Topic: Wilfred Stanley Wallis (1891-1957)

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Artist Wilfred Stanley Wallis served with the Medical Corps during World War I. He was also an Orthopaedic Surgeon and Hospital Superintendent. Wilfred was my first cousin four times removed - Debbie McCauley (2013).

Wilfred Stanley Wallis was born in Opawa, Christchurch, on 15 May 1891 (reg. 1891/17375) to John Wallis (c1839-1903) and suffragette Eliza Wallis (nee Hart) (1846-1914).

From 1904 to 1909 Wilfred attended Christchurch Boys’ High School before being accepted into the University of Otago. There he studied medicine between 1910 and 1914, graduation with a degree in Medicine. Whilst there he was involved with another group of students in vaccinations during the 1913 smallpox epidemic.

Wilfred married Elsie Ada Williams at Timaru on 18 May 1915. The following month, on 13 June 1915, Wilfred embarked from Wellington for Suez, Egypt, with the Medical Corps for World War I (Serial No. 3/726). He was a member of the No. 2 Stationary Hospital. Later he was to became a major. After service in Egypt he was transferred to England in 1917. There he trained in orthopaedics under Sir Robert Jones.

Wilfred and Elsie Wallis with baby Ynys (1917)

Wilfred and Elsie Wallis with baby Ynys (1917) 

In 1920 Wilfred became superintendent of the King George V Military Hospital in Rotorua. During the 1925 poliomyelitis outbreak he establised a rehabilitation treatment for victims. In 1926 Wilfred went into private practice in Rotorua. He helped establish the New Zealand Crippled Children Society in the 1930s; becoming vice president in 1935.

In around 1938 Wilfred developed diabeties which forced him to modify his sporting activities. He had always been interested in art, and then in 1940 after watching a sick colleague working with watercolours he decided to try it himself. He started with landscapes inspired by the  Rotorua district.In 1946 he became the first, and only, president of the Rotorua Arts Society.

Colour Arrangement with Mandolin by Wilfred Stanley Wallis (1891-1957)

Colour Arrangement with Mandolin by Wilfred Stanley Wallis

During World War II, in March of 1942 he was appointed superintendent of the new services convalescent hospital in Rotorua working with wounded returned servicemen.  In 1948 he was appointed first medical superintendent when the unit was renamed the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and started to treat rheumatic disease and cerebral palsy. That same year he was awarded an OBE for his services to medicine. He set-up a studio at the hospital and began painting seriously during the evening and weekends.

Wilfred retired from his hospital post in March 1957. He had suffered from ill health for many years and a month after resuming private practice he died suddenly in Rotorua, aged 66, on 20 September 1957 (reg. 1957/32849). He is buried in Rotorua Cemetery (Block 6 Section RSA Plot 105). He was survived by his wife, a daughter and a son.

Headstone of Wilfred Stanley Wallis (1891-1957)

Headstone of Wilfred Stanley Wallis at Rotorua Cemetery

Wilfred's daughter, Ynys Fraser, went to Kent many years ago and obtained the birth, death and marriage copies from the Thurnham Parish Church for her ancestors in the Hart family.

Elsie died on 8 April 1977 (reg. 1977/41290). She was cremated and her ashes buried in the Rotorua Cemetery.



Art New Zealand

Auckland Art Gallery

Births, Deaths and Marriages Online (New Zealand).

Cenotaph Record.

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography.

Frances Moss (personal communication).

Rotorua Daily Post.

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Wilfred Stanley Wallis (1891-1957)

First Names:Wilfred Stanley
Last Name:Wallis
Date of Birth:15 May 1891
Place of Birth:Opawa, Christchurch
Country of birth:New Zealand
Date of death:20 September 1957
Place of death:Rotorua
Place of burial:Rotorua Cemetery
Occupation:orthopaedic surgeon, hospital superintendent, and artist
Spouses name:Elsie Ada Williams
Spouses date of birth:21 August 1890
Spouses date of death:8 April 1977
Spouses place of death:Rotorua
Spouses place of burial:Rotorua Cemetery
Date of marriage:18 May 1915
Place of marriage:Timaru
Fathers name:John Wallis
Fathers date of birth:c1839
Fathers place of birth:London, England
Fathers date of death:27 May 1903
Fathers place of death:New Zealand
Mothers name:Eliza Hart
Mothers date of birth:30 March 1846
Mothers place of birth:Wellington
Mothers date of death:15 September 1914
Mothers place of death:179 Ensors Road, Linwood
Name of sibilings:Gertrude May Wallis , Winifred Olive Wallis , Elizabeth Wallis , Ellen Sarah Wallis , Frank Leonard Wallis , Emily Wallis , Herbert Wallis , John Wallis , Frederick Arthur Wallis , Arnold Wallis , and Alice Matilda Wallis
Name of the children:Ynys Fraser
Military Service:World War I (1914-1918)