Obituary - Charles Keith Waller

The young Keith Waller

13 January 1922 - 31 January 2014

Charles Keith Waller passed away, aged 92, on 31st January 2014. Keith, to those who knew him, was born on 13th January 1922 and grew up in Brisbane, spending his early years in Nundah and Toowong. He left school after Grade 7 and worked for his fatherís butcher shop delivering meat, initially by pushbike and later by motorcycle.

Keith enlisted in the RAAF in January 1942, after the bombing of Pearl Harbour, and trained in aircraft maintenance. In 1942-44 he was stationed at Coomalie Creek airstrip, 50 miles south of Darwin, as part of the ground crew, working as an aircraft mechanic. The airstrip was bombed and strafed quite a few times and Keith could remember, during one of those attacks, seeing the face of a Japanese pilot peering out of his plane just above the tree-tops. He was in Darwin in late 1943, while the Coomalie Creek airstrip was being resurfaced, for the last Japanese air-raid on the city.

After the war an RAAF education officer encouraged Keith to resume his studies. He undertook the Junior Certificate course initially and completed his Senior Certificate in 12 months through the Technical Correspondence School in South Brisbane, matriculating under the Commonwealth Repatriation Scheme in 1947. He then attended the University of Queensland 1948-51 and was Registered as an Authorised Surveyor with a Bachelor of Surveying degree in March 1953 following field service under articles with B.F. Brennan and A.H. Spowers.

He married Esther Smith at St Johnís Cathedral, Brisbane in September 1952 and soon after moved to Melbourne.

Following six months of cadastral and engineering surveys for the Department of Interior, Keith joined the then National Mapping Office, based in Melbourne, in September 1953 and undertook geodetic and topographic control surveys involving triangulation, Geodimeter baseline re-measurements and Tellurometer traverses. While some assignments were undertaken around Melbourne, the work involved extensive travel throughout eastern Australia including many parts of the outback. He was one of the first surveyors in Australia to use electronic distance measuring equipment - Geodimeter (1954/57) and Tellurometer (1957/59) - and was tasked with its testing and the development of techniques for field operation. His articles on the field use of this equipment were published in Cartography, the journal of the Australian Institute of Cartographers.

After six years of field surveys, most of it away from home and family, Keith took up an appointment as Assistant Chief Topographic Surveyor, Survey Office, Department of Lands, Queensland, and moved back to Brisbane in September 1959. Appointed to the position of Chief Topographic Surveyor in December 1962, following the retirement of S.E. (Sid) Reilly from the position, he was in charge of the Topographic Branch which included field control, computations, photogrammetric and cartographic sections. An extensive program producing the highest quality 1:25,000 topographic mapping over the Burdekin Basin and South East Queensland together with 1:10,000 and 1:2,500 orthophoto mapping, overlayed with cadastral boundaries, was conducted under his direction.

Keith was appointed Deputy Director (Mapping), Department of Mapping and Surveying, and Deputy Surveyor General in 1976. He was also a member of the Surveyors Board 1980-1982. He retired in September 1982.

Throughout his career Keith was a committed participant in professional activities and made a significant contribution to the Surveying and Cartographic institutions.† He was a member of the Australian Institute of Cartographers from 1954 and became a Member of the Institution of Surveyors in 1959, where he served on Divisional Committee, Queensland Division (1962/76 and 1979/80), was Vice President (1971) and President (1972). He was Honorary Editor and Business Manager, Queensland Division (1975/76). During his year as Federal President the Queensland Divisionís report was presented to the Committee of Enquiry into Surveying, rooms were purchased in Morris Towers, Brisbane, and secretarial services for the Queensland Division were extended to full time attendance. Keith lectured in Geodesy and Elementary Surveying to surveying and cartography students at the Institute of Technology in his younger years and was active in the formation of the Photogrammetric Discussion Group which became the Survey and Mapping Discussion Group. He was appointed a Fellow of the Institution of Surveyors in 1970 in recognition of his contribution to the profession.

Outside surveying Keith was an active participant in community activities such the primary school P&C in the 1960s. Following retirement he was a regular lawn bowler and every week on Thursday drove a bus for the Nundah Golden Years Centre. He was a life member of the RSL and an active Mason from the mid-1960s, serving as Worshipful Master in 1977/78. He will be remembered by many for his delight in quoting poetry at opportunistic moments.

Keithís second son Paul William, born in December 1959, died in April 2000, and Esther passed away in June 2008. Except for the last year when he was incapacitated, he remained in the family home in Virginia. He is survived by his son John Keith born in January 1954.

Always a quiet but determined achiever, undertaking many kindnesses without thought of reward or recognition, Keith is much missed by his family and will be long remembered by many in the profession, the RSL, the Masons, the lawn bowling fraternity, his friends and neighbours.


Prepared by Ian McGhie with assistance from John Waller and Graham Ledlie (April 2014).



A sketch of the older Keith Waller