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Jack Chalmers & Frank Beaurepaire

Date: 1922
380 x 250 mm
Medium: Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Souvenir supplement
Object No: 00039777

User Terms

    Souvenir supplement to the Referee, 29 March 1922 depicting a black and white photograph of Jack Chalmers and Frank Beaurepaire.
    History"On 4 February 1922, 19 year old Randwick man Milton Coughlan was swimming past the breakers at Coogee Beach when he was attacked by a shark at about 3pm. Coughlan was himself a member of the North Bondi Surf Life Club and had the presence of mind to shout to other swimmers to get out of the water, however the incident unfolded swiftly and viciously – leaving him struggling with terrible injuries that included the loss of both of his arms.
    Newspaper reports salaciously describe the unfolding attack, some recounting in exaggerated detail the bloody moments of Coughlan’s brave fight with the shark:

    “The horrified crowd next saw for some minutes a shark and the swimmer thrashing around in a welter of blood-stained water and scarlet flecked foam… With one snap of its jaws the brute tore off Coughlan’s arm, but the plucky boy… tried to beat off his savage assailant.”

    (Cairns Post 22.02.1922 p7)

    Back on the beach, surf life saver Jack Chalmers was the first to plough into the water, having first grabbed a life line and tied it around his waist. He quickly reached Coughlan and is said to have assisted in beating the shark off the boy, causing it to release its grip. However the blood in the water was attracting more sharks to the struggling pair.

    “And now Chalmers has his man. He literally has to tear him from the shark’s jaws. “Don’t let go of me Jack!”” cries out Coughlan. It is his first cry for aid and is torn from him by terrible torture…”

    (Cairns Post 22.02.1922 p7)

    Beaurepaire, also on duty as a life saver, saw the action from his position in the surf shed and raced down to the shark-infested water, reaching Coughlan’s side soon after Chalmers. Despite the danger the two men, with the assistance of several bystanders, managed to bring the victim back to the shore.

    Slowly the pair are drawn to the shore, and meanwhile that champion of champions, Frank Beaurepaire, and a Mr Green of Coogee… have dived in and helped in the rescue…

    (Cairns Post 22.02.1922 p7)

    Sadly, due to the devastating nature of Coughlan’s injuries, he died in hospital soon after.

    In the weeks that followed the rescue, the incident was reported widely in the press who tapped into the public’s fear of and fascination with sharks. The media focussed their reporting on the heroism of Chalmers and Beaurepaire and public appeals were made to provide those involved with a monetary reward. Beaurepaire received around £500 and was also awarded the gold medal of the Royal Humane and Shipwreck Society of New South Wales. The acting premier, Mr C. W. Oakes, declared that the bravery demonstrated by the men during the rescue was the equal to those acts that had received the military’s highest honour for bravery; the Victoria Cross – high praise in a world still reeling from war.

    Interestingly, despite his talents in the pool and 15 world records, Beaurepaire never won an Olympic gold medal in his lifetime. His swimming skills however, were put to the ultimate test that day at Coogee Beach, where, played out in tragic circumstances, they passed with flying colours."

    Additional Titles

    Secondary title: Heroes who rescued Milton Coughlan from the jaws of a shark in Cogee surf on 4 February 1922

    Primary title: Jack Chalmers & Frank Beaurepaire

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