Defining the Queensland soldier

The remains of Queensland war hero, Major Duncan Chapman, may lie in the British Cemetery at Ovillers-la-Boisselle in France but a letter sent to the Minister of Defence from his grieving father underscored his importance back home.

Upon hearing of his son’s death Robert Chapman 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.”

Officers of the 9th Battalion aboard HMAT Omrah. including Lt (later Maj, 45th Battalion) Duncan Chapman, killed in action at Pozieres on 6 June 1916. Image courtesy of the Australia War Memorial

Officers of the 9th Battalion aboard HMAT Omrah. including Lt (later Maj, 45th Battalion) Duncan Chapman, killed in action at Pozieres on 6 June 1916. Image courtesy of the Australia War Memorial

Major Chapman, who died in 1919 following a heavy German bombardment on the front line near Pozières, is one of a number of Queenslanders who have piqued the interest of QANZAC fellow Dr Robert Hogg.

Robert, who is a lecturer at the University of Queensland and the author of Men and manliness on the frontier: Queensland and British Columbia in the mid-nineteenth century, will investigate themes of identity, place and belonging as part of his fellowship project.

He is curious to learn how, or indeed if, Queensland soldiers expressed a sense of ‘Queenslandness’ while they were posted abroad or if this was subsumed by a broader national identity.

Did they express a sense of attachment to Queensland and how did they articulate and share their feelings towards Queensland, thousands of miles from home? All questions the former public servant is keen to explore.

Robert has started poring over the diaries and letters of soldiers in an effort to pinpoint expressions of their Queensland identity.

“Identity changes all the time, it’s not stable. I hypothesise that the various states had not left their colony identities behind by the time  World War I began.”

Robert said most World War I battalions were regionally based.

“The 9th Battalion consisted almost entirely of Queenslanders and they started off with a very strong sense that they were Queenslanders going off to war,” he said.

Over time, the composition of the Australian battalions changed and many soldiers were not happy about being separated, he said.

Robert hopes his research will cast light on a part of the state’s wartime history that, until now, has remained unexplored.

Q ANZAC 100 fellows for 2015:

Elaine Acworth

Neville Buch

Robert Hogg

John Thompson

If you would like to hear the Q ANZAC 100 fellows talk about their research, please join us for Under the skin on Tuesday 8 September at 9am. To book tickets please go to Eventbrite

Dianne McKean - Q ANZAC 100 Team

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