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Biographical entry Hailes, William Allan (1891 - 1949)

CBE 1944; DSO 1917; MRCS and FRCS 11 December 1919; FRACS foundation 1927; MB BS Melbourne 1914.

9 June 1891
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
22 January 1949
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
General surgeon


Born 9 June 1891, son of Walter C Hailes of Moonee Ponds, a northern suburb of Melbourne. He was educated at the Essendon Grammar School, at the Scotch College, then in its old blue-stone buildings in East Melbourne, and at the University of Melbourne, where he won scholarships and prizes and was a cricket "blue". He usually spent his holidays on a station at Gerogery, New South Wales. He graduated in 1914, and served as resident medical officer and surgical registrar at the Melbourne Hospital. As soon as these duties were completed he joined the Australian Army Medical Corps and was sent to Europe in a small troop-ship carrying hundreds of horses as well as men. He proved his sterling worth in this singularly unpleasant passage. In France he was posted to the 4th Field Artillery Brigade of the Australian Imperial Force. He was promoted major in 1916, and transferred to the 20th Infantry Brigade. After winning the DSO at Broodseinde Ridge in 1917 he was posted to no 1 Australian General Hospital at Rouen in 1918. He took the English Fellowship from the London Hospital in 1919.

On returning to, Australia Hailes went into general practice in Ascot Vale near his home. He soon decided to specialize as a consultant surgeon in Melbourne. He was appointed surgeon to out-patients at the Royal Melbourne Hospital in 1920 and promoted surgeon to in-patients in 1934. He served as sub-dean and dean of the Hospital's Clinical School. Hailes was a foundation Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons in 1927, and from 1944 its censor-in-chief in succession to Sir Alan Newton; he was elected to the Council in 1945. He served on the Council of the Victorian branch of the British Medical Association from 1927 to 1932, and as chairman of its scientific committee initiated clinical meetings in country centres. At the University of Melbourne he represented his hospital on the Faculty of Medicine, and was a lecturer and examiner in surgery. He was a popular teacher, ever ready to promote the work of younger men.

At the outbreak of war in 1939 he was rejected for active service, as his constitution had begun to show signs of the hard going at work and play which he had always given it. By 1940 however he secured re-admission to the Army and served for two years in the Middle East as a colonel, consultant surgeon to the Australian Imperial Force. He was promoted brigadier in 1942, and served till the end of the war (1945) as director of surgery at the Allied land headquarters for the South-West Pacific. He was created CBE in 1944. He undertook an official tour to Great Britain, Canada, and the United States in the spring of 1945, to report on the opportunities for post-graduate training for Australian medical officers whose work had been interrupted by their military service. Thereafter he devoted his energy to developing rehabilitation services in Australia.

Hailes married on 29 March 1920 M M Whitfield, daughter of George Whitfield, who survived him with three daughters, two of whom entered the medical profession. He practised first in Collins Street and later at 14 Parliament Place, Melbourne, and lived at 11 Gordon Grove, South Yarra. He collapsed at a dinner given to his life-long friend, Neil Fairley, and died next morning, 22 January 1949, aged 57. Cricket and fishing were his recreations. As a boy he played for Scotch College 1907-08, and for University 1910-13, and was captain of the Essendon Cricket Club's senior eleven in 1920. Later he was a constant attendant at the Melbourne cricket ground for all important cricket and football matches; he also played golf for his hospital. He loved brief fishing holidays with one or Two friends on the Upper Murray and Kiewa rivers. "Bill" Hailes was a popular and genial man, of unbounded energy and forthright honesty, and a leader from boyhood.

The Royal College of Surgeons of England