SHIPWAY, Graham Stuart

Studio portrait of Captain Graham Stuart SHIPWAY, the photographer is unknown; from the Brad SHIPWAY collection (Brad is a great-nephew of Dr SHIPWAY.

Major Graham Stuart SHIPWAY

Graham Stuart SHIPWAY was born in Victor Harbor on 26 February 1889, the eldest of two children of Cornelius John SHIPWAY and Agnes Ann SHIPWAY (nee GRAHAM). He was educated at Victor Harbor Public School and undertook his secondary school studies as a boarder at Prince Alfred College, whereafter he was admitted to the University of Adelaide Medical School. After completion of his medical studies and internship he returned to Victor Harbor to practice medicine with Dr Frank Douglas, a Boer War veteran.

Dr SHIPWAY enlisted in the AIF on 7 July 1916, age 27, and was commissioned as a captain in the Australian Army Medical Corps. His service file states he could ride a horse and spoke German. He underwent his medical examination on 20 July 1916, the examining doctor was Capt Geoffrey Penrose Arnold. Graham’s description from his service medical history sheet reveals his:

Height 5 feet 9 ½ inches

Weight 11 stone

Chest measurement 35-39

Vision R 6/6 L 6/6 with glasses

Captain SHIPWAY entrained to Seymour, Victoria, to the base of the newly formed Camel Brigade Field Ambulance, and arrived there on 8 February 1917. During the new three months The unit embarked from Melbourne aboard the HMAT A42 Boorara on 10 May 1917, and all troops disembarked at Port Suez on 22 June 1917. He was detached to the Isolation Camp at Moascar in Egypt until 28 July, and thereafter he was appointed adjutant of the Australian Camel Brigade Field Ambulance. On 20 October, he was posted to the 4th Anzac Battalion Imperial Camel Corps.

The men of the Imperial Camel Corps, known as the ICC, had a rough reputation, largely because when the Corps was originally formed Australian battalion commanders had seized upon it as an opportunity to offload some of their more difficult characters. In 1917 a British supply dump at Rafa was warned to double their guards as the ICC was going to be camped nearby. The men of the ICC were, however, resourceful and effective. While defending a hill called Musallabeh in April 1918, some Australians of the ICC ran out of hand grenades. They resorted to heaving boulders down upon the attacking Turks and eventually fought them off. The hill became known as the “Camel’s Hump”.

Lt Col George Langley DSO, former CO of the 1st Australian Camel Battalion, author of the book Sand, Sweat and Camels (published in 1976) described the mode of ambulance transport in the desert by the Light Horse Regiments and Camel Corps where motorised transport was not available.

To cope with the variety of terrain the Light Horse Field Ambulance had sand carts and sledges whilst the Camel Corps had cacolets.

The sand cart was a broad wheeled, light vehicle drawn by horses, resembling a wire mattress on wheels with a hood. This generally carried two patients but in an emergency, four or five could be placed on a sand cart.

Cacolets were used on camels where the terrain was difficult and there were two kinds. The “sitting-up’ cacolet consisted of two chairs, slung one on each side of the camel. The ‘lying down’ cacolet took the form of two stretchers. With the swaying and stumbling of the camel these devices did not contribute to a comfortable or smooth ride for the patient and were only used when no other method of conveyance was available. Extreme suffering was inflicted on the wounded in the course of transport and the broken nature of the ground slowed up considerably the process of collecting the wounded. All the medical equipment was carried on baggage camels, at the rear of the brigade, and an ambulance tent division formed a dressing station at a point some miles from the actual fighting.

On 16 January 1918, Capt SHIPWAY returned to the Camel Brigade Field ambulance. He was detached to the Officer School at Moascar in early March for a one-week course and then returned to his unit, remaining there until 1 July 1918, when he was posted to the 5th Light Horse Field Ambulance. By this time the Imperial Camel Corps had been disbanded.

When the Allied offensive was launched along the coast of Palestine in September 1918, the 5th Light Horse took part in a subsidiary effort east of the Jordan. It attacked at Amman on 25 September, and on 29 September, 4,500 Turks surrendered to just two squadrons from the Regiment at Ziza.

On 17 October, Capt SHIPWAY was evacuated to the English Hospital in Damascus with malaria. He was discharged and returned to his unit on 4 November. Turkey had surrendered on 31 October 1918, but the 5th Light Horse was employed one last time to assist in putting down the Egyptian revolt of early 1919.

Promoted to temporary major on 7 February 1919, he remained on the AIF List in the Middle East until 2 August 1919 when he was granted paid leave to attend the Royal Bristol Infirmary at Bristol, England, sailing from Port Said on the HT Caledonia. At this time he relinquished his major’s rank and reverted to captain. Capt SHIPWAY remained in England on paid leave until 16 April 1920 when he sailed for Australia aboard HT Hororata.

Captain SHIPWAY was demobilised on 8 August 1920. He had served 1,494 days in the AIF of which 1,142 days were served abroad. He was later awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

Dr SHIPWAY resumed his medical practice in Victor Harbor. He married Hilda Elizabeth Reynolds on 15 March 1922 at St Augustine’s Church, Unley and there were three children of the marriage. Dr SHIPWAY was a foundation member of the Victor Harbor RSL, its first patron and president from 1931-1946. During the Second World War he was the area medical officer.

Dr SHIPWAY died on 26 January 1956, age 66. He is buried in the Victor Harbor Cemetery.

Sketch portrait of Dr SHIPWAY that was donated to the Victor Harbor RSL, the artist is unknown. The portrait is on display in the RSL Clubrooms.
Grave of Dr SHIPWAY in the Victor Harbor Cemetery; this photograph was taken by Victor Harbor RSL History Research Team member Ian MILNES on 7 March 2010.


Service file of Major Graham Stuart SHIPWAY downloaded from the National Archives of Australia ( )

George F. Langley and Edmee M Langley, Sand, Sweat and Camels, Landsdowne Publishing, Sydney (1995).