Harry Gilbert SHAPLEY

SHAPLEY, Harry Gilbert

Service Number: 7968
Enlisted: 20 July 1915, Keswick, South Australia
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 13th Field Ambulance
Born: Broken Hill, New South Wales, Australia , 8 July 1895
Home Town: Jamestown, Northern Areas, South Australia
Schooling: Brisbane Grammar; Prince Alfred College
Occupation: Civil Servant (Federal Land Tax Dept).
Died: Killed in Action, France, 17 November 1916, aged 21 years
Cemetery: Quarry Cemetery, Montauban
Plot VI; Row I; Grave 2. His name is located at panel 183 in the Commemorative Area at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra, ACT.
Memorials: Adelaide National War Memorial, Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Jamestown Methodist Church WW1 Roll of Honor, Kent Town Prince Alfred College 'Nobly Striving, Nobly Fell' Roll of Honour, Kent Town Prince Alfred College Honour Roll, Port Pirie Fathers of Sailors and Soldiers Association Port Pirie District Roll of Honor WW1, Woodville Uniting Church Honour Board
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World War 1 Service

20 Jul 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 7968, 1st Australian General Hospital, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1,

--- :embarkation_roll: roll_number: '23' embarkation_place: Melbourne embarkation_ship: HMAT Nestor embarkation_ship_number: A71 public_note: ''

20 Jul 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Keswick, South Australia
11 Oct 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, 7968, 1st Australian General Hospital, HMAT Nestor, Melbourne
1 Sep 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 7968, 13th Field Ambulance, Mont St Quentin / Peronne,

--- :awm_ww1_roll_of_honour_import: awm_service_number: 7968 awm_unit: 13th Australian Field Ambulance awm_rank: Private awm_died_date: 1916-11-17

1 Nov 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 7968, 13th Field Ambulance, The Battle of Amiens

Help us honour Harry Gilbert Shapley's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.


His father Rev William Thomas Shapley was a Bible Christian Minister, and as such, moved around the colony as his church directed.

Harry Gilbert Shapley was the fourth son of Reverend William Thomas and Alice (nee Taylor) Shapley, and was born a year after his father had been appointed Minister in the Bible Christian Chapel in Broken Hill.

When Harry was 3 the family moved back to South Australia and lived in a series of residences as his father’s postings directed.

By 1904 Harry had lived in Bowden, Port Adelaide, and Balaklava, and the family had grown to 7 boys. That year they moved to Townsville, then a year later, to Brisbane.

At the beginning of 1909, at the age of 13, he enrolled in the respected Brisbane Grammar School for boys.
2 years later the family again moved back to South Australia and Harry became a boarder at Prince Alfred College.

Upon leaving school he secured a job as a junior civil servant with the Federal Land Tax Department in Adelaide,
he chose to stay and live in Woodville, whilst his family travelled on to Jamestown, now with the Methodist Church.

When Harry turned 18 he undertook the mandatory militia training. Initially he enrolled with the 4th Military District’s “77th Senior Cadets”, but subsequently moved to the “19th Army Medical Corps (Field Ambulance)”.

In June 1915, Harry, supported by letters from his father and his employer, determined to follow his eldest brother (George W T Shapley) overseas in support of the Empire. He signed his attestation papers on 28th June. In large scrawling writing across the top of his attestation form is the annotation …

UNFIT. His physique is not sufficient to warrant his inclusion in the Army. [signed] C. Corbin [and] J.N. Browne.

Further down, another handwritten message on the attestation page …

“Reconsidered and accepted fit he having developed Chest etc. [signed] C. Corbin”. - Young Harry was in.

Described on enlisting as 19 years 11 months old; single; 5' 5 1/4" tall; medium complexion;
brown eyes; brown hair; Methodist.

Harry was duly sworn in at Army Headquarters at Keswick on 20 July 1915; attached to “K Group – Base Infantry” and sent to the training camp at Mitcham. Two months training with the Australian Army Medical Corps (AAMC).

There was time or farewells though. A visit to Jamestown to visit his family, and special friend, Alice Prior. Harry and Alice had an “understanding”, but because of their young ages would wait for Harry’s return before making things formal.
Then back to Adelaide. The Commonwealth Public Service Association held an afternoon social honouring those soldiers who were leaving for the war. Mr FW Rose presented Private Harry Gilbert Shapley with a watch on behalf of the Land Tax Department.

11/10/1915     Embarked from Port Melbourne, on board HMAT Nestor A71
                      as a Private with the 1st Australian General Hospital, Special Reinforcements
                      and destined for Gallipoli.

As expected Harry went to Egypt with the 1AGH and continued months of training around Cairo.

In March 1916, well after the Gallipoli campaign had been concluded, he was transferred to the 13th Field Ambulance and commenced exercises up and down the Suez Canal.

16/3/1916       proceeding from special reinforcements to Searpeum, from Zeitoun
18/3/1916       taken on strength into 13th Field Ambulance, from 1st Australian General Hospital (AGH)

21/4/1916       Admitted to hospital, Serapeum
27/4/1916       discharged to duty

 Then in early June the 13thFA was trained to Alexandria and embarked for France.

 6/6/1916         Embarked on board HT Oriana to join the British Expeditionary Forces
                       ex Alexandria
13/6/1916        disembarked into Marseilles, France 

Arriving in Marseilles, Harry immediately started on a regime of move and wait, move and wait. The pages of the unit war diaries are peppered with dates and place names … Bailluel, Strazelle, and Warloy.

It’s not until the end of July 1916 that the first unit casualties are recorded:-

1 killed, 2 evacuated wounded and 2 evacuated SHELL SHOCK and 4 slightly wounded – continuing duty”.

Then the place names come thick and fast; North-Chimney, Albert; Becourt Wood; Quarry- Post; Chalk-Pit; Casualty-Corner; and Becourt Wood again.

September 1st sees them at the Schoolhouse Dressing Station in Albert, then through the month they move to Warloy; Amplier; Athieule; Boeschede; and Wippenhoek in Belguim, where they stay right through until the end of October.

Into November and the 13th Field Ambulance headed south, towards Amiens.

16/11/1916    Harry was killed in action, in the field
                     Quarry Siding, Advanced Dressing Station, Montauban, Somme, France
                     a Private with the 13th Field Ambulance AIF

It is reasonable to think that he was wounded, most probably by shrapnel, and was brought into his own unit’s Advanced Dressing Station at Quarry Siding where he died. His final resting place was right next to the huts and tents where his own friends and comrades worked and slept.

buried in:       Quarry Cemetery, Montauban, Picardie, France
                     Row I, Grave 12

Harry’s grave is exclusively marked by an outline of white stones and a bed of white gravel. After the war this area was used as a concentration cemetery for many of the smaller field burial sites in the area.

buried by:      Reverend A Harris

Later, when the wooden crosses were replaced with marble headstones, Harry's grave became:
                     Plot VI; Row I; Grave 2.

When the awful news reached home, there were the customary newspaper announcements placed by Harry’s family, work colleagues, and church friends. There was also an in memoriam placed on behalf of a friend,  Robert 'Bob' John Johnsson (7963 13th FA) was also from South Australia, and was at Quarry Siding when Harry was killed. He continued to place a similar message in the Adelaide papers on the anniversary of Harry’s death for many years.

1922  his parents wrote to the AIF, advising they had moved from Jamestown to
14 Winchester Street, St Peters, SA.

1914-15 Star (26264); British War medal (21940); Victory medal (21864);
Memorial Plaque and Memorial Scroll (322278)


75 years after Harry died, Alice Prior was asked why she had never found herself a husband, and she replied:-

I didn’t bother looking. I knew that I would not find any man to go close to matching Harry Shapley”.

Submitted by Julianne T Ryan, courtesy of great-nephew Peter D Wenham.  28/4/2015.  Lest we forget.