The incredible service of Private Frank Partridge VC

Private Frank John Partridge, VC. Photo: Australian War Memorial.

THE Nambucca Valley’s Frank Partridge was the youngest Australian to be honoured with the Victoria Cross (VC) during WWII.

According to the Australian War Memorial (AWM) archives, “Having left school at thirteen to work on the family farm near Macksville, New South Wales, Frank Partridge was called up for full-time Army duty when he turned eighteen.

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“He was posted to the 8th Battalion, a militia unit.

“The Battalion moved to Lae, New Guinea, in May 1944, and from June 1945 operated in northern Bougainville.”

Frank received the VC for his action in northern Bougainville on 24 July 1945.

“On 24 July 1945 Partridge’s unit came under heavy Japanese machine-gun, grenade, and rifle fire and he was badly wounded.

“Ignoring his injuries, he snatched up a Bren gun from alongside an expired gunner and challenged the enemy to come out and fight.

“He next rushed the nearest enemy bunker while armed with grenades and his knife and eliminated the occupants.

“Finally, he attacked a second bunker until his injuries stopped him.

“He ‘inspired his comrades to heroic action’ and was awarded the Victoria Cross at the age of 20 years old.”

After the war Frank went to London as a member of the ‘Australian Victory Contingent’, then settled back onto the family farm in the Nambucca Valley, living quietly with his father.

In the evenings, to overcome his lack of education, Partridge was said to “avidly read the Encyclopaedia Britannica”.

During 1962 Frank first appeared on Bob Dyer’s television quiz show, Pick-a-box, where he was a resounding success and won many prizes.

Frank soon became a national celebrity and on 23 February 1963 married Barbara Dunlop, a 31-year-old nursing sister from the Sydney suburb of Turramurra, which attracted extensive media coverage.

Frank was also an honorary member of the Returned Sailors’, Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, a life member and patron of the Macksville Ex-Servicemen’s Club, and vice-president of the Nambucca district council of the Banana Growers’ Federation Co-operative Ltd.

On 23 March 1964, at the age of 39, Private Frank Partridge was fatally wounded in a car accident near Bellingen. Frank was buried with full military honours in Macksville Cemetery.

Family friend Vicki Starr recalls visiting Frank with her father as a child.

“He was a good friend of my father,” she said.

“I remember visiting him at his father’s house with my father when I was young.

“Frank took us through the new house he was building, though he was killed before it was finished.

“My father was killed in our mill just before Frank was killed in the car accident.

“His brother Tom was also a good friend.”

More information can be obtained by visiting the Frank Partridge VC Military Museum in Bowraville.

Lest We Forget.

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