29 June 2016

Andrew Williamson

When I received this medal yesterday I thought I would have all sorts difficulty with the research. My initial apprehension came from not recognising the medal other than is was a long service medal from the early 20th century. The information available publicly for these medals is limited. The next issue that I thought would hamper progress was the naming 'No 62 Gunner A Williamson R.A.G.A'. Williamson is usually to common a name to narrow down an individual.
To find out exactly what the medal was I consulted Australians Awarded by Clive Johnson, which names the medal as the Commonwealth of Australia Long Service Medal. Introduced in 1902, it was designed to recognise:
18 years exemplary service with irreproachable character for any permanent serviceman in the newly Federated States of Australia.
This medal was first gazetted in September 1901 and issued up until 1918. Only 186 of these medals were awarded so it is no wonder I didn't recognise it.
A search of this medal title came up with very little additional information but I found that is was also referred to as the Army Long Service and Good Conduct Medal (Australia).
Once this was all worked out I turned my attention to the Gunner. The easy bit to work out was that he was a member of the Royal Australian Garrison Artillery (RAGA). This organisation was responsible for manning the coastal artillery forts around Australia. This link is to the RAGA set up in Fremantle. (Frank, look at the list of units at the bottom of the page)
I do know that the awarding of long service medals were announced in the gazette so I started searching the online pages. After a frustrating 30 minutes I posted a request for help on the British Medal Forum. With in an hour Dave (Ozmedals) provided me the entry which I couldn't find:
62 Gnr. A. WILLIAMSON - R.A.G.A. 3rd M.D. ........ CAG No.41, 4th July 1914 - p. 1161
The important information from this was the year, 1914 and 3rd Military District which is Victoria.
I also know that it was common for the awarding of medals to be published in the paper but the search needs to be narrow otherwise there are to many results. Using the year and location filter on Trove I found the following from the Queenscliff paper.
I now had a location so I turned to the electoral rolls on Ancestry. I soon found Andrew Williamson, solider, living in the barracks at Fort Queenscliff in 1903. As I scrolled down the successive electoral rolls it became apparent that Andrew lived in Queenscliff for many years, until 1934. From 1910 he was at the same address as Charlotte Elizabeth Williamson. A quick check of the Victorian BDM confirmed that they married in 1910 and that her maiden name was Linn.
I also found their deaths, which were quite close. Andrew died on 30 Jan 1934 and Charlotte on 15 Nov 1934. There was no record of them having had children. The latest electoral roll entry which showed Andrew's occupation as a solider was in 1919. Working backwards; if Andrew received his medal in 1914 having completed 18 years service then he would have enlisted about 1896. Even though he was a member of the permanent force he was not part of the AIF. However, he would have been involved in action against the Germans.
The coastal batteries at Fort Nepean and Fort Queenscliff were involved in what is reputed to be the first action of the British Empire on 5 Aug 1914 when the German merchant ship SS Pfalz attempted to leave Port Phillip.
Andrew proved to be difficult to isolate without knowing his parents names or his date of birth so I took a closer look at Charlotte (known as Lottie). I soon found the probate notice for her estate which listed a Mr William Gairns as the Executor. Back on Ancestry I found a family tree for the Linn family which showed that her sister Agnes (known as Aggie) was married to William Gairns. From there it was quite simple to follow William and his family through the electoral rolls. From the last published roll from 1980 I knew that William's grand son's name is David. A little bit more time searching the internet and a couple of phone calls put me in contact with David, Andrew and Lottie's great nephew.
In total I spent about five hours on this search, far less that I had originally anticipated.
Thanks to Stephanie who dropped this medal off yesterday afternoon. Thanks also to Dave and Jack from the BMF for their assistance.
The returned medal tally is now 1845.


28 June 2016

Reginald James Robertson

On the scale of research difficulty, this has been one of the hardest. I received the WWI Victory Medal awarded to 1151 PTE Reginald James Robertson in 2004. The information available then wasn't that great so I've revisited this case on several occasions over the years. These fresh looks threw up a little bit more each time but also raised more questions than I could answer.
What I found out was that Robertson was born in New Zealand. His service record showed that his wife was deceased and his NOK was his son Eric. Eric had even signed for his medals as Robertson was deceased by the 1920s. Also in the service record was a letter from Robertson's son; R J Santon. Reginald James Santon died in 1929 so I followed Eric's trail through the electoral roll until his death in 1978. Eric also served in WWII. That is when I ran out of clues.
Recently, Anne has had a look at this case and found the one piece of information that bought everything together; she found the name of Eric's son.
What we know now is that Robertson died in 1917. The story of his death is below. Eric was 7 when this happened. Santon died accidentally in 1929. The Coroner's verdict was reported in the paper and this is also included below. 
Once Anne worked out the identity of Eric's son she was able to narrow down his location using the White Pages. I spoke to him this evening and while much of this information is new to him the end result is that Robertson's Victory Medal will soon be back with his family.
The returned medal tally is now 1844.
This studio photo may be of Robertson. The caption reads:
Studio portrait of either: 1151A Private (Pte) Reginald James Robertson, 24th Battalion, of North Gisbourn, New Zealand. Pte Robertson enlisted on 15 April 1915 and embarked from Melbourne aboard HMAT Euripides on 8 May 1915. He returned to Australia on 5 July 1916; or 590 Pte Robert John Robertson, 24th Battalion, of East Prahran, Vic. Pte Robertson enlisted on 13 March 1915 and embarked from Melbourne aboard HMAT Euripides on 8 May 1915. He returned to Australia on 26 August 1916.
Photo credit: https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/DA08714/

Boer War and WWI medal group

When I opened the parcel containing this medal group I was quite excited as well as a little confused. The excitement stemmed from receiving a Boer War/WWI medal combination which usually means an interesting story. The confusion came from the unit on the Queen's South Africa Medal.
It was easy to find 3435 Richard Alexander McDonald in the National Archives but the Boer War unit was a bit harder to track down. Kitchener's FS, as impressed on the medal, is Kitchener's Fighting Scouts. I found the unit nominal roll (picture below) to confirm Richard's enlistment.
Richard was born in Ireland and at some point between the 1901 and 1914 he emigrated to Australia and settled in WA suburb of Bassenden. His service records shows that he went AWOL on a couple of occasions and was wounded by a machine gun bullet. Of interest his rank is 2nd Corporal which I've not seen before. His WWI service was with 6th Field Company, Engineers.
It was rather easy to follow Richard and his family through the electoral rolls. Richard and his wife Ethel lived in Kenny St, Bassendean for their entire lives. Their eldest son Alexander also lived in Kenny St. Richard's other son, Donald, served during WWII and was a POW.
Once the online electoral rolls ceased it was a little difficult to narrow down any of Richard's descendants, however, I found a reference to Ross Alexander McDonald. I made an assumption he was Richard's grandson.
A newspaper article from the 1950's gave me the only clue of any substance. It said that Ross McDonald of Kenny St was a volunteer firefighter. The next mention of this was a 2013 online article about the closure of the historic Bassendean fire station. Ross was pictured in the story so I used this as the basis of the next line of research. Another volunteer in the story had a distinctive name and was listed in the White Pages. A call to this number soon resulted in being able to contact Ross.
I now know the medals were stolen during a burglary at Ross' house. The medals were subsequently found on the side of the road and found their way to the WA RSL who sent them to me.
Thanks to Wendy of the WA RSL for sending me the medals.
The returned medal tally is now 1843.
The keen eyed will note that the BWM is mounted incorrectly. The reverse is showing rather then the Sovereign's head which is the obverse.

Another point of interest with the BWM is that Richard's service number isn't impressed on the medal.
Nominal roll from www.angloboerwar.com

25 June 2016

Burt Griffiths

The WWII group of four medals awarded to NX153037 Hubert Milford Griffiths came to me via an unusual source. A few months ago CPO Phil M, from the Defence Force School of Policing, sent me Burt's medals. It was easy to find Burt and his wife Mary. Burt was an author and they lived in Wentworth Falls. Their son Simon Peter Griffiths served in the RAN during the 1970s and 1980s.
I spent a lot of time looking for Simon but it wasn't until Anne found a death notice for him from 2003 that we changed direction.
Anne worked out the family connections of Burt's siblings and found the contact details of his niece Val. I've now been in contact with Val and will send her the medals shortly.
The returned medal tally is now 1839.

18 June 2016

Frederick Freeman

We are back in the realms of the complicated search. This Pacific Star was awarded to Q151486 Frederick Thomas Freeman, it was sent to me by Dr Edward F of Canberra having originally been sent to him by Roger M of Young. Roger found the medal many years ago on the New England Highway while walking home from school.
The immediate details available gave me the names of Frederick's parents, his date of death and that his estate was administered by the Queensland Public Trustee. Then the leads ran out.
Anne W recently had a closer look at this family and worked out the following.
Frederick did not marry nor did he have children. His sister, Winifred, did marry but also had no children. Frederick's father was Albert, one of four children. Of these, Frederick's aunt, Sarah had two daughters. It is this family line which Anne followed.
Sarah's daughter Gladys married Herbert Edwards. Their daughter is Daphne who lives in Somerset, UK and I'll send her the medal in the near future.
Great research effort Anne.
The returned medal tally is now 1835.

05 June 2016

John Robinson

The first six hours of this search was difficult, the last six minutes was really easy.
The WWII War Medal and Australian Service Medal 1939-45 awarded to VX69037 John Martin Robinson have had a hard life. As can be seen in the photo of the pair, they have come away from their suspenders. John would also have been entitled to at least 2 other medals but where they are is a mystery.
I found John and his wife Mavis in the electoral rolls but it doesn't appear they had any children. Mavis died in 1970 and John in 1988. Both were cremated and interned at Fawkner Memorial Park. From the electoral rolls I found that prior to marrying Mavis, John lived at the same address as Dora Effie Amy Robinson. It got a little confusing here as the only child to Dora was named Martin. However, the birth year on the WWII nominal roll and the Victorian BDM was the same. Some how the names had been mixed up. Dora's unique name proved a bit confusing as I couldn't find her marriage. In the long run I cam to the conclusion that Dora was unmarried when she has John.
Dora had several brothers and sister, one of which was Kendal Percy Leslie Robinson. Kendal had a large family of his own so I followed this line down to Kendal's great grand daughter. The electoral rolls are only available to 1980 on Ancestry.com.au and it was relatively easy to follow the family but after 1980 the difficulties really started. Some educated guesses led me to Tara who is John's grand niece. Once I worked out Tara's married name and where she worked, I found a likely number in the White Pages and called it. Sure enough I had the right family.
Thank you to Christina V who sent me the medals.
The returned medal tally is now 1834.

04 June 2016

WWII RAAF medal group

This is another really impressive result from Bill with help from The Australian Surnames Group.

Searches start in many different ways. The search for the family of 410428 David Paterson Anderson, who served as a bomber pilot with the RAAF during WW2, started with an email from Michelle the receptionist at the Watsonia RSL
‘Hello Bill
I am not sure if anyone has emailed you.  There are some medals here in a plastic bag at reception with your name on them.
The story, it later transpired, was that a lady had dropped the medals off at the RSL, saying briefly that a plumber working under a floor had found them and could we return them. She had then left without giving any other details.
That is when the fun started. A name like David Paterson Anderson would tend to give way to a certain degree of uniqueness. However, as The Australian Surnames Group and I found, there were three men named David Paterson Anderson, all of who died within a short space of time. Unfortunately, War Graves was unable to give a date of death for David which complicated things. I would love to be able to claim the credit at this point but I must defer to the team at The Australian Surnames Group, particularly Kerrie, Liz, and Jenn. Who together were able to separate the three men, something that I had not been able to do. Now, while the team were able to access Ancestry, it eventually took them off shore to England, then back to Australia and finally to South Australia where David’s daughter Carole resides.
Our search has had two endings. The first was a 20 minute phone call between Carole and I as we went through her family, to which I added how we eventually found her and what little I really knew about how the medals had been discovered. The second will be tomorrow, Saturday, when I wander down to the Watsonia Post Office to mail back to Carole her father’s medals, along with the name and address of a medal mounter, who will not only remount the medals, but will be able to clean them and remove the verdigris, far better than I can .

The returned medal rally is now 1832.

31 May 2016

2nd LT Cyril Knight

This search covers three countries and four generations making it rather complex.
I received the WWI British War Medal awarded to 2nd Lieutenant Cyril Leonard Knight is 2012 from Rodney D. Rodney lives in Jurien Bay which is a pretty remote town in Western Australia. As the BWM didn't have a unit or 'AIF' impressed on it I thought it was possible that Cyril was an officer in the British Army. I soon found his medal card which lists him as serving in the 2nd London Rifles and the 8th Lancashire Fusiliers.
The next bit of information was a ship's passenger list from 1922 which shows Cyril emigrating to Australia with his wife Paquet Marie Erestine Gaudioz. Cyril's occupation is shown as a photographer. The lived in the WA goldfields.
Cyril and Paquet had a daughter, Diana, who served in the RAAF during WWII. However, the record shows that her married name in Beckel as she had married a US serviceman, Francis Joseph Beckel in 1944. Cyril also served in WWII.
Paquet died in 1945 and Cyril married twice more.
Armed with the Diana's married name I found a family tree on Ancestry which also that included Francis Joseph Beckel jr. An interesting additional piece of information was that his father, Francis Joseph Beckel snr served in the US Navy during WWI.
It took a while to determine that Francis' and Diana's daughter was named Karen and married Stanley Dickson. It was Karen's tree I had found. I fired off a message but did not receive a reply. I followed up several times but got no where.
Last week Anne asked for my notes so that she could have a fresh look at my research. She soon came back with a vital piece of information which explained a lot. Karen had died in 2014. Anne had also found the name and contact details of Karen's daughter who we have now been in contact with.
Cyril's great granddaughter is also named Diana and is a photographer.
Thank you so much to Rodney for sending me the medal. Thanks also to Anne for bringing all this together.
The returned medal tally is now 1827.
This is the head stone of Francis Joseph Beckel jnr

This is the head stone of Francis Joseph Beckel snr

21 May 2016

Anzac Commemorative Medallion

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the evacuation of Gallipoli a bronze medallion was issued. Surviving Anzacs received a lapel badge with the medallion while the NOK of deceased veterans had to apply for the medallion.
This example was presented to Joseph Morris Zines who enlisted in WA at the age of 19. He was born in St Petersburg. Joseph didn't marry but had a brother, Harry, who had a family I could trace. I've recently spoken to Joe's nephew who I'll send the medallion to soon.
Thanks to Steve P who sent this to me.
The returned medal tally is now 1826.

07 May 2016

RAN WWII and long service group

This search had me stumped for over 6 years. I first received the WWII medals with a Navy long service medal awarded to 18290 John Edward Greaves from Barbara G in 2010. Since then the search has been frustrating.
John initially enlisted in the RAN in 1927, he served through to 1945 which made him eligible for a long service and good conduct medal. He was easy to track up until 1968 but then nothing. Anne W revisited my research recently and found John's son who I spoke to today. I'll send him the medals in the near future. Well done Anne.
The returned medal tally is now 1825.

Father and son medal groups

I was first contacted by Chris B for over a decade ago about some research he is conduction. To my pleasant surprise he emailed me again recently but this time it was about some medals he had through a family connection. The two groups are pretty interesting.
The first group was awarded to Ernest Armstrong McCabe who served in WWI and later in WWII. The second group was awarded to his son, Ernest Victor Armstrong, who was aboard the HMAS Sydney when it was sunk off the WA coast.
I soon found the McCabe family on Ancestry and the family tree owner is Ernest Armstrong McCabe's grand daughter.
The returned medal tally is now 1819.
 Ernest Armstrong McCabe (in uniform) with his brother Gus
Ernest Victor McCabe

Lost on Anzac Day

I'm often asked how medals get lost. One of the most common occurrences is when a medal falls off a jacket on Anzac Day. In the days following 25 April I get many people contacting me having either lost a medal or found one. This story is about an Anniversary of National Service 1951 - 1972 Medal that was found on Anzac Day 2016.
The medal was found in Fremantle, WA and handed in to the Rockingham Police Station. Senior Constable Nat G contacted The Directorate of Honours and Awards and Liz E referred Nat to me.
The name on the medal was MW Lee which made it a bit difficult to narrow down the former nasho. A contact of mine, Wayne W, was able to provide Mr Lee's full name and date of birth. Based on this additional information Nat was able to determine Mr Lee's contact details.
A great result achieved in just a few hours.
The returned medal tally is now 1811.

24 April 2016

A very quick result

30 minutes ago I was included in a conversation on a Facebook family research page that I'm a member of. A lady was looking for a relative so that she could send the WWI medals awarded to Arthur Jolly Argall to. It took a few minutes using some of the resources I have available to locate Arthur's great nephew. I was soon speaking to him and they are now connected.
It was a great conversation to have just before Anzac Day.
The returned medal tally is now 1810.

Anzac Day 2016

Hi everyone, the hits on this blog have gone through the roof over the last couple of days as we approach Anzac Day. Most of the searches have been for replacement medals. This link is the best advice that I can give:
If you have any questions please send me an email. My address is in the welcome paragraph.

17 April 2016

Two returns with vastly different stories.

More great work from Bill.

By now most of you who follow our returns will be well aware that there are on an increasing number of occasions, many families that don’t wish their details to be released.
The following is two examples of both sides of the coin as it were.

George’s medal was one that arrived in a jiffy bag from the Victoria Police in June 2015. It has been a long search for his next of kin, in this case his sons. But when I finally found one of them the exchange went like this:
“No you can’t have one of my father’s war medals, we haven’t lost them in fact my brother who has them, wears them every ANZAC Day”
You can imagine how I felt at the time all that work and getting nowhere.
The rest of the story takes place a week later with a phone call from George’s son:
“Do you still have dad’s medal?”
“Yes” I replied.
“Oh that good it is Dad’s medal. My brother was burgled some years ago and Dad’s medals were taken. My brother went and got a set of replicas made up and has worn them ever since not telling anyone about the theft of the original medals”.
It was after some discussion of how I would send the medals back to the son, that I received the request to not publish any information that would identify the family.

The second story attracted some publicity and best explained at this link.

The returned medal tally is now 1808.

10 April 2016


125890 William John Frederick Hawley was 19 when he joined the RAAF in 1943. He was easy to follow through the electoral rolls but in 1980, when the rolls that are available on line finish, he just disappeared. What I did know was that he spent his whole life in Traralgon, Victoria and I found this interesting story about his father which also mentioned Bill.
Once again it was Ancestry.com.au which came to the rescue and I found the family on a tree belonging to Bill's niece. The medal will soon be returned to the family.
Thank you to Sandra O'H who sent me the medal.
The returned medal tally is now 1806.

Albert Simmons - WWI Victory Medal

In 1951, Tweed District Boys Band member, William C, aged 11, was visiting Grafton for the Region Band Competition. At the rear of the Old Grafton Fire Station, William found the WWI medal awarded to 6595 Albert Simmons.
As can be seen in the pictures, Albert's medal is in poor condition and and was probably lost when it fell off the ring that was attached to ribbon. In his service record, there are copies of letters that Albert sent to the Army after he lost his discharge certificate and Returned from Active Service Badge. However, there is no correspondence about him loosing his medal.
A couple of weeks ago William visited the HQ of the NSW RSL asking for the medal to be returned to Albert's family. The medal was then sent to me by Lindsay, one of our RSL contacts. Luckily for me, Albert's grand daughter, Marilyn, has posted her family tree on Ancestry.com.au so it was pretty easy to locate Albert's descendants. I'll be sending the medal to Marilyn in the very near future.
The returned medal tally is now 1805.

06 April 2016

Walter Brown

The Victory Medal awarded to 3336 Walter Ewart Brown came to me from the WA RSL. He was 40 when he enlisted in Oct 1916. After his training, Walter was posted to 12th Battalion, AIF. His service record reveals nothing beyond a normal period of service during WWI.
Walter was born in NSW but enlisted in WA. On discharge he remained in WA. He didn't marry so our search focused on his siblings. One brother was Stuart Markwell Brown and it is though this line that we have been in contact with Walter's great nephew.
Thanks to the WA RSL and Anne W who managed to find that last piece of information.
The returned medal tally is now 1804.

24 March 2016

Frenchie's medals - Over 1800 medals returned

This is a really good story from Bill about a group of WWI and WWII medals and about the persistence in locating the family. 

To his family he was Edgar, to his mates he was ‘Frenchie’, a nickname that came as the consequence of being awarded the Croix De Guerre by the French Government for outstanding acts of courage during WWI. It was a nickname that would follow him up until his death in 1952.
Edgar, like so many men who served during WWI, lined up to enlist again in 1940. The fact that he had been badly wounded during WWI, appears to have conveniently forgotten to be mentioned.
Edgar’s medals came to us from an industrial waste recycling company. When found, the original finder, not knowing the medals, assumed that they were a complete set and stopped looking. Still missing are Edgar’s British War Medal, and Victory Medal from WWI, as is his War Medal, Australian Service Medal 1939-1945 from WWII.
To Peter, whose company found the medals in January 2014, and never stopped looking for a next of kin, thank you for trusting us to keep the search going.
At the request of ‘Frenchies’ family, who are still searching for his ‘missing’ medals, we have been requested to restrict publication of both the family details and our search data.

The returned medal tally is now 1803. Another mile stone reached.

22 March 2016

Distinguished Service Medal Group

Every now and then we get a surprising request.
Yesterday, Bill contacted me having received a call from the Fitzroy Police Station. The Property Officer, Jackie, had received several items which included full size group of 7 and a miniature group which included a Distinguished Service Medal. The medals were named to Simon Moore-Wilton, a name I recognised.
It took a few hours to contact Simon and when I did he was a little surprised as he thought he knew where his medals were. Then he realised that a recent burglary must have resulted in his medals being stolen. Bill and I put Simon in contact with the Police as there were several other personal items handed in with the medals. Unfortunately, Simon's full size DSM is still missing.
Many thanks to Therese McTavish and Dan Hansen, mutual friends of Simon and me, who assisted with this search. And of course thanks to Jackie of the Victoria Police.
The returned medal tally is now 1798.

14 March 2016

Boer War and WW1 group

This search only took a couple of days to resolve once the medals arrived, however, the history behind them that has been fascinating to research.
Herbert Charles Carter was born in Australia in 1882. He was the son of Joshua Whitby Cater and Charlotte. At the out break of the Boer War he enlisted with the 2nd Victorian Mounted Rifles. His number was 342. He is mentioned on this Boer War site and the AWM. This is the official nominal roll and shows that Herbert was detached to the Pioneer Corps.
The Boer War site incorrectly gives his middle initial as E, however, it does mention that he was a member of the South African Soldiers Association of Victoria. The association membership badge was also sent to me.

As soon as I saw the Boer War medals I new there was something wrong. It is obvious that the medals have been renamed. There is no question that Herbert served in the Boer War so he must have lost his original medals at some time. This is not an uncommon occurrence. If he originals are lost then others are purchased, the name erased and renamed. This can be identified by the rim being thin in the name area and the engraving being a bit suspect. These pictures show the pair and the areas in question highlighted.
I then moved on to researching the WWI medals and found that he served as a motor mechanic in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserves. His medal card is on the British Archives web site. The medals are quite genuine.
The next piece of information I found was Herbert's death in 1959. I was able to corroborate his birth, death and parents details. From all this I surmised that after the Boer War he traveled the UK and on the outbreak of WWI enlisted in the Royal Navy. Then in the 1920 returned to Australia.
Herbert and his wife, Francis Alice  (nee Cope) had a son also named Herbert Charles Carter. I found Herbert jnr on an Ancestry family tree and the owner very kindly connected me to Herbert's (jnr) wife.
The family story is that after the Boer War Herbert returned to Australia and was offered a solider settler block which he quickly rejected. He then returned to South Africa and is reputed to have but the first plane that was flown there. On the out break of WWI he went to England to enlist and served on submarines. After he was invalided out of the Navy he married and returned to Australia with his new family in the 1920.
Thanks to Graeme W who sent me the medals and Lynn W who put me in touch with Herbert's daughter in law.
The returned medal tally is now 1784. (There have been a few returns which I've been unable to publish the details about).