St Christopher's Chapel - A place of peace04 July 2019
Erected by American servicemen in 1943, the heritage-listed St Christopher’s Chapel at Nerimbera is an important piece of Central Queensland history.
Saint Christopher, patron saint of travellers, is an appropriate namesake for the little bush chapel at Nerimbera, built by American servicemen during WWII.
St Christopher’s Chapel was constructed from locally found stone and bush timber by the 41st Ship and Shore Division and served as a non-denominational place of worship for soldiers far from home seeking spiritual comfort.
Eleanor Roosevelt addressing US troops at Camp Caves during WWII
When the war ended, many people in the Central Queensland area were ready to move on from wartime memories and St Christopher’s Chapel fell into disrepair. In 1947, Henry Beak, third generation Central Queenslander and owner of the property neighbouring the chapel, began to personally care for the site. “It was a little while after the war before people started realising it was unique, and my wife’s family, in particular her father, spent a lot of time trying to coerce people into looking after the chapel and maintaining it,” Henry’s son-in-law Robert Lang explains.
Robert Lang believes St Christopher’s Chapel is a vital part of Central Queensland history.
Robert and Michele believe St Christopher’s Chapel is a vital part of Central Queensland history and possibly the only one of its kind in the world. “There was another one built in South East Asia we believe, possibly in Borneo. A very similar thing, but there’s absolutely no record of it remaining. It went back to the jungle apparently and was swallowed by nature eventually. So, this building here, it’s very unique,” Robert says. These days, the chapel is managed by Livingstone Shire Council and has been the site of many local weddings and even a few funerals. Every year, a Service of Remembrance is held on the Sunday closest to 4 July to celebrate the strong bonds of friendship between Central Queensland and US forces during WWII. This year, the service will be held from 2pm on Sunday 7 July.
For Robert and Michele, increasing awareness of the chapel’s history and its ongoing importance is crucial to its future. “It’s a very concrete, tangible piece of history, and I think from my personal point of view, it’s doable to look after it and make sure people in the foreseeable future have access to it. And the story, very important,” Robert says.