Interview with Susan Chapman

Title

Interview with Susan Chapman

Description

Susan Chapman talks about her father, Charles Reginald Jaques. Reg Jaques grew up in County Durham and to improve his prospects for employment he studied by the light of the streetlight. He secured a job with a local authority in Shropshire. He met and married Betty and they set up home. He volunteered to join the RAF. He trained as a navigator and became a father. His last letter was to his sister telling her he’d been Christmas shopping in Scunthorpe. The next day his aircraft took off from RAF Elsham Wolds. The aircraft that had taken off just before reappeared out of the cloud and the two aircraft collided.

Creator

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Date

2017-10-14

Contributor

Julie Williams

Rights

This content is available under a CC BY-NC 4.0 International license (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0). It has been published ‘as is’ and may contain inaccuracies or culturally inappropriate references that do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Lincoln or the International Bomber Command Centre. For more information, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ and https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/legal.

Format

00:14:00 audio recording

Language

Type

Identifier

AChapmanSCD171014

Conforms To

Temporal Coverage

Transcription

PL: Hello. My name is Pam Locker and I’m here at the home of Mrs Susan Carol Doreen Chapman nee Jaques.
PL: On the 14th of October 2017. And can I just start Sue by saying an enormous thank you on behalf of the Bomber Command Digital Archive for offering us your story. And I understand that you’re going to read a narrative that you’ve put together about everything that has happened. So, when you’re ready.
SC: Ok.
PL: If you’d like to start.
SC: Thank you. My mother related the story of how one day she heard me tell someone that I had been a lucky girl as I had had two daddies. This is their and my stories from memories — mostly from family and friends of those who knew and loved them. My name is Susan Chapman nee Jaques. I was born at the Mary Rodham Nursing Home in Newport, Shropshire on the 15th of November 1943. My mother was Gwendolyn Betty Jaques, known as Teg to her family and Betty to everyone else, nee Stokes. And my father was Charles Reginald Jaques, known as Reg. He was born on the 25th of March 1913 and brought up in Leeholme, County Durham one of six, and the second boy. He had one brother. Another died in infancy and his four sisters. Their father was a builder. Their mother died young and Reg’s elder sister brought up the family. He left school at aged fourteen or fifteen and went to work in the offices of the local coal mine but educating himself, I am told, by using the streetlight to read. He had an aptitude for maths and also played the violin. He moved to work as chief financial officer in the local authority offices of Newport in Shropshire — living in digs with a couple who I’m told thought the world of him. It was while working here that he and my mother met. She was born on the 1st of January 1920 being christened Gwendolyn Betty. She was brought up in Heath House, Gnosall, Staffordshire where her father was a builder and joiner. Along with her only sister, who has provided me with a lot of this family history, she attended Stafford Girl’s High School, travelling by train every day. She also had an aptitude for music and played the piano to such a high standard that she won a prize at the Eisteddfod in Wales. Latterly, at school she played for the daily assemblies. She left school aged fifteen years of age and initially went to work in the offices of Stafford Laundry and then to Barclays Bank in Newport. The consensus seems to be that they literally met in the street as both worked close to one another. The distance from Newport from Gnosall is approximately seven miles and my aunt recalls that Reg walked her home after work one Saturday morning, he pushing his bike. They got engaged around the time of Dunkirk. That would be May 1940. Her engagement ring is an art deco design. On this happy occasion for them my aunt was not left out and they gave her a brooch as her present which she has recently given to me. I’ve just found this out and I’m very pleased to have this as another keepsake. My aunt says this act is another indication of how thoughtful and nice Reg was as a person. Comments that have been made to me over the years from people who knew him or of him fully endorse this. They married on the 1st of January 1941. Mum’s 21st birthday at Gnosall Methodist Chapel and spent their honeymoon in Shrewsbury. Her parents gave her money out of which she had to buy her wedding dress and she also brought her piano. They set up home in an area of Gnosall known as Audmore as Heath House was in fact in Gnosall Heath. From comments made by mum I think that they initially rented a property and on being refused the right to purchase Reg was very unhappy. They both attended the local chapel and he taught in the Sunday School. They visited his family in the north east and on get togethers’ later in life my mother and sister would reminisce of these occasions. Although in a reserved occupation he joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve on August the 6th 1941 and told for the duration of the current emergency as an aircraftsman second class. He was recommended for training as a pilot or observer with the statement that he was not to be employed other than as a pilot or observer without reference to the Air Ministry. Early in 1942 he was transferred to Canada for further training in Moncton, New Brunswick, Ontario. He came back from Canada on the Queen Mary which was being used as a troop ship. By April of that year he was classed as being an observer. In December ‘42 he was at Air Navigation School. And in April 2nd 1943 he was undertaking ground instrument training and map reading in Tiger Moths and due for the first flight today. A letter sent by mum to his younger sister on the 8th of July 1943 said that Reg is stationed fourteen miles away and is using his bike to get home. From September that year he had completed his training and was changing stations mainly in the east of the country. He spent some time at Doncaster which was a Conversion Unit for Halifax and Lancaster bombers. On the 12th of November he was at 103 squadron. A navigator. Operational flying. And the same month he was posted to Elsham Wolds in Lincolnshire. On the 15th of December he sent what was to be his last letter to his younger sister to tell her that he had been shopping in Scunthorpe for Christmas presents for his nieces and that he was due for leave on the 22nd of December. He obviously had leave to visit mum and I, still in the nursing home as a letter from, from my mother to the same sister says he had visited us both and she had caught him giving surreptitious glances to Susan in her cot. He must also have registered my birth and I was given the names Susan Doreen. There had been an outbreak of influenza at the camp which he had had and recovered from. On the evening of the 16th December 1943 he was navigator in a scratch crew from both 103 and 576 Squadron flying in Lancaster JB670 of 103 Squadron which took off at 1637 hours for Berlin. There was low cloud that night and the crews at briefing had been told to circle the airport once and then peel away. Among the first flight to take off was Lancaster LN332 of 576 Squadron on their first operation. Soon afterwards they were followed by JB670. Eye witness accounts tell that as JB670 took off and climbed away LN332 appeared out of the cloud. The collision was inevitable and the machines crashed head on. This occurred just outside the village of Ulceby and wreckage fell over a wide area. So, aged twenty four, Betty was a widow with a newly born daughter. My aunt tells me that my mother was welcoming her cousin back from the army on leave when she heard the news and this has also been verified by the sister of a cousin who told me this several years ago as to how elated they were at having her brother home but having to also deal with the death of Reg. The family had expressed their wish that they could bury him locally but this was not allowed and he was laid to rest in a Commonwealth grave in Cambridge Cemetery. This was December and a very cold day. They had had to travel from Strafford by train and the family included Reg’s brother, his eldest and youngest sisters, my mother and her sister. They were in the cemetery grounds when someone shouted, ‘Elsham Wolds’s party,’ and they all gathered for the burial of six of the crew. I am told that my mother went to try to talk to one of the officers to try to gain more information but little was forthcoming. And as she said you had to take what was told you and you did not ask questions. It was only in the early 1990s that she read a letter in the Lincolnshire Life Journal from a gentleman in Australia asking for information on LN322 and the crash in which his brother died. They started to correspond and he acquired much more information which he then passed on to her. So at twenty four, Betty, a widow with a newly born daughter. I was christened at Christmas in the home of my grandparents by a close family friend who was a JP and local preacher. Carol, the female equivalent of Charles was included in my naming which I continue to use although it gets a bit awkward at times when I have to state the names that are on my birth certificate only. A white and blue rimmed china bowl was used which I still have in my family history box. We carried on living in the same house with mum becoming a nurse at Stafford hospital and me being looked after by my grandparents. A brass plaque was erected in Gnosall Methodist Church in memory of Reg and a cousin of my mother — the one she was greeting who was killed the following year in Northern France and is buried in Cannes. From what I’ve already related to you, you will remember that there were other RAF stations located not far from Gnosall. On Sunday evenings the men billeted there would come to the church and be offered refreshments by the congregation. I do not know the exact date when they first met but this is where mum met my stepfather. He was called Stanley Stubbins and came from Winterton in Lincolnshire. He had been born and brought up in this village and never left it except for his war service. His father was the local builder, joiner and undertaker. Romance blossomed and they were married on the 26th of May, 1945. The story goes that the photographer forgot to attend so they went on honeymoon, the bridal flowers were placed in the cellar and photos were taken when they got back. For a young man taking on a new family it must have been quite daunting. Again, my aunt tells me that my grandad received a letter from Stan’s parents stating that I would not be treated as other than one of theirs. This was true fortunately because on one of our first trips to Winterton I’m told I picked off heads of his prized tulips and threw them into the garden pond to float. We remained in Gnosall where the elder of my two half-sisters was born until Stan was demobbed and could find us accommodation in Winterton. When I was told that Stan was not my biological father I don’t know. He was very tolerant of the fact that Reg’s RAF cap lived in the wardrobe and he would say that Christmas was always a difficult time for mum. Ironically Winterton is only a few miles from Elsham Wolds. Remembrance services were held every year with flypasts by Lancasters which mum and I used to attend. She maintained contact with Reg’s family and consequently they came to visit us and we them on a regular basis. So I have thirteen cousins on Reg’s side and six on Stan’s side who come together on family occasions. They all held Stan in such high esteem that when he died in 1997 there was a large contingent of cousins plus aged parents who came to his funeral. My memories of Reg are all that have been told me in the past along with some tangible items that I kept in my family box. His bible that was given to him by Gnosall Sunday School on his volunteering for the RAF, his hat and medals. On the death of his youngest sister her daughter passed on to me the letters written by Reg during his time in the RAF. And I also have a copy of a letter sent to his second eldest sister which her daughter found in her handbag. From Stan I have my childhood, adolescence and adulthood to recall. As a family we loved him very much.
PL: That was just wonderful Sue. Thank you so much. Is there anything else that you’d like to add yourself?
SC: Well, not just me there must have been thousands of others like me and maybe I’m the fortunate one in being able to sort of put this on to an actual archive. When I was relating only yesterday to somebody about the fact that my mother and father had given my aunt a brooch they said, ‘You must write it down.’ So this a bit more than writing down. It means a lot to me but to other people it may be more insignificant. I don’t know.
PL: Well, thank you very much indeed.
SC: It’s my pleasure.

Collection

Citation

Pam Locker, “Interview with Susan Chapman,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed November 19, 2019, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/3371.

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