Lieutenant Commander Arthur Henry Callaway

By Darryl Bennet

Arthur Henry Callaway (1906-1941), accountant and naval officer, was born on 3 April 1906 at Woollahra, Sydney, son of Arthur Henry Callaway, vocalist, and his wife Cecilia Frances, née Thomson, both Sydneysiders. Educated at Bondi Superior Public School, by 1923 young Arthur was a clerk with Rosenfeld & Co Pty Ltd, merchants. He joined the Royal Australian Naval Reserve on 1 July 1924 as a Midshipman and in April 1928 transferred to the Volunteer Reserve with the rank of Lieutenant. His recreations were yachting and rowing; in 1931-33 he was honorary treasurer of the Sydney Rowing Club. An associate member of the Federal Institute of Accountants, from the early 1930s, Callaway practised in the city. In 1932 he became a director and manager of Hygienic Feather Mills Pty Ltd, feather-purifiers of Botany. On 23 November 1935 in St Michael's Anglican Church, Vaucluse, he married Thelma May Rowe.

Having specialised in anti-submarine warfare, Callaway was promoted Lieutenant Commander on 23 June 1939. He was mobilised in September and served in HMAS Yarra until March 1940. Lent to the Royal Navy, in November he sailed for England. In June 1941 he assumed command of HM Trawler Lady Shirley which operated from Gibraltar, of 477 tonnes gross, she and similar vessels had been requisitioned for patrol duties. Tall, blue eyed and bearded, Callaway was a quiet, reflective and purposeful man who trained his crew thoroughly and ran a happy ship. On 4 October Lady Shirley was searching for a merchantman lying damaged 400 nautical miles (741 km) west of the Canary Islands. At 8:40am the trawler altered course to investigate a sighting, soon confirmed to be the conning tower of a German U-boat. The submarine dived to periscope depth.

As Lady Shirley closed with her quarry, Callaway dropped a pattern of depth charges and was surprised to see the submarine, U-111, surface in his wake. He immediately turned his ship to bring the four-inch (101.6 mm) gun to bear and, if necessary, to ram the U-boat. Callaway directed operations in a fierce exchange. When a cannon-shell killed Lady Shirley's gunlayer, an officer swiftly took his post; the ship's two Hotchkiss gunners were wounded, but were able to continue firing. U-111's 105-mm main armament could not be brought into the battle. With their Commanding Officer slain, the crew scuttled the battered submarine and surrendered. The engagement was over in nineteen minutes. Lady Shirley's adversary had been twice her size, and the 44 prisoners taken to Gibraltar outnumbered the trawler's complement. For his part in the action, Callaway was awarded the DSO.

Between 3 and 4am on 11 December 1941, while on patrol in the Straits of Gibraltar, Lady Shirley disappeared with all hands. It was later concluded from German records that she had been torpedoed and sunk by a U-boat (U-374) at 35°15'N, 5°26'W. Callaway was survived by his wife and daughter, and by his son Ian who became a Commodore in the Royal Australian Navy.