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Richard Stewart BILLINGTON MC


Rank Reg/Ser No DOB Enlisted Discharge/Death Board
Capt 20y10m 22/07/19 1

Captain Richard Stewart Billington MC (1891-1956)

Billington Brothers booklet

Family Background

Richard Stewart Billington was the fourth son of Annie Elspeth Stewart and William Gresty Billington and was born on 23 February 1894.   His parents were married on 2 June 1885 at the Stewart family home, Glen Lyon, in the Brisbane suburb of Ashgrove by the Rev. Colin McCullock, Minister of Wickham Terrace Presbyterian Church.

William Gresty Billington, his father, came from England to Melbourne where he was occupied in the soft goods trade.  On coming to Brisbane he managed the firm of Scott, Dawson and Stewart before moving with his family to Charleville in Western Queensland where he opened a general store.

The family later moved to Laidley where Mr Billington was engaged in sawmilling   He retired from business after this venture and settled in Brisbane.   William Gresty Billington was a Master Mason and, in 1905, was a founder of the Automobile Club of Queensland1.  Mrs Annie Billington died in 1928 aged 64 years.

At the time of their three sons' enlistment to serve in the AIF, the family home was Bearsden, Banks Street, Newmarket. 

Early life

Richard Stewart Billington attended the Southport High School for boys (now The Southport School - TSS) and in 1910 was awarded the Dudley Cup and a gold medal for being the champion rifle shot of the school.  The presentation was made by the Governor of Queensland, Sir William MacGregor, who said the score of 83 out of a possible 103 was a "very good performance".  Richard also received awards of Mid-Winter Prize and Best Athlete at the annual prize-giving day, later in the same year.

Enlistment

Richard was working as a clerk in Brisbane when war was declared in 1914.  Though the youngest of the Billing boys who served in the Great War, Richard was the first to join up.  His parents signed a statement giving their "full permission to enlist in the Australian Expeditionary Force for service as required".  

At the age of 20 years and 10 months, Dick Billington joined the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) on 10 December 1914, naming his mother, Mrs A. E. Billington of Newmarket as next-of-kin and stating his religious denomination as Church of England.

A short period of training followed at Enoggera Camp and when he embarked on 9 February 1915 from Brisbane on board HMAT Itria, part of reinforcements for the 5th Light Horse Regiment bound for Egypt, he was promoted to the rank of Sergeant.

Service

The Light Horse were considered unsuitable for the initial operations at Gallipoli but were subsequently deployed without their horses to reinforce the infantry.  His brigade landed there in late May 1915.  At his own request he reverted to the ranks on arrival on the peninsula.  

Involved in several minor attacks, the 5th Light Horse played a defensive role for most of the campaign during which Richard Billington again received promotion to Corporal in July and Sergeant in November.  Evacuation occurred on 20 December 1915 and the 5th Light Horse returned to Egypt and their horses.  

Back in Egypt, the 2nd Light Horse Brigade became part of the ANZAC Mounted Division and in February 1916 joined the forces defending the Suez Canal from a Turkish advance across the Sinai Desert.  

The 5th Light Horse 

The 5th Light Horse's main activity in the Sinai was long­-range patrolling, but it was involved in several small engagements during August, as the Turks retreated after their defeat at Romani.  Richard Billington was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant in July and to the rank of Lieutenant 26  October 1916.  

The ANZAC Mounted Division advanced into Palestine in late December 1916. Lieutenant Billington served as Orderly Officer to Colonel Commanding 2nd Light Horse Battalion during June 1917.  

The work of the 5th Light Horse Regiment continued to be mainly patrols and raids until the advance stalled before the Turkish bastion of Gaza.  The regiment participated in all three battles aimed at capturing the town.   

With the fall of Gaza on 7 November 1917, the Turkish position in southern Palestine collapsed.  The 5th was involved in the pursuit that followed and Lieutenant Billington was engaged at Tel al Marakeb, El Fukhari, Kazar, Essud and Wadi Hanein.

Awards

In December 1917, Richard was awarded the Military Cross “for gallantry and distinguished service in the field”2

He was involved in staff training at the Zeitoun Training Camp and for a time was attached to 34th Poona Horse Regiment. He returned to his own regiment which spent much of the first half of 1918 holding the west bank of the Jordan River.

Eventually, an offensive was launched along the coast in September 1918, with the 5th taking part in a subsidiary effort east of the Jordan. It attacked at Amman on 25 September, and on 29 September 4500 Turks surrendered to just two squadrons from the regiment at Ziza.

Turkey surrendered on 31 October 1918, but the 5th Light Horse was employed one last time to assist in putting down the Egyptian revolt of early 1919. In this Richard Billington served with the rank of Captain on the recommendation of Major William Chatham:

“This officer is capable of commanding a squadron. He is a good disciplinarian and has ability to train men. He is physically very strong and always fit.”3

The 5th Light Horse Regiment in which Richard Billington served throughout the Great War gained a fine record of service. The regiment sailed for home with Captain Richard Billington on board HMAT Madras on 28 June 1919.

Post war - marriage and civilian life

He returned to his family home at Newmarket and in November his engagement to Dorothy Florence Earwaker, second daughter of Mr and Mrs E. Earwaker, Brocklisby, Windsor was announced.  Their wedding took place in St John’s Cathedral on 4 November 1920 and the couple lived for a time at Lutwyche Road, Windsor.

In the early 1930s they lived in Roma where Richard was an accountant. They returned to the suburbs of Hamilton then Ascot in Brisbane before moving to Surfers Paradise in the late 1940s.

Passing

Mr Richard Billington died in 1971.


Footnotes
1. Now RACQ. Dr Archibald Brockway (also listed on the Honour Boards) was the founding secretary of RACQ. 
2. Letter, Base Records, Melbourne to Mrs Billington, Newmarket, 3 August 1918
3. Commanding Officer, 5th Light Horse Regiment, 1 February 1919

Booklet


References  
• Australian War Memorial   
First  World  War  Embarkation  Rolls
Honours  and  Awards   
Unit  Histories
• Saint Andrew's Presbyterian Church Annual Reports 1910,  1911,  1912,  1921,  1923, Archives, Saint Andrew's Uniting Church, Brisbane
• The Golden Book, Archives, Brisbane Grammar School   
• Bean C.E.W., Anzac to Amiens, Penguin Books, Melbourne, 2014
• Brisbane City Council Cemetery Records  
• Commonwealth Electoral Rolls, 1913 -¬ 1968      
• National Archives of Australia, military records, World War 1 
• Queensland Register of Births, Marriages, Deaths   
• AIF Project Website, 2015      
• The Week, Brisbane, 7 Jan 1921, p 7; 5 Feb 1926, p 20   
• The Queenslander, 27 Mar 1886; 6 March 1915, p 22; 27 November 1920, p 8
• The Brisbane Courier, 9 June 1885, p 1; 28 Sept 1910, p 5;  6 Dec 1910;  26 Dec 1917, p 7;  26 Nov 1919, p 6;  23 Sept 1921; 3 Feb 1926, p 19;  16 Oct 1926
• Warwick Examiner and Times, 27Jan 1900, p 2  
• The  Telegraph, Brisbane, 3 May 1928, p 8 
• The Courier-¬Mail, Brisbane,17 Jan 1942; 13 Jan 1949  
• The Charleville Times, 21 Jan 1949, p 12      
• The State Library of Queensland              

Prepared  by  Noel  E  Adsett,  Dec  2015    

 

 

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