Using Small Clues To Find More Information

William Willison Service Record

William Burnett Willison's Enlistment Form

On my grandfather, William Burnett Willison’s, enlistment papers for World War I is the question –

Do you now belong to, or have you ever served in, His Majesty’s army, the marines, the Militia, the Militia Reserve, the Territorial Force, Royal Navy or Colonial Forces?

His answer – “23rd Barossa L.H. 3yrs still serving. Salisbury R.C. 2yrs.

In the rest of his service record it shows that he was in the 9th Light Horse Regiment, 22nd Reinforcement so it’s logical to assume that 23rd Barossa L.H. means 23rd Barossa Light Horse.  By looking on the Australian Light Horse Studies website I found that there was a Militia unit the 23rd Barossa Light Horse and that B Squadron covered the Salisbury/Para Hills area where William was living.

23rd Barossa Light Horse Badge

23rd Barossa Light Horse

Salisbury R.C. stands for Salisbury Rifle Club.  I discovered this when I found many newspaper reports of John Reid Willison, William’s brother’s, involvement with the club.

So William was already proficient with horses and guns before enlisting.

John Reid Willison rifle shooting

John Reid Willison Rifle Shooting 1915


I went to the Len Beadell Library in Salisbury yesterday which has a good little local history room.  There I found a Salisbury Rifle Club scoring notebook which contained the following entry:

Salisbury Rifle Club scoring notebook

Salisbury Rifle Club Scoring Notebook c1920s

The last entry on the page is for A. Willison – Andrew Alexander Willison, John and William’s younger brother.  There was also a photo of the Salisbury Rifle Club with John Reid Willison in it however I can’t reproduce the photo here without permission from the library.  John was also in the Salisbury Mounted Infantry but I have been unable to find any other records of this unit.

Salisbury Rifle Club newspaper clipping

Salisbury Rifle Club 1984

 The Salisbury Rifle Club can trace its beginnings back to the Munno Para East Mounted Rifles.

I wonder how the Light Horse and the Rifle Clubs worked as I’ve said above, William listed both in his previous military service, was one for the horsemanship and one for the shooting or did they both do similar things?  Does anyone know any more about these groups?


P.S.  I just found this link on the Australian Light Horse Studies website too.

2986 Acting Corporal William Burnett WILLISON, a 31 year old Farmer from Parra Hills, South Australia. He enlisted on 6 June 1916; and at the conclusion of the war Returned to Australia, 25 September 1919.

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