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Friday, April 24, 2015

44.1.1 Anzac Centenary - 100 Years later 24th April 2015

If only they knew, what we now know.

The orders were drafted, and issued, let's follow the diary of 993 Private JJ Chapman from the 9th Battalion.

3rd Brigade War Diary
April 18th - LEMNOS
Landing Practice
Transfer of stores
All fighting units cleared from MUDROS
Night landing practice from 'Queen' and 'London'

Diary of 993 Pte J.J. Chapman, B Company, 9th Battalion
18.4.15 Warm day, some troops went ashore. Exercising horses on deck. A company of 12th Infantry came aboard, also a number of sailors.

3rd Brigade War Diary
April 19th - LEMNOS
Transfer of Engineer Parties to Malda, Dirwanha and Suffolk
Arrangement of echelon stores
12th Battalion split up between the 4 ships
Naval Ratings placed on all ships for transport, disembarking and signal work
Preliminary operation orders received from 1st Aust. Div.

Diary of 993 Pte J.J. Chapman, B Company, 9th Battalion
19.4.15 Raining all day, unable to exercise horses, had a holiday. Mail from Australia came aboard

3rd Brigade War Diary
April 20th - LEMNOS
Operation Orders from Division received
Night landing practice
5 Bde Interpreters detailed

Diary of 993 Pte J.J. Chapman, B Company, 9th Battalion
21.4.15 Wet day, had a swim in afternoon. All hands expecting to move any day soon, some very funny tales floating round about the Turks.

3rd Brigade War Diary
April 21th - LEMNOS
Conference Army and Navy at Div. Hqrs.
Detail of final orders
Bde Operation Orders issued
Verbal orders to C.O's by Brigadier
Cipher regwords given

Diary of 993 Pte J.J. Chapman, B Company, 9th Battalion
22.4.15 A nice fine day, troops practising with the boat crew. Had a swim in the evening. Received a letter from Claire also Paper from home.

Diary of 993 Pte J.J. Chapman, B Company, 9th Battalion
23.4.15 Exercising horses all day. Troops getting ready for the fight. Everybody excited, extra rations issued. A nice fine day.

24.4.15 - 10am, SS Malda
Lt Col Lee addresses the men on deck and read out a Special Order from Col Sinclair-Maclagan, Commanding Officer of the 3rd Brigade. In it he says:
"I had hoped to have been able to see the battalions of my brigade personally and to put these few matters before you. Circumstances have prevented this, so I am asking your Commanding Officer to read you this letter."
"It is necessary you should understand that we are to carry out a most difficult operation, viz., 'Landing on an enemy coast in the face of opposition'. Such an operation requires complete harmony of working between the Navy and the Army and unhesitating and immediate compliance with all orders and instructions."
"You have been selected by the Divisional Commander as the covering force, a high honour, which we must all do our best to justify. We must be successful at any cost. Whatever footing we get on land must be held on to and improved by pushing onto our objective - the covering position, which we must get to as rapidly as possible, and once obtained must be held at all costs and even to the last man."
"In an operation of this kind there is no going back. We shall be reinforced, as the Navy can land troops, and meantime 'Forward' is the word until onto our position, when 'Hang on' is what we have to do until sufficient troops and guns are landed to enable us to push on."
"We must be careful not to give the enemy a chance of any kind; no smoking or lights or noise from midnight onwards till after daylight. Take every chance of reorganising (under cover, if possible). Attacks must be as rapid as the ground will allow. You will probably have to drop your packs; but carry tools forward as far as you can - it may mean saving many lives later in the day. Until broad daylight the bayonet is your weapon, and when you charge do so in as good a line as possible; one or two pieces of good bayonet work now may stand us all in good stead later on."
"Every man must keep his eyes skinned and help his officers and NCO's to the utmost by reporting things quickly seen. Look out for your flanks. After taking a charger out, shut the cartridge pocket. Once ashore don't be caught without a charger in the magazine. Look after each cartridge as if it were a 10 pound note."
"Good fire orders, direction, control and discipline will make the enemy respect your powers and give us all an easier task in the long run. Wild firing will only encourage the enemy. Keep your food and water very carefully; we don't know when we shall get any more."
"Don't show yourselves over the skyline and give your position away if you can avoid it."
"We must expect to be shelled in our positions, but remember that this is part of this game of war, and we must 'stick it' no matter what the fire. One thing I want you to remember all through this campaigning work is this, and it is very important: you may get orders to do something which appears in your positions is the wrong thing to do, and perhaps a mad enterprise. Do not cavil at it, but carry it our wholeheartedly and with absolute faith in your leaders, because we are after all only a very small piece on the board. Some pieces have often to be sacrificed to win the game, and after all it is to win the game that we are here."
"You have a very good reputation that you have built up by yourselves, and now we have a chance of making history for Australia and a name for the 3rd Brigade that will live in history. I have absolute faith in you and believe few, if any, finer brigades have ever been put to the test."

Diary of Pte George Lillie, D Company, 9th Battalion
April 24th. All the troops got a bit excited as this was the day we got orders to have everything ready to leave the Malda.
We left the Malda and embarked on a torpedo destroyer and subsequently boarded the H.M.S. Queen. At about noon we left the harbour at Mudros on the battleship. There are a lot of things of interest to be seen on a battleship and we kept ourselves busy looking around.

Diary of 993 Pte J.J. Chapman, B Company, 9th Battalion
24.4.15 Cloudy in the morning. Torpedo boat took off A and B Companies from "Malda" at 11am. C and D Companies went off at 2 o'clock, remainder at midnight. Exercising horses in morning, all the ships preparing to move.

9th Battalion Objectives - Day 1
As the extreme right flank of the landing, the 9th Battalion was to be landed at the southern most portion of the Brighton Beach landing zone and tasked with securing the right flank of the line by taking the heavily fortified guns of Gaba Tepe and the lower slopes of the 3rd Ridge (Gun Ridge) around Andersons Knoll.
Once those positions were taken they were to hold on, to the last man if necessary, until follow up forces landing later in the day from the 1st and 2nd Brigades would sweep through and drive on towards the main objective of Mal Tepe.

24.4.15 - 2pm
A and B Companies leave the Malda and board HMS Queen and head for Imbros Island.

And then they faced their own sheer hell.


Packs on their back, leather dog tag around their necks, that wonderful food, "bully beef".  Onto the ships they marched, squashed in like sardines.  Cold, and nervous, what would the morning bring.

So as we prepare in towns all around Australia and in NEw Zealand, in England and in Ireland, in Scotland, and in Canada, in France and in India,  for the Dawn Service in their remembrance, and our children have all had their ceremonies at school, while others are preparing to spend a very long and cold night in a distant country, let us not let their deaths be in vain.

Let's pin our poppies onto our coats, and wave the flags of our nations, and join with all in making sure we never forget the courage, determination and conviction of some of the bravest men this world will ever know.

Knitted and crocheted poppies in Melbourne


Gallipoli 2015: Young Anzac recruit's poignant letter home reveals insight into beliefs about honour of war

William Sydney Duchesne who died on the first day of the Gallipoli campaign 

Photo: William Sydney Duchesne died on the first day of the Gallipoli campaign. (Supplied: David Duchesne)

"I thought I had better write and tell you that my last wish will be that you all shall be proud and not grieve if I never return...," wrote 20-year-old Lieutenant William Sydney Duchesne in a letter home.

"If by chance my time has come to leave this world I wish not for a better death than one on the battlefield helping Englishmen keep our Empire in freedom."

Written from the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) camp at Mena, in the Egyptian desert, these were among the last words the family of the young officer, known as Syd, received from their beloved son and brother.

From Egypt, Syd travelled to the Greek island of Lemnos and onto the battlefields of Gallipoli, where he was killed in action on April 25, 1915 - exactly one month before his 21st birthday.

The story of Syd is not an extraordinary one in the context of the time.

The young soldier was one of more than 20,000 who sailed in the first contingent of Anzac troops from Albany on November 1, and he was one of an estimated 903 Australians and New Zealanders who died on the first day of the Gallipoli campaign.

Over 8,000 more young Australians were to die on the battlefields of Gallipoli and 61,522 Australians were to die by the time the war finally ended in 1918.

From a 2015 perspective, it is almost impossible to imagine a generation of young men willingly signing up to fight a battle on the other side of the world under the banner of the British Empire.

But Syd's poignant letter home provides a deeply personal insight into the mind of a young recruit, who "was ready to give what is most precious to all - that is our life".

Suburban upbringing in beachside Sydney

Syd grew up near the beach in Waverley, Sydney, the eldest son of Edwin and Rachael Duchesne and was a keen sportsman, playing for the Manly Juniors rugby team.

Military matters had long interested him and he joined the army when he left school, training with the 39 Militia Battalion as second lieutenant.

When war broke out in August 1914 he immediately applied to join the AIF, and was appointed as a second lieutenant in the 1st Battalion.

Training began in western Sydney soon afterwards, and by mid-October Syd and the rest of his battalion marched through the pouring rain to Woolloomooloo, where they boarded HMAT Afric a British steamer requisitioned by the Australian government for use as a troop transport ship.

The ship arrived in King George Sound in Albany, on Western Australia's south coast, on October 25, joining 15 other troop ships already gathered there.

On November 1, Syd was among almost 21,000 members of the first AIF contingent to leave for war, glimpsing the land of his birth for the last time as HMAT Afric steamed out of the Sound.

The ship was part of a 36-vessel convoy to leave Albany that day, escorted - at least initially - by the Australian cruisers HMAS Sydney and HMAS Melbourne, as well as HMS Orvieto and Japanese cruiser Ibuki.'

Syd and his fellow soldiers on board believed they were on the way to England for further training, but a lack of accommodation and suitable facilities meant they were instead sent to Egypt.

Soldiers at Mena Camp, Egypt, just before heading to Gallipoli
Photo: Syd Duschene (sixth from the left in front row) trained at Mena camp in Egypt before heading to Gallipoli. (Supplied: David Duschene)

The ship arrived in Alexandria in early December and the Australians and New Zealanders were sent to a training camp at Mena, about 16km from Cairo.

Syd penned several letters home from here, but his final one, dated January 31, 1915 is the only one to have survived.

Letter reinforces reasons for signing up

Addressed to "My Dear Father, Mother, George and Annie", Syd talks about the weather - "beginning to get warm" - and the evening entertainment on offer in the camp - "four picture shows, two boxing stadiums".

He refers to his sweetheart Rita, whose photo he has positioned next to his swag so "when I am in bed she is looking over me and taking care of me", and asks the family to send a photo of themselves so he can put it beside hers.

But the purpose of his mission is never far from Syd's mind, and he is at pains to remind his family that he is doing the right and honourable thing by joining the war effort.
Tell them, Dad, that for them and our country we who are from Australia are ready to give what is most precious to all - that is our life
Syd Duschene, in a letter to his family

"Tell them, Dad, that for them and our country, we who are from Australia are ready to give what is most precious to all - that is our life," he writes.

"That if by doing so we help to keep you all safe and free and tell Mother and Aunt Ada that I wish them to remember the text of one of Canon Vaughan's sermons 'Weep not for the Dead but for the Living'.

"If by chance my time has come to leave this world I wish not for a better death than one on the battlefield helping Englishmen keep our Empire in freedom.

"I know that my father will only be too pleased to know that his son was able to go and take the share of his family's safekeeping."

Syd was upset to hear his mother had been worrying about him, and implored his father to reassure her.

"... the chief thing I want Mother to understand is that she [is] not to worry over me .... If my time to die has arrived, well I shall die a soldier as it was my wish to be a soldier and a man."

He signed off with another plea: "Mother don't worry I am enjoying myself and am happy."

"Remember mother I am only a son and that many a husband with families are here and it is for them who we must pray that they be spared to return to their wives and families, and not for us single boys, who have nobody depending on us."

Syd's battalion was in the third wave to land at Gallipoli on April 25, disembarking at Hell Spit early in the morning before receiving orders to reinforce the 3rd brigade in their struggle to take the high ground known as Baby 700.

The ensuing fiercely-fought battle saw the Australians take the hill five times before being pushed back five times.

It was during this series of battles that Syd was killed, although the details of his death remain unclear.

His identity tag was recovered by a New Zealand officer and returned to his family in 1920.

I read these stories, and wonder what would Monty have written to his mother?  

"Don't worry mother, I will be alright.  You just make sure you look after my sisters"

Somehow I think that would be what he would say.


‘Anzac stood, and still stands, for reckless
valour in a good cause, for enterprise,
resourcefulness, fidelity, comradeship, and
endurance that will never own defeat.’

C. E. W. Bean, Australian official historian

The British Empire, Dominion and French forces suffered severely on Gallipoli. More than 21,000 British, 10,000 French, 8,000 Australians, 2,400 New Zealanders, 1,350 Indians and 49 Newfoundlanders were killed. 

The wounded totalled nearly 97,000.

In Australia and New Zealand people looked in disbelief at the mounting casualty lists.
Gallipoli was the beginning of a long road for the Australian and New Zealand soldiers ,that took them to the even more costly battlefields of France and Belgium.

What staggering loss of life, and all that there is today to show that they even lived, are the memorials at the battlefields.  Let me share some names with you.


Ali Zeynels' (Major) Grave
Anafarta Village Cemetery Memorial
Çamtekke massgrave
Halid (First Lt) & Ali Rıza's (2nd Lt) Graves
Halit (Lt-Col) & Ziya's (Lt-Col) Graves
Kireçtepe Gendarmes' Memorial & Cemetery
Azmak Cemetery                                                                            
Green Hill Cemetery
Hill 10 Cemetery
Lala Baba Cemetery

4th Battalion Parade Ground Cemetery
7th Field Ambulance Cemetery
Anzac Ceremonial Site
Anzac Cove
Ariburnu Cemetery
Baby 700 Cemetery
Beach Cemetery (The)
Canterbury Cemetery
Chunuk Bair Cemetery
Chunuk Bair New Zealand Memorial Wall
Chunuk Bair New Zealand National Memorial
Courtney’s and Steel’s Post Cemetery
Embarkation Pier Cemetery
Farm Cemetery (The)
Hill 60 (New Zealand) Memorial
Hill 60 Cemetery
Johnston’s Jolly Cemetery
Lone Pine (Australian & NZ) Memorial
Lone Pine Cemetery
Nek Cemetery (The)
New Zealand no 2 Outpost Cemetery
No 2 Outpost Cemetery
Plugge’s Plateau Cemetery
Quinn’s Post Cemetery
Shell Green Cemetery
Shrapnel valley Cemetery
Walker’s Ridge Cemetery

57th Infantry Regiments' Cemetery & Memorial
Atatürk's Arıburnu Memorial
Arıburnu Memorial
Çataldere Cemetery
Hüseyin Avni Manastırs' (Lt-Col) Grave
Istanbul University Memorial
At the Going Down of the Sun
Karayörükdere Cemetery
Kesikdere Cemetery
Kocadere Hospital Cemetery
Lone Pine (Kanlı Sırt-Bloody Ridge) Memorial
Mehmets' (Captain) Grave
Mehmets' (Sergeant) Memorial
Nazif Çakmaks' (First Lt) Memorial
Soldier's (respect to Turkish) Memorial
Soldiers' (unknown) Grave & Memorial (Chunuk Bair)

                    And in the morning

Abide-Çanakkale Martyr's Monument
Alçıtepe Massgrave
Gully Ravine Dressing Station Cemetery & Memorial     
Gully Ravine Soldiers' Memorial
Halil İbrahims' (private) Grave
Hasans' (Lt-Col) Grave
Mustafa's (2nd Lt) Grave
Nuri Yamut Memorial
Şahindere Memorial & Cemetery
Seddülbahir Ammunition Dump Cemetery
Seddülbahir First Victim's Memorial
Soğandere Memorial
Soğandere Cemetery
Yahya's (Sergeant) Memorial & Cemetery
Helles Memorial
Lancashire Landing Cemetery
Lt-Colonel Doughty-Wylie’s Grave
Pink Farm Cemetery
Redoubt Cemetery
Skew Bridge Cemetery
Twelve Tree Copse Cemetery
Twelve Tree Copse (New Zealand) Memorial
V-beach Cemetery

The Dardanelles
Akbaş Cemetery & Memorial
Ali Riza's (First Lt) Memorial
Bouvet (battleship) Memorial
Çamburnu Cemetery Memorial
Halileli Battery Cemetery
Hamidiye Battery Cemetery
Havuzlar Memorial
Hospital Hill Cemetery
Intepe Battery Cemetery
Mecidiye Cemetery & Memorial
Tahirs' (Captain) Memorial
Unknown Artillery Captains' Grave    

76 Cemeteries scattered across one small Peninsula and probably the same number of Turkish sites.
We shall Remember Them

A minute’s silence

When the guns finally fell silent on 11 November 1918, England burst into joyous celebration. But a Melbourne journalist living in London at the time, Edward Honey, felt that the four long years of war called for more sombre reflection and suggested that the nation pause for a moment of silence.

In an article published in the Evening News in May 1919 under the pen name Warren Foster, Edward asked, “Can we not spare some fragments of those hours of peace rejoicing for a silent tribute to the mighty dead? I would ask for five minutes, five silent minutes, of national remembrance, in the home, in the street, anywhere indeed where men and women chance to be.”

A few months later, Sir Percy FitzPatrick, a South African author and politician whose son was killed in action in 1917, put forward the same idea to the British Cabinet. It is unclear whether Edward and Percy ever discussed their proposals but in any case, it soon drew the attention of King George V.

The period of silence was shortened to two minutes after a trial at Buckingham Palace and a week before the first anniversary of Armistice Day; the King proclaimed that all normal activities across the Commonwealth should cease at “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” so that “in perfect stillness, the thoughts of everyone may be concentrated on reverent remembrance of the glorious dead.”

As the years passed by, one minute’s silence began to be incorporated in Anzac Day ceremonies as well to provide a time for reflection.


By now death had become a familiar, and they talked about it in a half derisive deprecating slang.  In the same way as the Chinese will laugh at other people’s pain it became a huge joke when the men bathing off the beach were caught in a burst of schrapnel, or when some poor devil had his head blown off while he was in the latrine. 

There had to be some sort of expression which would help to rationalise the unbearable circumstances of their lives, and some way to obtaining relief from the shock of it all, and since tears were impossible this callous hard-boiled laughter became the thing.  They were not fatalists.  

They believed that a mistake had been made in the landing at Gabatepe and that they might easily have to pay for it with their lives : but they very much wanted to go on living, they were all for the battle and they hoped and believed obscurely that in the end they would win.

Gallipoli, (Ware 1997), Alan Moorehead, p. 148

From Gallipoli, they went to The Western Front.

Some of the photos in the tributes are quite chilling, but that was how it was.

Many are from Turkey and sometimes the translations are a little difficult, but the images are real.
Gelibolu 100. yıl's photo.  
This story is in honour of my own mixed race family.  I see so many similarities with both his life, and then the life in general of both sides of our Australian ancestors and cousins.

With many Chinese immigrants in the country, the only choice for a bride was with an Irish or English girl.  This is story of Billy Sing. A bit of a larrikan, as many of the soldiers were.


A rather famous Soldier. of Mixed race

While researching this period of time, I often thought about my great uncle and his life, and indeed of the children of my great aunt.  How did they cope?

This is the story of William Edward Sing.  He probably has some sort of relationship to our Chinese cousins, as the Sing family from Cleremont has links with Sam Young's nephew.

The Chinese community stayed close to each other, as can be learnt from all different newspaper reports of their activities, good or bad.  They grew crops, they traded gold, and they ran stores and worked as labourers or miners.

But in the mid 1880's there were 4000 working in Cleremont, the town must have been quite lively.

William Sing's family lived at Sandy Creek, and his father was a market gardener.  But it was what William did, and what he faced as a soldier that is remarkable.


The latest copy of the Outback magazine contained an article on Billy Sing, known as the Gallipoli Sniper, who in a few short months on the Gallipoli peninsula became the Allies greatest sniper, possibly the best sniper ever. He is reputed to have killed more men than any other foot soldier in history.

Below is Billy’s story which I have taken, in large part,from the Outback together with
additional information from the Australian War Memorial. I noted that Billy died within days of my own grandfather –both deaths caused by the effects of mustard gas attacks they were subjected to during the war. 

Research shows that most soldiers were returned to the front line after ‘recovering’ from the effects of gas – BUT – they paid a terrible price later! Almost all soldiers who were gassed during WW1 died in their 30’s, 40’s and early 50’s with virtually none living to reach old age. Reading their death certificates it was a horrible and painful death due to the damage the gas had caused to their lungs, throats and respiratory systems.Trust Billy’s story (below) is of as much interest as it was researching.

Gallipoli Sniper
Billy Sing

Billy Sing, nicknamed ‘The Murderer’ was a World War 1 hero, once known around the world. But by the time he died in 1943, alone and almost penniless he had all but been forgotten. Billy was born in 1886 in Clermont, QLD to a Chinese father from Shanghai and an Englishwoman. This son of a Chinaman rose above the racist attitudes and laws of the time and was a likable young bloke admired for his sporting prowess, particularly with the rifle. While still a boy, the story went, he could shoot the tail off a piglet at 25 paces with a .22 rifle.

From the age of 15, Billy worked as a station hand, ringer and horse drover further cultivating his childhood bush skills, including hunting. He honed his shooting skills at the Clermont Rifle Club, and later at the rifle club in Proserpine. A regular winner of shooting prizes, he was also a good cricketer.

Sing was in his prime when he journeyed to Brisbane to join the 5th Light Horse (LH) Regiment in 1914. The 5th LH was in Egypt when the ANZACS landed at Gallipoli.

Leaving their horses behind, Billy’s regiment deployed in May 1915 as Infantry to Turkey’s
Gallipoli Peninsula.

Trooper 355, Billy Sing became ‘probably the most dangerous sniper in any army throughout the war’, wrote Ion Idriess.

Idriess sailed to war on the same boat as Billy and became a popular author after the war. He was also an experienced bushman and at times was Billy’s spotter. ‘Abdul the Terrible’, as the Allies called him, was the decorated Turkish sniper bought to Gallipoli to stop Sing! He methodically studied the Australian’s handiwork –up to nine kills per day.

Having finally located Sing’s specially constructed ‘possie’, Abdul prepared to take down his prey –only to be shot between the eyes by Sing.

Abdul was one of Sing’s 201 confirmed Gallipoli kills, though he probably took the lives of many more Turks –there was not always a spotter to verify kills, and it was sometimes difficult to 
determine if targets that had been hit and fallen into trenches had actually been killed. Though bringing grief to Turkey, Sing’s exploits saved Allied lives and was perfect propaganda –he was mentioned in despatches, awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal and lauded in newspapers from Sydney to San Francisco.

But it didn’t go all Sing’s way. He was wounded in August 1915, when a Turkish sniper hit the telescope of his spotter, who was badly wounded before the bullet finally came to rest in Billy’s shoulder. As the weather deteriorated, Billy succumbed to the cold, wet weather and the appalling conditions in the trenches and was evacuated to Malta just weeks before the Allies withdrew from the Gallipoli peninsula.

Bouts of illness kept Billy in England for some time before he was deployed to the Western Front in January 1917 with the 31st Australian Infantry Battalion, where soon after he was wounded and sent back to England to recuperate. He wrote home, ‘We had an awful time in France this winter; it was the coldest they’ve had for years......It would break your heart to see the dead bodies lying around unburied.’

Following his discharge from hospital he was given leave. Sing headed to Edinburgh, where he had a whirlwind romance with a waitress Elizabeth Stewart. On 29 June they were married. A month later Billy was back in the trenches!

 We’ve had an awful time in France ... It would break your heart to see the dead bodies lying around.

Private Sing was awarded the Belgian Croix de Guerre in early 1918, for his role in leading a patrol, killing several German snipers at Polygon Wood in September 1917. Over his period of service he contracted influenza, rheumatism, mumps, had been gassed, shot on two occasions,sustained shrapnel wounds to both legs and his back, spending quite some time in and out of hospitals, eventually causing his medical discharge.

The mustard gas caused lifelong lung disease for Billy and it signalled the end of his military career when in July 1918 he was shipped home. Despite having been wounded, gassed and ill several times he was declared fit and able to work when discharged in Brisbane.

For a time Billy was buoyed by an enthusiastic welcome in both Proserpine and later
Clermont, but that soon faded. He set out to be a sheep farmer like so many other soldiers on blocks donated to returned servicemen by the Federal Government, but his land was poor like many of the blocks in this flawed scheme. Almost a third of the soldiers turned farmers walked off the land –including Billy Sing.

There’s no indication that Billy’s wife was ever part of his new life. There is correspondence
showing that he applied for Elizabeth to have free passage from Britain, it doesn’t seem to have eventuated.

Though hampered by illness and his wounds, the failed sheep farmer still had to make a living. He turned to gold prospecting and did well enough to go on weekend sprees with his mining mates.
He also got a reputation for heavy drinking and a bad attitude. When the gold ran out, Billy turned to labouring in Brisbane where he continued to work hard although complaining of pains in his heart, chest and back.


On May 19, 1943, Billy was found dead in his boarding house bedroom. Five shillings were also found  but no sign of his war medals.

As his humble grave marker in the Lutwyche War Cemetery weathered away, Billy Sing was all but forgotten. 50 years after his death a newspaper article revived interest in ‘this ace Australian sniper’.

A plaque was erected on the site where he died and in 1995, a statue of Sing was unveiled with full military honours in his hometown of Clermont.

In 2004 Australian Army snipers named their Baghdad post the ‘Billy Sing Bar & Grill’. Last year, on the 66th anniversary of his death, wreaths were laid at Sing’s grave during a ceremony attended by
various dignitaries, including the Chinese Consul General.

Thanks to WO2 Max Murray for forwarding this interesting article. Ed

The sniping position of Billy Sing at Gallipoli, near Chatam's Post, where he was described as a "picturesque -looking man killer". 

Sing was buried in the Lutwyche War Cemetery, in Kedron , a northern suburb of Brisbane. His grave is now part of the lawn cemetery section of the Lutwyche Cemetery, and the inscription on his headstone reads:


WILLIAM EDWARD (BILLY) SING (DCM) Born Clermont Qld. 2–3–1886 — 19–5–1943

Reg. No. 355 Australian Fifth Light Horse Regiment and later the 31st Infantry Battalion


A man of all trades, Pte. Sing was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for conspicuous gallantry, the Belgian Croux De Guerre and mentioned often in despatches. Serving at Gallipoli and in France from 1915–1918, he became known as Australia's most effective marksman/sniper accounting for more than 150 of the opposing forces.

His incredible accuracy contributed greatly to the preservation of the lives of those with whom he served during a war always remembered for countless acts of valour and tragic carnage.

The Croix de guerre ("War Cross"; Dutch: Oorlogskruis; German: Kriegskreuz), is a military decoration of the Kingdom of Belgium established by royal decree on 25 October 1915 It was primarily awarded for bravery or other military virtue on the battlefield.

The award was reestablished on 20 July 1940 by the Belgian government in exile for recognition of bravery and military virtue during World War II  The post-1940 decoration could also be awarded to units that were cited. The decoration was again reestablished by royal decree on 3 April 1954 for award during future conflicts.

Sing was born on 2 March 1886 in Clermont, Queensland, Australia, the son of a Chinese father and an English mother. His parents were John Sing (c. 1842–1921), a drover from Shanghai, China, and Mary Ann Sing (née Pugh; c. 1857–unknown), a nurse from Kingswinford, Staffordshire, England.

Sing's mother had given birth to a daughter named Mary Ann Elizabeth Pugh on 28 May 1883, less than two months before marrying Sing's father on 4 July 1883. It is unclear whether this child was John Sing's daughter as well. A daughter, Beatrice Sing, was later born into the family on 12 July 1893.The three children grew up together on the farm run by the Sings, and all three performed well academically.   The farm was at Sandy Creek in Cleremont.  It was flooded, during a major flood that occurred. 

There was considerable anti-Chinese sentiment in Australia at this time. As a boy, Sing was well known for his shooting skill, but was the subject of racial prejudice due to his ancestry. He began work hauling timber as a youth, and later worked as a stockman and a sugarcane cutter.

Sing became well known for his marksmanship, both as a kangaroo shooter and as a competitive target shooter. In the latter role, he was a member of the Proserpine Rifle Club. He regularly won prizes for his shooting, and also played cricket with skill.

On 24 October 1914, two months after the outbreak of war, Sing enlisted as a trooper in the Australian 5th Light Horse Regiment of the Australian Imperial Force. His Certificate of Medical Examination at the time showed that he stood at 5' 5" (165 cm) and weighed 141 lb. (64 kg).

According to John Laws and Christopher Stewart, he was accepted into the army only after a recruitment officer chose to disregard the fact that Sing was part Chinese; at the time, only those of European ancestry were generally considered suitable for Australian military service.

With his wife, and the welcome home to Proserpine

 Billy Sing with his wife, Elizabeth Stewart.
 Supplied by Pan Macmillan

As the post-war exuberance waned, Billy returned to Clermont. He moved on to a mining claim on the Miclere goldfield.

In 1942, he left the district for Brisbane. He told his sister Beatrice that it might be cheaper to live in the city.

In December, Sing was living in Brisbane and took on a labouring job. It did little to help his poor health. A workmate, Joe Taylor, who had also mined with him on the Miclere goldfield, later recalled that Sing was stubborn and would never see a doctor.

Billy's Gallipoli reputation faded from memory with the increasing number of Anzacs who passed away each year.

On Wednesday, May 19, 1943, William Edward Sing's aorta ruptured and he died alone in his room at the house where he boarded in 304 Montague Road, West End. He was 57.

Apart from five shillings, which were found in his room, and six pounds ten shillings and eight pence, owed to him in wages, the only thing of value left by Billy was a hut, probably on the Miclere claim, worth twenty pounds. It was a pathetic postscript to the life of a man whose name was once known to an army and a nation.


The residents of Cleremont erected a statue in his honour.

His story has been written in the book Gallipoli Sniper, which has also been made into a movie.

However the cast in the movie are not Chinese/Australians, which was criticised and is rather disappointing.

From The Courier Mail 2014         GRANTLEE KIEZA           April 23, 2014 12:00AM

ONE HUNDRED years after Billy Sing left north Queensland to become the most feared triggerman of World War I the Australian Government will honour the fabled “Gallipoli Sniper” with a $50,000 monument in Brisbane.

Sing, one of the most fascinating characters of Australian military history, died of a ruptured aorta in 1943, alone and virtually penniless. He had been a broken man for years, haunted by the 300 enemy soldiers he killed with his steady hand, eagle eye and deadly accurate .303 rifle.

On the side of a building at 304 Montague St, West End, in Brisbane’s inner south, which was once a run down boarding house and Billy Sing’s last home, a plaque already commemorates Sing for the way he “skilfully carried out unenviable duties as a sniper and other hazardous activities with incredible distinction”.

“Let us be grateful that Billy Sing was one of ours,” it says.

Ray Fogg, the Brisbane branch president for Sing’s old Battalion, the 31st, is organising the 180cm high monument near Sing’s grave in Lutwyche Cemetery.

Anzac centenary logo. Department of Veterans' Affairs 


Now the story of the pipers of the First World War is being retold, to celebrate the brave men who so often led the fight. More than 2,500 pipers served, of whom 500 were killed and more than 600 wounded in places such as Ypres, the Somme, the Battle of Loos and Gallipoli.

Many were in their 50s and also acted as stretcher bearers carrying the wounded from the fray. Some were awarded honours including the Victoria Cross and the Croix de Guerre. The Germans, realising the vital role the pipers played spurring on attacks, even allocated snipers to kill them.

Historian Alistair McEwen, who is due to give a talk in April on the pipers as part of Scotland’s war commemorations, said: “The high death toll led the government to ban pipers leading their comrades into battle, but the pipers defied this order. Many battalions lost all their pipers more than once but there was never any difficulty in getting fresh men to take their place.”

McEwen began his research from a 1920 book, The Pipes Of War – A Record Of The Achievements Of Pipers Of Scottish And Overseas Regiments During The War 1914-18.

The first occasion on which pipers played troops into action is believed to have been at Givenchy on 25 January, 1915, when the 1st Black Watch suffered heavy casualties.

Private James Kerr, a piper in the King's Own Scottish Borderers fought at Gallipoli in June 1915. He kept a diary of his experience.

The Scottish Bagpipes and Gallipoli

This report tells us as much about the vagaries of war reporting as it does about the matter in hand, and is not untypical for the manner in which pipers’  role in battle was  portrayed. A handwritten account of the first day of Loos by a member of Military Intelligence, digitalised by the  Europeana 1914-1918  project, provides a further example which is positively overflowing with clichés: 
“The  mad magic of [‘Blue Bonnets over the Border’] fired their Northern blood as nothing else could have done. They answered as one man to the call. As one man they streamed through the gas cloud towards Loos. And with them marched Piper Daniel Laidlaw, playing them on.”

 Who need be afraid of gas, artillery, death, defeat, when such magical, mystical  powers were at work for the British cause? There were at least two accounts from Laidlaw himself of what happened that day. While he was convalescing, a reporter noted the following from an interview with him: On  Saturday night, September 25,” 
 [Laidlaw] said, “when the bugles had sounded the advance, I got over the parapet of the trench and at once set the pipes going. The laddies gave a cheer as they started off for the enemy’s lines. As soon as they showed themselves over the trench parapet they began to fall very fast. They never wavered, however, and dashed straight on. Playing ‘Blue  Bonnets over the 
Border,’ an old tune with a lot of fire in it, I followed after them as hard as I could go, piping all the time for all I was worth. 
Just as we were getting near the German lines I was wounded by shrapnel in the ankle and left leg. I was too excited at the moment to feel the pain, and scrambled on as best I could, changing the tune to ‘The  Standard on the Braes o’Mar’  – 
 a grand tune to charge on. I kept on piping, and hobbled along with the laddies until I could go no further owing to my wound, and then, seeing they had won the position, I got back to my own trench as well as I could.”

The fact that this account misses out central elements of the story as otherwise told –  specifically, that he played as a counter to the effects of gas on his company  –  seems understandable in light of both official and self-censorship in reporting on the war. However, Laidlaw’s account differs in from the report on his gallantry found in the very same edition of the newspaper. As recounted there, During the worst of the bombardment, when the attack was about to commence, Piper Laidlaw, seeing that his company was somewhat shaken from the effects of gas, with absolute coolness and disregard of danger mounted the parapet, marched up and down and played his company out of the trench. The effect of his splendid example was immediate, and the company dashed out to the assault.

This official version of events came almost certainly from Laidlaw’s commanding officers in recommending him for the honour. That his own account  –  or at least, this version of it  –  differs could have many reasons, ranging from a wish to protect the honour of his company, wariness regarding what information he could or could not impart, or possibly even an altered memory of the events caused by injury or trauma. It is also possible that the correspondent was not entirely faithful to his source; it is interesting, for example, that Laidlaw mentions the tunes in terms of their abilities to rouse a charge, but does not note that these are in fact the regimental marches. In another interview, published only a few days later, a version of the story is attributed to Laidlaw which is closer to the more generally accepted version: 
“There  was a light wind that morning,”  he said quietly. “It  was blowing a bank of gas towards the German trenches when their high-explosive shells burst in its midst and sent it among our own men. 
For a minute or two it had a bad effect on my company; but in a flash Lieutenant Young sized up the situation, and noticing I had my pipes, exclaimed, ‘For   God’s  sake, Laidlaw, pipe them together!’

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