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Colvin, George Edward (1903–1975)

by Graham McLennan

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

George Edward Colvin (1903-1975), by J. F. M. O'Halloran

George Edward Colvin (1903-1975), by J. F. M. O'Halloran

Australian War Memorial, 124432

George Edward Colvin (1903-1975), army officer, company manager and community worker, was born on 22 April 1903 in Melbourne, son of native-born parents George Edward Colvin, labourer, and his wife Hannah Victoria, née Sweetingham. Educated at Victoria Park State School, at the age of 12 George junior joined the cadets. The family moved to Sydney in 1919 where he served part time with the 1st Cavalry Division Signals from 1921. Commissioned lieutenant on 1 July 1925 and promoted captain in 1930, he transferred to the Reserve of Officers in November 1931; meanwhile, he continued to work as a salesman. On 29 December 1934 he married Florence Hannah Williams at St Jude's Anglican Church, Randwick; they were later to be divorced.

Resuming his Militia service in 1939, Colvin was appointed to the Australian Imperial Force on 3 March 1940 and posted to the 2/13th Battalion in May. The unit arrived at Suez in November. While engaged in the defence of Tobruk, Libya, he was promoted major in September 1941. After Lieutenant Colonel F. A. Burrows was wounded at Ed Duda on 1 December, Colvin took temporary command of the battalion. He was second-in-command to Lieutenant Colonel R. W. N. Turner when the battle of El Alamein, Egypt, began on 23 October 1942. The following day Turner was mortally wounded and the battalion, which had suffered heavy losses, was disorganized and pinned down. Colvin took over, advanced with his soldiers and held firm against a counter-attack. Promoted lieutenant colonel and confirmed in command, on 28 October he conducted a successful assault across unknown, booby-trapped ground to the Fig Orchard and beyond. Next morning he was concussed by a shell-blast and evacuated. For his deeds he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order.

Back in Australia, from February to July 1943 the battalion trained in New South Wales and North Queensland before moving to Milne Bay, Papua. On 4 September it landed at Yellow Beach for the offensive against nearby Lae, New Guinea, and eighteen days later took part in the amphibious assault on Finschhafen. Always well forward when his troops were in action, Colvin directed the decisive attack at Kakakog on 1 October which led to the fall of Finschhafen. His enthusiasm ensured a high esprit de corps in his unit. Following engagements on the Sattelberg Road and in the advance up the Huon Peninsula, the battalion returned home in March 1944. Colvin was awarded a Bar to his D.S.O.

Having left Queensland in April 1945, he and his men embarked from Morotai and landed in Brunei on 10 June. They were deployed north of the Brooketon-Brunei Road, then in the Lutong-Miri region until hostilities ceased in August. From elements of the 9th Division, Colvin formed the 66th Battalion which he commanded in Japan between February 1946 and June 1947. He transferred to the Reserve of Officers on 16 December in Sydney and was active in the Citizen Military Forces in the 1950s. On 22 November 1952 he married a widow Alma Beryl ('Pat') Bolger, née Ryan, at St Stephen's Presbyterian Church, Sydney.

Colvin was State manager (1952-68) of Kelvinator Australia Ltd and served on the council of the Electrical and Radio Development Association of New South Wales. Presiding (1960-63 and 1965-75) over the State branch of the Royal Commonwealth Society, he was elected national president in 1966. Pat chaired the local auxiliary for twenty-five years and was appointed M.B.E. (1973). Vice-president of the Royal New South Wales Institution for Deaf and Blind Children, in 1968 Colvin was appointed C.M.G. for his community services. He died on 6 December 1975 in the Repatriation General Hospital, Concord, and was cremated; his wife survived him, as did the son of his first marriage.

Select Bibliography

  • G. H. Fearnside (ed), Bayonets Abroad (Syd, 1953)
  • D. Dexter, The New Guinea Offensives (Canb, 1961)
  • G. Long, The Final Campaigns (Canb, 1963)
  • B. Maughan, Tobruk and El Alamein (Canb, 1966)
  • Australian War Memorial records
  • private information.

Citation details

Graham McLennan, 'Colvin, George Edward (1903–1975)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/colvin-george-edward-9799/text17321, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 22 November 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

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