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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Tunn, John Patrick (Jock) (1892–1955)

by Betty Crouchley

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

John Patrick (Jock) Tunn (1892-1955), soldier and insurance agent, was born on 8 July 1892 at Glasgow, Scotland, son of John Tunn, pawnbroker, and his wife Catherine, née Shearer. Educated at St Mungo's Academy, Glasgow, Tunn migrated with his parents to Brisbane about 1910. He worked as a cabinetmaker, began accountancy studies and in 1916 became a clerk in the State Government Insurance Office.

Enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force on 19 May 1916, he was posted to the 23rd Reinforcements, 9th Battalion, and taken on strength at Ribemont, France, on 28 May 1917. From August he was attached to headquarters, 1st Australian Division, on military police duty; promoted corporal in October, he returned to the 9th on 28 December. For 'splendid' work during an abortive attack on the German garrison at Meteren on 23-24 April 1918, Tunn was recommended for an award: although it was not approved, he was commissioned second lieutenant in the field on 20 May.

A 'seven seconds Mills bomb', without its pin, was accidentally dropped on 19 July in operations leading to the recapture of Meteren. Running to the bomb and holding it to the ground, Tunn saved his platoon from the effects of the explosion, but lost his right forearm and sustained other injuries. Recommended for the Victoria Cross, he was awarded the Albert Medal for 'gallantry displayed in saving life' as the enemy was not being actively engaged at the time. Only two other members of the A.I.F.—Sergeant David Coyne and Captain William Geake—received this award.

Returning to the S.G.I.O., Tunn qualified as an associate of the Federal Institute of Accountants. On 16 September 1919 at St Brigid's Catholic Church, Red Hill, Brisbane, he married Mary Louisa Sherman. He moved to the Queensland Probate Insurance Co. Ltd (later the Equitable Life Assurance Company of Australasia Ltd) where from 1935 he was a manager. In 1946 he joined the National Mutual Life Association of Australasia Ltd, but deteriorating health (the result of gas attacks during the war) prompted him to move to the drier climate of Dalby where he operated a newsagency in 1947-51. Frequent hospitalization necessitated his return to Brisbane. There he again worked in the S.G.I.O. until 1955 when he was classified as totally and permanently disabled.

Of middle height and sturdy build, 'Jock' was a teetotaller with a modest and unassuming manner. He was president of the Indooroopilly and Dalby bowling clubs, choirmaster of the Indooroopilly choral society and, despite his physical disability, an occasional organist at his local Catholic church. A foundation member of the Limbless Soldiers' Association of Queensland, he drafted the constitution of its provident society and was insurance adviser of the Hibernian Association of Queensland. Survived by his wife, two sons and two daughters, Tunn died of asthma in the Repatriation Hospital, Greenslopes, Brisbane, on 12 October 1955 and was buried in Toowong cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • C. E. W. Bean, The A.I.F. in France, 1918 (Syd, 1937)
  • N. K. Harvey, From Anzac to the Hindenburg Line (Brisb, 1941)
  • C. M. Wrench, Campaigning with the Fighting 9th (Brisb, 1985)
  • London Gazette, 15 Oct 1918
  • Reveille (Sydney), 1 Jan 1939
  • private information.

Citation details

Betty Crouchley, 'Tunn, John Patrick (Jock) (1892–1955)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 23 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

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