Frank Partridge

Full name:
Frank John Partridge, VC
Born:

Grafton
NSW
Australia
Died:

Bellingen
NSW
Australia
Occupation:
Dairy farmer, Banana grower
Education:
Tewinga Public School
Fate:

Repatriated

Highest rank:
Private
Enlistment:
26 March 1943 Paddington, New South Wales
Decorations/ commendations:
Victoria Cross (VC), Coronation Medal, World War II service medals
Service:
Australian Army
Service Number:
N454409, NX700426
Conflict:
World War II 1939-1945
Military event:
Capture of Lae
Unit:
8th Battalion (City of Ballarat Regiment), 2nd AIF
Private Frank John Partridge, VC. AWM 131225A

Frank Partridge was a farmer, a quiz show winner and Australia's youngest Victoria Cross (VC) recipient in World War II. He received the VC for his action in northern Bougainville on 24 July 1945. He attacked 2 Japanese bunkers during fighting there.

Patridge was the last Australian awarded the VC in World War II.

After the war, Partridge won acclaim as a quiz show winner of Pick-a-Box after the war. But his television fame was short-lived. Partridge died in a car accident when he was only 39.

Early life

Partridge was born in Grafton and raised in northern New South Wales. He grew up on a family farm near Macksville with his brothers and sister. His parents, Patrick 'Paddy' Partridge and his English-born wife, Mary, raised dairy cattle and grew bananas.

Partridge left school at 13 to help his father on the farm.

War service

Partridge was only 15 when war broke out. He joined the Volunteer Defence Corps as soon as he was old enough, and was called up for full-time duty in March 1943. He was posted to the 8th Australian Infantry Battalion, a militia unit.

After military training in northern Queensland, Patridge embarked with his unit for Lae in May 1944. Lae is a town in eastern New Guinea, an area rich in gold. It had been under Australian control since 1920, when it was granted to Australia as part of Germany's World War I reparations.

Japanese forces occupied Lae on 8 March 1942. It was an important base for the Japanese until Australian troops recaptured it in September 1943. When Partridge arrived in May 1944, the 8th Battalion took up garrison duties.

2 men in military shirts and felt hats lean over the top of a bulldozer in a forested area

A bulldozer clears the way through the jungle near Lae for artillery troops, 25 October 1943. AWM 015810

Bougainville

A map of Bougainville Island during the second world war.

Partridge was sent to Bougainville in June 1945. The Bougainville campaign was one of the last campaigns in the Pacific. Some 30,000 Australians served in Bougainville, and around 500 of them died. Two men were awarded the Victoria Cross for their actions in the campaign.

By mid-1945, Japanese forces had been defeated in several battles in the Pacific theatre of operations. And, it would only be a couple of months later before the American bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki brought the war finally to an end. But, when Partridge and his mates in the 8th Battalion arrived in Bougainville, the war was not expected to end any time soon.

Conditions on the island were challenging:

The war the infantry knew was one of patrolling along stinking, humid jungle tracks and putrid swamps in an intimate, personal war of section patrols and the occasional company-size attack. The strain of constant clashes with the Japanese and harassing artillery fire eroded the men's morale.

... The Japanese resisted stubbornly, fighting to hold each track and river crossing. They skilfully infiltrated the Australian lines, laying improvised mines and setting ambushes along muddy, corduroyed roads. The Japanese experience of the campaign was one of deprivation, desperation and defeat. In the most extreme instances, a few even resorted to cannibalism.

[Karl James, The Hard Slog: Australians in the Bougainville Campaign, 1944-45, 2012]

On 24 July 1945, Partridge was part of an attempt to take a Japanese post, north of Ratsua in northern Bougainville. He was shot in the arm and left thigh when his section came under heavy fire.

According to Partridge's VC citation:

Partridge quickly appreciated the extreme gravity of the situation, and the probably annihilation of the troops in the immediate vicinity.

The only possible solution he could determine, which would save the situation, was immediate personal action by himself."

[Private Frank John Partridge, Victoria Cross citation, NAA B883, NX700426]

Ignoring his wounds and the gunfire around him, Partridge grabbed a Bren gun, which was lying beside a dead gunner. 'Come out and fight!' Partridge shouted at the Japanese.

Partridge handed his Bren gun to another Australian soldier who had just come up beside him. Partridge asked him to provide cover as he rushed to the nearby Japanese bunker, armed with a grenade and knife. Partridge hurled the grenade into the bunker, destroying the enemy's machine gun. Then, in what his citation described as a 'fierce hand to hand fight', Partridge used his knife to kill the only surviving Japanese soldier in the bunker.

Partridge tried to attack another Japanese bunker. But blood loss from his wounds made him too weak to continue. He called for help from his section. Despite his injuries and loss of blood, Partridge kept on fighting until his platoon had retrieved their casualties.

Partridge was nominated for a VC for his 'outstanding heroism and fortitude.'

After the war

Partridge was on leave at home on the family farm when he received news of his VC. He was presented with his VC by the Duke of Gloucester in April 1946, in a ceremony at Government House in Sydney.

Partridge left the Army in October 1946. However, he joined the Regular Army Special Reserve for 4 months in 1953 to attend Queen Elizabeth II's coronation in England. After his discharge, Patridge worked with his father on their farm near Macksville.

Five soldiers stand behind a grave stone

Five Victoria Cross recipients visit the grave of Jack Edmondson VC, the first Australian to be awarded the Victoria Cross in World War II. The men in this photograph—Frank Partridge, Ted Kenna, JD Hinton (a New Zealander), Richard Kelliher and Reg Rattey—were part of the Australian and New Zealand coronation contingent bound for England in April 1953. (AWM P01895.001)

Partridge loved reading and learning and had 'an extraordinarily retentive memory'. By the light of a kerosene lamp, Partridge would sit and read the Encyclopedia Britannica.

In 1962 and 1963, Partridge put his vast general knowledge to the test. He entered the popular Australian quiz show, Pick a box, and won £12,000 in prizes.

Three people standing in front of a motor boat by the water

Frank John Partridge, VC (right), with his wife Barbara, and quiz show host Bob Dyer, in about 1963 or 1964. AWM P10743.002

Partridge used his winnings to buy a diamond ring for his fiancée, Barbara Dunlop, a nurse from Turramurra in Sydney. The Australian Women's Weekly published a feature on Frank Partridge's Pick a box win and his plans for an overseas honeymoon and new home.

Partridge was killed in 1964 when his car collided with a truck carting timber west of Bellingen.

Frank Partridge was buried with military honours at a ceremony attended by 4,000 people at Macksville Cemetery. He was survived by his new wife, Barbara, and his 14-week-old son, Lachlan.

Commemorating Frank Partridge

Frank Partridge is commemorated by:

  • Frank Partridge VC Public School, Nambucca Heads
  • Frank Partridge VC Military Museum, Bowraville
  • Frank Partridge VC Memorial rest area, Menangle

A scholarship was also established in his name for local school children.

Sources:

  • 1946 'Victoria Cross to Macksville', Macleay Argus (Kempsey, NSW : 1885 - 1907; 1909 - 1910; 1912 - 1913; 1915 - 1916; 1918 - 1954), 25 January, p 4, viewed 10 Mar 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article234369766
  • 1962 'TV made all his dreams come true', The Australian Women's Weekly (1933 - 1982), 5 September, p 2 (Television ), viewed 10 Mar 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article51186838
  • 1964 'Partridge Blamed For Death In Car Crash', The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995), 4 April, p 3, viewed 10 Mar 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article104277047
  • 1964 'SCHOLARSHIPS FOR PARTRIDGE', The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995), 24 April, p 1, viewed 10 Mar 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article104289951
  • 1981 'LAUCHLANN PARTRIDGE', The Australian Women's Weekly (1933 - 1982), 8 April, p 38, viewed 10 Mar 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article47230805
  • Australian War Memorial, undated. '8th Australian Infantry Battalion', https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/U56088
  • Beaumont, Joan, 2019. 'The meagre gains of war', Australian War Memorial, https://www.awm.gov.au/commemoration/treaty-of-versailles100/article.
  • Department of Veterans' Affairs, 2008, Bougainville, 1942-1945, Second Edition, https://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/resources/media/file/bougainville-1942-1945
  • James, Karl, 2012. The Hard Slog: Australians in the Bougainville Campaign, 1944-45, Cambridge University Press, Melbourne.
  • Jones, Barry O, 2000. 'Partridge, Frank John (1924–1964)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/partridge-frank-john-11346/text20265, viewed 10 Mar 2021.
  • National Archives of Australia: B883; NX700426; 5561883; PARTRIDGE, Frank John; SERN: NX700426 and SERN: N454409 Date of Enlistment - 26 March 1943; Date of Discharge - 17 October 1946; 1943 - 2002.
  • 'Partridge, Frank John (1924–1964)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/partridge-frank-john-11346/text34804, viewed 10 Mar 2021.
  • Stanley, Peter, 2003. 'New Guinea offensive', Wartime Magazine Issue 23, Australian War Memorial, https://www.awm.gov.au/wartime/23/new-guinea-offensive

Last updated: 18 November 2022

Cite this page

DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) (2022), Frank John Partridge, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 5 February 2023, https://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/stories/biographies/frank-john-partridge
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