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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Quinn, Hugh (1888–1915)

by A. Argent

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

Hugh Quinn (1888-1915), by unknown photographer, 1914-15

Hugh Quinn (1888-1915), by unknown photographer, 1914-15

Australian War Memorial, H17420

Hugh Quinn (1888-1915), soldier and accountant, was born on 6 May 1888 at Charters Towers, Queensland, elder son of John Quinn, a mounted police constable from Ireland, and his Australian-born wife Mary Jane, née Irwin. He attended Millchester State School—where a teacher was (Major General) C. H. Brand—and Dixon's School at Southport. On leaving school he joined the firm of Cummins & Campbell, merchants of Townsville, and later set up his own business as a commission agent.

Quinn's solid build found him a place in the light heavyweight division of boxing, a sport for which he had great natural aptitude, and he became the North Queensland champion. In addition he helped to organize and train a team in 1912 which toured Victoria and Tasmania. He rose from the ranks in the militia, being commissioned second lieutenant in the Kennedy Infantry Regiment in 1908 and promoted lieutenant in 1911 and captain in 1912.

Immediately after the declaration of war in August 1914 the Kennedy Regiment had a short period of garrison duty on Thursday Island. Quinn and 500 other men from the unit then volunteered for the 2nd Infantry, Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force; Quinn was appointed adjutant. This force's task, under Colonel W. Holmes, was to seize German possessions in the Pacific. However, the stokers on board the Kanowna went on strike after sailing from Port Moresby for Rabaul on 7 September 1914 and this part of the force was returned to Townsville. Holmes had in any case considered them not fit for active service.

Quinn then enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force and became commander of 'C' company, 15th Battalion, a unit of the 4th Infantry Brigade commanded by Colonel (Sir) John Monash, which embarked for Egypt on 22 December.

Quinn's company landed at Gallipoli on 26 April 1915, the day after the rest of the battalion, and although involved in skirmishing in the next two days were mainly engaged in digging a communication trench up the valley. On the 29th Quinn was ordered to hold a position at the head of Monash Valley which rose abruptly and precipitously to about 150 feet (46 m) above the valley floor and was the apex of the front-line triangle, whose base rested on Anzac Cove. The position, a string of disconnected shallow rifle-pits less than ten yards (9 m) below the crest line, with a frontage of 150 yards (137 m), was the key to Anzac as it was the only possible defence of the main supply route from the beach. Of all positions held by Australian troops in all wars it was probably the most dangerous as it was exposed on two sides, a portion of its rear was open to aimed fire, and in some places the front lines were only ten yards (9 m) apart. The position became known as Quinn's Hill and Quinn's Corner before it was called Quinn's Post.

It was not possible to dig or move during the day unless under attack, and the crest itself could only be occupied at night. The Turks not only had absolute superiority of fire but had extensive supplies of bombs (hand grenades). On 1 May they attacked again and again but were driven off; the defenders' rifles were red hot. Quinn pleaded unavailingly for bombs and a periscope. That day he was promoted major. Under immense strain, he and his men held out for a week before being briefly relieved; thereafter the 15th and 16th Battalions alternated in the post with Quinn no longer in command. On 10 May, however, his company suffered further heavy casualties in a reconnaissance in force by the battalion in front of the post; the initial assault was successful but the Turks' counter-attack could not be withstood.

The position was gradually made safer by extensive sandbagging, roofing and bombproofing of parts of the post, and digging of support trenches; the first jam-tin bombs and periscopes became available. During the massive Turkish general assault on the 19th, Quinn's was in no great danger.

The Turks had been tunnelling, however, and at night early on the 29th blew their mines and occupied part of the post. Quinn signalled by whistle one counter-assault which cleared out the Turks from some of their positions. Colonel (General Sir Harry) Chauvel ordered a further charge, including Quinn's own company, to Quinn personally. It was now daylight and Quinn and other officers believed the Turks could best be removed by infiltration. He secured delay, then after twice placing the whistle to his lips decided to reconnoitre himself. On reaching the trenches he was shot dead. The eventual charge was successful.

Quinn was buried in Shrapnel Valley cemetery. Until the evacuation, Quinn's Post was never taken by the enemy.

Select Bibliography

  • C. E. W. Bean, The Story of Anzac, vols 1, 2 (Syd, 1921, 1924)
  • T. P. Chataway, History of the 15th Battalion A.I.F. (Brisb, 1948)
  • A. Argent, ‘Quinn of Quinn's Post’, Australian Army Journal, no 270, Nov 1971
  • war diary of the 15th Battalion, AIF (Australian War Memorial).

Citation details

A. Argent, 'Quinn, Hugh (1888–1915)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 28 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

View the front pages for Volume 11

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2020

Hugh Quinn (1888-1915), by unknown photographer, 1914-15

Hugh Quinn (1888-1915), by unknown photographer, 1914-15

Australian War Memorial, H17420