News & Media

The small town with a strong ANZAC spirit

  • Reginald Knox Chapman back row 1st on the Left

By: CFA Media

Category: People

  1.56 PM 20 April, 2015

Location: District 16 News

Views: 1651

Fire brigade members from the western Victorian township of Stawell made a significant contribution to the First World War. 

Ten members, up to a third of the small but strong brigade, enlisted for service during the course of WWI – three would never return.

Among them was 20 year-old Reginald Knox Chapman, who had joined the Stawell Fire Brigade in 1914.

Private Chapman embarked on the HMAT Ulysses out of Melbourne in October 1915, and served with the 24th, 60th and 58th Battalions before returning home at the end of the war.

Fellow brigade member Thomas Arthur Rae also enlisted, having proudly represented Stawell at competitions across the state for almost two decades.

While serving in France he was seriously wounded, and as a result, had one arm amputated.

Like many volunteers, his commitment to community service remained unbroken and he returned to serve in the Stawell brigade once again, and was later appointed station keeper.

Other brigade members who returned from service included: William Jones, who took part in the landings of Gallipoli; James Thomas Neylan, Samuel William Ross, Geoffrey Herbert Rowe and Archie Gilchrist.

Members John Langford Naylor, John Alfred Martin and Frederick Richard Davey died in action.

Mr Davey has no known grave.

The Stawell Fire Brigade is one of the state’s oldest authorities, founded in 1866.

Firefighter Chris Le Gassick said the courage his counterparts displayed was an inspiration.

“These men were as tough as nails,” he said.

“To be a firefighter at that time was tough enough, let alone to volunteer for war and the uncertain future that holds.

“I think their strong sense of community spirit was a major driver in them volunteering.”

Last Updated: 20 April 2015