Title: Papers of Dr J W Springthorpe.
Date range: 1914-1931.
Reference number: 2DRL/0701.
Extent: 0.5 shelf metres (3 boxes and 1 folio).
Location: Private Records collection, Research Centre, Australian War Memorial.
Abstract: The papers in the Springthorpe collection document his First World War military career in the Australian Army Medical Service with No 2. Australian General Hospital and No. 3 Australian Auxiliary Hospital. Included in the collection is a typed diary, correspondence (especially concerning the 1915 inquiry into the operations of the Red Cross in Egypt) and, Springthorpe's work with war neuroses, post war repatriation and pensions. There are also records relating to Springthorpe's assistance to A.G. Butler, the official medical historian.
Provenance: The records were donated to the Memorial in 1934 and in 1937 by Springthorpe's widow, Daisie Springthorpe.
Restrictions on use: Copyright of materials described in this guide is governed by copyright law in Australia. For further information contact the Curator of Private Records, Research Centre. Copying is not permitted.
Preferred citation: Guide to the papers of Dr John William Springthorpe, 2DRL/0701.
Australian War Memorial
- MSS0775, Original manuscript 'Australia at War: the great advance: Anzac and Amiens' and five articles covering aspects of life in Egypt and on the Gallipoli Peninsula.
- 3DRL/0250, Sir James Barrett papers.
- AWM11, item 1507/24/2, Reports on shell shock (neuroses) by Lieutenant Colonel Springthorpe 1918.
- AWM25, item 267/1, Report on cardiac cases and their treatment at No. 3 Australian Auxiliary Hospital, Dartford, Kent, by Lieutenant Colonel JW Springthorpe 1916-1918.
- Series of photographs donated by Mrs Springthorpe: HI8936, HI8946, HI8949-55, HI8961, PS1087, photograph of Doctors Sir Stanley Argyll and Col Springthorpe.
National Archives of Australia Articles and Papers
- A1336, John William Springthorpe, includes articles, 'Therapeutics, Dietetics and Hygiene', An Australian Text Book with Illustrations, Volumes 1 & 2.
- A2487, Application for free passage. J. Springthorpe.
- A2487, Offer of Services - Dr. J.W. Springthorpe.
- No 2. Australian General Hospital
- No. 3 Australian Auxiliary Hospital
- Red Cross
John William Springthorpe was born on 29 August 1855, at Wolverhampton, Staffordshire, England. He came to Australia as a young child to Balmain, Sydney, were he was educated at Fort Street Model School and Sydney Grammar School. From 1872, Springthorpe attended Wesley College in Melbourne. He graduated from University of Melbourne with M.A., M.B., B.S., in 1879 and M.D. in 1884. He went to England and in 1881, and became the first Australian graduate admitted to membership of the Royal College of Physicians.
Springthorpe returned to Melbourne in late 1883 and obtained posts as pathologist to the Alfred Hospital and out-patient physician to the Melbourne Hospital. He was elected as an in-patient physician in 1887 to Melbourne Hospital. This was under controversial circumstances, as he was alleged to have breached professional ethics by using an unsuitable election circular. This was later vindicated. In 1887 he became a university lecturer at the University of Melbourne in therapeutics, dietetics and hygiene. Meanwhile, his Collins Street practice flourished. He wrote a number of articles and journals, including the two-volume textbook, 'Therapeutics, dietetics and hygiene (1914)'.
Springthorpe had varied interests, particularly in the arts and he collected many paintings and sculptures. He was also involved in ambulance work, child welfare, mothercraft nurses' education and amateur cycling and facilitated the setting up of a training and registration system in dentistry and was the first Dean of the Faculty of Dentistry at the University of Melbourne. He helped establish the Royal Victorian Trained Nurses Association, becoming its first president in 1901. He launched the journal, 'Una', working with Felix Meyer. Springthorpe frequently held official positions in numerous organisations, including being president of the Victorian branch of the British Medical Association in 1891 and president of the Melbourne Medical Association in 1900.
In 1914, he enlisted in the Australian Army Medical Corps as a Lieutenant Colonel. He became senior physician to No. 2 Australian General Hospital, Ghizereh Palace hospital, Egypt. He was part of the fierce opposition to Sir James Barrett in Egypt, especially concerning Barrett's work with the Red Cross. Springthorpe attacked Barrett's work as executive officer of the Australian Red Cross Society and Assistant Director of Medical Services, of the Australian General Hospital. Springthorpe returned to Australia in January 1916 to present a report to the authorities criticising the general organisation of the Red Cross in Egypt.
The Committee of the Red Cross Inquiry was formed in October 1916, to investigate the charges brought against Lt Col Barrett, in connection with the Australian Branch of the British Red Cross Society. Barrett in response to Springthorpe's allegations requested that a general inquiry be held. Springthorpe was also involved into the inquiry into No. 1 Australian General Hospital which was also requested by Barrett. Lt Col Springthorpe asked that the Inquiry be a general one into the entire administration of the Australian Red Cross, and that the Committee should then decide who was responsible for any lack of administration is should find to exist.
Springthorpe refused to specify the charges he made against Lt Col Barrett, except on the general lines that he, as chief executive officer, had been guilty of poor distribution of personal comforts; and that the chief cause of the faulty administration in these respects was that he had been unable to give the time necessary for the adequate administration of the Red Cross business.
The Committee considered each of the charges in detail and dedicated that the majority of them were matters which the Red Cross was not responsible for. Springthorpe dropped the charges that related to matters of ordnance and also charges in respect of medical equipment. The charges were reduced to those only that Barrett showed a lack of precision and supervision, and that he was responsible for faulty distribution of personal comforts. The committee determined that the reason for the faulty distribution was that Barrett had undertaken so much work he was unable to give adequate time to this task. No action was taken resulting from the inquiry.
In March 1916, Springthorpe returned to Egypt and then went to France and England, where he worked with soldiers suffering from nervous disorders and later joined No. 3 Australian Auxiliary Hospital, Dartford, Kent.
He returned home in 1919, to find that his appointments at the University of Melbourne and Alfred hospital had expired. He resumed his post of Visitor to Metropolitan Asylums, recommenced private practice and worked on repatriation and the infant welfare movement. He was at this stage hampered by deafness.
Springthorpe was known as 'Springy', due to his diminutive stature but dynamic personality and lively mind. He kept detailed notes and recorded his ideas and thoughts in notebooks which he kept, with interruptions, since 1883. He married Annie Constance Marie Inglis with Methodist forms at Richmond, Victoria, on 26 January 1887. They had four children. She died during childbirth in 1897. He married Daisie Evelyn Johnstone, a nurse and daughter of his housekeeper on 15 March 1916, at Hawthorne, Victoria. Springthorpe died at Richmond, on 22 April 1933. His was survived by his second wife and three of the four children of his first marriage. His youngest son, Guy, became a well-known Melbourne psychiatrist.
1. Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12: 1891-1939, Smy - Z, Melbourne University Press, 1990.
2. Johns F, Who's Who in Australia, 1927-1928, Adelaide, 1927.
3. AWM43, Official History 1914-1918 war, biographical files.
4. AWM140, Official History 1914-1918 war, biographical cards.
Scope and content note
The papers of Lieutenant Colonel John Springthorpe are held within the Private Records collection at the Australian War Memorial's Research Centre. They document Springthorpe's war time military career in the Australian Army Medical service with No. 2 Australian General Hospital. The papers occupy 0.5 shelf metres and comprise a range of record types: a typed medical diary, Springthorpe's war time correspondence, correspondence relating to repatriation and after war related correspondence, records relating to the Australian Red Cross Society Inquiry and articles and papers written by Springthorpe relating to his First World War service.