Frederick ‘Chappie’ Chapman first appears in our surviving Club records in the 1913-14 team photo, the last Saracens team to take the field until the 1919/1920 season. Wearing an early scrum cap, a dapper moustache, and standing next to CJB Buckheim on one side and the Honourable Treasurer J.G. Brodie on the other, he has the expression of a man well-described in club records as one who did not suffer fools gladly…
He is first recorded as playing in the 7th March 1914 match against the 2nd Life Guards.No scores were attributed to him that season, but then we know he was noted as being an excellent scrummager with few getting the better of him; he provided considerable strength & leadership to the other Saracens forwards in the pack – despite his tendency to “finish what had been left unsaid” as ORG Williams memorably recalls in his 50th Anniversary history of the Club.
Williams continued to extol Chappie’s attributes, noting in detail that “Playing in the pack, where he could fit in in any position, he was a scrummager from first to last. The more strenuous the exchanges, the better ‘Chappie’ liked it, and few could get the better of him in tactical scrummaging”
Frederick Stephen Chapman was born in October 1889, in the Stoke Damerel district of what is now Plymouth, the only son of Thomas J Chapman and Susan Maria Louisa Cuer. Club archives record that it was here that he “learnt his ‘Rugger’ in the Devonport district“. His father was a Recorder of Works at the Dockyards, and appears to have family connections to the navy, being born in Malta which was an important naval base at the time, which coincided with the building and opening of the Suez Canal.
His mother’s family were also connected to the Navy, so perhaps it is surprising that Frederick himself did not go to sea – the Navy went through some reformation at the time he would have potentially enrolled – but perhaps his family’s experiences encouraged him to aim for something different and land-based.
In 1911, FS can be found boarding at 2, Mount Pleasant Villas in Stroud Green, and working as a stockbroker’s clerk.By 1914, he had moved to 53 Miranda Road in Upper Holloway, where he was residing when he married Florence Cross on 11th April.
At the time he married, the British public was more concerned with rebellion in Ireland, the Suffragette movement, and industrial action than they were with trouble brewing in the Balkans, but upon declaration of war that August, Frederick played his part and signed up with the Stockbroker’s Battalion, the 10th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers.
Whether he served alongside his fellow Saracens team-mates Sydney Sylvester or Victor Baron Barnett remains to be determined, but we will follow Frederick’s war experiences in a future entry on this website.