Vale Harry Stewart Wragge
It is with great sadness we acknowledge the passing of Harry Stewart Wragge on the night of Monday 31st July at the age of 93. We commemorate his life of achievement.
Harry Wragge was born to his father Harry Wragge and mother Lesley Wragge in South Melbourne on 23rd November 1929. His early years were spent on the family farm in Cranbourne with his three sisters: Anne, Jean and Liza. Harry's father joined up in WWII leaving Harry to be the man of the house at the age of 10. Harry's duties then included collecting the meat from the butcher, milking the cow and collecting the rabbits his mother shot out of a window. In 1941 Harry's family moved to Nepean Hwy in Seaford.
Harry commenced his education at Devon Meadows Primary School. He then progressed to Scotch College in 1943 where he was Dux of the class in his first year. While at Scotch Harry lost the sight of his left eye as a result of an explosion in a Chemistry class, which resulted in a month in hospital. Harry was a member of the Signals Section of the School Cadets which possibly lay the foundation for Harry's later interest in Telecommunications technology.
In 1954 Harry graduated from the University of Melbourne with a Bachelor of Engineering degree with First Class Honours, followed in 1955 by a Master of Engineering Science.
During his university years Harry met and formed a close friendship with Miss Shirley Ogilvie - but more about this later.
While at University Harry undertook a cadetship with the Post Master General's department (PMG). The PMG evolved into Telecom Australia and ultimately Telstra. Upon graduation Harry took a position with the PMG Research Laboratories where he specialised in signalling and switching. Harry progressed to become a Section Head and later a Branch Head. The Telecom Research Laboratories engaged in world leading research in its fields.
Harry was the representative from Australia to the International Telecommunications Union in Geneva from 1969 to 1981. Harry eventually became Vice Chair of the study group that produced the initial recommendations for digital switching standards that evolved into the Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN), so important for the development of internet services
In 1981 Harry was seconded for two years to a team that reviewed the future of telecommunications in Australia. This team produced the Davidson Report. Upon returning to Telecom, Harry accepted the position of Assistant Director of Business Development and then became the Director of the Telecom Research Laboratories in 1985.
When Harry retired in 1993 he was the Chief Technical Advisor to the CEO. He then retained a consultancy to Telecom for another 13 years for activities in the areas of scientific and academic research, and was also involved in chairing the boards of two cooperative research centres and an advanced Engineering centre.
Over the years Harry held many important positions. He was the President of the Committee of Convocation at the University of Melbourne, a member of the Steering Committee of Monash University's Business Technology Centre and a member of the Council of Swinburne University of Technology. Harry became a Vice President of the Australian Association of Engineering Education upon its formation, and he chaired the Accreditation Board of the Institution of Engineers Australia.
Harry was also an Honorary Fellow of the Institute of Engineers Australia; a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering; a Fellow of the Institution of Radio and Electronic Engineers Australia; a Fellow of the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers; and a Fellow and Life Member of the Telecommunications Society of Australia
Harry was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 1989 for his services to telecommunications technology. He was awarded the prestigious Kernot Medal by the University of Melbourne in 1990 in recognition of his contributions to telecommunications technology and engineering education. Harry was particularly proud of receiving the Kernot Medal.
Harry was awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Engineering by Monash University in 2000. He received the Federal Government Centenary Medal in 2003. In 2009 Harry was inducted into the Frankston City Hall of Fame, and the Pearcey Foundation Hall of Fame. (The Pearcey Foundation aims to elevate Australia's communication technology industry and to recognise outstanding achievements to the ICT sector.)
Harry was justifiably proud of his career and achievements. His greatest happiness and pride came in 1957 when he married Shirley. They built their home a short distance from Harry’s parents' home on Nepean Hwy in Seaford, and raised a happy family of three daughters, Sue, Jennie and Kate. Important aspects of Harry’s life included time spent with family, friends, his Morris Minor cars, the Frankston Yacht Club (FYC) and the sport of sailing. Harry was particularly proud of building his house, camping trips and building the family’s sailing dinghies.
Barry Dean introduced Harry to sailing. Barry was a Frankston Pharmacist and previous Commodore of the FYC. Harry joined the Club with his family for the 1970/71 season and initially shared his time there with the Carrum Sailing Club. Harry soon restricted his time to the Frankston Yacht Club, to the Club's enormous benefit over the decades.
Harry became heavily involved in the club. He built a Pacer dinghy from a kit in the first year. Then together with some other parents they built several Sabot dinghies. As Sue outgrew her Sabot, a Mirror dinghy was acquired and, when she graduated to the Pacer, Harry built another Pacer for himself. The Mirror came without a spinnaker, so Harry obtained the class rules and some material, made several calculations, then stitched up a new sail on the family sewing machine. The reports are it was fast, and this is the sort of story sailmakers don't like hearing. Harry crewed for his brother-in-law Ian Stewart on the Yvonne 20 catamaran "Sans Souci". He eventually built a Sabre dinghy for himself when Sue, Jennie and Kate were sailing the Pacers.
By the middle of the 70s Harry was running the training group. He spent time on the Club's Committee before serving as Commodore from 1979-81. Across that period
the Frankston Yacht Club was very successful. Membership was full at 400, there were 120 boats sailing each Saturday and 60 odd each Sunday. Harry went on to be the Vice President of the Victorian Yachting Council in 1984 & 1985. Harry was awarded a Life Membership of the Frankston Yacht Club in 2002.
When Harry wasn't sailing he was helping with the Race Management, in particular spending time in the Tower overseeing safety and processing results. He designed and built a decimal digital clock/stopwatch in the mid 80s in order to make the multitude of yardstick and handicap calculations considerably easier. Harry made a second one after the first was stolen during a break in. We wonder what the thieves made of the clock when the seconds ticked over to 61, 62 to 99.
Harry commenced teaching Marine Radio in the mid 70s before there was an actual Marine Radio Licence course. He continued to teach Marine Radio for many years.
Harry was very supportive of the young members in the club. I particularly benefited from this in my early years. I remember Harry was kind, interested and engaged with the young members. In the early years Harry seemed to be everywhere and doing almost everything around the club. He was dedicated, inquisitive, personable, a loyal friend and had a fascination with transmitting information. These qualities were supported by a very strong work ethic, a high degree of organisation, a steely determination and a highly insightful intelligence.
Harry Stewart Wragge AM.
23 November 1929
31 July 2023
Husband of Shirley (deceased)
Brother of Anne, Jean (deceased) and Liza
Father of Sue, Jennie and Kate
A remarkable person, a remarkable life.
Frankston Yacht Club