Trooper William Edward (Billy) Sing DCM , Croix de Guerre 1886 - 1943

Discussion in 'Military Biographies' started by liverpool annie, Apr 27, 2009.

  1. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    Here's another soldier who did " what he did " .... we seem to have come across a few of them lately !!

    "The Assassin of Gallipoli"

    Between May and September 1915, 29 year old Private William Edward Sing, was officially credited with accounting for 150 Turkish casualties through his persistent and unerring sniping. For this he was awarded the British Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM). Unofficially Billy Sing's tally was probably in excess of 200 Turks.

    William Edward Sing was born at the Australian mining town of Clermont, north-central Queensland, on 2 March 1886. His mother Mary, was an English-born nurse, whilst his father, John, was a Chinese national from Shanghai. To add to this exotic family mix, John Sing worked as a local cowboy.

    While he was still only a child, Billy Sing began to learn the fundamentals of the deadly skill which would bring him recognition thousands of miles away in 1915. In an age not generally conscious nor mindful of animal rights, young Billy honed his rifle skills by shooting the tails off small piglets with a .22 calibre rifle, at 25 paces.

    In October 1914, 2 months after the declaration of the First World War, Billy Sing, then working as a wagon driver, signed his enlistment papers and became a member of the Australian army. Along with other recruits from north Queensland, one of whom was his later Gallipoli spotter, Jack Idriess, Billy Sing travelled by ship to Brisbane. There Sing underwent training during which he was allocated to `A' Squadron of the regiment, before it set sail for Egypt, 5 days before Christmas 1914.

    The men of the Fifth Light Horse chaffed at the bit during April 1915 as they cooled their spurred heels on the Egyptian desert. Meanwhile a few hundred miles away, their infantry colleagues were creating Australian history at an obscure region of Turkey which was known to the British as Gallipoli. Eventually, the rising casualty toll on the Gallipoli Peninsula saw Sing and his mates embark for the Dardanelles on 16 May.

    For the first month, the lighthorsemen were scattered through the infantry battalions to gain vital experience. But by mid-June the troopers from the Fifth Light Horse had rejoined their regiment when it moved to the seaward side of Bolton's Ridge. In honour of a young English-born light horse officer the new position was called Chatham's Post. It was here that Billy Sing commenced in earnest his lethal occupation.

    The half-Chinese sniper's daily routine began with his taking up position in the pre-dawn darkness. This and the fact that he rarely left the area until well after dusk, ensured that usually there was no tell-tale movement near him during daylight hours. Once Sing and his observer were in position and had settled themselves in, the true discipline of rigidly maintaining a quiet and motionless patience began. This was not a job for hyperactive fidgeters, nor men with a tendency towards constant activity. It demanded infinite resolution, an almost unconscious yet alert tranquillity and the steady pursuit of professional perfection; snipers rarely get a second shot at a specific target.

    The weapons available to the Australian snipers on Gallipoli were basic and in most cases nothing more than the standard-issue Short Magazine Lee Enfield (SMLE) No. 1 Mark III .303 calibre rifle. However, there is evidence that some former rifle club members were granted permission to take their own privately purchased weapons with them when they left Australia. Similarly, a number of these specialists used issue rifles which had been fitted with various target and peep sights, primarily the Lattey optical sight. There is also information which suggests that a few of the sharpshooters had carried rifles equipped with Periscopic Prism Co. telescopic sights.

    But in the end, the fundamental qualifications for snipers were and still are an above-average eyesight and a cold-blooded resolve, when at that moment of truth a sniper's finger falls finally to the trigger of his rifle. Billy Sing, a methodical man, encompassed, exemplified and expanded upon all of these characteristics.

    The uncompromising commitment and business-like approach the Eurasian Sing brought to his work impressed not only General Birdwood but other senior officers. Major (later Lieutenant-Colonel) S.Midgley of the Fifth Light Horse, once candidly asked Sing how he really felt about killing men in cold-blood. Idriess's quiet and `picturesque looking mankiller', simply replied that shooting `the *******s' had not caused him to lose any sleep.

    by Brian Tate

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