William Richard (Billy) Orr

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William Richard (Billy) Orr
Orr William Richard.jpg
photo courtesy WA Football Hall of Fame
Personal Information
Date of Birth 17 May 1883
Place of Birth Sale, Victoria
Death 6 Jun 1963, aged 80
Place of Death Maddington, Western Australia
Age at Enlistment 28 years old
Description 5'9½" (1.77m) tall ; 155lbs
70.307 kg
; dark complexion ; grey eyes ; dark brown hair
Occupation Secretary
Religion Roman Catholic
Address Gosnells, Western Australia
Next of Kin Mother , Mrs Ellen Orr
Military Information
Reg Number 3467
Date of Enlistment 3 Apr 1916
Rank Lance Corporal
Unit/Formation 51st Battalion, 9th reinforcement
Date of Embarkation 29 Jan 1917 ‒ 27 Mar 1917
Ship Embarked On HMAT A28 Miltiades
Date of Return 11 Dec 1918 ‒ 20 Jan 1919
Ship Returned On SS Saxon
Fate WIA 25 Apr 1918 Villers-Bretonneux
Returned to Australia
Monument Gosnells Road Board Honour Roll
Medals British War Medal
Victory Medal

Pre War

12 months in militia Artillery.

Electoral Roll entries: 1910 - 1912 at 168 Harold street, Perth, civil servant; 1916 Gosnells, farmer.

War Service

William entered Blackboy Hill camp on 3 Apr 1916 and a month later was allocated to the 5th reinforcement draft for the 51st Battalion. From 9 Jun until 7 Jul 1916 he attended the NCO School at Claremont. On his return to Blackboy Hill he trained with the 77th, 78th, 80th and 94th Depot Companies, until on 9 Jan 1917 he was allocated to the 9th reinforcement draft for the 51st Battalion. On 29 Jan 1917 he was appointed Sergeant for the voyage to England.

On arrival in England he relinquished the rank of Sergeant, and was a Corporal while with the 13th Training Battalion at Codford. He also participated in the 36th Physical and Bayonet Training Course at Aldershot from 6 Aug to 1 Sep 1917, and on 23 Nov 1917 he was appointed Acting Sergeant. Again he relinquished rank on Proceeding overseas to France through Southampton on 18 Feb 1918.

William was taken on strength by the 51st Battalion on 25 Feb 1918, and on 9 Mar 1918 he was appointed Lance Corporal. On 25 Apr 1918 near Villers-Bretonneux he was wounded in action, receiving a shell wound to the neck. Seen by the 25th Field Ambulance he was sent to the 6th General Hospital in Rouen on 28 Apr 1918. On 1 May 1918 he embarked on HMHS Panama for England. On arrival he was admitted to the 1st Southern General Hospital's Stourbridge Section in Birmingham. Discharged from hospital on 11 May 1918 he reported to the No2 Command Depot who the next day transferred him to the No 3 Command Depot at Hurdcott.

From June through to December 1918 William was moved from one base depot to another in Weymouth, Hurdcott, Sutton Veny and Longbridge Deverill before making his way back to Australia.

Discharged at the 3rd Military District (Melbourne) on 1 Mar 1919.

Post War

In 1924 William married Thelma Brookwood (1899 - 12 Feb 1985).

One of the foremost rovers in WA before World War 1, Billy Orr made his mark as an Administrator, secretary of the WAFL from 1914 to 1954. A Victorian, he moved to WA after playing one game for Carlton in 1903. Billy was inducted into the WA Football Hall of Fame in 2004. He played a total of 162 games for Perth (85), Subiaco (41), North Fremantle (32), Carlton (1) and Western Australia (3). Was a premiership winner in 1907 with Perth, and in 1912 & 1913 with Subiaco. The following extracts from internet football sites give an idea of his role in the football world of the time:

Orr retired as a player in 1914, to take up the dual positions of schools’ coach and acting Secretary of the WAFL. In 1915 he briefly returned to the field as an umpire during a strike by the men in white, and later that same year was appointed to the post of full-time Secretary of the League. By this time World War 1 was raging in Europe, so in April 1916, Billy signed up to fight - after being given an assurance by the WAFL that his position would be waiting for him when he returned.

While serving with the 51st Battalion on the Western Front in April, 1918, Orr was gassed, then wounded by a shell splinter a month later. But he survived, and arrived back in Perth in March, 1919. Shortly afterward, he advised the WAFL that he was ready to resume his duties as Secretary, only to have the League decline his application in favour of the man who had taken over his position; Joe Webb.

The League’s action not only infuriated Orr, it brought about action by the newly-formed RSSILA (Returned Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia) the forerunner of the RSL. Determined to see all former servicemen given their previous positions back as promised, the RSSILA made the situation a cause celebre – even threatening to disrupt WAFL games if Orr wasn’t reinstated. Eventually, he was given his position back when Webb himself bowed to the pressure and resolved the situation by tendering his resignation.

Despite that unpleasant episode, Billy Orr went on to give the WAFL another 16 years of effective and loyal service. On his retirement from the post, he was lauded as a man with a flair for organisation, great administrative skill and a deep love of the game. He passed away in June, 1963, at the age of 80.[1]
“Billy” served for 35 consecutive years as secretary during which time he played a key role in negotiating with local councils to find enough football grounds to play on whilst lobbying for proper change rooms and facilities. He later moved to Maddington and was a member of the Gosnells Road Board for 25 years, 10 as Chairman, and was also a Justice of the Peace.

Perhaps “Billy’s” biggest achievement in his time in amateur football was his insistence that there always be a strong relationship between the WA Football Commission, as it is known today, and the WA Amateur Football league - a legacy which has been of great benefit to the WAAFL throughout its existence.

The following extract from a newspaper soon after Orr took over as secretary of the WANFL speaks volumes about Orr’s influence on the game:

“He is known officially as W.R. Orr but it is to his credit, and a mark of popularity that he answers easier to the name of “Billy” – a great worker for the game of games. Long may he be spared to do his bit for football.”

He resigned as WANFL secretary in 1953 aged 70 and passed away 10 years later.[2]

Electoral Roll entries: 1921 Gosnells, farmer; 1925 - 1958 at River road, Maddington, secretary.


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