From The Leader 18/11/1916, p. 28

Private Donald Robert Shillito +

Pakenham & District War Memorial 

Born: 1890 - Ballan, Victoria  

Enlisted: 26 September 1914 aged 23   

Unit: 12th Battalion, 3rd Brigade Infantry Reinforcement (SERN: 1175)

Served: Egypt & Gallipoli.       

Killed in action: 25 April 1915 - Gallipoli, Turkey.

 

Listed on the Pakenham & District War Memorial is the name “Pte R. Shillito”. This soldier has not yet been positively identified, but from the available records, he was possibly Private Donald Robert Shillito (SERN 1175). His connection with the Pakenham District though, remains unclear. Donald was one of Thomas and Mary Shillito’s ten children. When he was born, the family was living at Ballan, but later moved to Yarra Glen (1). Donald enlisted on 26 September 1914 in Western Australia. He was working in the timber industry there as a sleeper hewer (2). Donald was assigned to the 12th Battalion Infantry Reinforcement. He embarked from Melbourne on 22 December 1914, spending Christmas and New Year at sea before arriving in Egypt. In March 1915 he left Alexandria to join the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force (MEF) which was assembling on the Greek Island of Lemnos in preparation for the attack on Dardanelles (3). Donald was reported missing in action at Gallipoli between 25 and 28 April 1915. What exactly happened to him was never determined. Eventually, a military court of inquiry held in June 1916 determined he had been killed in action on 25 April 1915, the day the Anzacs first landed at Gallipoli (4). However, in the confusion of war, there were some contradictory reports about his fate including purported sightings at Pozieres and even in Adelaide (5). 

 

On 25 April 1918, the third anniversary of Donald’s death, his parents and sisters placed in-memoriam notices for him Melbourne’s Argus newspaper: “Not abject age or manhood’s slow decay could cloud his destiny; In the full tide of life, like one divine, He died to set men free” (6). In 1921, Donald’s family was advised that no grave had been located for him (7). His name was therefore included on the Lone Pine Memorial at Gallipoli. In addition to the Pakenham & District Soldiers’ Memorial, Donald was also commemorated on the Yarra Glen Honour Roll and the Kangaroo Ground Honour Board (8).

 

The assistance of Chris McKenna of the Berwick RSL is gratefully acknowledged. 

Sources:

(1) & (8) www.yarraglenhistory.com.au

(2) NAA B2455 SHILLITO DONALD ROBERT and Westralian Worker 6/8/1915, p. 4

(3) & (4) NAA B2455 SHILLITO DONALD ROBERT

(5) AWM Red Cross Wounded and Missing File -  1175 Private Donald Robert Shillito.

(6) The Argus 25/4/1918, p.1

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