Chopin Among the ANZACs
Chopin Among the ANZACs
This research project was begun in 2015 by Wanda Horky to explore the role Chopin's music played in the Great War and at home. The project culminated in a special concert event in October 2018 featuring Peter de Jager, winner of the first Australian International Chopin Piano Competition 2011.
The event was in three parts, a Last Post ceremony, an illustrated memorial program of music commemorating the life of Lance-Corporal Charles Frederic Giles Chopin (unrelated) of the NSW South Coast, and an illustrated program of music showcasing Chopin's music as heard by the troops in the trenches, on leave, and by those at home.
The reason for this community concert was to give Australians a musical opportunity to remember the ANZACs, their families and to remember their own family members who were involved, in the centenary remembrance of the ANZAC story.
Part I - Last Post Ceremony at the Australian War Memorial
7134 Lance Corporal Charles Frederic Giles Chopin 17th Battalion, AIF
Date Of Wounds: 3 October, 1918
Today, we remember and pay tribute to Lance Corporal Charles Frederic Giles Chopin.
Charles Chopin was born on the 14th of May 1900 to Frederic and Emily Chopin at Candelo, New South Wales. The family lived in the Shellharbour area, where in 1902 Frederic was made the principal of Shellharbour Public School. In 1905, after the birth of the couple’s fourth child, Emily died suddenly.
Charles attended Shellharbour Public School and then North Sydney Boys’ High School. There he was a member of the school’s senior cadets. While he was in high school, the First World War began. Chopin was eager to serve his country and feared that the war would be over before he could do his bit.
He left school and worked as a clerk with the Commercial Banking Company in Sydney. Chopin, though only 17, put his age up to 18 and with his father’s permission, enlisted for service with the AIF on the 16th of July 1917. After initial training, he was allocated to the 21st reinforcements to the 17th Battalion.
In September the townsfolk of Shellharbour gave Chopin and one of his childhood friends, who had also enlisted, a farewell party, which was well attended by family and friends. The local newspaper wrote the call up as “…the great enterprise” and all hoped for good fortune and a safe return. After a final leave, he embarked from Sydney with his unit aboard the transport ship Euripides on the 31st of October.
After arriving in England in December, Chopin spent several months at the camp in Fovant, Wiltshire. Here, he underwent further training for service on the Western Front. He was sent to France on the 1st of April 1918 to Beau Marais outside Calais, and a little over a week later, was sent forward to join the 17th Battalion.
Chopin was taken on strength of the battalion on the 16th of April and was posted to C Company. He was quickly accepted by his comrades and was given the nickname “Chopper”. Over the next three months, the battalion saw front-line service in several sectors, including near Villers Bretonneux [villas bruh-ton-uh], which had fallen to the Australians in April. At the end of July, Chopin was promoted to Lance Corporal.
Chopin saw his first major action on the 8th of August, when the 17th Battalion was involved in the battle of Amiens , the beginning of the final allied offensive. After a brief rest out of the line, the battalion returned to the front line on the 26th of August and took part in the battle of Mont St Quentin.
Moving from Hargicourt to Joncourt during the 1st and 2nd October his unit encountered shelling, enemy aircraft bombing and mustard gas bombardment.
On the morning of the 3rd of October, the 17th Battalion was involved in the attack to capture the Beaurevoir Line, and quickly captured the village of Wiencourt. A little after 10.30 in the morning, the men resumed their advance towards Montbrehain. Chopin, a member of a Lewis gun team, was severely wounded in the head and chest by a shell burst, which also killed the other member of his team. Chopin was carried back to the 6th Australian Field Ambulance, where he died shortly after. He was 18 years old.
Charles Chopin was temporarily buried in a neighbouring village and finally laid to rest in the Bellicourt British Cemetery.
Charles Chopin was laid to rest the following morning in the Bellicourt British Cemetery.
His name is listed on the Roll of Honour along with around 60,000 others from the First World War.
This is but one of the many stories of courage and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Lance Corporal Charles Frederic Giles Chopin, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.
Part II - Memorial for Lance-Corporal Charles Frederic Giles Chopin
Chopin among the ANZACs is a commemorative concert to all the ANZACs of World War I as represented by Lance Corporal Charles Frederic Giles Chopin who desperately wanted to go to war and paid the ultimate sacrifice.
In the Mourning and memories that followed his death, his father Frederick Charles received his son’s personal effects, news of his re-interrment and exhumation, the King George V Memorial Scroll and the British War Medal and Victory Medal.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the year condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
- The Ode for the Fallen (4th stanza) by Laurence Binyon
Part III - Honouring the ANZAC Spirit
Honouring the ANZAC spirit abroad and back home from 1915 the year that forged the ANZAC legend and united Australia. The music of Chopin was performed abroad in the trenches, in rest camps, hospitals, convalescent homes and entertainment centres. At home it was performed for fundraising, in convalescent homes for their wounded and at funerals for their dead. Everyone was involved including school children.