A member of the Inner Temple at the outbreak of World War 1, Colonel ‘Barney’ Lillingston was commissioned in 1914, gazetted to the 4th Dragoon Guards (with whom he fought in France) the following year, subsequently joining the Greys in 1922 on his former regiment’s amalgamation. He came to the 4th Hussars as second-in-command in 1936.
1936 was the year the Regiment commenced to mechanise and his considerable drive and energy were a great asset in this formidable task. He further added to a growing regimental reputation by his sporting achievements as a member of the Regimental Polo Team which won the Aldershot Open Cup in 1938 and by winning, on his own horse, the Regimental Race at Windmill Hill in 1939.
His assumption of the command of the Regiment coincided with the outbreak of World War II. Immediately he was faced with a mobilization task which was to prove the first of so many frustrating situations which were to confront the Regiment in those early war days. All these he met with unflagging energy and purpose.
Despite all these demands on his patience and perseverance, he maintained a ceaseless concern for the welfare of all ranks – no easy matter when the Regiment, as part of the anti-invasion force, was scattered over wide areas in improvised accommodation in Yorkshire and East Anglia.
It was, however, the tragic days of the Greece campaign, which were to reveal his true mettle as a very able and resourceful field commander, only denied full reward because of inadequate equipment and supplies. He appeared tireless and his fearless example was infectious. Hopelessly outnumbered he gallantly led the Regiment against enemy forces vastly superior in arms and equipment until captured himself. An award of the DSO was notified in the London Gazette in 1945.
In captivity he maintained the same deep concern for those held prisoners of war, championing their rights, standing up to the Germans even when intimidation went so far as to firing shots around his head until he won not only some alleviation of conditions but their personal respect.
He devoted himself to sorting out the casualty situation which was extremely confused on the breakdown of communications and did everything possible to ensure relatives were written to.
The 4th Hussars owe much of the proper recognition of their achievements and rewards for individual bravery in the Greece campaign to Barney’s determined representations.
After the War, he readily offered his services to the Regimental Association as the local representative for Devon but he maintained a much wider contact with those who had served under him.