THE eyes of the nation turned to Maryborough on Friday as First World War hero 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 1000 residents and visitors.
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, service men and women and passengers from this week's five-day 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.
"Being here for me is a stroke off my bucket list because I've been researching Duncan for 20 years," Ms Bores said of her great-great-uncle.
"I've been down to the Canberra War Memorial, then other places and here to see him get some recognition.
Many of the descendants at Friday's 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.
"I think it's sad that he never had children so there are no grandchildren here for him," Ms Bores said.
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.
"It's fun for me. I've never gone far on a road trip," Drake said.
"I'm feeling very happy to actually see someone recognise him.
"I'm proud because he was the first man to step off and go onto Gallipoli."
Grant Cook, 67, was delighted to watch his great uncle honoured.
"I'm very proud to be here," Mr Cook said.
"It's a great opportunity for Maryborough and the people of Maryborough, but I do say that not only for Duncan Chapman but all of those who fought in the Great War."
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.
From donations of $20 to $20,000, the city's 21,000 residents dug deep to raise $60,000 for the project.
"Relieved and really happy that particularly the Chapman family have come from all over Australia and to them so happy that Duncan Chapman has finally been recognised," Ms Bates, 67, said of the commemoration.
"That's pretty special.
"My favourite part is the stance of him looking up at the unexpected sight of the cliffs of Gallipoli."
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 image of the face," Mr Chan said.
"We managed to find sufficient imagery to go ahead."
Mayor Gerard O'Connell said the event marked a red letter day for the region.
"This is where we to 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 by this statue 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."
Maryborough preparing to create the second stage of the public memorial, which will have sculptures depicting landing boats, the cliffs of Gallipoli and the battle of Pozieres.
The artwork will be 8m high and is expected to cost up to $1.5 million.
- APN NEWSDESK