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Monday, April 20, 2015

Fraser Island shipwreck and unveiling of a new statue of the first man ashore at Gallipoli central to Anzac Commemorations

The ringing of a bell from a rusting Fraser Island shipwreck and the unveiling in nearby Maryborough of a life-size statue of the first man ashore at Gallipoli will bring the spirit of the Anzac alive at this week's centenary commemorations.

Lt Duncan Chapman, the first man ashore at Galliploi.
Copyright: Photo courtesy of
The Fraser Coast will become a focal point for national pride on Anzac Day with the two poignant memorials to occur at 4.28am on April 25 to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landing.

In Maryborough, a life-size statue of local hero Lieutenant (later Major) Duncan Chapman, the first man to step ashore at what was to become Anzac Cove, will be unveiled with a Dawn of the Anzacs service including a sound and light show.

Fraser Coast Mayor Gerard O'Connell said the $60,000 bronze tribute in Queens Park, Maryborough, would become a national monument. “We imagine the statue will be a major drawcard during the Anzac Centenary and beyond," he said.

“This is a very exciting project to recognise and honour Maryborough-born Duncan Chapman and the other men who left our shores to fight in the Anzac campaign and in later battles."

The unveiling service will include a narrated sound and light show called "The Dawn of the Anzacs" depicting the landing at Gallipoli, with the role of Duncan Chapman being read by his great nephew.

The Duncan Chapman statue in Maryborough paves the way for stage two of the memorial project which will include an eight metre high depiction of the three ridges of Anzac Cove with information panels and motion-activated recordings providing an educational and emotive insight into the Gallipoli campaign and battles of the Western Front.

In addition to the unveiling of the statute, the revered flag carried ashore by Duncan Chapman at Gallipoli will be brought to Maryborough on April 24th. The flag is a significant representation of the Third Brigade and the Ninth Battalion. Duncan Chapman kept the flag tucked in his chest as he was the first Anzac to step ashore on what we now know as Anzac Cove.

The flag was donated by Lt Chapman's younger sister, Clara, after he was killed in action during the Pozieres campaign on the western front. The flag is now kept in a glass cabinet in the Enoggera Barracks museum and can only be handled with white gloves.

Relatives of Lt Duncan Chapman are travelling from Victoria to see the unveiling of the statue in Maryborough, before taking the flag to the Brisbane march for Anzac morning.

Across the water on nearby Fraser Island, another moving ceremony will bring to life the largely unknown links of Fraser Island's famous Maheno shipwreck to Gallipoli and the Anzacs.

"The ceremony is nationally significant in that it celebrates the ANZAC links between Australia and New Zealand that were cemented on those fateful shores one hundred years ago," Cr O'Connell said.

The SS Maheno, which ran aground on Fraser Island during a storm in 1935, served in a number of dramatic mercy missions as a New Zealand hospital ship in the Dardanelles campaign.

This ANZAC Day, school students from the small New Zealand island town of Maheno - after which the ship was named - will ring the ship's original bell alongside the shipwreck as dawn breaks on the island.

Two replicas are being made of the bell, which is the property of the Maheno School, while it is in Australia. One of the replicas will become a lasting memorial on Fraser Island, while the other will be displayed at the Queensland Maritime Museum in Brisbane.

Renowned Maryborough inventor Peter Olds, from Olds Engineering, is crafting the replicas.

Cr O'Connell said the Maheno was now a famous tourist attraction and one of the island's most visited destinations. "Yet few of the thousands and thousands of people visiting the shipwreck each year would have had any idea of the ship's proud ANZAC history."

He said the Duncan Chapman and the Maheno Bell memorial projects would help cement the region's position as a leading Queensland destination for military heritage tourism

"They will link with other military monuments and attractions including Maryborough's heritage listed Cenotaph, its acclaimed Military and Colonial Museum and the Hervey Bay Light Horse statue, Cr O'Connell said.

Fraser Coast Anzac Ceremony details
  • There are two opportunities to see The 'Dawn of the Anzacs' sound and light tribute. The first display is at 5.15am on April 24, the morning before Anzac Day. The official presentation will begin at the Duncan Chapman statue at 4.45am on Anzac Day, dovetailing into the traditional dawn service at the Cenotaph.
  • The Maheno Anzac Day Centenary Commemoration on Fraser Island is open to the public. It will be held at 10am and finish at 11am. The Maheno Shipwreck is located on the Eastern Beach of Fraser Island

Background information

Duncan Chapman

Duncan Chapman was born in Maryborough in May 1888 and attended Maryborough Central State School before becoming a paymaster in Albion, Brisbane where he enlisted in August 1914. He fought for the length of the Gallipoli campaign and later served on Europe's Western Front, rising to the rank of Major. He was killed in action on August 6, 1916 on the Pozieres battlefield in France.

The state of Duncan Chapman is a testament to the region's community spirit with the $60,000 project being largely funded by public donations.

The Maheno
  • The Maheno was a luxury passenger ship that operated on the trans Tasman run between Australia and New Zealand until it was converted to a 335 floating hospital ship at the outbreak of WW1.
  • It was anchored off ANZAC Cove just four months after the Gallipoli campaign begun. It is estimated that 2,350 injured soldiers were treated on the ship, with some of the wounded lying on mattresses on the decks.
  • It was involved in regular runs to hospitals in Malta and Egypt while in Gallipoli. It sailed to Britain with seriously injured patients, before returning to the action on the Western front in France. It also transported wounded soldiers back to Australia and New Zealand
  • The 122m (400-foot) vessel, built in 1905 as a triple-screw turbine steamer for the Union Steam Navigation Company, held the glory of being the first turbine steamer to cross the Pacific Ocean.
  • The Maheno returned to civilian service in 1920 but in 1935 it was sold to Japanese ship wreckers and was decommissioned. It was under tow bound for Japan when cyclonic weather broke ties, and drifted for almost two days until the ship was found ashore on Fraser Island.

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