Gilbert was the second husband of my great-grandmother, Annie Jacintha Mary Elizabeth (another with four first names), and so my grandmother's step-father. Gilbert was born in March 1876 in Brisbane, the son of Robert Epifanio Birkbeck and his wife Francesca Julia Louisa Letona Clement (another with four first names).
Gilbert was a public servant and soldier. In April 1908 Gilbert was commissioned second lieutenant in the 15th Australian Light Horse Regiment, Queensland Mounted Infantry.
On 20 August 1914 he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force as a lieutenant in 'C' Squadron, 2nd Light Horse Regiment, and was promoted captain on 18 October, two days before embarking for Egypt.
|B00525 - Major Birkbeck's team of four original horses |
& unidentified members of 2nd Aust LH Regiment - AWM
After training, his unit was sent to Gallipoli to fight as infantry; it took over the defence of Quinn's Post on 12 May 1915 and three days later Birkbeck was wounded while leading an abortive raid. Wounded again in a Turkish attack at Pope's Hill on 30 June, he was evacuated and rejoined his unit for the Sinai campaign. He was promoted major on 1 August 1916 and in the battle of Romani commanded 'A' Squadron.
On 15 November Gilbert's regiment joined Major General Sir Philip Chetwode's Desert Column, which attacked the Turks at Magdhaba on 22 December. Swooping on a vital Turkish redoubt from the rear, His troops cut off the only line of retreat. For his 'initiative and excellent leadership, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order.
After he returned to Australia he rejopined the public service as a stock inspector. He died in 1947 and was cremated in Brisbane. My grandmother did not like her stepfather, she said he was a very strict disciplinarian. I guess that was the army in him.