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Grantly Sebastian Lake (1914–1991)

by Tom Frame

This article was published:

Grantly Sebastian Lake (1914-1991), Catholic priest and naval chaplain, was born on 15 December 1914 at Paddington, Sydney, son of New South Wales-born William Henry Francis Lake, salesman, and his Queensland-born wife Elizabeth, née Martin. His early years were spent in Darwin where his father held an administrative post with the British pastoral and import company, Vestey Brothers. The family then moved to the Canungra district south of Brisbane and began farming and operating a mixed store. Grantly was educated at Canungra State School and St Joseph’s College, Gregory Terrace, Brisbane, being awarded a junior public certificate in 1932.

From January to June 1934 he was employed as a surveyor’s assistant by the Main Roads Commission, after which he was appointed a cadet clerk in the Queensland Police Department. In February 1935 he began studying for the priesthood at St Columba’s Catholic College, Springwood, New South Wales. He completed his studies at St Patrick’s Seminary, Manly, Sydney, and on 25 July 1941 was ordained a priest in the Archdiocese of Brisbane. His first assignment was to Bribie Island and in February 1942 he was transferred to Wynnum as chaplain of Nazareth House, an orphanage and home for the aged. On 21 January 1943 he was appointed chaplain 4th class, Australian Imperial Force. He became chaplain to the 20th Infantry Brigade, 9th Division, in May 1944 and from May to December 1945 served in Borneo. His appointment terminated on 23 April 1946 and he transferred to the Reserve of Officers.

Lake then held dual chaplaincies at Nudgee Junior College, Indooroopilly, and the Repatriation General Hospital, Greenslopes, Brisbane. He also ministered to army units in the area as well as serving as assistant priest in the parish of Rosalie until 1948. On 29 July 1949 he was appointed naval chaplain to the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). He served in HMA ships Sydney (1949-51, 1951-52, and 1967-68), Australia (1951), and Melbourne (1956-58 and 1963-64), and in shore establishments in Victoria and New South Wales.  His second posting to Sydney included operations from August 1951 to February 1952 in the Korean War, and his third entailed eight voyages transporting troops and equipment to and from South Vietnam. In May 1960 he was promoted to senior chaplain and in 1968 elevated to the ecclesiastical rank of monsignor. When the Catholic Church formed its Military Vicariate of Australia in 1969, he was made a vicar general. He had been appointed OBE for services to naval personnel in 1967.

'Mons’ Lake smoked, and enjoyed a drink with his shipmates. As a coach and supporter of many RAN rugby teams, he donated the Mons Cup–the annual prize for the best rugby union team from the ships and shore establishments. He also took part in recreational diving expeditions, was a knowledgeable surfer, and enjoyed rowing in skiffs. Possessing an easy manner, he was known for his compassion and devotion to people of all denominations. Fearing for his health, commanding officers,  on more than one occasion, directed him to take time off. Despite his association with the military, he believed that ‘violence in all its forms is foreign to the proper aspirations of man' (Navy News 1971, 3).  

Allowed a two-year extension beyond the usual retiring age of fifty-five, Lake left the RAN on 14 December 1971. Returning to the Brisbane archdiocese, he became Vicar for Youth serving at Beaudesert, Nanango, and Corinda until 1977 when he became parish priest at St Lucia. He died in Brisbane on 27 November 1991 and was buried in Nudgee Cemetery.

Research edited by Brian Wimborne

Select Bibliography

  • Johnstone, Tom. The Cross of ANZAC. Virginia, Qld: Church Activist Press, 2001
  • National Archives of Australia. A3978, Lake GS
  • National Archives of Australia. B883, QX43975
  • National Archives of Australia. A6769, Lake GS
  • Navy List. July 1950, 20
  • Navy List. October 1951, 21
  • Navy List. July 1957, 23
  • Navy List. January 1960, 25
  • Navy List. July 1960, 25
  • Navy List. March 1965, 15
  • Navy List. March 1975, 11
  • Navy News. ‘Monsignor Lake–Priest Extraordinary.’ 12 (November 1971): 3
  • Strong, Rowan. Chaplains in the Royal Australian Navy: 1912 to the Vietnam War. Sydney: University of New South Wales Press, 2012

Additional Resources

Citation details

Tom Frame, 'Lake, Grantly Sebastian (1914–1991)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published online 2016, accessed online 20 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 19, (ANU Press), 2021

View the front pages for Volume 19

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


15 December, 1914
Paddington, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


27 November, 1991 (aged 76)
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Cause of Death

cancer (oesophageal)

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

Military Service