The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of Major Duncan Chapman, 45th Battalion, AIF, First World War

Place Europe: France, Picardie, Somme, Albert Bapaume Area, Pozieres Area, Pozieres
Accession Number PAFU2015/102.01
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 2 March 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 Major Duncan Chapman, 45th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Speech transcript

Major Duncan Chapman 45th Battalion, AIF
KIA 6 August, 1916
Photograph: C02496

Story delivered 2 March 2015

Today we remember and pay tribute to Major Duncan Chapman.

Duncan Chapman was born on 5 May 1888 in Maryborough, Queensland, to Robert and Eugenie Chapman. His mother passed away when he was five, leaving his father to raise him and his many siblings.

Chapman attended the local primary school and Maryborough Grammar School. After school he served in the Militia for four years, and was commissioned a lieutenant prior to the outbreak of war.

When the First World War began Duncan was living in the Brisbane suburb of Albion and working as a paymaster. He was also the sole financial provider for his ailing father.

He applied for a commission on 21 August and was gazetted with the rank of lieutenant in September before being posted to the 9th Battalion. He embarked from Brisbane in September aboard the transport ship Omrah.

Charles Bean, in his book Anzac to Amiens, wrote that “the first man ashore [on Anzac] was probably Lieutenant D. Chapman (of Maryborough, Queensland), 9th Battalion”. Chapman wrote a letter to his brother from Gallipoli in July, confirming his “extreme honour of being actually the first man to put foot ashore on this peninsula”.

What happened after those initial steps is a mystery. Chapman was listed as missing in action and a telegram was sent to his father advising of the same. Although Chapman turned up three days later, his father spent several anxious months writing letters before word was sent in July that his son was alive and well and still on Gallipoli.

In early June Chapman was promoted to captain. He was highly regarded as a leader by men and officers alike and was a popular member of the battalion.

In early August Chapman was evacuated to Egypt with influenza. He took some time to recover and re-joined his battalion at Lemnos in November, after the withdrawal from Gallipoli.

The 9th Battalion returned to Egypt early in the new year, and as the AIF expanded Chapman was transferred to the 49th Battalion and then the 45th Battalion, where he was promoted to major and given command of D Company. The 45th sailed for France in June, and spent their first couple of months training and in the front line at Sailly.

On 5 August the 45th Battalion moved up to the front line near Pozières. Early next morning it came under a heavy German bombardment, and Major Chapman and several other battalion members were killed when a shell burst in their trench.

Chapman was initially buried near the Chalk Pit, south of Pozières. After the end of the war his body was exhumed and re-interred in the Pozières British Cemetery at Ovillers-la-Boisselle. He was 28 years old.

In a letter to the Minister of Defence, Chapman’s father wrote “It is a great blow to me in every way as he was my sole support … I gave him freely for the cause, still we are human and we would almost grudge what we gave.” He died in 1919.

Duncan Chapman’s name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, along with more than 60,000 others from the First World War. The photograph displayed today beside the Pool of Reflection shows Chapman seated in the middle row at the right with Officers of the 9th Battalion aboard HMAT Omrah.

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Major Duncan Chapman, and all Australians who have given their lives in service of our nation.

Michael Kelly
Historian, Military History Section

Sources
www.ancestry.com

www.trove.nla.gov.au

9th Battalion War Diary, April 1915, Australian War Memorial

45th Battalion War Diaries, March–August 1916, Australian War Memorial

National Archives of Australia service record, Duncan Chapman.

C.E.W. Bean, Anzac to Amiens, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1983 [1946], p. 82 (note).

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