George William SHAPLEY MBE, MiD

SHAPLEY, George William

Service Numbers: Not yet discovered
Enlisted: 5 September 1914, Adelaide, South Australia
Last Rank: Captain
Last Unit: AIF Headquarters
Born: Execter, Devon, England, 18 July 1887
Home Town: Hamley Bridge, Light, South Australia
Schooling: Port Adelaide State School; Way College; Prince Alfred College
Occupation: Minister of Religion
Died: Natural causes, North Adelaide, South Australia, 16 August 1965, aged 78 years
Cemetery: Centennial Park Cemetery, South Australia
Placed in an unmarked & unlocatable location throughout the cemetery, by William George Shapley.
Memorials: Jamestown Methodist Church WW1 Roll of Honor, Kent Town Prince Alfred College Honour Roll
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World War 1 Service

5 Sep 1914: Enlisted AIF WW1, Adelaide, South Australia
19 Oct 1914: Involvement AIF WW1, YMCA Representative
19 Oct 1914: Embarked AIF WW1, HMAT Benalla A24
5 Aug 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, YMCA Representative, 'ANZAC' / Gallipoli
1 May 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Captain, AIF Headquarters

Help us honour George William SHAPLEY's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.


George William Thomas Shapley was one year old when he emigrated to South Australia with his parents in 1888.

His father Rev William Thomas Shapley was a Bible Christian Minister, and as such, moved around the colony as his church directed. Initially at Wirrabara, subsequent postings saw a young George living at Yankalilla, Broken Hill, Bowden, Port Adelaide, and Balaklava.

Schooling was begun at the Port Adelaide State School, and continued at both Way, and Prince Alfred Colleges.

After leaving school George obtained employment as a clerk with The Commercial Bank of Australia Limited.

When the family moved to Queensland in 1905 it had grown to include 7 boys.

George again got a job with a bank, this time the Bank of New South Wales.

After a year in Townsville the family moved down to Brisbane and the Fortitude Valley Methodist Church. It was here that George met his future wife Ruby Ella Down. During this period of his life George began finding practical ways to express his concern for his fellow man.

In 1909 George Shapley became the first scoutmaster of the 1st Toowoomba Scout Troop, in fact, the first scoutmaster in the Darling Downs area, just one year after the first patrols were set up in Queensland. The following year George presented as a candidate for the ministry with the Methodist Church.

Sept 1914      Appointment (enlistment) in WWI

George Shapley was one of only five YMCA representatives to leave for England with the Australian Expeditionary Force in October 1914. When the soldiers were diverted to Egypt, George based himself, initially at Maadi Camp, then later at Mena Camp at the foot of the pyramids, just outside Cairo. The work being done by the YMCA quickly became appreciated by the military hierarchy.

19/10/1914      Embarked from Port Melbourne on board HMAT Benalla A24
                      as a "YMCA Representative" - (Young Men’s Christian Association)

Dec 1914         Meadi, encamped with 1st Light Horse Brigade

30/1/1915        Mena, encamped with 3rd Infantry Brigade

The main aim of the YMCA was to provide recreational diversions for the boys between their training exercises, and to keep them in the camps at night.

The variety of services provided (depending on the location), writing paper, books and games were distributed free. Cinemas, canteens, clubs, lectures, tours, refreshments, hospital visits, and concert parties, sporting matches, dances, educational schemes: - every conceivable form of endeavour was undertaken, with substantial prizes on offer for some events. On Sundays the YMCA marquees were made available for church services of many denominations.

Work became hectic after the wounded began arriving from the Gallipoli peninsula.

It was not until August 1915 that the YMCA was permitted to provide facilities at 2 locations on the peninsula itself. George travelled to Cape Helles where he remained until the final evacuation on 9th January 1916.

Mar 1916          Manager of ‘The Bourse’ residential club in Cairo, leased by AIF

In Cairo, George was able to catch up with his younger brother Private 7968 Harry Gilbert Shapley (13th Australian Field Ambulance).

24/8/1916        the building known as the ‘ANZAC Hostel’ transferred to YMCA,
                       George was retained as Manager

Nov 1916  News arrived that younger brother Harry, was killed in action, in the field at Montauban, Somme, France.

Early in 1917, George managed to arrange passage to Egypt for his fiancé, Ruby. They were married on 17 April, a week after her arrival in Cairo.

For more than 2 years, George and Ruby Shapley continued to manage the ANZAC Hostel together.

12/2/1918        Further sad news, that Ruby's younger brother 676 Private George Down, now George's
                       brother-in-law had been badly wounded in the head and shoulders at Ploegsteert Wood,
                       and later died at Bailleul, France.

3/4/1918          Mentioned in Despatches by General Allenby
                       "for services in connection with the Palestine Campaign".

1/5/1918          granted 'Honorary Rank' of Captain in AIF
                       George exchanged his former YMCA uniform for that of an AIF officer.

Work continued as usual … except that Ruby was pregnant.

11/11/1918       Manager, YMCA’s ANZAC Hostel, Cairo

Dorothy Alice Shapley was born on 19/11/1918, little more than a week after the end of the war.

George was awarded an MBE on New Year’s Day 1919.

1/9/1919           Embarked for UK per HT Kapsting at Port Said for England

The family stopped in England for a short holiday with relatives.

18/12/1919       Embarked on board Konigan Luise, ex England, for Australia
4/2/1920           disembarked at Hobson’s Bay (Port Melbourne)

20/2/1920         Discharged from appointment in AIF

MID; MBE; Gallipoli Medallion; 1914/15 Star; British War medal (Y93); Victory medal (Y72)

Upon his return to South Australia George Shapley resumed his pastoral work with the Methodist Church, with placements in the Mount Gambier, Wellington Square, Wilmington, Minlaton and Port Lincoln circuits.

In 1937 he was appointed Director of Industrial Fellowship which again brought him into contact with a wide variety of young men and women.

1948 saw him elevated to the Presidency of the Conference.
From 1940 to his retirement in 1955 he was General Superintendent of the Home Missions Department and oversaw the development and expansion of such projects as Resthaven homes for the aged and the Order of Deaconess.

During this period he was regularly called upon to officiate at the Australian Light Horse Remembrance Service on Anzac Day.

Even in retirement George continued to work as a supernumerary on several committees with the Methodist Church.

George and Ruby had three daughters and one son; 14 grandchildren

16/8/1965         George passed away in North Adelaide, SA

cremated in:      Centennial Park Cemetery, Pasadena, SA
                         at William George Shapley's request there is no memorial, and his remains were
                         placed in an unmarked, unretrievable, unlocatable grave within the cemetery grounds.

Information submitted by grandson Peter D. Wenham, and Julianne T Ryan.  27/4/2015.  Lest we forget.