Robert Berrima (Bob) QUINN MM

QUINN, Robert Berrima

Service Number: SX5547
Enlisted: 17 June 1940, Adelaide South Australia
Last Rank: Lieutenant
Last Unit: 2nd/43rd Infantry Battalion
Born: Birkenhead, South Australia , 9 April 1915
Home Town: Birkenhead, Port Adelaide Enfield, South Australia
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Leather worker/Footballer
Died: Natural causes, Myrtle Bank, South Australia, Australia, 12 September 2008, aged 93 years
Cemetery: Enfield Memorial Park, S.A.
VF Roberts Memorial Rose Garden CIRCLE OC3-10
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World War 2 Service

17 Jun 1940: Enlisted 2nd AIF WW 2, Adelaide South Australia
18 Jun 1940: Involvement 2nd AIF WW 2, Lieutenant, SN SX5547, 2nd/43rd Infantry Battalion
4 Aug 1941: Wounded 2nd/43rd Infantry Battalion, Siege of Tobruk
21 Sep 1943: Wounded GSW Right Forearm - New Guinea
1 Oct 1946: Discharged 2nd AIF WW 2, Lieutenant, 2nd/43rd Infantry Battalion

Bob Quinn - Wounded in Action (second time)

Wounded Second Time Lieutenant R. B. (Bob) Quinn MM., former Port Adelaide and State footballer, has been wounded in New Guinea.

Advice of this was received to day by his wife. Mrs. R. B. Quinn. of Brompton. Quinn was earlier wounded when serving as a noncommissioned officer in Tobruk. He won a Military Medal for gallantry in that campaign.

A brother. Corporal George Quinn. was killed in action in Egypt last year.

The Mail (Adelaide, SA : 1912 - 1954)
Saturday 18 September 1943

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Biography contributed by Ned Young

Robert (Bob) Berrima Quinn was born on the 9th of April 1915 in Birkenhead, South Australia. The son of John Quinn, captain of Port Adelaide Football Club in 1904 and 1905, Bob was a skilled footballer from a young age. He had three brothers, the elder Jack and Tom, and the younger George. Like their father before them, each of the Quinn boys played football at the highest level for Port Adelaide. Bob’s great uncle John Baptist Sidoli was also a famous footballer and founding member of the Port Adelaide Football Club. Tom Quinn was naturally gifted and “built like a tank”. He later transferred to Geelong, where he played 168 games, kicked 196 goals and won two best and fairest awards. He was selected to Geelong’s ‘Team of the Century’ in 2001. Jack and George also played regularly, although never reached the same level of recognition as their brother and father.

Bob was arguably the best footballer in his family, an impressive feat considering his pedigree and the accolades of his brothers. He debuted for Port at age 18 in a Round 2 draw against Norwood on May 6th 1933. He played through the middle, kicking a goal and being named Port’s best afield. The Quinn family home backed onto the Port River, and on game day, Bob and his father would row across, climb the ladder up the wharf and walk to Alberton Oval. The Quinn family had long worked and lived in the Alberton area; the heritage extends even to Bob’s middle name, a reference to the SS Berrima, a troop ship John Quinn had worked on in his job as a wharf labourer. 

From his stellar debut in 1933, Bob’s football career took off. He was Port’s best in the 1934 Grand Final loss, kicking a game high 5 goals and going head to head with Glenelg’s great Roy Colyer. 1935 saw Quinn involved in another heart-breaking Grand Final loss, this time to South Adelaide by 8 points. In 1936, Bob’s “magnificent roving” dragged Port over the line by 3 points in the Grand Final against Sturt. In the same year, he also played his first of many matches for the South Australian team.

In 1937, Quinn missed out on the Magarey Medal by one vote, and only fell short due to a new technicality in the voting system that was trialled for the 1937 season. He would go on to win his first Magarey Medal the following season, and began attracting interest from Victorian clubs. He was willing to play in Victoria, for either Geelong or St Kilda, provided the VFL waived the 12 month transfer period which would have seen Quinn miss out on a season of football. In 1939 he became the captain and coach of Port Adelaide, and won a third premiership.

Bob Quinn’s career and impending transfer to the VFL was interrupted by the outbreak of the Second World War. He enlisted in the AIF on the 17th of June 1940 at the age of 25 as a Warrant Officer in the 2nd/43rd Battalion. He embarked from Melbourne on the 29th of December and arrived in Palestine on the 2nd of February 1941. He had been promoted to Second Class Warrant Officer two days prior. 

He first served in Tobruk, and was later awarded the Military Medal for his “courage, leadership and devotion” in command of the 10th Platoon during the Siege of Tobruk. The men of the 10th Platoon had been ordered to blow up a barbed-wire barrier using a Bangalore torpedo, which had to be placed under the target using an extendable tube. Each member had to lay their own pipe, and Bob Quinn volunteered to place the last one - the most difficult because it would be closest to the German machine gun. One by one he ordered the 7 members of the Platoon to breach the trench and place their pipe. When it was Bob’s turn, he was hit by shrapnel in the right thigh, but he continued on to successfully lay the last pipe. On his way back to the trench, he picked up one of his wounded men, and was again hit by shrapnel, this time in the face. The wounded soldier told Bob, “Hell Bob, half your face is blown away,” to which he responded “any change would be an improvement”. He refused to be treated until all his remaining men were cleared.

On the 3rd of October 1942, Bob Quinn was promoted to Lieutenant. He went on to serve in Papua New Guinea, and was once again wounded at Milne Bay, this time caused by a gunshot to the right arm. He also severely injured his knee to the point where he though he may never walk again, let alone play football. In spite of his many injuries, he continued to serve until 1944 when he returned home from the South Pacific. In October 1946, Bob Quinn was officially discharged. Sadly, not every Quinn brother returned from service. George, who had faked his age to enlist, was killed in action in Egypt in July of 1942.

When Bob Quinn returned to Australia in 1944 he began playing for Port Adelaide once more. He also married his wife May. His injuries on the battlefield had taken a toll on his body, and he had to adapt his play style to reduce the physical demand of playing as a midfielder. He wore a leather arm guard to protect his shrapnel wound. He was welcomed back to football with a standing ovation from the Port Adelaide crowd. During the semifinal, he fell heavily on his arm, breaking it just below his shrapnel wound. He still played out the match.

Quinn bounced back from his broken arm in the 1945 season. He won his second Magarey Medal, his third club best and fairest, second leading goalscorer award (matching his 1939 tally of 51) and was a runner-up premier. In 1946, he captained the South Australian side to a draw against Victoria. After the game, he was approached by a doctor who had treated his wounds in New Guinea who could not believe Bob was still managing to play football. 

The 1947 season was Quinn’s last, but he still managed to win a fourth club best and fairest before his retirement. In total, he had played 186 games for Port Adelaide and kicked 386 goals. He also played 15 games and kicked 26 goals for the South Australian side.

After his football retirement, Bob Quinn had a brief coaching career at Port Adelaide, but later moved to Kadina to run the local pub. He ended up buying the Southwark Hotel, and served as the publican there for many years. He died in 2008 at the age of 93. Bob Quinn is forever immortalised on the northern gates of Adelaide Oval, the grandstand at Alberton Oval and through the Bob Quinn medal, awarded to the best afield in the SANFL Anzac Day match. Most importantly though, Bob Quinn is not only remembered for his “beautifully balanced…and splendid play” on the football field, but also his courage, his bravery, and his willingness to sacrifice his own life in the battlefields of Tobruk and New Guinea. A true South Australian hero.

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