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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Houghton, Sydney Robert (1893–1951)

by Margaret Glover

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

Sydney Robert Houghton (1893-1951), soldier and civil servant, was born on 22 March 1893 at Perth, Tasmania, fourth of seven children of Edgar Houghton, commission agent, and his wife Kate Charlotte, née Molloy. Educated at Glen Dhu State School, Launceston, he joined the telegraph branch of the Postmaster-General's Department at Launceston in 1907, transferring to Hobart in 1911.

After enlisting in the 12th Australian Infantry Regiment (militia) in 1907, Houghton joined the Australian Signals Corps in 1911 and in August 1913 was commissioned as a second lieutenant with the Australian Engineers, Hobart Signals Unit. On 28 August 1914 he was appointed to the Australian Imperial Force as a second lieutenant and signals officer in the 12th Battalion and in October embarked for active service. He was promoted lieutenant in February 1915. After a training period in Egypt the 12th took part in the Gallipoli landing on 25 April and was immediately involved in heavy fighting. Realizing the impossibility of establishing visual signalling stations, Houghton used his section as runners. His unit fought in the Turkish attack on 19 May, at Tasmania Post and Lone Pine; after the evacuation in December he returned to Egypt and from February 1916 spent six months on sick leave, rejoining his unit at Pozières, France, in August. He was promoted captain next month.

In 1917, after operations at Ligny-Thilloy, Houghton was awarded the Military Cross for 'conspicuous daring and initiative under fire in attack at Ligny on 27 February 1917 and obtaining valuable information'. While serving at Dernancourt in March he suffered further illness and in May was wounded at Ecoust-St Mein. He was in hospital through illness again in January 1918 during operations at Wulverghem, returned to his unit in March and did temporary duty as signals officer with the 9th Battalion near the Ypres-Comines Canal, returning as second-in-command of 'D' Company, 12 th Battalion, in April. After another period in hospital he was wounded again on 18 September during an attack on the Hindenburg line east of Jeancourt. That day he won the Distinguished Service Order. His company 'had to advance over 2500 yards before attaining their objective. His gallant and able leadership resulted in rapid and successful capture of each point of resistance by successive operations'. Mentioned in dispatches in July 1919, he returned to Australia that month and was demobilized in October. He retained his military interests and commanded the 12th Mixed Brigade Signals, Australian Military Forces, in 1925-33. He was placed on the reserve of officers in 1938, having been an honorary major since 1929.

Houghton had returned to the Post Office as a telegraphist until 1922 after which he worked in the Department of Taxation as inspector of entertainments until ill health forced his retirement in 1936. He was a very reserved man, largely confining his interests to the Hobart Signals Unit which later named a training ground, near Apsley, Camp Houghton in his honour. On 23 October 1919 he had married Eleanor Isabel Caulfield at St George's Anglican Church, Battery Point. They had no children. Houghton died in Hobart on 5 February 1951 and was buried in Cornelian Bay cemetery. His wife survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • L. Broinowski (ed), Tasmanian's War Record 1914-1918 (Hob, 1921)
  • L. M. Newton, The Story of the Twelfth (Hob, 1925)
  • Cyclopedia of Tasmania (Hob, 1931)
  • C. E. W. Bean, The A.I.F. in France, 1918 (Syd, 1942)
  • London Gazette, 24 Apr 1917, 2 Apr, 11 July 1919
  • Mercury (Hobart), 8 Feb 1951
  • CRSP 110 and CA 1635 (National Archives of Australia)
  • private information.

Citation details

Margaret Glover, 'Houghton, Sydney Robert (1893–1951)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 29 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

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