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George John William Mackinolty (1895–1951)

by Alan Stephens

This article was published:

George John William Mackinolty (1895-1951), by unknown photographer

George John William Mackinolty (1895-1951), by unknown photographer

Australian War Memorial, 134757

George John William Mackinolty (1895-1951), air force officer, was born on 24 March 1895 at Leongatha, Victoria, second child of Australian-born parents James Mickleburg Mackinolty, labourer, and his wife Mary, née Windover. Educated at state schools to Merit certificate level, George completed a course at the Central Business College, Melbourne, while working as a coach and motor-body builder. On 17 August 1914 he enlisted in the Permanent Military Forces. The practical skills he had acquired facilitated his allocation to the Aviation Instructional Staff as an air mechanic. Regarded as 'a timber expert', he quickly earned promotion to sergeant and was placed in charge of the A.I.S. woodworkers.

On 1 August 1915 Mackinolty transferred to the Australian Imperial Force. That month he led a group of mechanics who were sent to reinforce Australian airmen fighting in Mesopotamia. Employed as a senior rigger in No.30 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, in 1915-16, he was promoted flight sergeant and mentioned in dispatches. He served in the Middle East in 1916-17 with No.68 (Australian) Squadron, R.F.C. (later renamed No.2 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps), then completed a series of postings in England. Described by one commanding officer as a sober, capable, conscientious and hard-working individual who was 'a particularly good organizer' and an 'excellent' leader, Mackinolty was commissioned in the A.F.C. in March 1918 as an equipment officer.

In April 1918 he was appointed officer-in-charge of an aeroplane-repair section at Minchinhampton, Gloucestershire. In December 1919 he moved to Hendon, Middlesex, to supervise the packing and preparation for shipment of 128 aircraft which the R.A.F. donated to the nascent Australian air force. Mackinolty also found time to complete specialist aeronautical-engineering training before returning to Melbourne in October 1920. His A.I.F. appointment terminated on 4 January 1921. He took a job as a motor-accessories agent and studied (by correspondence) internal combustion engines. Following the establishment of the (Royal) Australian Air Force as an independent service in March 1921, he was appointed flying officer, 'Q' List (Stores and Accounting Branch), on 8 August. He gained field-experience with No.1 Aircraft Depot, Point Cook (1921-24), and No.3 Squadron, Richmond, New South Wales (1925-29), and did staff work at R.A.A.F. Headquarters, Melbourne (1924-25). At Christ Church, South Yarra, on 20 November 1924 he married with Anglican rites 20-year-old Eileen Fairbairn Moore.

By the time Mackinolty left No.3 Squadron he had acquired an exceptional knowledge not only of stores and accounting but also of explosives, barracks management, mechanical transport and technical equipment. Yet it was as a staff officer at R.A.A.F. Headquarters that he made his distinctive contribution to the air force. Appointed director of transport and equipment as a flight lieutenant in 1929, he held the posts of director of equipment from 1935 and director of supply from 1940, and was again director of equipment from 1941. He rose steadily in rank to group captain (1940).

In 1929-40 the R.A.A.F.'s senior equipment post of air member for supply had alternated between two pilots, Air Commodore W. H. Anderson and Group Captain A. L. T. Cole. As their right-hand man for over a decade, Mackinolty took much of the load and provided the specialist advice they needed. In 1930 a confidential annual report noted that he had carried 'the bulk of the supply work for the R.A.A.F. for over a year'. Other reports recorded his 'conspicuous ability' across the range of supply tasks. He was appointed O.B.E. in 1937.

Confident in his ability and calm under pressure, Mackinolty was approachable and well liked. His professional competence was complemented by his impressive presence: he was 6 ft 0½ in. (184 cm) tall, with dark brown hair, hazel eyes and slightly prominent features. In June 1942 he was promoted acting air commodore and appointed air member for supply and equipment in his own right. R.A.A.F. personnel increased fiftyfold between 1939 and 1945. It was Mackinolty's responsibility to equip and sustain every individual, to resupply every unit, and to provide spare parts for every aircraft. His success in so doing was one of the R.A.A.F.'s great and unsung achievements of World War II.

Mackinolty was promoted acting air vice marshal in January 1947 and to the substantive rank in October 1948. In addition to his duties as A.M.S.E., he was honorary treasurer (1941-51) of the Returned Sailors', Soldiers' and Airmen's Imperial League of Australia. He died of cancer on 24 February 1951 at the Air Force Hospital, Laverton, Victoria; his wife, son and daughter survived him. Widely respected, and effectively head of the R.A.A.F.'s supply system for twenty-two consecutive years, Mackinolty was one of the few who had made a substantial contribution to the development of both the A.F.C. and the R.A.A.F.

Select Bibliography

  • D. Gillison, Royal Australian Air Force 1939-1942 (Canb, 1962)
  • F. M. Cutlack, The Australian Flying Corps (Brisb, 1984)
  • C. D. Coulthard-Clark, The Third Brother (Syd, 1991)
  • A. Stephens, Going Solo (Canb, 1995)
  • private information.

Citation details

Alan Stephens, 'Mackinolty, George John William (1895–1951)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 23 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (Melbourne University Press), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

George John William Mackinolty (1895-1951), by unknown photographer

George John William Mackinolty (1895-1951), by unknown photographer

Australian War Memorial, 134757