Royal Reels: Gambling


I almost can’t believe that I am using this advertising cover to introduce this important man, but there is a definite, albeit tenuous connection, so please bear with me. It is addressed to my boyhood friend who may still be alive so that I am obscuring his name and address. The 5c blue QEII stamp is cancelled with a HURSTVILLE/ 445 PM/ 3 OCT/ 1968/ N.S.W AUST. roller cancel with the slogan canceling the stamp. Swans Limited at various Sydney Suburbs is advertised for its building and home improvement items (Figure 1).

The reverse picks up in interest level with a diagram of an electric jug, an apparatus which I can’t identify, and an advert ‘ Memo Remember Wolf Electric Tools’, which is the connecting piece for my segue into the subject of this paper (Figure 2).

A ‘portable saw and groover set (Home Power Equipment) made by Wolf Electric Tools Limited, London, England 1959-1963′ were owned but never used by the Australian, Frank Partridge VC, star of a TV quiz show and dairy farmer. The equipment is to be found at the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney where it is described as having “interesting cultural links to Australia’s first long-running and very popular television series, BP Pick-A–Box. Partridge won the collection of Wolf tools during his long-term appearance on the show.”

Frank Partridge was born on 29 November 1924 at Grafton, N. S. W., third of five children of Patrick (Paddy) Partridge, an Australian-born farmer, and his wife Mary, who came from England. Frank left Tewinga Public School at the age of 13 and worked on the family farm, dairying and growing bananas near Macksville. While serving in the Volunteer Defence Corps, he was called up for full-time duty in the Australian Military Forces on 26 March 1943. He was posted to the 8th Battalion, a Militia unit which moved to Lae, New Guinea, in May 1944 and to Emirau Island in September.

From June 1945 the 8th Battalion operated in northern Bougainville, containing Japanese forces on the Bonis Peninsula. On 24 July Partridge was a member of a patrol ordered to destroy an enemy post, known as Base 5. The Australians came under heavy machine-gun fire. Despite wounds to his arm and thigh, Partridge rushed the nearest bunker, killing its occupants with grenade and knife, then began to attack a second bunker until loss of blood forced him to stop. He was awarded the Victoria Cross, and in WWII, he was the youngest and the only Australian militiaman to win this award. After visiting London in 1946 for the Victory march, he was discharged from the A.M.F. on 17 October in New South Wales.

Returning to Upper Newee Creek, Partridge lived with his father in a dirt-floored farmhouse. He devoted himself to self-education, reading the Encyclopaedia Britannica by kerosene lamp and developing an extraordinarily retentive memory. In 1962-63 he appeared as a contestant on the television quiz show, ‘Pick-a-Box’, compered by Bob and Dolly Dyer. Partridge was one of only three contestants to win all forty boxes; his prizes were valued at more than £12,000. At St Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, Sydney, on 23 February 1963 he married Barbara Wylie Dunlop, a 31-year-old nursing sister who lived at Turramurra. The wedding received extensive media coverage. Barbara remained at Turramurra while Frank built a new home at the farm. He drove to Sydney every weekend to see her.

Having deep political ambitions, he sought Country Party pre-selection for the House of Representatives seat of Cowper in 1963. His views were regarded as rather extreme, and he lost. To supplement the income from his farm, Partridge travelled around the district selling life assurance. He was killed in a car accident on 23 March 1964 near Bellingen and was buried with full military honours. His wife and three-month-old son survived him.   A picture of Frank Partridge is seen in Figure 3.

I am indebted to the on-line Australian Dictionary of Biography for the information in this paper.