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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Stapleton, Claude Augustine (1894–1974)

by Peter Burness

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

Claude Augustine Stapleton (1894-1974), soldier and health inspector, was born on 13 March 1894 at Charters Towers, Queensland, son of William Stapleton, postman, and his wife Mary Ann, née McAuliffe, both native-born. He attended Christian Brothers College and the Charters Towers School of Mines. An accomplished horseman, he worked as a stockman to finance further studies and was a station-hand when he enlisted as a private in the Australian Imperial Force on 27 April 1915.

He joined 'B' Company, 26th Battalion, and embarked for Egypt as a sergeant in May. In September he reached Gallipoli where his battalion served until 12 December; it was transferred to the Western Front in France in March 1916. At Pozières Stapleton twice distinguished himself under fire: on 29 July he led his platoon during an attack; on 4 August, when casualties were heavy, he assumed command of his company. 'He was most energetic and determined throughout in defending his own particular area and was especially prominent in helping to repel counter-attacks.' For his leadership, he received the Distinguished Conduct Medal and the Russian Order of St George. On 16 August 1916 he was commissioned second lieutenant.

While commanding a platoon in the miserable, winter-bound trenches near Flers, Stapleton was promoted lieutenant in December. He was attached to the 2nd Division Reinforcement Depot before rejoining his battalion for the battles of the Hindenburg outpost line in March 1917. During the attack on Lagnicourt on the 26th, he commanded a party which cleared the eastern outskirts of the heavily defended village; with survivors from his platoon, he established a post and—under orders from Captain P. H. Cherry—held his position during fierce enemy counter-attacks; for two hours the squad repelled assaults from three sides. Stapleton was awarded the Military Cross. Wounded on 28 April, he was later sent to a training battalion.

Rejoining the 26th Battalion in November, Stapleton went with it to the Somme after the opening of the German offensive in 1918. At Morlancourt on 9 June he was again wounded, but remained on duty. On 25 July he was made temporary captain. In the war's closing operations Stapleton again 'showed great courage and able leadership' on the Beaurevoir line when, on 3 October, he cut a path through German entanglements, enabling his men to advance. He then led a party against a machine-gun post and put the gun out of action, for which he won a Bar to his M.C.

Back in Queensland in 1919, Stapleton became a soldier settler, growing pineapples at Glasshouse Mountain and supplementing his income by seasonal cane-cutting. On 5 January 1922 he married Mabel Elizabeth Johnston in Brisbane. He worked as a health inspector for the local shire council at Ayr. In World War II he was appointed an instructor in jungle warfare and held several training appointments until June 1945. He then resumed his post as health inspector. Survived by his wife, three daughters and a son, Stapleton died in Royal Brisbane Hospital on 2 February 1974 and was buried in Redcliffe cemetery with Catholic rites.

Select Bibliography

  • C. E. W. Bean, The A.I.F. in France 1916-18 (Syd, 1929, 1933, 1937, 1942)
  • private information.

Citation details

Peter Burness, 'Stapleton, Claude Augustine (1894–1974)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 25 November 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

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