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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Gibbs, Stanley Frederick (1909–1991)

by Anthony Staunton

This article was published online in 2014

Stanley Frederick Gibbs (1909-1991), shipping clerk, was born on 2 January 1909 at Hunters Hill, Sydney, eldest of four children of New South Wales-born parents Lindsay Thomas Gibbs, drover, and his wife Edith, née Trevillion. After leaving school, he worked as a shop assistant and later became a shipping clerk.

On 3 January 1927, at Grays Point, Port Hacking, New South Wales, fifteen-year-old Mervyn John Allum was on the outer fringe of bathers in chest-high water when his leg was seized by a large shark. Gibbs was aboard a launch when he heard a scream, looked up, and saw the shark. He immediately dived into the water and swam to Allum’s assistance. Gibbs kicked the shark with his foot and grabbed its fin with his hand, succeeding in getting the badly injured Allum released from the shark’s jaws. A rowing boat reached the scene and the oarsman, Donald Campbell, pulled the pair on board, but Allum died shortly after.

The coroner announced his finding on the death of Allum on 20 January. Gibbs’s ‘bravery and self-sacrifice,’ he said, ‘merits the award of the Victoria Cross, if such a distinction can be conferred in the circumstances’ (Sydney Morning Herald 21 January 1927, 8). The award to him of the Albert Medal, for gallantry in peacetime, was announced on 8 February, and presented before an enormous crowd of onlookers on 29 March at Sydney Town Hall by the Duke of York during his tour of Australia. A fund established in recognition of Gibbs’s bravery eventually totalled over £400.

At St Stephen’s Church of England, Newtown, on 20 April 1929 Gibbs married Catherine Charlotte Coulson. After her death in 1933, he married Rosamunde Marcelle Walker on 20 April 1935, also at St Stephen’s; the marriage did not last. On 9 February 1942 he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. Posted to the 35th Battalion, he embarked for Finschhafen, New Guinea, on 18 January 1944. On the day of his arrival, however, he broke his leg. He was repatriated and on 28 December discharged from the AIF to work in an essential occupation.

After the war Gibbs worked for the Australian Gas Light Company in Sydney. He remained with the firm until his retirement in 1974; he had by then worked with the company for forty-five years. He had married Doris Mannix, a clerk, on 9 September 1948 at St Matthew’s Church of England, Bondi. When the Albert Medal was discontinued in 1971, living holders were deemed George Cross recipients. Queen Elizabeth II presented him with the George Cross at Buckingham Palace on 12 July 1972.

Survived by his third wife and a daughter and son, Gibbs died on 3 March 1991 at Bondi and was cremated.

Research edited by Karen Fox

Select Bibliography

  • Daily Telegraph (London). ‘Stanley Gibbs, GC.’ 14 January 1992, 17
  • National Archives of Australia. B883, NX87937
  • Sydney Morning Herald. ‘Shark Attack at Port Hacking.’ 4 January 1927, 11
  • ‘Shark Tragedy.’ 21 January 1927, 8

Additional Resources

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Anthony Staunton, 'Gibbs, Stanley Frederick (1909–1991)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published online 2014, accessed online 26 October 2020.

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