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George Spencer Compton (1891–1971)

by M. K. Quartermaine

This article was published:

George Spencer Compton (1891-1971), by unknown photographer

George Spencer Compton (1891-1971), by unknown photographer

Australian War Memorial, 029338

George Spencer Compton (1891-1971), geologist, metallurgist, soldier and historian, was born on 6 May 1891 at Southern Cross, Western Australia, son of Edward Alfred Frederick Compton, civil servant, and his wife Agnes Maria, née Mitchell. Edward worked as a mining registrar under J. M. Finnerty. Spencer attended primary schools at Coolgardie and Guildford, proceeded to Perth Boys' School, qualified as an assayer at Perth Technical School and was awarded an associate diploma in metallurgy (1913) by the Western Australian School of Mines. He was employed at mines at Norseman, Laverton, Ravensthorpe, Sandstone and Youanmi. On 2 January 1914 he married Elizabeth Jane Cobley with Anglican rites at All Saints Church, Sandstone.

Lithe and slim, with light brown hair and grey eyes, Compton was 5 ft 5½ ins (166 cm) tall and a good sportsman. He enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 9 August 1915 and was commissioned in October. Joining the 28th Battalion on the Western Front in June 1916, he was three times wounded in action. From 8 October 1917 he was treated in a series of hospitals, but remained permanently lame in one leg; he returned to Australia where his appointment terminated on 15 July 1918.

After assisting the Geological Survey of Western Australia, Compton lectured at Perth Technical School and studied part time at the University of Western Australia (B.Sc., 1923). In 1924 he was the State's representative to the mineral section of the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley, London. Early in 1934 he was appointed lecturer in mining and geology, and curator of the mineral museum, at the Western Australian School of Mines, Kalgoorlie. During his leave in 1937-39 he was consultant to the Lady Shenton and First Hit mines at Menzies, and subsequently managed Spargo's Reward mine. Appointed temporary captain in the Militia on 22 June 1940, Compton performed staff and training duties in Western Australia, was attached to the Anti-gas School, Narrogin, in 1942, and from March 1943 worked in the directorate of military operations, Land Headquarters, Melbourne. He was placed on the Retired List on 10 November 1944.

Having returned to the School of Mines in 1946, Compton taught an increasing number of ex-service students and ran a rehabilitation course on prospecting; that year he also helped to found the Eastern Goldfields Historical Society. He retired from the school in 1949, and worked as a consultant to Paringa Mining & Exploration Co. Ltd and Gold Mines of Kalgoorlie (Aust.) Ltd. In 1956 he headed an oil-exploration expedition to the remote Rudall River for Westralian Oil Ltd.

Moving to Perth, Compton continued to write newspaper articles, publish booklets and indulge his love of poetry. He spent much time researching goldfields history at the Royal Western Australian Historical Society and contributed to its journal. In 1967 he was made a freeman of the shire of Kalgoorlie; in 1971 he was appointed M.B.E. Compton died on 23 July that year at the Repatriation General Hospital, Hollywood, and was buried in Karrakatta cemetery; his wife, two sons and two daughters survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • Department of Mines (Western Australia), Annual Report, 1934-44
  • Kalgoorlie Miner, 1 Jan 1958, 26 Aug 1961, 1 Jan 1964, 24 July 1971
  • Daily News (Perth), 26 Sept 1961, 7 May 1971
  • West Australian, 24 July 1971
  • Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, member records (held at Clunies Ross House, Parkville, Melbourne)
  • Western Australian School of Mines, student records
  • PR 7148 and 2198A/52 (State Library of Western Australia)
  • private information.

Citation details

M. K. Quartermaine, 'Compton, George Spencer (1891–1971)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 24 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (Melbourne University Press), 1993

View the front pages for Volume 13

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