Chaplin, Rowland Edward Ernest

The eldest son of Ernest Charles George Morgan Chaplin and Alice Margaret Chaplin of Hampstead, London. He was Prefect of Chapel in 1914/15, Head of School in 1915 and won the Richardson Prize for Mathematics and the Science Prize.

He was elected in 1914 to a scholarship in Mathematics and Chemistry at Clare College, Cambridge but two months after leaving Winchester was gazetted into the Royal Engineers instead. He was posted to the Ypres Salient with 7 Field Company RE. Among the other officers was 2nd Lt. John Bagot Glubb, later to become Lt General Sir John Bagot Glubb – the famous Glubb Pasha of the Arab Legion.

Glubb kept a diary of this period, which was published by Cassell in 1977 and Chaplin features in this diary, including details of how he died and where he is buried. He first appears when appointed to command No 1 Section of the RE on 15th February 1916, overseeing operations such as trench building and repair, and the transport of building materials; the removal of the dead and many other support tasks.  In September 1916 they were tasked with the laying of a narrow guage railway line, for supplies to be brought up close to the front line around High Wood.

The British now attacked at Arras and the unit found itself near Wancourt preparing for the attack. Glubb’s diary explains what happened: “Just as dawn was breaking, the sappers were putting the finishing touches to the dressing stations, and Chaplin was standing beside the shelter superintending. As often happened at dawn, the Boche put down a light artillery barrage and a shell fell right into the little group of them. It burst close to Chaplin’s head and killed him instantly, together with eight sappers…”

He is buried in grave III.B.1 of the London Cemetery, Neuville-Vitasse.

Source: Into Battle: A Soldier’s Diary of the Great War by Sir John Glubb: Cassell, 1977.

War: World War 1

  • Surname: Chaplin
  • Forenames or initials: Rowland Edward Ernest
  • House: College
  • Years in School: 1908-1915
  • Rank: 2nd Lieutenant
  • Regiment: Royal Engineers
  • Date of Birth: 1st April 1896
  • Date of Death: 22nd April 1917
  • How Died: Killed in Action
  • Location in War Cloister: Outer E3
  • Decoration: NA