James Walter Capeling
|First name||James Walter|
|Birth Town||Biddenden, Kent.|
|Date of Death||28/03/1918|
|Fate||Died of Wounds|
|Duty Location||France And Flanders|
|Regiment||Queen's (Royal West Surrey Regiment)|
Son of Mr Horace Stephen Capeling & Mrs Harriet Annie Capeling, nee Hopper).They married in 1893. James was born 4th quarter 1898 and baptised 12/06/1904 at St Michael’s, Maidstone. By the 1901 census the family lived 33 Tonbridge Road, Maidstone. One of eleven children; nine surviving at the 1911 census. James was at School in 1911 when they lived at 31 Hartnup Street, Maidstone. Horace was then a bailiff and earlier had been a laundry vanman.
This photograph was presented by James’s mother.
James was a Private with the 7th Battalion of the Royal West Surrey Regiment. They saw service along the Ancre in the Somme Departement. This was the Battle of St Quentin which started on 21st March 1918 at Travecy. This was a German victory/ Allied retreat. Alerted to German plans for a new offensive by intelligence reports prepared from aerial reconnaissance photographs and interrogation reports from prisoners, all British units began a period of intensive training, almost around the clock.
The German Spring Offensive ‘Operation Michael’ opened with a pre - dawn artillery bombardment, when in excess of 3.5 million shells were fired in five hours; a barrage bigger and heavier than that fired prior to the opening of the Somme Offensive on 1st July 1916. By 05.00 smoke and fumes from the bombardment combined with fog severely limited the defenders’ visibility so that by the time the German infantry began their advance at 09.40 they were able to penetrate the British front line virtually undetected, particularly on Fifth Army’s thinly held front. When the German attack began …. 7th Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment) was one of the Regiments in the front line. At that time, Fifth Army occupied the longest section of the Western Front with twelve infantry divisions and three of cavalry; ironically it was Fifth Army’s Forward Zone where the defences had been completed and where the line was captured. By the end of the day, the German Army had advanced through the battle zone between the front and reserve lines, causing many casualties, despite some brave rearguard actions……General Gough ordered a fighting withdrawal and drew back Third Army’s right flank to protect Fifth Army. During 22nd March British troops continued to withdraw….By the end of the day, the Germans had broken through the British Reserve Line. On 23rd March, the whole of the Fifth Army was in retreat, withdrawing across the River Somme. Private James Walter Capeling was injured in this Battle and died of wounds on 28th March 1918.
James was a bell ringer at the Parish Church of St Michael & All Angels, Maidstone. His name is on the brass Memorial with 82 names near the Ascension Chapel, which shows 82 of the 83 who died from this Parish in the First World War. James’s name is also on this War Memorial in the Belfry, remembering the five bell ringers who died for King and Country in the First World War.