31st/42nd Battalion The Royal Queensland Regiment
On Saturday night 20th November 2021 the Kennedy Company of the 31st/42nd Battalion, held a Regimental Dinner at Balgal Beach, some 50 klms north of Townsville. - They invited members of the 31st Battalion Association from each of the branches, including 7 members from Brisbane. Members of the Brisbane Branch also gave a short talk on the Bllly Sing memorial that we arranged in 2015 with a C'wealth Grant of $50,000 and with assistance of Kedron Wavell RSL, Chermside Historical Assoc, Chinese Assoc of Qld & Marchant Ward Councillor, Fiona Hammond. We also gave a handout on Billy's life and service, (see below). On Sunday some of the Brisbane members visited the Museum at Kissing Point 10 years on from from when the plinth was laid on the 125th Anniversary of the birth of the Battalion.
Regimental Dinner –
Brisbane Branch Members behind the Plinth dedicated on 125th Anniversary of the Foundation of the Kennedy -Regiment in 2011 –
Members also visited the Museum. It was good to see the Cornet from the original 31st Battalion
donated by A J Cotton of Grandchester before the Battalion left Brisbane for Melbourne & then
to Egypt. Located,repaired & donated to the Battalion Assoc by Peter Nelson at the 125th
Anniversary Dinner in 2011 after being played at Fromelles for the burials in 2010.
The Brief on Billy Sing DCM MID Croix de Guerre-
– 31st Bn AIF – No 355 Trooper/Private W. E. (Billy) Sing DCM, MID, Croix de Guerre
The Gallipoli Sniper
Originally 5thLight Horse Regiment – Gallipoli – Transferred to 31st Bn – Western Front
Full Story Below:
Billy Sing Memorial DCM Croix de Guerre Lutwyche Cemetery Brisbane Qld
EARLY YEARS William Edward “Billy SING” was born in Clermont Q’ld on 2nd March 1886. His father, John SING Drover, was born in Shanghai China. His mother Mary Ann (formally “Pugh”) aged 30y, was born in Kingsford Staffordshire, England. Billy had an elder sister, “Mary Ann Elizabeth”, who was born in 1863 just 2 months before Billy’s parents were married. She died in childbirth in 1915. Billy also had a younger sister Beatrice SING born 1893. Beatrice later married a local Stockman, George Smith in 1917 & went onto have 4 Sons. – Billy’s Mother, Mary Ann, was well educated & a trained Nurse. She ensured her children learned their lessons. The District Inspector of Schools, reported to Brisbane:- “The Children of Mrs. Sing a Chinaman’s wife, invariably win school prizes for academic proficiency.” The Inspector also stated: “The Sing children are bright, intelligent & well behaved, & thoroughly deserving of the honours achieved.” Despite their good conduct, racism against the Sing family in Clermont was rife. – Billy left school around 1898 taking on many jobs in his early years on local Stations, droving both cattle & sheep & other odd jobs. He killed game for food from an early age with a .22 Rifle. He later joined the Clermont Rifle Club to improve his shooting. In 1910 he moved to Proserpine & played cricket for the district, & won prizes for shooting at the Proserpine Rifle Club. – The WAR 1914 – 1918
- Billy joined up in October 1914 as a “Horse Driver” aged 28 years & his mother as NOK. This would have been difficult for Billy, being, “of part Chinese descent”, as he did not fit the criteria to be acceptable into the AIF. It was said that Billy actually was examined by the Doctor in Proserpine, who he would have known through Cricket, who passed him medically fit (Racial grounds included). However he immediately rode to Bowen to enlist as he was not known there to be of Chinese heritage. Billy made his way to Brisbane where he joined the 5th Light Horse Regiment. They arrived in Egypt on 1st Feb 1915. After further training was sent to Gallipoli as reinforcements in May 1915. Billy was known to be a crack shot & was given the freedom to concentrate as a Sniper. Billy soon became notorious at Gallipoli, and was feted by the Generals Bridges & Birdwood. When he was officially credited 201 kills, General Birdwood, awarded him a DCM. It should be noted that Billy’s OC, Major Stephen Midgley, said it was really over 300 kills. However It was General Sir Ian Hamilton who first recognised Billy by Mentioning him in Despatches. This was awarded just prior to being awarded the DCM. - Billy was evacuated wounded from Gallipoli in November 1915 and after recuperation in Egypt, posted to the 31st Inf. Bn in Egypt in June 1916. But again due to illness, did not sail with them to France. He was extremely lucky, as he missed their first major Battle/Slaughter at Fromelles, where the 31st Bn suffered 572 casualties in less than 24 hours. Billy later sailed for England in August, where he spent a further three months in a training Battalion. He sailed for France in late December, joining up with the 31st Bn at Dernancourt near Albert. He started up to the front line in Jan 1917 in the Delville Wood area. He was wounded again in March, between Albert & Bapaume and shipped to Hospital in England. Billy rejoined the 31st Bn in September 1917, just in time for 3rd Battle of Ypres at Polygon Wood in which the 31st Bn took a major role. It was at Polygon Wood that COL Fred Toll, CO of 31st Bn recommended Billy for an MM on 2nd Oct 1917.(this didn’t eventuate) It was also at Polygon Wood that Billy Sing was on a receiving end of a gas shell which provided him with a cough for the rest of his life. Billy was again Mentioned in Despatches by 1 Anzac Corp. Commander General Birdwood. After being in and out of hospital on several occasions, he again returned to the Front with the 31st Bn at Messines in mid Feb. 1918, where he was wounded for the third time. Whilst in Belgium Billy was awarded the Belgian “Croix de Guerre” for conspicuous bravery leading an Anti Sniping Party, during the Battle of Polygon Wood. - Billy Sing, a WW1 hero, died alone, & forgotten, on 19th May 1943, in a small Boarding house at 304 Montague Rd, South Brisbane. He had less than Five Shillings (50 cents) in cash & an old Miners Hut worth $20 to his name. He was buried in a unmarked grave in the Military section at Lutwyche Cemetery. Billy Sing, Australia’s greatest Sniper, lay forgotten in this unmarked grave, in a corner of Lutwyche Cemetery for 51 years until 1994, when four people, organised a Bronze Plaque, to mark his final resting place. Without one of them, the late “Alby Smith,” Billy Sing, might well have been completely forgotten by Australia. - On the eve of Anzac Day 1993 an Article appeared in the Brisbane Courier Mail, written by Brian Tate, an amateur Historian and part time journalist from Ballina. For several years Brian had been corresponding with Alby Smith, an Arms expert, who had been collecting data on Billy Sing for 35 years. Alby Smith worked as a Senior Technical Officer with 4 Armaments Engineering Unit in Melbourne. He had developed a new Sniper rifle for the Army & unsuccessfully proposed it to be called the “Billy Sing” Rifle. - A month after Brian Tate’s article appeared in the Courier Mail, Don Cameron, a long serving Federal member of Parliament, anonymously donated a Bronze Plaque, which was erected on the side of a Carpet Warehouse, at 304 Montague Rd South Brisbane, where Billy Sing had died. Shortly after Don Cameron & Alby Smith, travelled to Clermont, where they met Billy Sing’s – Great Nephew, - Don Smith. Together they organised Funds to be raised for a memorial to be erected in Clermont. A few months later Don Cameron, Don Smith, Alby Smith & Brian Tate each contributed towards a fund to have a Bronze Plaque placed on Billy’s Grave. - Although Billy Sing made his name as the famous, “Gallipoli Sniper” whilst serving with the 5th Light Horse Regiment in Gallipoli, he actually served most of his WW1 service with the 31st Battalion AIF on the Western Front. Billy Sing’s Medals are on display at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. - On the 19th May 2012 members of the 31st Bn Assoc. Together with members of, - The Chinese Australian Historical Assoc., - Kedron Wavell Sub Branch RSL, - Chermside & District Historical Society, & Councillor Fiona King held a Memorial Service at Billy Sing’s Grave Site at Lutwyche Cemetery. Don Cameron & Brian Tate, were both present. Guest Speaker was Major General Darryl Low Choy. (Past Digger of 51 Bn Innisfail) Over sixty people were in attendance. - A year later, Ex Senator Bill O’Chee arranged for a submission for a Grant of $50,000 from the Federal Governments Centenary of WW1, - Fund, which was subsequently approved. Ray Fogg, President of the 31st Bn Assoc. (Brisbane Branch), led a Committee, to organise, design, & construction of a fitting Memorial. Ray worked almost full time for months on the project. All credit is due to his contribution. On the 19th May 2015 a magnificent Monument was dedicated near Billy Sing’s grave at a Parade of past members of the 31st Bn, - a Guard of 2/14th QMI - Historical Troop, - members from the Chinese Australian Historical Assoc. Including interstate members, - Kedron Wavell RSL Sub Branch Members, - Chermside & District Historical Society - and a large gathering of VIP’s, - special guests, politicians, and the general public. Don Cameron & Billy Sing’s Great Nephew Don Smith from Clermont were present. - A fitting closure to a WW1 hero, who has been recognised as Australia’s greatest Sniper, a man who defied racial prejudice to serve his Country, and would have lain forgotten, had it not been for:- Don Cameron, Alby Smith, Brian Tate, & great Nephew, Don Smith. And of course later by members of Billy’s old Unit, – The 31st Battalion, - Bill O’Chee, & the Chinese Aust. Historical Assoc, - Kedron Wavell RSL Sub Branch, - Chermside & District Historical Society, & Brisbane City Councillor, Fiona King. - Tony Wadeson (Secretary 31st Bn Assoc. Brisbane) - Info:- Book “Gallipoli Sniper” by John Hamilton - Our Member Doug Hastie passed through Clermont on his way back to Brisbane from the Regimental dinnerand stopped to take several pictures of the memorial to Billy Sing in the local park: - Billy Sing DCM Croix de Guerre (Belgium) Memorial in Clermont Qld - Memorial at Clermont Qld - Memorial Clermont Qld - Memorial Clermont Qld - Memorial Park Clermont Qld -
To the men and women of the Battalion,
No doubt our leadership will post something soon regarding the situation in Afghanistan, however in readiness for that message I would like to offer the following:
Whilst we are all shocked at the speed in which the ANA and the Afghan government capitulated as evidenced in the Taliban taking Kabul, we must not be down-heartened or entertain any thought that we have been defeated and that the sacrifice made by our mates was for nothing. We all went into that conflict under the hope that our efforts were in the best interest of the Afghani people. We all hoped that we would be creating a strong democratic government that would represent the best interests of the collective ethnic communities within Afghanistan that was supported by a strong and corrupt free ANP and ANA. We did it to stop the horrific acts of ethnic cleansing as well as provide opportunities to all Afghani people regardless of their gender. We did it to disrupt Islamic terrorism freedom of manoeuvre. We did it out of hope, and whilst we were there, I personally saw that ‘we were making a difference’. We also did it to demonstrate what the Australian people stand for… and that’s worth fighting for.
It was not for nothing!
Team – lets get around and support each other.
The thoughts of the RSM and I are with you all.
LTCOL Dave Gandy | Commanding Officer | 31st/42nd Royal Queensland Regiment
Semper Paratus Defendere / Cede Nulius
The Annual Commemorative service of The 31st Battalion and The 42nd Battalion The Royal Queensland Regiment was held on the 26th July 2021. The Church Service was conducted in St James Cathedral in Townsville. Adedication ceremony was held at the grave site of William Edward McIlwaine and his wife Alice at the Townsville Cemetery. Edward McIlwaine was a soldier of WW1 and a well remembered North Queensland Identity. The colours of both the 31st Battalion and the 42nd Battalion were in the Cathedral for the Service. Current Serving Members of 31st/42nd Battalion were well Represented - Association Members from Ingham were strongly represented at the Service - Brigadier Bruce Scott at Dedication Service at Townsville Cemetery The above photo shows (left to Right) The pastor Dr Kenneth Lay, Mr Lux Foot ( Decendent of Alice McIlwaine), Brigadier Bruce Scott, and Mr Eric Christie (NQ Rifle Assn) Bugler is Kevin Blackford formally one of our soldiers in C Coy 31 RQR Ingham - Grave site of Alice and Willian "Edward" McIlwaine
The following message of farewell was received from CO 31/42RQR LtCol Damien Green prior to moving on to his new posting. Many of us have had the pleasure of meeting Damien during his tenure as CO of the Battalion. Membersof the Associaion have been particularly grateful for Damien’s efforts to keep we old diggers across the activities of the Battalion via the “31st/42nd Battalion Newsletter”. Over to LtCol Green:
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
I hope this email finds you well and not too impacted by COVID and/or the High Risk Weather Season.
The purpose of this email is to pass on my thanks to everyone for your support to the 31st/42nd Battalion, The Royal Queensland Regiment during my tenure in command of the Battalion. We very much appreciate the time you have given to us when we have visited or participated in events throughout Central and North Queensland. Without the support of the community, the Army Reserve ceases to function as it should and I am pleased to say we have been well supported.
I will be handing over command of the Battalion to Lieutenant Colonel Dave Gandy as of 18 Jan 2020 when I depart on posting to the Combat Training Centre in Townsville. I have had a great time meeting all of you and I know Dave is very keen to get around and introduce himself to all of you during his tenure as Commanding Officer. I am extremely proud of the support 31/42 RQR has provided to the community and state over the last two years which has included deployments on OP TOWNSVILLE FLOOD ASSIST, OP BUSHFIRE ASSIST, OP COVID-19 ASSIST and now the Emergency Support Force for Central and North Queensland. We certainly hope that the requirement to deploy on domestic operations reduce and we can all start enjoying a relatively normal life free of pandemics and weather events.
The Battalion is very keen to visit the communities in our area of operations to raise awareness of the unit that is North and Central Queensland’s own and provide people an opportunity to join our ranks. Many of you already know of the qualities an Army Reserve soldier or officer brings to your community and workforce, so we are keen to ensure people know about the opportunities available in or around Gladstone, Rockhampton, Mackay, Townsville and Cairns. We believe the more involvement we have with the community, the better our chances are of growing our numbers to ensure the Army Reserve remains a viable part of defence capability and a positive contributor to our region.
To keep you informed of what we have been up to in the last part of the year I have attached a copy of our newsletter for 2020 for your reading pleasure. Thank you once again for your support.
Finally, I would like to wish you all the best for 2021 and I look forward to seeing you at some stage in the future.
Lieutenant Colonel Commanding Officer 31/42 RQR
Members of the unit were involved in various commemorations to mark the Centenary of Remembrance Day. One of those was held in the Masonic Temple in Townsville. The ceremony included the piping in of the coffin of the unknown soldier which was then placed on its bier for the duration of the service. The guard or Sentinel was provided by members of 2RAR.
A number of official guests attended the service including the mayor of Townsville, the Superintendent of Police and the CO of 2RAR.
The 2IC/XO of the unit Maj Ian Reid is the sitting Master of the St Andrew of Townsville Lodge UGLQ
Further details and pictures of the service are included in the link below.
Townsville masonic community 2018 Centenary of Armistice Day Remembrance Service. Official guests and community members were welcomed by the Skirl of the pipes provided by the RSL Memorial Pipes and Drums Townsville. Piper James Sager. The lodge commemorative service led by MAJ Ian Reid, XO 31/42 RQR, sitting master, St Andrew of Townsville UGLQ.
The coffin bearing the unknown soldier being piped in to the lodge and placed on its bier. Pall Bearers ranged from an Entered Apprentice Freemason (WO2 Jason Ballard) through to a district Grand Lodge Officer. No one knew the name of the soldier, the battalion they belonged to nor how they died.
The guard or Sentinel was provided by 2RAR who added a fine air of distinction to the ceremony.
Official guests and community members attending the commemorative service including the mayor for the city of Townsville, Councillor Jenny Hill. Regional Superintendent of Police Kev Gutteridge and CO 2RAR, LTCOL Douglas Pashley.
Kevin Gunthorpe and MAJ Joel Coleman provided a lecture on the history of Remembrance Day. During the service, a bugler from 1RAR played the Last Post and Reveille or Rouse which added a sombre tone to the ceremony.
At the conclusion of the Remembrance Day lectures there was a presentation made on PTE Baxter, a Townsville soldier from the 42nd Battalion who did not return home. 31st and 42nd Battalions were acknowledged as one of the last remaining Australian Army units currently serving continuously from the Boer War through WW1 to the present day. At the conclusion of the ceremony the coffin of the unknown soldier was piped out and all guests attended a festive board and light supper in the south of the lodge.