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William (Billy) Basil Greenwell (1881-1964)

Durham School old boy who briefly commanded 19th DLI awarded DSO

William Basil Greenwell, the son of Alan and Augusta Isabella Greenwell, was born Durham on 29 October 1881 and had one brother. He joined the 4th (Militia) Battalion Durham Light Infantry (DLI) in the 1890s and, on 16 March 1900, was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant. In 1901 he fought with the battalion in South Africa during the Boer War. At its end he went to India and served on the North-West Frontier. In 1903 he was promoted to lieutenant and remained in India until the outbreak of the First World War, by which time he had been promoted to captain.

He was promoted to major in 1916 and embarked for France. In March 1917 he was promoted to temporary lieutenant colonel in command of the 19th (Service) Battalion. He was badly gassed at Ypres at the end of October, but he returned in December and continued in command until June 1918, having been awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO). In July 1918 he was promoted to temporary lieutenant colonel and was an instructor at the Senior Officer’s School, Aldershot, until May 1919. In May 1924 he was sent to Nigeria and appointed local colonel as Commandant of the Royal West Africa Frontier Force in 1925. In 1929 he was made a Companion of the Order of the British Empire for his service in Nigeria and returned to England to command the 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry.

In November 1933 he was promoted to Brigade Commander of the 151st (DLI) Brigade (Territorial Army) until he retired on 16 November 1937. In 1938 he was made Deputy Lieutenant of the County of Durham. During the Second World War he organised air raid precautions in the county. He died in 1964 at Greenwell Ford, Lanchester, the estate he had inherited from his uncle, Sir Francis John Greenwell.

Durham Light Infantry medal collection database:

Civil Parish: Lanchester

Birth date: 29-Oct-1881

Death date: 6-Nov-1964

Armed force/civilian: Army

Residence: Old Elvet, Durham
Carr Mount, Ruswarp, Whitby, Yorkshire (1891 Census)
2 The Square, Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, Berkshire (1901 Census)
India (1911 Census)
Greenwell Ford, Lanchester, Durham (1939 Register)

Education: Durham School, Durham

Family: Father: Allen Greenwell
Mother: Augusta Isabella Greenwell (nee Stapleton)
Sibling: Alan Leonard Stapleton

Military service:

Durham Light Infantry - 4th (Militia) 1st & 19th Battalions
Royal West African Frontier Force

Medal(s): Commander of the British Empire
Distinguished Service Order
Queen’s South Africa Medal with 3 Clasps
1914-1915 Star
British War Medal
Victory Medal
Defence Medal
Dehli Durbar Medal
Silver Jubilee Medal
Coronation Medal

Gender: Male

Contributed by John Edwards

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