An interest in any sort of history is an invitation to be distracted by things we encounter, and I was recently distracted after reading John Hamilton’s biography of Australia’s ‘Gallipoli Sniper’, Billy Sing (published by Pan Macmillan). A Queenslander of English and Chinese descent, Billy Sing was probably Australia’s most famous and successful snipers of the Gallipoli campaign.
As told by Hamilton (and others, do a Google search and see what pops up) Sing had married Elizabeth Stewart in Scotland in 1917 but the ultimate fate of his war bride was unknown. Some accounts suggest that she travelled back to Australia to be with him whilst other accounts suggest that she never left Scotland.
Not one to be deterred from a mystery, I got distracted and started looking for Mrs Elizabeth Sing. And I think I’ve tracked her down.
It seems that Elizabeth fell pregnant to another man at the same time that her husband was making arrangements for her to sail to Australia to be with him. She gave birth to a daughter in Scotland in September 1919 listing Billy as the father on the hospital records (although this was impossible as he’d left Britain more than a year earlier).
She remained in Scotland and fell pregnant, again, in 1922. A son was born in May 1923. Although hospital information provided by Elizabeth suggest that Billy was the father, this was not possible as he had been in Queensland since late 1918 and she had remained in Scotland. It seems that the father of the boy was an Australian merchant seaman.
Sometime between 1923 and 1930 Elizabeth and her children moved from Scotland to Australia and she lived with the Australian seaman in Sydney. Still married to Billy, she assumed the seaman’s surname (as did the children) and they lived as if they were married. Both of Elizabeth’s children married and themselves had children. Elizabeth and the seaman died during the 1970s and the son and daughter died within the last decade or so. Billy Sing himself died in Brisbane in 1943.
It seems that the mystery of Mrs Sing may have been solved, although some questions remain about Elizabeth’s early life in Scotland the circumstances around her leaving Scotland and travelling to Australia.