In Memory of

Sir THOMPSON CAPPER CB, DSO,

KCMG

Major General East Lancashire Regiment

who died on Monday, 27th September 1915.

 

Commonwealth 
War Graves Commission

    Casualty Details      2947368  

    

 
Personal
Information
  

Son of the late William Copeland Capper and Husband of Mary Capper, of 67, Portland Court, Marylebone, London. 

Thompson Capper was born in Lucknow (India) on 20th October 1863. He was educated at Haileybury and the Royal Military College Sandhurst. Thompson Capper, together with two brothers John and William (who survived the war) spent much of his boyhood in Rayne as the Rector of Rayne, Rev W S Hemming was uncle to the boys. In 1871 the Rector was also looking after Amy and Jessie who were sisters of Thompson. 

Thompson Capper was one of the fifteen most senior officers to be killed during the War.

 
Memorial: Grave
 
Reference/Panel Number:
Location:
  

LILLERS COMMUNAL CEMETERY, Pas de Calais, France In front of II. A. 

Lillers is a small town about 15 kilometres west-north-west of Bethune and the Communal Cemetery and Extension lie to the north of the town. From the Mairie in the centre of the town, head north on the D182, after 500 metres turn right onto Rue St Venant. 

The cemetery is a further 200 metres on the left hand side. nbsp;Within the Communal Cemetery the Commonwealth war graves are situated on the right hand side half way up the cemetery central path, and the Extension is at the far right end of the Communal Cemetery. Both cemeteries are signposted. 

Lillers was used for British billets and Headquarter offices from the autumn of 1914 to April, 1918. It was during that time a hospital centre; the 6th, 9th, 18th, 32nd, 49th and 58th Casualty Clearing Stations were in the town at one time or another, and they buried their dead on the right of the central path of the Communal Cemetery, working back from Plot I. 

In April, 1918, the Germans advanced as far as Robecq; Lillers came under shell-fire, and the units holding this front continued to bury beyond the cemetery boundary, in the Extension. 

 There are now nearly 900, 1914-18 war casualties commemorated in this site. Of these, nearly 70 are unidentified. The British plots in the Communal Cemetery, and the one plot which is the Extension, cover together an area of 2,346 square metres.

 

 Theatre of War

  

Major General Sir Thompson Capper was one of the highest ranking soldiers of the British Army to be killed in action during World War One.

 He was a career soldier, being commissioned into the East Lancashire Regiment in 1882. He served in India, The Sudan and in South Africa. He commanded the 7th Division of the British Army in France from 1914 to his death in 1915. 

He was a highly respected commanding officer, and was always aware of the men who served under him. One at least one occasion in France he disregarded orders from above, to spare his men unnecessary casualties

 On the 25th Sept. 1915 the Battle of Loos commenced. In conjunction with attacks by the French Army further south, this was intended to drive the Germans back to the Belgian border. The 7th Division, commanded by General Capper was initially successful in driving the Germans back towards the town of Loos. 

 Later on the 26th September whilst conferring with his staff at Divisional Headquarters, the building was struck by a long range German shell. This caused many casualties, General Capper was severely wounded, and despite being taken to a field hospital, died of his wounds the following day.

Other information

  

Thompson Capper was involved in an unfortunate accident in the course of some experiments with hand grenades which caused him serious injury. He was brought home to Millbank Hospital and obliged to relinquish his command for a time but when sufficiently recovered to return to the front, he had the satisfaction of being re-appointed to his old Division 

An officer who served with him wrote to The Times “Those who went through the first battle of Ypres with immortal Seventh Division will know what the Army has lost by the death of General Capper. 

 There were critics at the time who argued that General Capper must have sacrificed his men recklessly to incur such tremendous casualties; others who complained that the General was too often at the front piecing a broken line together when he should, according to all Regulations, been in his office attending to the telephone. Those who know best remain convinced that the sacrifices were inseparable from the task so successfully fulfilled of foiling the German attempt to break through to Calais.

 
 
Address given at
Remembrance  Sunday
at All Saints, Rayne 2005
  

Not all those named on the Rayne Memorial lived in Rayne. Some of them had lived here and had moved away possibly with family members still in the Village. 

This morning I am going to talk about Sir Thompson Capper CB, DSO, KCMG. The very mention of his decorations shows that Sir Thompson was a very senior officer indeed. In fact he was one of the fifteen most senior officers killed in the war. Sir Thompson was in the East Lancashire Regiment and at the time of his death he lived in London. 

What then was his connection with Rayne? The Rector of Rayne in the pre-War period was the Rev Hemming. The Rev Hemming was the uncle of Thompson Capper and so he and his brothers had spent much of their boyhood boyhood staying at Rayne Rectory, then of course in the lane. 

After the war, when a Memorial was to be erected in Rayne, his surviving family asked if Sir Thompson’s name could be included as he had many happy memories of the Village. Sir Thompson was a career soldier being commissioned in 1882. He served in India, The Sudan and South Africa and at the outbreak of the War had risen to the rank of Major General. He was a highly respected commanding officer, known on at least one occasion to have disregarded an order to spare his men unnecessary casualties, something which was a courageous decision in this War. 

On the Memorial are commemorated six men from Rayne who died in the Battle of Loos, a small coal mining area in North east France. Coincidentally, although not from Rayne, it was in this same Battle that Major General Capper was also killed. 

The Battle of Loos commenced on 21 September 1915 with some intermittent shelling, but the weather prevented any large scale attack being very wet and with low cloud. On 25 September this cleared and the shelling resumed, continuing without let up through the whole day and into the early hours of 26 September. Of course the German Army fought back and on both sides suffered heavy casualties. 

During the afternoon of 26 September, intensity of the fighting had lessened a little but even so there was occasional shelling and it was during one of these attacks that Major General Capper was badly wounded. He was moved to a field hospital – and it is probably not easy for us to comprehend how different this would have been to modern mobile medical facilities – where he died of his wounds the following day, 27 September 1915

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