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Millington, Tasman Malcolm (1896–1963)

by Alison Pilger

This article was published:

Tasman Millington, n.d.

Tasman Millington, n.d.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Tasman Malcolm Millington (1896-1963), soldier and war graves curator, was born on 16 June 1896 in Hobart, seventh of ten children of William James Millington, surgical bootmaker, and his wife Alice, née Baker. Tasman left Battery Point State School at the age of 14 to be apprenticed as a bricklayer with Gillham Bros. A senior cadet in the 36th Fortress Company (Australian Engineers), he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 26 April 1915. He was posted to the 26th Battalion, which landed at Gallipoli in September. Suffering from dysentery, Millington spent periods in hospital in Malta (October) and in England (from November). Between April 1916 and September 1918 he served on the Western Front and was twice wounded in action.

After World War I had ended, Millington studied at the British School of Telegraphy, London. On 22 September 1919 he married Ruth Evelyn Martin (d.1956) at the parish church of St Martin in the Fields. He joined the Imperial (Commonwealth from 1960) War Graves Commission as a staff sergeant on 7 September and was discharged from the A.I.F. on 14 November. The I.W.G.C. sent him to take charge of its motorboats and water transport in the Dardanelles and the Sea of Marmara, some of which also sailed between Turkey and the islands of Lemnos, Imbros, Tenedos (Bozca) and Lesbos.

While war cemeteries were being built on the Gallipoli Peninsula, Millington and his wife lived there, at Kilya. In the early 1920s he supervised work on former battlefields to locate the remains of the dead and transfer them to war graves. When construction of the cemeteries was completed in the late 1920s, he moved to the commission's headquarters at Canakkale. About 1930 he was promoted area superintendent with responsibility for the maintenance of thirty-six cemeteries and memorials on Gallipoli, and three in Istanbul, commemorating 34,000 soldiers and sailors of the British Empire who died in the Dardanelles campaign.

Millington found it difficult to maintain the cemetery gardens on the peninsula: water was scarce, the climate harsh, and travel arduous. His staff of Turks and White Russians respected him and affectionately called him Millington Bey. He became proficient in the Turkish language and, with tact and good humour, established excellent working relationships with the local authorities. Millington and his wife looked after the many relations, friends and dignitaries who made pilgrimages to the cemeteries. All of them were made welcome, and helped to identify and reach the grave sites. In 1934 Millington was appointed O.B.E. He was also appointed to the Légion d'honneur (1950) for his assistance in tending a French war cemetery. During World War II he held the honorary rank of major and maintained the commission's work, though largely cut off from the outside world.

In April 1961 Millington retired to England. As a result of diabetes which led to gangrene, both his legs were amputated. He died of coronary thrombosis on 10 December 1963 at West Byfleet, Surrey, and was buried in Sidcup cemetery, Kent. He was survived by his son, who was baptized on 25 April 1922 at Anzac Cove and served in the Royal Air Force in World War II.

Select Bibliography

  • P. Longworth, The Unending Vigil (Lond, 1967)
  • Reveille (Sydney), 1 Aug 1933, 1 July 1934, 1 Feb, 1 July 1935
  • Times (London), 4 June 1934, 31 Dec 1963
  • Star (Melbourne), 5 Jan 1935
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 20 June 1935
  • private information.

Citation details

Alison Pilger, 'Millington, Tasman Malcolm (1896–1963)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/millington-tasman-malcolm-11128/text19817, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 23 May 2022.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (Melbourne University Press), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2022

Tasman Millington, n.d.

Tasman Millington, n.d.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission