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William Maitland Woods (1864–1927)

by J. P. Haldane-Stevenson

This article was published:

William Maitland Woods (1864-1927), by George Lambert, 1918

William Maitland Woods (1864-1927), by George Lambert, 1918

Australian War Memorial, ART02764

William Maitland Woods (1864-1927), Anglican clergyman and military chaplain, was born on 4 January 1864 at Mayfair, London, son of Alfred Woods, master draper, and his wife Jane, née Damerel. Educated at the City of London School and St Mary Hall, Oxford, William graduated B.A. in 1889. That year he was made deacon and arrived in North Queensland to be curate of St James's Pro-Cathedral, Townsville. Appointed curate-in-charge, Thursday Island, in 1890, he was ordained priest on 11 April 1892. He married Ina Alice Mary Games on 3 January 1893 in the island's registry office. As the first rector of Thursday Island, he displayed 'a strong sense of missionary vocation' and saw the Quetta Memorial Church built before he moved in 1897 to Cairns. Woods then worked in parishes at Dalby (1899-1903), Kangaroo Point, Brisbane (1903-13), and Ariah Park, New South Wales (1913-15).

Having been appointed chaplain in the Queensland Land Forces in 1893, Woods had continued to serve in the Australian Military Forces. He transferred to the Australian Imperial Force on 9 August 1915. Two months later he was at Gallipoli, attached briefly to the 2nd Brigade, then to the 7th Light Horse Regiment with which he remained after the evacuation in December. Senior chaplain from 31 July 1916, he joined the staff of Major General (Sir) Harry Chauvel's Anzac Mounted Division in September. During the advance through Sinai and Palestine, with its intermittent long periods of inaction, Woods lectured on the Holy Land. Grateful for his ministrations and aware of his interest in archaeology, the soldiers reported a number of finds they had uncovered. He learned of the discovery—made on 17 April 1917 by troops engaged at Shellal in the second battle of Gaza—of an exquisite church-floor mosaic. With the aid of expert advice and materials from Cairo, he supervised the removal and packing of the damaged mosaic which was later mounted in the Australian War Memorial, Canberra. Professor A. D. Trendall later dated the Shellal mosaic to A.D. 561-62 and assessed it as being worthy of 'a place of honour in the history of Byzantine art'.

Described as 'brilliant and witty', Woods was a strict Anglo-Catholic. George Lambert's pencil-portrait (c.1918, now held by the A.W.M.) depicted him as bespectacled and balding, with prominent brows and gentle features. In 1919 Woods was appointed O.B.E. and mentioned in dispatches. He returned to Australia and his A.I.F. appointment terminated on 16 June; he immediately sailed to join his wife in Fiji where she had nursed during the war. They moved to Honolulu. Headmaster of Iolani College for a year and rector of St Clement's Episcopal Church from 1923, Woods gained the affection of his parishioners. He died of a cerebral tumour on 6 February 1927 in Queen's Hospital, Honolulu, and was cremated. His wife, son and daughter survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • H. S. Gullett, The Australian Imperial Force in Sinai and Palestine (Syd, 1938)
  • A. D. Trendall, The Shellal Mosaic (Canb, 1942)
  • J. Bayton, Cross Over Carpentaria (Brisb, 1965)
  • G. F. and E. M. Langley, Sand, Sweat and Camels (Kilmore, Vic, 1976)
  • Brisbane Church Chronicle, 1 Dec 1899, p 70, 1 Feb 1904, p 102, 1 Aug 1905, p 6
  • Herald (Melbourne), 4 Apr 1923
  • Queenslander, 12 Mar 1927
  • Bulletin, 19 June 1927
  • St Andrew's Cathedral, Honolulu, records
  • private information.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

J. P. Haldane-Stevenson, 'Woods, William Maitland (1864–1927)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 22 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (Melbourne University Press), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

William Maitland Woods (1864-1927), by George Lambert, 1918

William Maitland Woods (1864-1927), by George Lambert, 1918

Australian War Memorial, ART02764

Life Summary [details]


4 January, 1864
London, Middlesex, England


6 February, 1927 (aged 63)
Honolulu, Hawaii, United States of America

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