The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (1124) Corporal Robert Reginald Chapman, 13th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Place Middle East: Ottoman Empire, Turkey, Dardanelles, Gallipoli, Sari Bair Area, Chunuk Bair
Accession Number PAFU2015/340.01
Collection type Film
Object type Last Post film
Physical description 16:9
Maker Australian War Memorial
Place made Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Campbell
Date made 10 August 2015
Access Open
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918
Copyright Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
Creative Commons License This item is licensed under CC BY-NC
Copying Provisions Copy provided for personal non-commercial use
Description

The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour is told. Hosted by Richard Cruise, the story for this day was on (1124) Corporal Robert Reginald Chapman, 13th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Speech transcript

Story read by Lt Col Bob Moody New Zealand Military Adviser

After months of stalemate on Gallipoli the allies launched the August Offensive in an attempt to break out of the Anzac beachhead. As part of this large-scale combined operation, the New Zealand Infantry and Mounted Brigades were tasked with capturing Chunuk Bair, a high point on the Sari Bair Ridge. At the same time British, Indian, and Australian forces would capture the other high points on the ridge and displace the Ottoman defenders.

In the evening of the 6th of August the New Zealand Mounted Brigade began advancing up Rhododendron Ridge to clear Ottoman outposts from Destroyer Hill, Table Top, and Bauchop’s Hill. The understrength brigade suffered heavy casualties, and a fierce Ottoman defence delayed the main advance for two hours.

Once the outposts had been taken the New Zealand Infantry Brigade began its advance. By 4.30 am three of the brigade’s four battalions had reached the feature known as the Apex, some 400 metres below the summit of Chunuk Bair. Brigadier General Francis Johnson, who was reportedly ill that day, made the fateful decision to halt the attack to wait for the Canterbury Battalion, which had become lost in the dark. About this time the Australian 3rd Light Horse Brigade attacked at The Nek, but without support their troops were annihilated.

By 8 am the Ottoman defenders on Chunuk Bair had been reinforced and began firing on the New Zealanders at the Apex. It was clear that any opportunity for a swift victory was lost and that any further advance would be costly, but Major General Alexander Godley ordered the attack to continue.

The Auckland Battalion attacked into heavy machine-gun and rifle fire. Only around 100 Aucklanders made it to the feature known as the Pinnacle. The Wellington Battalion was to attack next, but Lieutenant Colonel William Malone refused to continue a hopeless cause in broad daylight, and told his commander that his men would take Chunuk Bair that night. At 3 am on the 8th of August the Wellingtons attacked, reaching the summit almost unopposed.

By 5 am Ottoman troops had begun their counter-attack. Fighting raged all day, and some of the Wellingtons’ trenches were overrun. By afternoon the bodies of New Zealanders clogged the trenches. Around 5 pm Malone and several of his men were killed when a shell, fired from what was believed to be a Royal Navy ship, hit their position. The fighting subsided in the evening and the shattered Wellingtons were relieved from the front line by other units. Of the 760 Wellingtons who had attacked that morning only 70 walked off the hill unaided. Corporal Cyril Bassett was awarded a Victoria Cross for his work in maintaining communications while under fire.

On the morning of the 10th of August Ottoman commander Mustafa Kemal launched an overwhelming counter-attack that drove the British defenders from Chunuk Bair. After days of fighting and hundreds of casualties the heights were once more under Ottoman control.

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1124 Corporal Robert Reginald Chapman, 13th Battalion, AIF
KIA 14 May 1918
No photograph in collection

Story delivered 10 August 2015

Today we remember and pay tribute to Corporal Robert Reginald Chapman.

Robert Chapman was born in 1887 in Dunedin, New Zealand, to Thomas and Elizabeth Chapman. He attended the local state school in Rotorua and went on to work as a clerk. When he was 21 he came to Australia and settled in Sydney, and in October 1914 he enlisted for service in the Australian Imperial Force.

Chapman was posted to the 13th Battalion, and underwent a short period of training. He left for more training in Egypt in December 1914, later departing for Gallipoli in 1915. The 13th Battalion arrived off Anzac Cove around 4.30 pm on 25 April. Some companies disembarked under fire that evening, the remainder at 3.30 the following morning. The battalion was heavily involved in establishing and defending the front line in the days that followed.

In August 1915 the 13th Battalion was part of the 4th Brigade’s disastrous attack on Hill 971, the intention of which was to seize the high ground from this point to Chunuk Bair. The Australian 4th Brigade formed the left column of attack, and on the right the New Zealanders attacked Chunuk Bair on 9 August.

On the same day that the New Zealanders were making their assault on the heights, Chapman was acting as a runner, delivering messages for his commanding officer. It was reported that at one point he had to cross a patch of ground that was under heavy Turkish fire. As he did so he was shot in the abdomen and badly wounded. Chapman carried on until he fell, exhausted. Further reports indicate that “after a time he pulled himself together”, and dragged himself on. He finally succeeded in attracting attention, and safely passed the message on before being taken away for treatment.

Chapman was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his actions that day. He was evacuated from the peninsula to a hospital on Malta, before transferring to England. It took him a full year to recover from his wounds, but he returned to his battalion in August 1916 and the following month was promoted to corporal. Chapman remained with his battalion until his death in May 1918.

For a man who showed such remarkable courage early in his military career, we know surprisingly little about the rest of his time at war. Records do not show even the manner of his death. The day he died his battalion was in the front line, but there was little recorded activity. Corporal Robert Chapman was buried in Adelaide Cemetery at Villers-Bretonneux in France. He was 30 years old.

Three more men from the Chapman family served during the war, all with the New Zealand forces. Two died in service of their country.

Robert Reginald Chapman’s name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, among more than 60,000 Australians who died during the First World War.

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Corporal Robert Reginald Chapman, his brothers who died serving in the New Zealand army, and all those Australians who have given their lives in the service of our nation.

Dr Meleah Hampton
Historian, Military History Section

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