THE eyes of the nation turned to Maryborough yesterday as First World War soldier Duncan Chapman returned home.

The first man to step ashore at Gallipoli on April 25, 1915, now stands proudly in the centre of the Fraser Coast heritage city.

A striking life-size bronze statue of Maryborough's favourite son was unveiled at a touching dawn service before more than a thousand residents and visitors.

FAMILY GATHERING: Descendants of Maryborough soldier Duncan Chapman, the first man to step ashore at Gallipoli on April 25, 1915, pose for photos at his memorial statue in Queens Park.
FAMILY GATHERING: Descendants of Maryborough soldier Duncan Chapman, the first man to step ashore at Gallipoli on April 25, 1915, pose for photos at his memorial statue in Queens Park. Alistair Brightman

At least 50 of Major Chapman's descendants mingled with Acting Prime Minister and local MP Warren Truss, members of the region's air force and naval cadet groups, servicemen and women and passengers from this week's Anzac troop train re-enactment journey.

Brisbane's Meg Bores and her nine-year-old son Drake arrived at Queen's Park just after 4am to watch the memorial for their famous relative.

"I've been researching Duncan for 20 years," Ms Bores said of her great-great-uncle.

Many of the descendants at the ceremony were the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Major Chapman's 12 siblings.

Major Chapman never married and was childless when he died in 1916 during the battle of Pozieres.

Despite the early start, young Drake was entranced by the evocative sound and light show - complete with narration from Major Chapman's war writings and reflections from the Gallipoli landing notes of some of his closest comrades.

The statue was the brainchild of former Fraser Coast Chronicle editor Nancy Bates, who wanted Chapman honoured in the centenary year of Australian troops landing at Gallipoli during the First World War.

Ms Bates brought together a group of like-minded community leaders who started planning and fundraising for the $100,000 project last August.

The unveiling of the memorial took place before a large crowd in a dawn service.
The unveiling of the memorial took place before a large crowd in a dawn service.

From donations of $20 to $20,000, the city's 21,000 residents dug deep to raise $60,000 for the project.

Ms Bates, 67, said of the commemoration: "Relieved and really happy that particularly the Chapman family have come from all over Australia and so happy that Duncan Chapman has finally been recognised.

"That's pretty special."

Overseen by project leader Robert Chan, 10 artists had to create Chapman's eerie likeness using nothing more than grainy photographs taken during the war years.

It took a crew of sculptors, painters, polishers, designers and researchers about seven months to complete the silicon bronze artwork.

"We had limited images and it was quite hard to source a reference of the face," Mr Chan said. "But we managed to find sufficient imagery to go ahead."

Members of the 9th Battalion AIF Living History Unit fire a salute behind the statue.
Members of the 9th Battalion AIF Living History Unit fire a salute behind the statue.

Mayor Gerard O'Connell said the event marked a red letter day for the region.

"This is where we bring back one of our own - Duncan Chapman - and it's about people like Duncan who went off to serve in the war 100 years ago," Cr O'Connell said.

Mr Truss said he was proud of his community's achievement.

"I think Maryborough's always been proud of Duncan Chapman and it's appropriate now - 100 years on - that his role as the first person ashore at Gallipoli is being recognised in his hometown," the Acting PM said. "It's only a block away from where he went to school, from where he worked, from where he joined the Wide Bay regiment.

"Duncan Chapman is very much a son of Maryborough and Maryborough is recognising him today."



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