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Parbury, Philip Kingsmill (1910–1988)

by John Moremon

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

Philip Parbury, 1941

Philip Parbury, 1941

Australian War Memorial, 021753

Philip Kingsmill Parbury (1910-1988), soldier and businessman, was born on 16 September 1910 in Sydney, eldest of three children of New South Wales-born parents Arthur Philip Parbury, a grazier from Scone, and his wife Dorothy Frances Louise, née Abbott.  After attending The Armidale School, Philip joined John Lysaght (Australia) Ltd in 1927.  He held clerical and junior management positions at head office, Sydney, and at the Newcastle rolling and galvanising plant.  Early in the 1930s he visited England for professional training and in 1936 led a team that started up Lysaght’s Port Kembla sheet mill.  An avid sportsman, he represented New South Wales country in rugby union football and played cricket, golf and tennis.

On 23 October 1939 Parbury volunteered for the Australian Imperial Force and was posted to the 2/3rd Battalion with the rank of lieutenant.  He sailed in January 1940 for Egypt, where he attended the Middle East Tactical School, Cairo, and in July was seconded to 16th Brigade headquarters as liaison officer.  Promoted to captain in January 1941, Parbury commanded the 2/3rd Battalion’s 'A' Company in Greece and Syria.  On the night of 20-21 June, on the main road to Beirut near Mezze, Syria, Parbury sent his memorable signal to brigade headquarters:  'A Coy is astride Damascus-Beirut road . . . Water rations and ammo almost depleted and troops becoming exhausted. Enemy on high ground dominate this position from both sides of road and at dawn position will become untenable. I intend to attack'.  During the subsequent engagement he organised an effective road block and although under heavy fire captured twenty-five vehicles and eighty-two prisoners, including two colonels.  He was awarded the Military Cross in September.

In August Parbury became staff officer at 6th Division headquarters.  He attended staff school in February 1942 and returned to Australia in July to Advanced Land Headquarters.  Promoted to temporary major in September, he joined New Guinea Force and was attached to the 7th Division headquarters in November.  He was hospitalised the following month with malaria; sent back to Australia in February 1943, he became a senior instructor at Land Headquarters Tactical School.  Back at NGF in September to produce campaign reports, he was mentioned in despatches in December.

Parbury, who had acquired the nickname 'Punchy', was promoted in January 1944 to lieutenant colonel and given command of the 31/51st Battalion based at Merauke, Netherlands New Guinea.  In August he took over the 2/7th Battalion, which he led through the Aitape-Wewak campaign from November 1944 to August 1945, including the capture of Maprik and Kiarivu.  He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order in 1947.  The citation noted that he 'surmounted all difficulties and inspired his troops with confidence and enthusiasm'.  In December 1945 he had transferred to the Reserve of Officers.  He maintained a strong interest in his ex-battalions’ associations.

Appointed a director of Lysaght’s Works Pty Ltd in 1944, Parbury returned to a senior management position with the company.  In 1948 he travelled to England where, on 7 July at Holy Trinity parish church, Brompton, Middlesex, he married Eileen Sybil Phipps, a niece of, and lady-in-waiting to, the Duchess of Gloucester.  He was made a director of John Lysaght (Australia) Pty Ltd and assistant to the managing director, R. G. C. Parry Okeden, in 1960.  In 1968 he left Lysaght and became a director (1969-84) of Parbury Henty Holdings Ltd and manager from 1970 of Parbury Henty & Co. Pty Ltd, until his retirement in 1978.

Parbury, who had developed a great interest in horse riding, hosted equestrian events at his property, Dunmore House, Bolwarra Heights.  President (1972-74) of the New South Wales branch of the Equestrian Federation of Australia, he was also a committee-member of the Kiama Show Society and a councillor (1964-79) and vice-president (1979-80) of the Royal Agricultural Society of New South Wales.  With Sam Hordern he is credited with introducing tent-pegging at the Sydney Royal Easter Show.  Survived by his wife and their daughter and two sons, Parbury died on 9 January 1988 at Darlinghurst, Sydney, and was buried at Bombo, Kiama.

Select Bibliography

  • G. Long, Greece, Crete and Syria (1962) and The Final Campaigns (1963)
  • W. Hughes, At War with the 51st Infantry Battalion and 31/51st Infantry Battalions (AIF) From 1940 to 1946 (1993)
  • W. P. Bolger and J. G. Littlewood, The Fiery Phoenix (2000)
  • B2458, item 251652 (National Archives of Australia)
  • private information

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

John Moremon, 'Parbury, Philip Kingsmill (1910–1988)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/parbury-philip-kingsmill-15017/text26213, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 17 September 2019.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

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