William James Nappin (spelt Napping on the Belton war memorial) was born in Douglas, Isle of Man, c1889. The family moved around, following his father’s trade as a professional gardener. William too became a gardener and in 1911 he was living near Nantwich, Cheshire, where he was probably working at Stapeley Old Hall.
By 1914 he was working in the gardens at Belton House and (along with Charles Saxelby and Frederick Mears) he joined 6th Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment in August. However, he was discharged in October as ‘not likely to become an efficient soldier’ due (at least in part) to a hernia.
In early 1916 he was still at Belton. However, as the need for manpower increased later in the war he must have been called up, as in October 1917 he was serving in France with 1st Battalion, Hampshire Regiment.
By this time the Battle of Passchendaele (3rd Ypres) had been in progress for over 2 months. The 1st Hampshires arrived at Proven in the Ypres rear area on 20th Sep 1917 and spent the next week in training. On 28th they were sent by train from Elverindghe to Roussol Camp, where they were briefed and conducted rehearsals for the coming attack (now known as the Battle of Broodseinde) which was intended to protect the southern flank of the salient and, potentially, achieve a breakthrough.
Starting in the area of Langemarck, the (11th) Brigade was to attack on a narrow front, with 1st Hampshires on the left. The battalion attacked on a two Company front, with each company’s front being 150 yards wide and with the two other companies in close support. Each battalion was supported by 2 Vickers machine guns, plus a Lewis gun team for anti-aircraft defence and an aeroplane was to overfly the area to observe and report on progress.
On 1 and 2 October officers and NCOs went forward to reconnoitre the line. On the 3rd, the Battalion went forward to its assembly area. Two tins of hot tea laced with rum were brought up for each Platoon. Heavy rain had fallen in the first few days of October, turning the artillery-riddled ground into a morass.
The troops were formed up and ready to go at 2am on 4 October. The enemy began shelling at 5am. At 6am the advance began, advancing behind a creeping artillery and machine gun barrage. They met light resistance, but the artillery barrage was inaccurate and caused many casualties.
The Battalion advanced well and captured 30 prisoners and a machine gun before holding firm on their objective line. The battle was successful with all objectives captured, for relatively light casualties when compared with the Somme and the earlier phases of Passchendaele. However, the 1st Hampshire suffered heavily on 4th. Of the 19 officers and 522 men who took part (3 officers and 118 men had been left behind to reform the unit if it was wiped out) 4 officers and 36 men were killed and 8 officers and 182 men were wounded. Another 25 men were missing. L/Cpl William Nappin was amongst those who bodies were not found/identified and his name is recorded on the Tyne Cot memorial.
At the time his parents (Albert and Margaret Napping) were living in Bolton and William is remembered on the Heaton (near Bolton) War Memorial as well as at Belton. William’s younger brother Albert was a student teacher in 1911 and survived the war to marry in 1926.