People Australia

  • searches all National Centre of Biography websites
  • searches all National Centre of Biography websites
  • searches all National Centre of Biography websites

Browse Lists:

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

Ernest Arthur Chapman (1892–1935)

This article was published:

Ernest Arthur (known as Arthur or ‘Chappie’) Chapman (1892-1935) railway engineer and trade union leader 

Birth: 1892 in Lincoln, England, son of Henry Curtis Chapman, printer and compositor, and Sarah or Susannah, née Kennington. Marriage: 1914 at Lincoln, England, to Annette Rose Cooper. They had no children. Death: 20 February 1935 at Wahroonga Sanitorium, Sydney, New South Wales. Religion: none. 

  • Educated at Lincoln Grammar and Lincoln Municipal Technical College. Apprentice and railway engineer in England. Active in AEU and associate editor of Independent Labor Party journal, Lincolnshire Democrat. Prominent in ILP circles, attending syndicalist conferences in Berlin and Paris.
  • During World War I he was editor of suppressed journal Metal Workers Record. Secretary, shop steward movement and editor of Solidarity.
  • Visited Soviet Union in 1921 and was highly impressed with central planning of Soviet economy.
  • Migrated to Melbourne in 1923 and to Sydney in 1924. Secretary, NSW Branch, Australian Railways Union (ARU) from 1924 to 1930. General president of the ARU from 1930 to 1935. Largely responsible for the initiative of building Transport House in 1931. Founded union journal Railroad.
  • With the backing (ambivalent) from J. T. Lang, he greatly strengthened power of ARU.
  • Favorite ogre of New Guard and right wing ideologues for his ‘communist’ beliefs and reputation as ‘imported Bolshevic’ (sic), but was not member of the Communist Party of Australia. General president of the Australian Council Against War.
  • Visited United States of America and England “on a health tour” during extended leave of absence from December 1933. Returned to Sydney in December 1934 when he was welcomed by the ARU band.
  • Had a notably large funeral, with the Red Flag flying at half-mast and service read by his union colleague Edwin Albert Barker. Lloyd Ross was elected secretary of the NSW branch of the ARU in his place.
  • Cause of death: essential hypertension and terminal uraemia.

Mark Hearn, Working lives, a history of the Australian Railways Union (Sydney, 1990); Greg Patmore, A history of industrial relations in the NSW Government Railways (PhD thesis University of Sydney, 1985); H. J. Gibbney & A. G Smith, A Biographical Register 1788-1939, vol 1 (Canberra, 1987); Normington-Rawling MSS, Noel Butlin Archives of Business and Labour, ANU, N57/1; Ellis, 1932; obituary, Workers’ Weekly, 1 March 1935, p 1 []; Labor Daily (Sydney), 3 September 1924, 13 January 1927; Railways Union Gazette, 9 September 1924, 11 March 1935; Locomotive Journal, 28 February 1935; The Railroad, 10 March 1935; Advocate, 15 March 1935; Journalist, 31 March 1935; ARU General Secretary’s Biannual Report, May 1950.

Additional Resources

  • funeral, Labor Daily (Sydney), 23 February 1935, p 8

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

'Chapman, Ernest Arthur (1892–1935)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 21 May 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]


Lincoln, Lincolnshire, England


20 February, 1935 (aged ~ 43)
Wahroonga, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

kidney disease

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Key Organisations