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Norman Stewart BILLINGTON

Rank Reg/Ser No DOB Enlisted Discharge/Death Board
Pte 1621 23y2m 16 Feb 1916 2 Nov 1919 2

Norman Stewart Billington (1893-1949)

Billington Brothers booklet

Family Background

Norman Stewart Billington was the third son of Annie Elspeth Stewart and William Gresty Billington and was born on 17 November 1892.  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 Queensland (now the RACQ).   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 Bears Den, Bank Street, Newmarket. 

Early life

Norman attended Charleville State School and later, from 1908 until 1909, the Southport High School (now known as The Southport School - TSS) where he was in McKinley House.  While at school at TSS he was part of the Senior Cadet Corps. 


In February 1916, when he was working as a clerk in Bathurst, New South Wales, he joined the Australian Imperial Force (AIF), agreeing "to serve in the military forces of the Commonwealth of Australian within or beyond the limits of the Commonwealth".   Norman Billington was a single man, aged 23 years 2 months; he stood 5 feet 61/2 inches (168.9 cm) tall, weighed 9 stone 10 lbs (61.7 kgs) and was of dark complexion with grey eyes and dark brown hair.  He gave his father's name as next-of-kin and his religious denomination, Presbyterian.


Private Norman Billington was attached to the 53rd Infantry Battalion and embarked with other reinforcements from Sydney on board HMAT Ceramic on 14 April 1916.  The troops disembarked at Port Said on 16 May and a month later set off from Alexandria to Marseilles to join the British Expeditionary Force on the Western Front.   The 53rd Battalion, part of the 14th Brigade of the 5th Australian Division, became involved in the disastrous battle of Fromelles in which over three-quarters of its attacking strength suffered grievously.  Private Billington survived this heavy fighting and remained part of the brave 53rd Battlaion which despite these losses continued to man the front in the Fromelles sector throughtout August and September.  In November and early December, Norman Billington attended a Lewis Gun School in France and rejoined his unit.

The 53rd spent the freezing winter of 1916-17 rotating in and out of trenches in the Somme Valley.   During this period the battalion earned the nickname "the Whale Oil Guards" after the Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Oswald Croshaw ordered the troops to polish their helmets with whale oil (issued to rub into feet as a trench foot preventative) for a smart turnout on parade.  

In March 1917 the 53rd participated in the advance that followed the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line.  It was spared the assault but did defend gains made during the second battle of Bullecourt.

Norman Billington received promotion to Lance-Corporal in April 1917 but lost his stripe in July as part-punishment for being absent from billets without leave.   Later in the year, the AIF's focus of operations switched to the Ypres sector in Belgium but just prior to the major battle at Polygon Wood in late September, Norman was admitted to hospital at Rouen in northern France.  

In late October 1917, Private Billington was again in action on the Western Front and a major German offensive took place there in late March 1918.  On 19 April he was seriously wounded in action by gassing causing his transfer first to Rouen, then Birmingham in England. He was moved to Dartford auxilary hospital in June and later to Fovant and Hurdcott for convalescence. Adding to his misfortune, Private Norman Billington was accidently injured on 4 October 1918 and did not return to active service.   Instead he spent time in convalescent depots in Rouen and Buchy until after the Armistice in November and required hospital treatment again in Weymouth in May 1919, causing delay till September 1919 in his return to Australia on board HMAT Friedrichsruh.

Post war

On 30 December 1920 at St John's Cathedral, Brisbane, Norman Billington married Margaret Evelyn Thompson Brown, the only daughter of Mr and Mrs Robert Brown of Innisfail, East Brisbane.  Norman Billington took up farming at College View, Gatton until he retired to Labrador, Southport where he died on 12 January 1949, aged 56 years.   He was survived by his wife Margaret and only daughter, also named Margaret.

• 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  
• 53rd Battalion photo taken in Egypt, Source: Not just a name on the Wall,, Photo H.G. Carter courtesy Mrs Shirley Clifton.
• The State Library of Queensland - images where cited
• The Southport School (TSS) - images from the school archive where cited                 

Prepared  by  Noel  E.  Adsett,  Brisbane.  December 2015 © 



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