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Ian Hutchison (1913–1982)

by Peter Burness

This article was published:

Ian Hutchison, 1944

Ian Hutchison, 1944

photo from 'Kokoda Secret' by S. P. Ramage

Ian Hutchison (1913-1982), soldier, was born on 2 August 1913 at Paddington, Sydney, son of James Alexander Charles Hutchison, a bank accountant from Scotland, and his wife Annie Maud, née Thorburn, born in New South Wales. Educated at Middle Harbour Public School, Ian embarked on a clerical career with the shipping firm James Patrick & Co. Ltd and completed accountancy studies. A keen soldier in the Militia, he was commissioned as a lieutenant in the 17th Battalion (North Sydney Regiment) in September 1934. Next year he transferred to the 30th Battalion (New South Wales Scottish Regiment). On 6 November 1937 at the Presbyterian Church, Mosman, he married Moyra Aileen Lane.

Promoted to captain in October 1939, Hutchison was seconded to the Australian Imperial Force on the 13th and posted to the 2/3rd Battalion. In January 1940 the unit embarked for the Middle East, where it underwent extensive training. Commanding `A’ Company during the attack on Bardia, Libya, on 3 January 1941, Hutchison led his men, while under heavy fire, in capturing a large enemy fort and taking over five hundred prisoners. He had personally seized one machine-gun and turned it on the enemy. When six Italian tanks attempted a counter-attack, he organised a successful defence of the post, despite his rifle being knocked from his hands by a shell. He was awarded the Military Cross.

On 21 January Hutchison was badly wounded in the left arm near the starting line for the attack on Tobruk. He rejoined his battalion in May and during the Syrian campaign (June-July) took a leading part in the actions at Mezze, near Damascus, in the heavy fighting for Jebel Mazar on the road to Beirut, and in the battle of Damour. In March 1942 the battalion sailed to Ceylon (Sri Lanka). Hutchison was made a temporary major in July (substantive in September) and the unit returned to Australia in August.

Sent to Papua in September, the 2/3rd was soon fighting the Japanese in engagements along the Owen Stanley Range. When the commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel John Stevenson was wounded at Eora Creek late in October, Hutchison took temporary command. Although still young, he was, according to K. Clift, `an experienced tactician, a daring leader and a man of great determination, possessing the confidence of all ranks’. The battalion was subsequently in action at Oivi and on the Sanananda Track. He was mentioned in despatches.

From January 1943 the battalion re-formed and trained on the Atherton Tableland, Queensland. In April Hutchison was promoted to lieutenant colonel and appointed commanding officer. He brought his men up to a high standard and instilled an esprit de corps. In December 1944 the 2/3rd embarked for the north coast of New Guinea, where it fought in the Aitape-Wewak area. The battalion harried and pursued the enemy, with Hutchison determined to hold the initiative, before the war ended in August 1945. For showing `exceptional ability as a commanding officer’ he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order. He transferred to the Reserve of Officers on 26 March 1946.

Back in Sydney, Hutchison became a partner in a manufacturing company, but soldiering was in his blood, and in April 1948 he was appointed to re-establish and command the 30th Battalion, Citizen Military Forces. In August 1949 he transferred to the Interim Army. He attended the Staff College, Queenscliff, Victoria, in 1950 and was appointed to command the 13th National Service Training Battalion in December that year. In November 1951 he took command of the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment.

Hutchison guided his battalion through its build-up and preparation stages and then took it to the Republic of (South) Korea in April 1952. His good training, experience and administration were evident in its early contacts with the enemy. Its first action, Operation Blaze, commenced on 2 July. The battalion remained at the `sharp end’ until the end of September, actively engaged in fighting patrols, ambush patrols and minefield protection. He was appointed OBE (1953) for his `wise leadership’ and `untiring personal efforts’.

Relinquishing command of 1RAR in October 1952, Hutchison returned to Australia in November and performed staff duties. He was senior officer, cadets, and commander, 3rd Cadet Brigade, from March 1955 and commander, 2nd Cadet Brigade, from November 1959. On 3 August 1963 he transferred to the Retired List with the rank of colonel. Short, compact and dapper with a neat moustache, he was a friendly and active man. He had a deep interest in the army’s history and traditions. Known fondly to a few as `the little king’, he was more universally called `Hutch’. He was `a boots and gaiters soldier’ who preferred working with troops—with whom he had a genuine empathy—to sitting in the office.

Hutchison became a director of several companies and remained active in ex-service organisations, including the Royal Australian Regiment Association, Legacy and the Army Museum of New South Wales. He also worked for the establishment of the Royal Australian Regiment Memorial in Sydney. Survived by his wife, and their son and two daughters, he died of myocardial infarction on 13 December 1982 at Wahroonga and was cremated. His son, named after him, became a regular army officer.

Select Bibliography

  • G. Long, To Benghazi (1952)
  • G. Long, Greece, Crete and Syria (1953)
  • D. McCarthy, South-West Pacific Area—First Year (1959)
  • G. Long, The Final Campaigns (1963)
  • K. Clift, War Dance (1980)
  • T. F. Wade-Ferrell (compiler), In All Things Faithful (1985)
  • M. J. Buckley, Scarlet and Tartan (1986)
  • D. Horner (ed), Duty First (1990)
  • G. L. Maitland, The Battle History of the Royal New South Wales Regiment, vol 2 (2002)
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 16 Dec 1982, p 10
  • series B883, item NX57963 (National Archives of Australia)
  • private information.

Additional Resources

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Citation details

Peter Burness, 'Hutchison, Ian (1913–1982)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 14 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (Melbourne University Press), 2007

View the front pages for Volume 17

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Ian Hutchison, 1944

Ian Hutchison, 1944

photo from 'Kokoda Secret' by S. P. Ramage

More images


Life Summary [details]


2 August, 1913
Paddington, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


13 December, 1982 (aged 69)
Wahroonga, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

heart disease

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