Australian Dictionary of Biography

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William James Reinhold (1889–1966)

by P. J. Greville

This article was published:

William Reinhold, by Robert Bruce, 1943

William Reinhold, by Robert Bruce, 1943

Australian War Memorial, 056487

William James Reinhold (1889-1966), army officer and civil engineer, was born on 6 November 1889 at Clayfield, Brisbane, second child of Gustav Theodor Emanuel Reinhold, a draftsman from England, and his Irish-born wife Mary Jane, née Kerlin. Bill was educated at Brisbane Grammar School and—after a short period as a schoolteacher—at the University of Queensland (B.E. Civil, 1916). Selected to join the British Army and serve with the Royal Engineers, he sailed to England and was commissioned on 15 January 1916.

While serving on the Western Front with the 90th Field Company, Reinhold was wounded three times, mentioned in dispatches and awarded the Military Cross. He was promoted temporary lieutenant in February 1917, transferred to the Tank Corps six months later and made acting captain in August 1918. Although he was recommended for a commission in the regular army because of his 'ability, energy and daring', he decided to return to Australia in 1919. On 18 September that year at the Congregational Church, Wharf Street, Brisbane, he married Gladys Isabel Petrie (d.1939); they were to adopt a son (d.1959).

Reinhold worked as an engineer with the Department of Public Lands. He then became supervising engineer for the Main Roads Board, which involved travel by pack-horse to determine where roads would be built through tropical forests in North Queensland. In 1923 he set up as a consultant engineer, operating from his Clayfield home. Next year he was elected a member of the Institution of Engineers, Australia. His personality, diligence and willingness to travel enabled him to collaborate with thirty-seven local authorities in central and southern Queensland. Although he mainly designed and constructed roads and bridges, he also handled industrial and community projects.

Appointed honorary major in the Australian Army Ordnance Corps (Militia) in August 1941, Reinhold was transferred in the following month to the Royal Australian Engineers and appointed commanding engineer, Northern Command. He was called up for full-time duty on 6 October and promoted lieutenant colonel on 12 January 1942. Posted to the 5th Division in March, he joined the Australian Imperial Force on 27 July. In September he was posted to Milne Force (later the 11th Division), Papua, as commanding engineer. For the drive, technical knowledge and leadership he displayed at Milne Bay, he was appointed O.B.E. (1943).

In February 1943 Reinhold was sent to supervise the construction of a 68-mile (109 km) road between Bulldog, Papua, and Wau, New Guinea, a strategically important supply line. About 2000 Australian soldiers and 1500 Papuans laboured in rugged country and frequent heavy rain; most days were torrid, some nights were icy cold; every foot of progress demanded courage, endurance, skill and toil. The road was almost completed by September when General Sir Thomas Blamey ordered Reinhold to take home leave.

From November 1943 Reinhold served on the staff of the chief engineer, New Guinea Force, Port Moresby. In January 1944 he took command of a works unit in the Wau area and supervised the construction of a road to Labu. He returned to Australia in May and was transferred to the Reserve of Officers on 18 November on medical grounds. After the war his accounts of his road-building projects were published as The Bulldog-Wau Road (Brisbane, 1946) and The Wau-Labu Road (Port Moresby, 1977).

At St John's Anglican Cathedral, Brisbane, on 2 January 1946 Reinhold married Jean Elaine Barlow, a 42-year-old music teacher. His consulting business continued to thrive. A tallish man, with 'flint-like blue eyes', he belonged to Legacy, and was honorary consultant to Brisbane Grammar and Brisbane Girls' Grammar schools (which his nephews and nieces attended, with his encouragement and financial support). In 1964 he retired. He had been a keen cricketer in his youth; in later life he played golf and went boating on Moreton Bay. His other interests included music, opera, theatre and literature. Survived by his wife, he died on 27 August 1966 at the Repatriation General Hospital, Greenslopes, and was cremated with Anglican rites.

Select Bibliography

  • D. McCarthy, South-West Pacific Area—First Year (Canb, 1959)
  • R. McNicoll, The Royal Australian Engineers 1919 to 1945 (Canb, 1982)
  • R. L. Whitmore (ed), Eminent Queensland Engineers (Brisb, 1984)
  • Reinhold papers (University of Queensland Library).

Citation details

P. J. Greville, 'Reinhold, William James (1889–1966)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 23 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (Melbourne University Press), 2002

View the front pages for Volume 16

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

William Reinhold, by Robert Bruce, 1943

William Reinhold, by Robert Bruce, 1943

Australian War Memorial, 056487

Life Summary [details]


6 November, 1889
Clayfield, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia


27 August, 1966 (aged 76)
Greenslopes, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

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