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The WW1 frontlines hero who refused to lift a gun

NEVER TO RETURN: Maleny's Tom Lillingstone, pictured days before he left for the war, was killed in action at Broodseinde Ridge, Belgium, near the French border, in what is known as
NEVER TO RETURN: Maleny's Tom Lillingstone, pictured days before he left for the war, was killed in action at Broodseinde Ridge, Belgium, near the French border, in what is known as "the bloody battle of Passchendaele” on October 5, 1917. Contributed

MALENY digger Tom Lillingstone never took a life, but his life was taken from him 100 years ago today.

They called it the bloody battle of Passchendaele.

The assaults by the British Empire attempting to overtake Belgian city of Ypres proved futile. The diggers fought the good fight but ultimately failed.

An estimated 36,000 Australian soldiers lost their lives across an eight-week period. Ninety thousand bodies were never identified and 42,000 never recovered.

Private Lillingstone of the 41st Battalion AIF was a Sunshine Coast man who went into the unknown for his country.

The son of one of Maleny's pioneers - his father established the town's first school - Lillingstone refused to fire a weapon but was placed on the frontlines as a medic all the same.

READ: 100 years on, we remember them

READ: Family desperate to have stolen WWI medallion returned

READ: Coast's war heroes share their stories

 

Jill Lillingstone's grandparents were among the first to settle in Maleny.
Jill Lillingstone's grandparents were among the first to settle in Maleny. Contributed

He was one of the thousands killed in action 100 years ago to this day. Service man #2837 was just 34 at the time.

Still, while a century has passed since the Maleny man's tragic passing, his name, and vitally, his surname, lives on.

Niece Jill Lillingstone has made it her life's work to uphold and preserve his legacy.

Jill Lillingstone takes a historical look at the bloody battle of Passchendaele where her uncle and Maleny man Tom Lillingstone was killed. 100 years since then on Thursday (Oct 5)
Jill Lillingstone takes a historical look at the bloody battle of Passchendaele where her uncle and Maleny man Tom Lillingstone was killed. 100 years since then on Thursday (Oct 5) John McCutcheon

"Our diggers who gave their lives for us must not be forgotten. We have to remember their sacrifices," Ms Lillingstone said.

 

Jill Lillingstone's grandparents were among the first to settle in Maleny.
Jill Lillingstone's grandparents were among the first to settle in Maleny. Contributed

"Tom was one of many who died overseas at this time and throughout my life I've worked to ensure accurate detail is gathered, retained and passed on. Family records, national archives, anything to serve to preserve this.

"Lillingstone is an unusual name and because I was a television host and in broadcast a lot I wanted to keep it.

"But more importantly, no one else was able to carry the name and I didn't want it to be forgotten. And my daughter feels the same. We are both very passionate about it."

 

Jill Lillingstone's grandfather with friends. Do you recognise anyone in this photo?
Jill Lillingstone's grandfather with friends. Do you recognise anyone in this photo? Contributed

Diary entries from Tom's brother Dudley recorded his death some 21 days later after his passing.

The simple notes detailing the regrettable reality of war.

"We got a telegram from father to say Tom was killed," Dudley had wrote on Friday October 26, 1917, transcribed by Jill.

"He was married just days before he sailed out," Jill said matter of factly.

 

Jill Lillingstone takes a historical look at the bloody battle of Passchendaele where her uncle and Maleny man Tom Lillingstone was killed. 100 years since then on Thursday (Oct 5)
Jill Lillingstone takes a historical look at the bloody battle of Passchendaele where her uncle and Maleny man Tom Lillingstone was killed. 100 years since then on Thursday (Oct 5) John McCutcheon

"He didn't win anything distinguished as he refused to shoot people. His medals have been lost though, sadly.

"They got him doing first aid, well, advanced first aid and he died on the frontline. We have been over to see the trenches he operated out of."

The Lillingstones are still entrenched on the Sunshine Coast to this day. Like her great grandfather, Jane Lillingstone teaches on the Coast and remains well-connected to her roots.

Topics:  first world war history maleny sunshine coast war war hero


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