• William Allan Hailes

Army / Flying Corps
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  • Distinguished Service Medal (DSM)
  • Birth

    Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

  • Enlistment - WW1

    Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Stories and comments
    • William Hailes - Soldier and Surgeon
    • Posted by MelanieL, Friday, 19 October 2018

    1891 – 1915 Born, Moonee Ponds, Melbourne son of Walter Crossdell Hailes & Isabel McDonald White Anglo Saxon Presbyterian male Essendon Grammar School /Scotch College Studied medicine at Uni of Melbourne – graduated in 1914 Liked sports including cricket & rugby Private in the Melbourne University Rifles for two years 1915 -1918 . • June 12th 1915 Joined the AIF in the AAMC as a Captain • November 8th 1915 - Sailed to France on a small troop ship called HMAT Wiltshire • 4th Field Artillery Brigade in France • 29 January 1917 - Promoted to Major • November 7 1917 – Mentioned in despatches by Sir William Haig for distinguished and gallant services and devotion to duty in the field • April 16 1918 - Awarded DSO at Broodseinde Ridge for getting four wounded soliders to safety while under fire • 1918- Posted to Rouen Australian General Hospital 1918-1920 October 15 1919 left the AIF on Leave without Pay to study in London Became a member of the Fellowship of the Royal Colleges of Surgeons March 3 1920 returned to Melbourne 1920-1934 Set up a general practice in his home suburb of Moonee Ponds Also worked in surgery at Melbourne Hospital 1927 – Foundation member of the Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons in 1934-1940 Went from private practice to working full time in Melbourne Hospital Worked in training student doctors and lecturing at University of Melbourne 1940- 1949 Back to the AIF as consulting surgeon 1944 - was promoted to Brigadier and eventually Colonel 27 April 1944 – awarded an CBE at Buckingham Palace UK for his service in New Guinea 1949 - Memorial fund created and resulted in the Hailes Room at the R.A.C.S. What was he really like? William Hailes studied medicine at Melbourne University and entered the ADF as a medical practitioner. An interesting fact about William Hailes was that he was not unfamiliar with military when he signed up with the AIF in WWI because while at university he spent two years as a “Private” in the Melbourne University Rifles (MUR). It is interesting to question why would a medical student wish to join a military training club at university? Possibly he had a bit of a thing for guns and warfare with the view to the medical area of patching up those who were injured by guns and warfare. Perhaps it was popular at this time with the current political unrest occurring overseas and the feeling that one should be ready to fight. Perhaps it was considered impressive to be part of the MUR. Unsurprisingly at that time there were no women, so it wasn’t to meet girls. Interestingly there were definitely women medical students around at that time. Melbourne University seems to have a great history in encouraging women in medicine from 1890 or so. MUR had quite a strong history. It began in 1884 and ran under various names and in various ways, at one point declining in membership as students were of the opinion that if they joined such a regiment at university they would legally be forced to fight if a war ever broke out. However it was restarted and revamped in 1910 and named Melbourne University Rifles in 1910. They trained not only university students but also school boys from schools around Melbourne and Geelong. MUR took things pretty seriously with parades, manoeuvres and regular training and like all good military regiments it has its own motto – “Postera crescam laude” which means “Later I shall grow by praise”. A motto which gives the group some formality and sounds both wistful as well as needy. It is important to note that MUR was never deployed – it was definitely more of a training ground for future soldiers. Interestingly, John Monash was also a past member of MUR. William Hailes may have gone on to serve about the same time as Monash at the Australian invasion of Turkey in 1915. He may have known about the ongoing rumours and opinions of those who felt Monash was a untrustworthy, unreliable and possibly even a spy due to his German/Jewish ancestry. As a fellow MUR associate it interesting to wonder what he thought about these rumours. Training in the MUR along with his recently achieved medical degree probably explains why he was immediately signed on as a Captain in the AIF. William Hailes had a busy time in WW1 where he worked as a medical officer. On enlisting he was immediately made a Captain and was paid twenty two shillings a day which is about four times as much a private would have been paid. He left Australia on November 18 2018 travelled straight to the Suez via France and arriving on December 15 2018 which ironically was the same day that the massive evacuation of invading troops from Gallipoli in Turkey commenced. When sailing on board HMAS Wiltshire - a small troop ship laden with soldiers and hundreds of horses it seems that William Hailes spent much of the time tending to the horses as many of the other men on board became very sick. While serving he was gained several medals, a dose of the mumps and a promotion to Major. After the war he wished to study surgery in the UK and about half of the documentation and paperwork in his service record cover the issue of whether he should be discharged or whether he should be granted a few months leave without pay. It appears in the end General Monash approved his leave without pay request. Back in Australia, William Hailes would ride his bike from Moonee Ponds to Melbourne Hospital at all times of the day and night when he was needed. The horrors of WWI seem not to have put William Hailes off from joining WW2. Initially he was rejected due to age however it appears that there are never too many medics in the midst of a grisly war and they eventually found him a spot in the surgical work being done in the Middle East. He became a Colonel in WW2. Two of William Hailes’ three daughters also entered the medical field. Dorothy Jean studied medicine at University of Melbourne. She implemented several highly influential and important new programs in women’s health as well as bringing modern new approaches into women’s health. The Jean Hailes Foundation for Women’s Health, established in 1992 continues her ground breaking work.