Frank Doolan BEM (1896-1988)


Image A10: Frank Doolan in later life.

(St Patrick’s College Ballarat image.)


Francis John Doolan was born at the Melbourne suburb of Armadale on 1 June 1896.  He was the second of two sons born to John Francis Doolan and his wife Sara Ann Doolan née Morey.  Frank’s older brother was Edward Denis Doolan.  Frank was educated at several schools beginning at Malvern.  In 1908 when in the fifth grade, Frank boarded at St Patrick’s College Ballarat.  He then attended schools at Albert Park, Woori Yallock, and finally at South Melbourne from 1912 to 1914.

Frank’s brother Edward enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 17 August 1914.  He served as a bugler with the 5th Battalion at Gallipoli and in Egypt.  Owing to persistent hospitalisations with a hernia condition, Edward was invalided to Australia in June 1916 and discharged on 28 August 1916.  As with his brother Frank, during Edward’s war service the address of his next of kin was care of the Coffee Palace, Bridport Street Albert Park; this heritage registered building at 152-158 Bridport Street is now used as privately owned apartments.

From 1914 to 1917, Frank served articles with John Montgomery Coane and his son Henry Edward Coane, consulting civil engineers and surveyors.  However, prior to undertaking the Surveyors Board’s practical examinations in 1917, Frank enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 20 November 1917 and served as a sapper with the 1st Division Signals in France and Belgium but did not see active service at the front.  Frank was discharged on 10 September 1919.

Before returning to Australia in August 1919, Frank attended the AIF Survey School at Southampton.  Many future leaders in the survey profession in Australia also attended this school.  The attendees included; Frederick Marshall Johnston (Commonwealth Surveyor General, inaugural Director of National Mapping and Chairman of the National Mapping Council); Alexander Hubert Hawdon Davison (Surveyor-General South Australia); Harold Leslie Fisk (Surveyor-General South Australia); Walter Vernon Fyfe (Surveyor-General Western Australia); and Daniel Stern Mulley (Surveyor-General New South Wales).

The 1919 AIF Survey School attendees also included: George James Gillespie (principal of a Melbourne survey practise to which a number of Nat Mappers were articled, World War II Lieutenant-Colonel and Assistant Director of Survey, and inaugural President of the Institution of Surveyors, Australia); Percy Herbert Bonnet (Surveyor-General Malaya); Arthur Rowland McComb (Regional Director Civil Aviation); John Alister Ewing (Western Australian surveyor and engineer; and inventor of the Ewing tacheometer); Arnold Hugh Garnsey (City of Sydney Chief Engineer and a Lieutenant‑Colonel in World War II); Francis Howard Burcher (Queensland surveyor to whom Nat Mapper Edmund Francis Norman (Ted) Seton was later articled) (Johnston, 1962).

After his discharge from the AIF on 10 September 1919, Frank Doolan completed the Surveyors Board of Victoria practical examinations and was registered as a licensed surveyor on 14 November 1919.  Afterwards, Frank entered into a private practise in partnership with Edward Christian Le Brocq Bartels (1890-1953).

(Edward Bartels was a licensed surveyor prior to enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force on 31 January 1915.  That year his registered address was 70 Queen Street Melbourne; the same address as JM and HE Coane.  Bartels joined the AIF in the ranks and rose to be temporary captain.  He served in the Middle East with the 2nd Light Horse Field Ambulance and later with the 2nd Field Squadron, Australian Engineers.  He was discharged on 2 October 1919.)

Bartels and Doolan Licensed Surveyors operated from premises on the 2nd floor of 9 Queen Street Melbourne.  During the early years of his partnership with Edward Bartels, Frank worked mainly in rural areas; mostly on surveys for the Forests Commission.  Later the partners employed Charles Thomas Lindsay Goodchild (1897-1941).  (Charles Goodchild was born in England and enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force at 18 years of age on 12 June 1916.  He served as a lieutenant with the 3rd Division Field Artillery; saw action in France and returned to Australia on 15 December 1919.)

Bartels and Doolan undertook many hundreds of check surveys for War Service Homes.  The partnership was also engaged to prepare plans for a major foreshore development stretching from Airey's Inlet east along the present Great Ocean Road to Point Roadknight (to the west of Anglesea).  It was intended to create the Riviera of Australia that would include hotels, a casino, racecourse, aerodrome and a large residential subdivision.  The development did not eventuate but part of the subdivision was completed as the Sunnymead Estate at Anglesea.

Frank’s partnership with Edward Bartels was dissolved in 1924.  In March 1924, Frank married Lillian Johnston.  Frank and Lillian were to have three sons: Desmond, Geoffrey and Maurice.

In 1925, the firm Doolan and Goodchild was established.  One of the major surveying commissions for this firm was precisely locating the site for the Shrine of Remembrance within the Government Domain on St Kilda Road in Melbourne.

This commission included control of the Shine’s construction to exact measurements and determination of the placing of the aperture in the side of the roof so that the ray of light would shine on the word love on the stone of remembrance within the Shrine’s Sanctuary at 11: am on Armistice Day each year (that is, on 11 November, now called Remembrance Day).


Image A11: Frank Doolan (centre) surveying during construction of the Melbourne Shrine of Remembrance in early 1930s.

(Shrine of Remembrance image.)


(The foundation stone for the Melbourne Shrine of Remembrance was laid on 11 November 1927.  The building was designed by World War I veteran architects Phillip Hudson and James Wardrop together with Kingsley Ussher who was the third architect.  Construction by contractors Vaughan and Lodge commenced in 1928 and was completed in September 1934.  However, until his death on 8 October 1931 General Sir John Monash kept a keen interest in the creation and construction of the Shrine.  In 1927, Monash had used support from Legacy and other quarters to overcome ongoing opposition to a solemn monument to the 19,000 Victorian killed in World War I.  Opponents who included Keith Murdoch and his Herald newspaper favoured a structure of some utility such as a hospital or an ANZAC square in the city.)

Julius Frederick Valentine Knight (1909-1986) met Frank Doolan in 1925 and later became his articled pupil.  Jule Knight was registered as a licensed surveyor on 16 June 1930.  Planning for the ray of light at the Shrine of Remembrance was undertaken by the Victorian government astronomer Dr Joseph Mason Baldwin (1878-1945) and the surveying firm of Doolan and Goodchild.

It took Dr Baldwin, 144 pages of astronomical and mathematical calculations to ensure the precision of the ray of light.  Baldwin calculated that the ray would continue to fall upon the centre of the stone, within two minutes of 11: am on Remembrance Day, for at least 5,000 years.  The accuracy of the calculations was first tested at 11: am on Armistice Day in 1931, when to the relief of the surveyors, the ray of sunlight fell upon the mortar-board where the stone of remembrance was to be laid (Shrine of Remembrance, undated).

Also in 1931, it was Jule Knight’s calculations that positioned the floor plate and roof slit to ensure that the sun would shine on the stone of remembrance as required.  These calculations are still held in a basement vault at the Shrine.  Jule Knight joined the Department of the Interior, Canberra in 1939 and served with that department until 1969 (Atchison, 2007; ACT Government, 2012).

The economic depression of the 1930s impacted adversely on surveying and Charles Goodchild left the partnership with Frank Doolan to work on government surveys in Malaya (where he died in 1941).  Frank Doolan was forced to diversify to other fields and eventually closed his survey practise.

In 1936, he became valuer for the Shire of Eltham and carried out a complete revaluation of the Shire within six months.  Frank then undertook several short term appointments, including as an instructor in surveying at the then Melbourne Technical College and then as a senior surveyor with Meudell, Gillespie and Company.  In 1938, Frank Doolan joined the Department of the Interior in Melbourne as a surveyor; he became chief property officer for Victoria in 1950 and held that position until he retired in 1961.  Frank Doolan became an associate member of the Commonwealth Institute of Valuers in 1942 and was elected as a fellow in 1952.  Frank was an active member of the Institution of Surveyors and elected as a fellow in 1954.

On many occasions throughout his life, Frank Doolan exhibited his character as a humanitarian and a gentleman.  In keeping with his character, he had maintained an intense interest in the care of deceased veterans’ families which grew from his own service experience in the Australian Imperial Force.

In 1923 General Sir John Gellibrand founded a Remembrance Club in Hobart to encourage returned servicemen in business.  Captain Stanley Savige (later Lieutenant General Sir George Stanley Savige) then a former 24th Battalion officer who served on Gellibrand's staff visited Hobart in August 1923.  Gellibrand urged Savige to set up a similar club in Melbourne.  After Savige's return to Melbourne, a group of ex-servicemen formed a Remembrance Club there and its inaugural meeting was held at ANZAC House.  However, Frank Doolan, as a member, suggested that the club should care for the dependants of comrades who served their country in war and who died in service or subsequently.  From these words came the formation of the Legacy Club in 1925; and the words were included as part of Legacy’s charter.

Frank Doolan retained an active interest in the affairs of Legacy well into his later years.  For example, in 1978 when in his mid-80s as a legatee Frank planted an Aleppo pine near the VC corner at Fort Queenscliff.  The planting came from the original Lone Pine at Gallipoli; see Image A12 below.


Image A12: Aleppo pine at Fort Queenscliff planted by Frank Doolan in 1978; seen here in 2015.

(Ballarat Heritage Services Image.)


St Patrick’s College at Ballarat has perpetuated the memory of Frank Doolan through one of four individual shields that are awarded annually on a House competition basis.  These shields represent the four identified areas for student participation in the College.  The Frank Doolan shield is awarded for community activities.

From at least the mid-1960s, Frank Doolan and his family lived in a modified Californian bungalow style weatherboard home at 55 Arderie Road East Malvern.  The house was still standing in 2017.

In 1971, Victoria together with some other States adopted a daylight saving time during an extended summer period.  Tasmania had adopted daylight saving in 1968.  For the Remembrance Day ceremony at the Shrine of Remembrance the time change meant that the ray of light would not be shining on the stone of remembrance at 11: am.  For the next few years an artificial light from a theatre spot light was used to illuminate the stone of remembrance on Remembrance Day.  Then Frank Doolan, on behalf of the Shrine of Remembrance Trustees, approached Frank Johnston at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology to devise a means of reflecting the sun’s ray on to the stone of remembrance at the required time.  Frank Johnston had a method using two mirrors in place from 1976; this method is still in use.

On 30 December 1979, Frank Doolan was recognised with the award of the Medal of the Order of the British Empire.

Sadly, Frank Doolan died on 1 August 1988 at age 92 years.  His funeral service was held at St Mary's Anglican Church in Glen Eira Road Caulfield and was attended by a very large gathering.