McGinty Brothers of Richmond, Queensland: A family’s contribution to World War Two
The story of the McGinty brothers is a story shared by many Australian families, where brothers, cousins and uncles served their country in theaters of war. On this occasion, all three brothers from the McGinty family, Alfred Charles McGinty QX11410, Gordon William McGinty QX3584 and Noel Percival McGinty Q109256, from Richmond Queensland, enlisted during World War Two. They were the sons of Alfred James McGinty, a Boer war veteran (Regimental number 598) and Ethel May McGinty nee Sherman. The McGinty brothers’ story is full of experiences many of us can barely imagine, especially for these young men from outback Queensland.
Gordon William McGinty was the first to join the war effort. He was the second eldest of the McGinty brothers. He enlisted on 20 October 1939, followed by his elder brother Alfred on 24 July 1940, then, not uncommonly, by the youngest son Noel, in February 1941.
Gordon joined as a single man in Cairns but before deploying overseas to the Middle East, he married a woman in New South Wales. The wedding occurred in May 1940. Gordon served on several overseas deployments during his time in service from 1939 to 1947. He served with the 2/1st Anti-Tank Regiment in Palestine and North Africa from May 1940 - August 1942, and in the Pacific War in Papua New Guinea from September 1942 – January 1943. Between 1943 – 1946 he was employed as a driver. Gordon went absent without leave (AWOL) at nearly every port and was disciplined for these offences. He was a young man visiting places he never dreamed of and obviously wanted to see the local sights. During 1943 -1946 while in Australia he was admitted to hospital several times for Malaria and a recurring wrist fracture.
Gordon had the opportunity to travel abroad further, as part of the Italian prisoner of war return voyage in December 1946 and traveled to the United Kingdom (Liverpool) with the Italian prisoners. Gordon finally returned to Australia in March 1947 and was demobilized May 1947 in Brisbane. Gordon got to see different parts of the world during his service. He was in and out of trouble, was a bit of a larrikin, and thankfully returned safely to Australia after the war.
Alfred, the eldest of the boys, enlisted in Townsville, Queensland, July 1940. He was sent to the Brisbane Exhibition grounds for training and then stationed at Grovely. Alfred was deployed to the Middle East in April 1941 – March 1942 where he served as part of Headquarters 1st Australia Corps as a clerk. While serving in the Middle East in 1941 he mentions in a letter home that he saw Gordon on arrival, before Gordon was shipped out a few days later.
On return to Australia in March 1942 he was transferred to Headquarters 1st Australian Army where he undertook special duties as a driver until June 1943. Family memories note that he was tasked with driving Army surveyors around northern Queensland during this period.
In October 1944 to December 1945 Alfred was deployed to Papua New Guinea. Initially he was with Headquarters 1st Australian Army and from June – December 1945 he worked with special investigation branch (SIB) military police. Alfred was demobilized in January 1946 at Redbank, Queensland. Alfred gained many skills during the war and would eventually be awarded the British Empire Medal for services to surveying in January 1978.
Noel, the youngest of the boys, wanted to join the service like his two older brothers. Noel enlisted in February 1941 with the Citizens Military Forces (CMF/Militia) in Longreach, Queensland, just short of his 21st birthday in April. Noel was working as a shed hand. He declared his date of birth on his enlistment papers as 12 months older than he actually was. A letter written in September 1941 by Alfred his eldest brother while in Palestine to an Uncle and Aunt in Brisbane explains how Alfred heard that Noel enlisted and that their mother tried to stop this. Alfred was supportive of their mother’s wishes and wrote that two sons where enough in the war and pointed out that Noel was a great help to their mother.
Noel’s mother Ethel May McGinty lodged a request to cancel Noel’s enlistment. On 3rd October 1941, Noel was called up for full time duty as a Signalman Telegrapher Grade 1 (TG 1) with the 26th Infantry Battalion. By this time, however, he had been granted leave without pay from 8 September 1941 through to 14 June 1942. The records show that Ethel May was having an influence on her son’s enlistment as a Certificate of Discharge was raised for Noel in December 1941 as a consequence of Noel McGinty being under the age of 21 years and at the request of his parents. However, the certificate was cancelled, and Noel remained on full time duty. Ethel May McGinty had tried to stop her son from joining up but ultimately was unsuccessful.
Noel transferred from the 26th Battalion to the 15th Infantry Battalion in December 1942 and then to 5th Australian Division Signals where, over the next two years he was detached from time-to-time to units in the 5th Division. He was deployed to Papua New Guinea from January 1943 through to November 1944 as a signalman (wireless and line operator). Noel contracted Malaria from his time in service, came home safely to his mother, and was demobilized from the Army in July 1946.
After the war Gordon McGinty settled in Sydney, New South Wales. Alfred McGinty settled in Brisbane, Queensland and Noel McGinty returned to Richmond, Queensland where he remained until moving to Townsville, Queensland with his family in the 1970s. Gordon worked as a vehicle mechanic, Alfred as a surveyor’s assistant and Noel a Mobil oil agent who owned the fuel depot and service station in Richmond, providing much needed fuel to vehicles, aircraft and graziers in the North-West.
The story of the McGinty brothers was shared by many Australian families, where brothers, cousins and uncles were serving their country in different spheres. For this family, all three brothers returned home after gaining skills and travel experiences that young men from the outback Queensland would not have expected to have during their lives. Fortunately, for this family all three returned safe and well.
- Regiments : regiments and corps of the British Empire and Commonwealth, 1758-1993 : a critical bibliography of their published histories / edited by Roger Perkins (REF 016.355 1994)
- Shaping history : a bibliography of Australian army unit histories : including army formations, establishments, associated organisations and a selection of campaign and area histories / Syd Trigellis-Smith, Sergio Zampatti, Max Parsons (REF 016.3560994 1996)
- A soldier in the family : a source book for Australian military genealogy : the First Fleet to the Gulf War / Allan Box (G 929.1072 1994)
- How to trace your military ancestors in Australia and New Zealand / R.H. Montague (FAMHIS 929.1 1989)
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