|CAPTAIN ABEL HENRY CHAPMAN
19th HUSSARS (LATE BENGAL CAVALRY)
Abel Henry Chapman was born on the 10th of May, 1836 at Wanstead, Essex,
the fourth son of Jonathan Chapman, a Quaker, and his wife Agatha. His father’s
profession at the time of Abel’s baptism was stated simply as “Gentleman”.
Abel was nominated as a cadet for the East India Company’s Bengal Cavalry
for the 1855-56 season by HEIC Director Elliot McNaughton, curiously, at
the recommendation of Abel’s father, a devout Quaker, who was then stated to
be a silk merchant. Abel was commissioned a Cornet in the Bengal Cavalry on
the 20th of September, 1856, and left for India the same day by the
“overland” route. He arrived at Fort William at Calcutta on the 1st of
November and was ordered to do duty with the 2nd Bengal Cavalry which was
then stationed at Cawnpore. Abel was granted one month’s leave to visit Behar
and Tishoot prior to reporting for duty at Cawnpore with the 2nd Bengal
This leave was most probably granted to Chapman to allow him to visit family
members already resident in India whom he would not have seen since they
had left England for India.
Abel was promoted to Lieutenant and posted to the 1st Bengal Cavalry on the
9th of January, 1857. He was destined to serve with his Regiment for only
four months before the Indian Mutiny erupted at the large military cantonment
at Meerut in Northern India. The Mutiny quickly spread to majority of the
other Bengal Army regiments and soon most of Northern India was in open
At the time of the uprising at Meerut, the left (headquarters) wing
of the 1st Bengal Cavalry was stationed at Nimach (or Neemuch)
with the right wing stationed at Mhow. The Regiment stayed loyal
for over a month until the right wing mutinied on 1st of July,
followed by the left wing on the 3rd. Most of the European
officers and their families, including Lieutenant Chapman, were
able to make their way to safety, although a few met extremely
cruel deaths at the hands of the mutineers and the mob of rabble
that joined in with the rebels in searching out and massacring
European civilians and soldiers alike.
The regimental history for the Calcutta Light Horse, in discussing
the formation of the Bengal Yeomanry Cavalry in Calcutta soon after
the outbreak of the Mutiny at Meerut, contains the statement that:
“The first regular officer appointed to the Corps ( Bengal
Yeomanry Cavalry) was Lieutenant Abel Henry Chapman 1st
Bengal Cavalry, a youthful officer, who was given the rank of
Captain. On arrival from England of Captain (Temporary Major)
J.F. Richardson, he was appointed in command of the Corps,
Chapman remaining as second-in-command.......”
While clearly referring to Chapman, this appears to be a case of
mistaken identity. The Indian Mutiny medal roll for the Bengal
Yeomanry Cavalry gives the name of the Second-in-Command as
Frederick Chapman and not Abel Henry Chapman. In addition, there
is no reference to this alleged appointment in Chapman’s War
Services in his entry in Hart’s Army List.
Lieutenant Chapman’s service records appear incomplete and contain no reference to his service during the Mutiny. After the
entry for his posting to the 1st Bengal Cavalry in January of 1857, there is no further entry until July of 1858. Thus, other
records must be consulted to determine his entitlement to the Indian Mutiny medal and his actual services during the Mutiny.
Lieutenant Chapman’s entry in the 1859 Bengal Army List gives his actual war services as:
“Lieutenants Dent and Chapman served with the Malwa field force in 1857 at the capture of Dhar and Battles at Mundesore in
November 1857, and with H.M. 14th Dragoons with the Central India field force at the capture of Chundeyree, action of the
Betwa, capture of the town and fort of Jhansie, action at Coonch, and capture of Culpee 1858, medal.”
As a result of his services, Abel Chapman received the Indian Mutiny medal with clasp for Central India named to him in 1st
Bengal Light Cavalry.
Following the suppression of the Indian Mutiny, the Bengal Cavalry was reorganized into five regiments of European cavalry.
The 1st European Light Cavalry was officered primarily by the surviving officers of the 1st and 3rd Bengal Light Cavalry,
both regiments having mutinied in 1857. Lieutenant Chapman served with the Right Wing which was stationed at Allahabad.
In 1861, with the HEIC regiments having previously been transferred to the Crown, it was determined to cease maintaining any
European forces for only local service in India. On May 6th, the officers and men of the 1st European Light Cavalry were
asked to volunteer for general service (i.e., service outside India), which they did almost to a man. On the 17th of August 1861,
the regiment was re-designated the 19th Hussars and moved to Lucknow.
Lieutenant Abel Henry Chapman was gazetted as one of the original officers of the new 19th Hussars, also receiving
appointment as Adjutant of the Regiment. On the 28th of November, 1863, the Regiment moved to Meerut where it stayed
until 1867 when it then moved to Benares. Abel Chapman was promoted Captain on the 1st of April, 1869. In 1870 the 19th
Hussars received orders to return to England, arriving at Dover.
Captain Chapman retired from the 19th
Hussars on the 7th of January, 1874. Upon
his retirement, Abel joined an engineering
and manufacturing firm owned by William
Clarke in Gateshead. At the time, the
company had approximately 200 employees.
Chapman became a partner with Clarke in
1875 and the name of the firm was changed
to Clarke, Chapman & Company, Ltd. By
1881 the company was employing 500
workers. In 1890 William Clarke died
unexpectedly at the age of 59 and Abel
Chapman became the Chairman of the firm.
Under his direction, the firm continued to
grow and prosper.
Captain Abel Henry Chapman died at at his
home Belle Vue, Gateshead on the 24th of
May, 1902, at age 66 and was interred at
Jesmond Old Cemetery.
At the time of his death, Clarke Chapman &
Company, Ltd. employed over 2,000 workers
and was a world leader in the manufacturer
of winches, cranes, boilers and other
equipment. The company is still in existence
and is knows as Clarke Chapman Group, a
member of Langley Holdings Plc. It is one
of the largest companies in the UK today.
Abel Chapman’s eldest son, Major H. R.
Chapman, was killed in action in France while
serving with the 10th Battalion, Durham
Light Infantry on the 27th of June, 1915.
Cadet papers L/MIL/9/237/729-38
Service papers L/MIL/10/63.65,67/674
Indian Mutiny Medal Roll L/MIL/5/77/14
Census Returns of England and Wales, 1871,
1881, 1891 and 1901.
Times, 26 May 1902; 2 July 1915.
1859 Bengal Army List.
Various Hart’s Army Lists.
Biddulph, The Nineteenth and Their Times,
Ubique: War Services of Officers of the
Bengal Officers, 1863.
1. The Clarke-Chapman Works
2. Blacksmiths at Clarke-Chapman
3. Bell Vue