2, in 1878.
In 1881 (Census RG 12/103) the family was living at 95 Belgrave Road, London, with 2 Nursemaids, a Cook, Footman and a Servant. By 1891 (Census RG 12/71) Bryan’s father was Retired and the family had moved to 7 West Eaton Road, Belgrave.
Bryan attended Charterhouse School where he lost the sight of one eye but managed to hide the fact from the Army during his long distinguished career. Between 1890-91 he attended Sandhurst Military College.
In 1905 at St Peter’s Church, Eaton Square, London, Bryan married Dorothy Constance Ponsonby, of Kilcooley Abbey in Tipperary. The 1911 Census (RG 14/435) shows them living at 15 Chapel Street, Belgrave Square, London SW, with their 6 month old daughter, Mary Blanche (born 15th September 1910). A son Edward Henry was born on 29th April 1912.
Whilst he was a prisoner of war Bryan’s father, Granville, died on 27 April 1915, at 7 West Eaton Place, Kensington, London, aged 92. His estate of £7,836 19s 10d was left to his widow, Lady Barbara (£7836.99 is equivalent in value to about £1,100,000 today – 2023). Lady Barbara died at the same address, aged , on 8th February 1919. Her estate of £13,339 1s 5d was left to her daughter, Barbara. (£13339.07 is equivalent to about £880,000 today).
The 1939 Register shows Bryan and Dorothy retired to Home Farm, Little Barrington, Gloucestershire. Dorothy died in The Imperial Nursing Home, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, on 23rd August 1942, aged 67. Her estate was valued at £10,661 18s 2d (i.e. £10661.91 – about £650,000 today) was left to her husband.
Dorothy was buried in Sherborne Churchyard, Sherborne, Gloucestershire.
Bryan died on 29th May 1958 at Middleton Hall, Middleton St. George, Darlington, Co. Durham, aged 84, and was buried with his wife. Probate Records show his estate was valued at £12,637 7s 3d [£12637.36 or about £380,000 today].
Military Service: Bryan was Commissioned 2nd/Lieutenant in the Cheshire Regiment on 9th January 1892 and promoted to Lieutenant on 15th May 1896. Further promotion, to Captain, came on 15th December 1900. He was appointed Adjutant to the 3rd Battalion on 8th November 1903 for three years, until 7th November 1906.
During the Boer War between 1899 and 1902, Bryan fought in the Mounted Infantry where he was Mentioned in Despatches (Lord Robert’s Despatch of 4th September 1901).
After 2 years as Staff Captain at the War Office, 19th March 1910 to 31st March 1912, followed immediately by an appointment as D-A-A-G (Deputy Assistant Adjutant General), also at the War Office (1st April 1912 to 18th March 1914), on 10th May 1913 Bryan was promoted to Brevet-Major, and full Major on 2nd August 1913.
The 1st Battalion, Cheshire Regiment, was in Londonderry at the outbreak of the Great War, facing in fact the prospect of civil war in Ireland. 15 Brigade was entirely occupied with this problem when, on the 4th August to everyone’s surprise, orders were received to mobilise for war in Europe.
Strangely, perhaps, Bryan was not in the photograph (above) of the group of Officers taken in Londonderry in 1914.
In ‘The Cheshire Regiment in the Great War‘ Col. A. Crookenden, DSO, wrote of these times: ‘never was the King’s health more fervently drunk than in the Officer’s Mess that night. Many of those present honoured the toast for the last time; none would have believed it had they been told that within three weeks the Battalion would be decimated. Lieut-Colonel B.C. Boger was in command and Major B.H. Chetwynd-Stapleton was the senior major. Capt. V.R. Tahourdin was adjutant, and the four companies were commanded by Capt. A.J.L. Dyer, Capt. J.L. Shore, Capt. W.L.E.R. Dugmore and Capt. E. Rae-Jones‘.
At 4.00 a.m. on the morning of 14th August 1914 the Battalion, led by a band, marched out of their barracks in Derry and boarded two trains at Great Northern Street Station. The first train left at 5.10 a.m. and the second about half an hour later.
They arrived in Belfast about 10.00 a.m. and marched to the docks and boarded the troopship S.S. Massilia (pictured right).
According to the War Diary the SS Massilia docked in Le Havre on 16th August and the 1st Battalion disembarked at 4.00 p.m. and marched to their rest camp.
On the morning of 23rd August 1914, the British Expeditionary Force met and engaged the enemy at Mons and the following day was undertaking a fighting retreat against a force of four German regiments.
The 15th Brigade, consisting of 1st Norfolk, 1st Bedford, 1st Cheshire, and 1st Dorset, were ordered to prepare a position in rear and in reserve around Dour. But on the morning of the 24th the order came to send them into action to hold up the enemy advance whilst the remainder of 5th Division withdrew. Both Battalions, 1/Norfolk and 1/Cheshire, marched from Dour to Audregnies and at about 11.00 a.m.Colonel Ballard began to place his (1st Norfolk) Battalion along a line from 800 yds. (500 m) North of Élouges along a track parallel to the main road between Élouges and Audregnies.
Colonel D.C. Boger deployed his Cheshire companies to extend the Norfolk lines westwards for about a mile to the outskirts of Audregnies. He set up his HQ in the farmhouse (below) on the Audregnies – Wiheries road.
… how the Battle developed over the course of the day.
By about 3.45 p.m. Colonel Boger was beginning to see that things were becoming more difficult for his Battalion and activity in front and to his left did not coincide with his understanding of the orders.
He sent four orderlies off at regular intervals to find out but not one of them returned.
The Colonel then set off along the road to Élouges to see what was happening. He left Battalion HQ in charge of Major Chetwynd Stapleton.
The third phase of the battle may be said to have begun when Major Chetwynd Stapleton, now the senior regimental officer, realised the perilous position of ‘B’ Company, bearing in mind the importance of Audregnies for the security of the left flank.
He decided first to try to find Lt. Col. Boger and so at about 5 p.m. he set off up the road towards the right flank. Before doing so he left orders with Lt. C.A. Campbell to find out what had happened to Capt. J.L. Shore.
The major’s first encounter was with Sgt. Raynor who was just beginning the second withdrawal of his 9 platoon. Both learned much from each other, the consequence of which was that Sgt. Raynor was ordered to continue his retirement and Maj. Chetwynd Stapleton returned to HQ.
Here he discussed the situation with Capt. A.J.L. Dyer of ‘A’ Company. Chetwynd-Stapleton was under the impression that Shore’s two platoons were still holding Audregnies. In his sortie to find out what had happened to Shore, Campbell was killed. Chetwynd Stapleton did not learn of this tragedy until about 5.30 p.m.
The Battalion was now surrounded. Men and ammunition were both in short supply. By 6.30 p.m. every line of retreat had been closed. Major Chetwynd Stapleton gave the order to cease fire.
Of the 25 officers and 952 other ranks of the 1st who had been present that morning only 7 officers and 200 other ranks remained and these figures include those on duty elsewhere than Audregnies.
After he gave the order to cease fighting Bryan Chetwynd Stapleton was captured and was not wounded in the Action.
.…. a .pdf file giving Lt. Matterson’s full account of the Battle, supplied by his daughter. [Source: “Prison in Paradise” unpublished memoir of Major Eric Archer Jackson, 2 i/c ‘C’ Company]
Prisoner of War Records show that from 1st September 1914 to 24th November 1914 Bryan was a POW at Torgau (Source: ‘In the hands of the enemy‘ – B. G. O’Rorke) where he won himself the title of ‘The Optimist’.
The picture, left, is of a letter from Torgau to his sister, Barbara, dated 15 October 1914
The O’Rorke source places him as a POW at Burg bei Madgeburg from 24th November 1914. ICRC (International Committee of The Red Cross) records show moving to Magdeburg on 6th January 1915.
The Oak Tree Mag (no date c 1917) has Bryan in the same POW camp as Lt Colonel Boger. This could have been either Osnabruch (29th December 1915) or Wahmbeck bei Bodenfelde (5th April 916) as Boger was there from those dates. The majority of Cheshire Officer prisoners were exchanged and arrived in Holland or Switzerland late 1917 or early in 1918.
A POW record R51058 records the arrival of several in Holland on 29th December 1917 – they were Lt. Colonel D. C. Boger, Major B. H. Chetwynd Stapylton, Major A. J. L. Dyer, Captain H. C .Randall, Captain W. G. R. Elliot and Captain W. Dugmore. Lieutenant G. S. Jacobs, Captain B. E. Massey and Captain C. A. K. Matterson arrived on 5th January 1918.
On 13th -14th June 1918 Major and Mrs Chetwynd Stapylton were ‘At home’ at Sheveningham, Holland, with other Cheshire officers and wives at ‘The Blighty Hut’. Two days later, on 16th November 1918, fellow Officers Massy, Elliot, and Matterson left Rotterdam for Hull on ‘S S Stockport’, so it is possible Bryan returned to England about the same time.
After the War Bryan was Colonel of the 1st Battalion, Cheshire Regiment, between 1919 and 1923, which included a posting to India in 1920.
He was appointed Commander, Order of the British Empire (C.B.E.) (left) in 1922 and retired from the military in 1930.
The 1939 Register shows Bryan and Dorothy retired to Home Farm, Little Barrington, Gloucestershire.
Bryan died on 29th May 1958 in Darlington, Durham, and is buried in Sherborne Churchyard, Sherborne, Gloucestershire, with his wife, Dorothy, who died on 23rd August 1942 at Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.
Ironically, Bryan’s older brother, Major Granville Joseph Chetwynd Stapylton, 130th Battery, 30th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, was killed in action the day after the Battle of Audregnies. Granville is buried in Grave X. B. 4., at Romeries Communal Cemetery Extension.
Bryan’s father, General Granville George Chetwynd Stapylton, was born in London in 1823, he entered the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, in May 1839.
He was appointed an Ensign in the 13th Light Infantry in June 1839. He embarked at Gravesend in the following November to join the Regiment at Kabul on 21st April 1841.
He was promoted Lieutenant in 1842, Captain in 1848 and Major in 1857, he advanced to the ranks of Lieutenant Colonel in 1860 and Colonel in 1865. In 1870 he was appointed Major General and from 1873-1877 he was Commander Brigade Depot 69, Clonmell.
Retiring as Honorary Lieutenant General on 1st July 1881 he was appointed Colonel of The Royal West Surrey Regiment (The Queen’s). On cessation of command of The Queen’s he transferred to the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry.
Much of his career was in India. He served in the Afghan Campaign 1840-1842 and was present at several engagements including the forcing of the Jagdalak Pass, the heroic defence of Jellalabad and the recapture of Kabul. He was awarded two appropriate medals. Other stations at which he served in 1843 and 1844 were Kasauli, Sukkur and Karachi. Returning to England via Bombay and Suez in 1845 his Home Service included such places as Walmer, Portsmouth, Dublin and Belfast. During further service in India he became ADC to the Commander-in-Chief, East Indies in 1854.