Ronald (Ron) CHINNER


Service Number: SX7497
Enlisted: 2 July 1940, Adelaide, South Australia
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 2nd/48th Infantry Battalion
Born: Angaston, South Australia, 22 April 1910
Home Town: Angaston, Barossa, South Australia
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Gardener
Died: Natural causes, Angaston, South Australia, 19 November 1981, aged 71 years
Cemetery: Angaston Cemetery
Block 21 Plot 11
Memorials: Angaston District WW2 Roll of Honour
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World War 2 Service

2 Jul 1940: Enlisted Private, SN SX7497, Adelaide, South Australia
3 Jul 1940: Involvement Private, SN SX7497
1 Nov 1943: Discharged Private, SN SX7497, 2nd/48th Infantry Battalion
Date unknown: Involvement

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Biography contributed by Kaye Lee

Ronald Chinner SX7497

Ronald was the third son of George and Mary; born on the 22nd April, 1910. George was active in the local Angaston Community as Chairman of the District Council, the Show Committee and also his local church. The family attended a United Picnic of the Angaston Sunday Schools where Ron won the under 13 boys’ running competitions in 1932, indicative of his future sporting prowess.

Ron and his younger brother, Alan both played football for Angaston. Ron was usually at full back where he regularly created turnovers with his strong marking and clearing kicking. His cool head was frequently a feature of each match consequently earning him a mention in the best player list. Alan was at the attacking end, scoring consistently. Ron and Alan were also talented cricketers and part of the Angaston team which were Premiers of the Barossa and Light Association since 1927, featuring in the 1938 Chronicle for over a decade. Ron was a consistent bowler when the Upper Murray team played against Barossa and Light. Ron also ‘gave back’ to the sport of football that he most enjoyed by acting as a central umpire for Angaston’s B grade team in 1933. The following year Ron showed his versatility in a match against Nuriootpa when he moved from the last line of defence at Full Back to Full Forward where he scored alongside his younger brother Alan with 5 goals.

Ron enlisted just after his 30th birthday in 1940, one of the many Angaston footballers to do so. He listed his occupation as a gardener because of his background in fruit growing. The Angaston Fruitgrowers’ Co-op executive and staff farewelled Ron, Ken Waters, Steve Johnson, Jack Duffield and Hartley Gerlach in July of 1940. Ron’s father, George, the Board Chairman, the manager and staff wished the young men the best of luck and a safe and speedy return. Along with Eric Teague, George Langridge and Colin Weber this group of respected footballers were farewelled at a packed social in the Angaston Institute; many families were unable to gain admittance, although the stage was also used on this occasion. The soldiers and their relatives were formally led in and their connection to Angaston explained. Privates Ron Chinner and Hartley Gerlach were described as both being ‘natives’ of Angaston. At the conclusion of the social, each soldier was presented with an inscribed gold pencil.

Reflecting the close support for the enlistees, the local paper, the Leader, reported Councillor Ninnes as saying he “regarded the excellent attendance as a fitting honour for their boys who were going to win victory for the nation, with freedom of speech, action and thought. He hoped they would all soon be back from a victorious campaign.” Similarly, his words were echoed by the Reverend Thompson who “spoke for the Churches with a note of admiration and confidence. They would close their ranks and carry on so that the boys could return after the victory to find that the home front had not been lost.” The district RSL representative patriotically predicted that “Hitler would soon probably endorse Hindenburg's opinion of the Australians as the men most to be feared.” The final speaker, Dr. Drever, represented the men’s sporting teams, “referred to sport as an integral part of democracy, developing mind as well as body for the proper handling of such situations as that now facing the Empire.” The final presentation was from the Angaston Co-operative Packing House representative, where the service of Steve, Jack, Hartley and Ron was publicly acknowledged. “It had been no surprise that they answered the call, and he had no doubt they would worthily acquit themselves on the other side.” Each of the men were handed a wallet as gift from the firm and the staff with their best wishes. It was the fervent hope of all that their guests would have a safe and speedy return.

As a mark of Ron’s involvement in the summer sport he loved, The Angaston Colts Cricket Club also made presentations to him and George Langridge.

In a brief time of leave, Ron returned home to find that his father, George had gone with a group of friends for a week's shooting trip beyond Broken Hill. In a generous gesture, Hartley Gerlach went after them so George could have the precious time with his son before Ron headed overseas.

He was strong, fit and active becoming SX7497 and part of the newly formed 2/48th Battalion that left on the Stratheden for the Middle East where he would be part of the highly respected 9th Battalion who were given the unofficial title of Rats of Tobruk. Ron’s ability to lead was recognised in August with his promotion to Lance Corporal, then in February of ‘42 to A/Corporal.

It is probable that Ron used his gold pencil to write to the Leader in a letter published in March of 1941;

"Will you, through the 'Leader' convey to the people of Angaston, and the Comforts Fund, our many thanks for the way in which they are looking after the boys over here in Palestine. At least once a week there is a line-up for comforts. I am receiving the 'Leader’ every week, and can follow how doings are going in the home town. I have received many letters, but cannot answer them all as time is limited. Trusting this short note finds you well, as it leaves all the lads from home in the best of spirit. — -Pte. Ron. Chinner”

In the incessant fighting of June that same year he received a gunshot wound to his shoulder. Ron had been at Tobruk for eight months. His parents approached the Red Cross to find out more about his condition to finally find out in August that he ‘was progressing well, being able to get about.’

Ron served with a local football friend, Hartley Gerlach and the two paired up, supporting each other in each skirmish. By November they were fighting together when Hartley’s right calf received a shrapnel wound and Ron helped him out of the danger zone. That was just before the break-through in Egypt, and a few days later Hartley rejoined his unit. As he went up again to the front lines, he met Ron coming back with his left arm broken by a gunshot wound with a compound fracture to his ulna in October. Hartley shared what happened next to the local ‘Leader’.

That night Hartley went on patrol behind the enemy's lines and, about midnight, a German mine exploded right under him. His leg was hopelessly smashed, and he was unable to walk back to the linesmen with assistance. His mate, Ron went for other help, but it had not arrived when morning dawned.

Raising his head above the bush, Hartley could see German soldiers, moving up and down their lines, so he lay down again, rationing himself to a few biscuits and a cupful of water for that day. The pain in his leg was excruciating, but he waited silently behind the bush all that night and during the second day. That evening the Germans found him and took him prisoner. It was at that stage that the enemy lines cracked and the rout started. There was no time to get him to hospital for amputation of the leg, the operation being performed next day in the convoy of fleeing trucks. A little injection in the neck and he was anaesthetised. On returning to consciousness, he found the leg was off and he was still on the German truck. There were no sickening after-effects, he said.

At Mersa Matru Hartley was put in hospital, where a German doctor, speaking perfect English, told him he had studied in England and returned to Germany just before the war. "Pretend you are too ill to speak," he whispered. Hartley took the advice and, in his pyjamas, looked just like any German or Italian casualty. The orderlies consequently gave him good treatment. He had been there only 11/2 days when he heard loud explosions and found out that the Germans were blowing up everything that could be of use to the advancing forces; even the hospital water supply. All the nurses and every patient that could be moved were hurried away, and only two German doctors remained with over 200 seriously wounded German and Italian soldiers.

Hartley was taken back to Cairo in an ambulance—no bombing this time; and after a few days he was transferred to a hospital in Palestine. Within a few weeks he was on board a hospital ship en route for Australia. Two hours before he left, Hartley saw Ron then getting on well following his fractured arm. With him were Stan Morgan, Ross Heggie and Hughie Jungfer, all of Angaston; in fact they had styled themselves the "Angaston Unit." Hartley never saw the sea on his way back. He had severe haemorrhage in his leg, and only a prompt operation on the ship, with subsequent blood transfusions, saved his life. Now he is back in South Australia with still more good pals and the best attention.”

Ron’s compound fracture unfortunately did not heal well and he continued to experience nerve damage into the following year. News of his second injury spread fast in his hometown with local council at their meeting expressing their sympathy to the family. With others from Angaston, Ron was officially home on leave in March 1943, attending a special service of welcome at the Angaston Congregational Church. Special mention was made to his sister, Clair who was a deacon before she also joined the forces. By July 1943 Hartley was fitted with an artificial limb and able to walk with the aid of a stick. In December he married his fiancé Joyce at the Keyneton Congregational Church. Ron, with whom Hartley had shared so much while overseas, was best man.

 Ron was officially discharged in November of 1943 ‘medically unfit for service’. However, the highlight of that month was his engagement to his Angaston sweetheart, Lillian Blenkiron. They quietly married the next month on the 17th December with Alan, Ron’s brother as best man.

The ‘Boys’ from Angaston continued to remember those who served with them and did not return, including Raymond George Young who died on May 1st 1941. “YOUNG—In loving remembrance of Raymond George, died in action May 1. Just a token, true and tender. Just to show we still remember. —Inserted by E. Klau and family. In memory of those of the 2/48 Bn., killed May 1, 1941,—Inserted by Jack Duffield, Ron Chinner, Steve Johnson, Hartley (Dick) Gerlach.’ 

Ron returned to working on the land but actively continued to serve his community, including the RSL which so many of his returned compatriots had joined. At a reunion social in November of 1945, Ron paid tribute to the local Angaston Community for their support. He was active at subsequent Digger’s Balls and their Paddy’s Market as well as for the local Christmas hamper appeal.

He and Lillian welcomed a precious son, Terrence Charles in April of 1945.

Ron Died on the 19th November 1981, aged 71 and was buried at the Angaston Cemetery. Lillian died aged 87 years on the 21st July 2003 and is buried next to Ron.

Researched and written by Kaye Lee, daughter of Bryan Holmes SX8133 2/48th Battalion