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Mould, John Stuart (1910–1957)

by Alastair Cooper

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

John Stuart Mould (1910-1957), by unknown photographer

John Stuart Mould (1910-1957), by unknown photographer

Australian War Memorial, 061954A

John Stuart Mould (1910-1957), naval officer and architect, was born on 21 March 1910 at Gosforth, Northumberland, England, son of Stuart Mill Mould, architect and surveyor, and his wife Ethel Kate, née Robinson. The family emigrated to Australia when John was aged 2. Educated at Sydney Grammar School and subsequently in London, he became an associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1934. That year he returned to Sydney and joined his father in private practice. At the Presbyterian Church, Mosman, on 29 April 1935 he married Phyllis Sarah Palmer; they were to have one child before being divorced.

On 14 June 1940 Mould enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. He contracted bronchial pneumonia and, while recuperating, qualified through the Yachtsmen Scheme for appointment as sub lieutenant, Royal Australian Naval Volunteer Reserve. Discharged from the A.I.F., he was mobilized in the R.A.N.V.R. on 14 September and sent to England for training at H.M.S. King Alfred. With Hugh Syme, H. D. Reid and J. H. H. Kessack, he volunteered for 'special duties ashore'—service in the Royal Navy's Rendering Mines Safe section. He was provisionally promoted lieutenant in December and posted to H.M.S. Vernon.

The R.M.S. section had been established to assist in disarming the large number of unexploded bombs and mines strewn across Britain by German aircraft. Although most of the work involved bombs, the R.M.S.'s naval personnel were primarily concerned with 'delousing' German sea mines which had been dropped on land or washed ashore. Mould performed 'outstanding work on dock clearance operations and those resulting in the stripping of the early German mine Type G'. He received a commendation for bravery in June 1941 and won the George Medal in April 1942.

Among numerous assignments, Mould recovered, rendered safe and investigated 'the first German magnetic acoustic unit and moored magnetic mine'. The successful dismantling of such weapons allowed British scientists to identify their triggering mechanisms and thus devise countermeasures. In addition to the usual hazards of handling explosives, Mould and his colleagues had to contend with booby traps set to detonate the mines if attempts were made to disarm and disassemble them. He was awarded (November 1942) the George Cross for 'great gallantry and devotion to duty'.

Promoted acting lieutenant commander in January 1943, he began work with Professor Jack Haldane to develop a diving-suit with an independent air supply. Later that year Mould, Lieutenant Leon Goldsworthy, R.A.N.V.R., and Lieutenant Commander J. L. Harries, Royal Canadian Navy, trained groups of men known as 'P' parties in preparation for the invasion of Western Europe. These units were to be dispatched to newly captured harbours to clear them of booby traps, mines and other obstructions. Declining the opportunity to command one of the parties, Mould chose instead to continue training men who would serve in them. Following the German surrender in May 1945, he was sent to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and Australia to assess the requirement for 'P' parties in the Far East and Pacific theatres. He was designated commander of two of the parties about the time that World War II ended.

Mould's R.A.N.V.R. appointment terminated on 26 November 1945 in Britain. He obtained a post as an architect with the allied military government in Germany and helped with that country's reconstruction. On 28 May 1947 at the Presbyterian Church, Bayswater, London, he married Margaret Agnes Massey, née Heeps, a 32-year-old divorcee. He returned to Australia in 1948. After working as an architect with the Department of Public Works, he was appointed chief architect to the Housing Commission of New South Wales in 1950. The amount of construction increased dramatically during his tenure, and he was responsible for the design of housing estates and shopping centres. His most conspicuous buildings are the Greenway apartment blocks in Ennis Road, Milsons Point, immediately east of the northern approach to Sydney Harbour Bridge. He died of peritonitis on 9 August 1957 in Royal North Shore Hospital and was cremated; his wife, and their son and daughter survived him, as did the son of his first marriage.

Select Bibliography

  • J. F. Turner, Service Most Silent (Syd, 1955)
  • I. Southall, Softly Tread the Brave (Syd, 1960)
  • G. H. Gill, Royal Australian Navy 1942-1945 (Canb, 1968)
  • P. Firkins, Of Nautilus and Eagles (Syd, 1975)
  • L. Wigmore (ed), They Dared Mightily, second ed revised and condensed by J. Williams and A. Staunton (Canb, 1986)
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 30 Nov 1946, 10 Aug 1957
  • private information.

Citation details

Alastair Cooper, 'Mould, John Stuart (1910–1957)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/mould-john-stuart-11187/text19939, published in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 18 April 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

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