Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Chinn, George Ernest (1927–1981)

by J. J. Shelton

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

George Ernest Chinn (1927-1981), army officer, was born on 28 October 1927 at Brunswick, Melbourne, eldest of three children of Australian-born parents Ernest Charles Chinn, fibrous plasterer, and his wife Marjorie Mary, née Marshall. On leaving St Brigid’s School, North Fitzroy, George began his training as a cabinet-maker. In 1942 he overstated his age and joined the Volunteer Defence Corps. Discharged a year later when his real age was discovered, he became a member of the Air Training Corps while working as a cycle salesman.

On 4 April 1946 Chinn enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. Serving in Australia, he rose to lance sergeant. He transferred to the Interim Army in July 1947 and joined the Australian Regular Army as a temporary sergeant in May 1948. Allotted to the 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, in February 1950, he was promoted to temporary warrant officer, class two, in September (substantive in April 1956). In July 1951 he was posted to the 3rd Battalion, RAR, in Korea. The commanding officer of the battalion, Lieutenant Colonel (Sir) Francis Hassett, made him regimental sergeant major. He acted in this position for four months and was involved in the battle of Maryang San in October. Hassett later described him as `one of a handful of the very best soldiers I have ever met’. Back in Australia in January 1952, Chinn married with Catholic rites Jean Margaret Malham, a telephonist, on 17 April that year at the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes, Devonport, Tasmania.

In 1952-60 Chinn was an infantry instructor at the Royal Military College, Duntroon, Canberra. Cadets of those times recall his influence and his inimitable style—regimental with a touch of humour. Appointed company sergeant major of the 1st Special Air Service Company, he was promoted to temporary warrant officer, class one, in October 1960 (substantive in April 1963). In March 1964 he arrived in Saigon and became a member of the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam. Three weeks later he was an observer on an operation which involved an air-mobile assault by two South Vietnamese ranger battalions. The force was opposed by the People’s Liberation Armed Forces (Viet Cong) and Chinn changed from observer, taking command of a group to clear out the enemy. For his part in this operation he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. The Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) awarded him its Cross of Gallantry and Armed Forces Honour Medal.

Returning to Australia in March 1965, Chinn became RSM of the 6th Battalion, RAR, in June. He served a second year in Vietnam in 1966-67, taking a major part in the battle of Long Tan in August 1966. The commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel C. M. Townsend, wrote: `6RAR owes a lot to RSM Chinn’. His presence, experience and inculcation of standards `created a great esprit de corps’. The troops described him as a `3F man’—firm, fair and friendly.

In 1967 Chinn was posted to the Infantry Centre, Ingleburn, New South Wales, as an instructor. He was RSM of the Australian contingent that went to Paris in November 1968 for the fiftieth anniversary of the end of World War I. Commissioned lieutenant on 18 July 1969, he held various appointments at Army Headquarters, Canberra, and served in Singapore in 1972-74. He was promoted to captain in July 1973 and to major in July 1979. While commanding the army recruiting unit in Perth in 1981 he developed cancer. Survived by his wife and their three daughters, he died on 24 September that year in his home at Greenwood, Perth, and was buried with full military honours in Gungahlin cemetery, Canberra. His portrait by Wendy Kadell is held by the Long Tan Sergeants’ Mess, Enoggera, Brisbane. The 6RAR museum, also at Enoggera, was named after him.

Select Bibliography

  • I. M. Williams, Vietnam (1967)
  • I. McNeill, The Team (1984)
  • T. Burstall, The Soldiers’ Story (1986)
  • J. Rowe, Vietnam, the Australian Experience (1987)
  • I. McNeill, To Long Tan (1993)
  • I. McNeill and A. Ekins, On the Offensive (2003)
  • private information.

Citation details

J. J. Shelton, 'Chinn, George Ernest (1927–1981)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/chinn-george-ernest-12314/text22119, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 19 November 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

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