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Francis Joseph (Frank) Hoddinott (1913–1997)

by Anthony Staunton

This article was published online in 2023

Francis Hoddinott, 1943 [detail]

Francis Hoddinott, 1943 [detail]

Argus (Melbourne) 16 October 1943, p 5

Francis (Frank) Joseph Hoddinott (1913–1997), soldier, was born on 31 May 1913 at Tambo, Queensland, youngest of three children of Victorian-born Joseph Henry Hoddinott, grazier, and his wife Sophie Marjorie Emilda, née Anderson, born in Queensland. His parents owned and managed the Caldervale cattle station until 1924. In 1927 his father petitioned for divorce, but the next year he failed to appear in court and the case was dismissed. He had found work in Papua and never returned to the family. Frank was educated at home at Caldervale and later at Armidale Public School, New South Wales, and the Slade School, Warwick, Queensland. When World War II began he was a station overseer at Glen Innes, New South Wales.

On 20 October 1939 Hoddinott enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force, joining the 2/3rd Battalion, a unit of the 16th Brigade, and departing for Egypt on 9 January 1940. At Helwan camp, near Cairo, in September, he was promoted to sergeant. In the darkness at Tobruk, Libya, on 21 January 1941, he was one of the leaders who charged Italian Post 55 under heavy fire. As casualties mounted, he withdrew the twenty survivors about forty yards (37 m), reorganised them and led them forward again to capture the post. Following service in Greece (March-May), he was appointed as an acting warrant officer, class two, on 7 June, the day before the British invasion of Vichy French Syria and Lebanon.

Three days after the allies entered Damascus on 21 June, the 2/3rd Battalion’s ‘C’ Company, of which Hoddinott was sergeant-major, attempted to seize the 1600-foot (490 m) Jebel Mazar feature overlooking the Damascus-Beirut road. The heights were captured on 27 June but in the afternoon, without artillery support, the company was driven to the lower slopes by a strong counterattack from Vichy French forces. Hoddinott organised a section with three men from company headquarters, with a French Hotchkiss gun and a Bren light machine gun, and moved forward 200 yards (183 m). The section’s effective fire delayed the French for more than four hours, enabling the company to hold the position until dark, when it withdrew without incurring serious losses. For these actions he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. He was commissioned as a lieutenant on 18 December 1941 and on 30 December was mentioned in despatches for distinguished services in the Middle East during the period February to July 1941.

The 2/3rd Battalion embarked from Egypt on 10 March 1942 as part of the 6th Division’s return to Australia, via garrison duty in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) between March and July, arriving in Melbourne on 7 August. After leave, the battalion embarked for Papua on 15 September. In early October, at Owers’ Corner at the start of the Kokoda Trail, Hoddinott was one of three officers photographed being introduced to General Douglas MacArthur and General Sir Thomas Blamey.

On 28 October, the final day of the Second Battle of Eora Creek-Templeton’s Crossing, Hoddinott commanded one of two platoons that advanced through a thick curtain of jungle with no observation, before attacking well-established Japanese positions. Hoddinott ‘inspired his men by his personal bravery, dash and skilful leadership’ (NAA B883), enabling a successful attack under heavy machine-gun fire. He reorganised his remaining men and repelled an aggressive counterattack. Hoddinott was awarded the Military Cross, his citation stating that the action contributed to the subsequent Japanese withdrawal from Eora Creek. It was the first Australian victory of the Kokoda campaign. Evacuated to Australia in January 1943, Hoddinott was hospitalised with malaria and other ailments until July, when he was appointed as a liaison officer at 16th Brigade headquarters. The formation fought in New Guinea in the Aitape-Wewak campaign from January to August 1945. Hoddinott had been posted back to his unit in June and was promoted to captain on 2 August. He was transferred to the Reserve of Officers in Sydney on 10 October.

Hoddinott had married Nancy Sidney Smith, a member of the Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service, on 7 August 1944 at St Philip’s Church of England, Sydney, but the marriage ended in divorce. On 5 April 1948 at St Andrew’s Church of England, Strathfield, he married Victorian-born Margery Phyllis White, a stenographer and former operations officer in the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force. After the war Hoddinott was briefly a stock and station agent at Albury, New South Wales, before becoming a real estate agent and residential property developer at Eastwood, Sydney. His health declining, he retired in the late 1960s with a full war pension. His hobbies included camping and fishing. In 1997 he and Margery moved to Mount Colah to share a house with their son and family. Survived by his wife and their two sons, he died on 13 December that year at Wahroonga, Sydney, and was cremated.

Research edited by Samuel Furphy

Select Bibliography

  • Argus (Melbourne). ‘Twice Decorated for Deeds Performed 10,000 Miles Apart.’ 16 October 1943, Week-end Magazine 5
  • Clift, Ken. War Dance: The Story of the 2/3 Aust. Inf. Battalion. Kingsgrove, NSW: P.M. Fowler & 2/3rd Battalion Association, 1980
  • Hoddinott, Geoff. Personal communication
  • Long, Gavin. Greece Crete and Syria. Vol. 2 of Series 1 (Army) of Australia in the War of 1939–1945.Canberra: Australian War Memorial, 1953
  • Long, Gavin. To Benghazi. Vol. 1 of Series 1 (Army) of Australia in the War of 1939–1945.2nd ed. Canberra: Australian War Memorial, 1961
  • McCarthy, Dudley. South-West Pacific Area–First Year: Kokoda to Wau. Vol. 5 of Series 1 (Army) of Australia in the War of 1939–1945. Canberra: Australian War Memorial, 1959
  • Mackinlay, G. A. True Courage: The Distinguished Conduct Medal to Australians 1939–1972. Sydney: James Stedman Books & Militaria, 1992
  • National Archives of Australia. B883, NX4784
  • Williams, Peter. The Kokoda Campaign 1942: Myth and Reality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012

Additional Resources

Citation details

Anthony Staunton, 'Hoddinott, Francis Joseph (Frank) (1913–1997)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/hoddinott-francis-joseph-frank-32459/text40261, published online 2023, accessed online 17 April 2024.

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