Posted on 25. Apr, 2015 in Clayton Update

Lest We Forget

IN GALLIPOLI, Billy Sing was known as the “assassin”, with 150 confirmed kills and claims of twice that number with his Lee-Enfield rifle.

He was a decorated war hero who died in a Brisbane boarding house at the age of 57, still suffering from the wounds he suffered in the Dardanelles and on the Western Front.

During the Iraq war, an Australian sniper team in Baghdad named their post the Billy Sing Bar & Grill in tribute to their forerunner.

Yet it’s possible Sing was only allowed to enlist in Queensland’s 5th Light Horse because he knew the recruitment officer. Australians of Asian descent were not considered fit for service at a time of strong anti-Asian sentiment in the country.

Sing was born to a Chinese father and an English mother and grew up on the land, honing his shooting skills as a stockman. “He could shoot the tail off a baby pig at 25 paces,” said George Fry in 2005. Mr Fry’s father had married Sing’s sister.

Racial restriction was quietly put aside in the bush if enlisted men appeared to be of good health and knew the local recruiting officers. “There were a few hundred Asians in the defence forces at the time, at least a couple at each battalion,” said Nick Fletcher, a historian from the Australian War Memorial.

At Gallipoli, Sing developed a reputation as a deadly marksman, eliminating nine Turkish infantrymen in a single day. Stung by the toll Sing was inflicting, the Turks put a marksman of their own, “Abdul the Terrible”, onto the job of killing Sing.

His exploits were telegraphed across the world, and he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, the second-highest military honour after the Victoria Cross and, for his courage on the Western Front, the Belgian Croix de Guerre.

During the war, Sing sustained three gunshot wounds and gas poisoning. After returning home he sank into obscurity and died in 1943 childless and almost penniless, aged 57. His medals were not found among his belongings.

Mr Sing is one of many forgotten Chinese-Australian Anzacs. Records show that Chinese-Australians served in the Victorian Mounted Rifles as early as 1901.

With thanks to Peter Cai for providing this document.

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