26 March 2020

Arthur Brown

Revisiting some of the older searches has provided to be very successful of late.
In September 2010 I received 181 medals from the NSW RSL. Bill and I just referred to this as the NSW Box. Some of the returns were easy but others proved very difficult. After almost 10 years I have only a few medals from the NSW Box left still to be returned. 
One of the last is the Defence Medal awarded to NX166751 Arthur Charles Brown. Since I last looked at this research, Arthur's service record has been digitised by the National Archives of Australia and his son, Al, has put a family tree on Ancestry. This all came together quite nicely today after I sent Al a message and he rang me soon after.
This Defence Medal will soon be in the post on its way back to the Brown family.
The returned medal tally is now 2442.

25 March 2020

Frederick Douglas Smith

For the last couple of years I have allocated a significant amount of time to this search. Even though the family name is Smith, I thought I would have a reasonable straight forward search based on the first and second names that this family used. I also felt rather compelled to put in extra effort because of the medals. This WWI trio are in mint condition, they have never been mounted for wear and the original ribbons are pristine, which isn't bad for something more than 100 years old.
These medals were awarded to 2086 Frederick Douglas Smith. Fred was Killed In Action on 25 July 1916 at Pozieres. The Red Cross reports about Fred's death are quite detailed.
Fred's father was Charles Hunt Smith and one brother was William Hunt Smith. Based on this these names I thought that the search might not be to difficult. Indeed it wasn't, up until 1995 and then I couldn't move forward.
William (Bill) Hunt Smith as served in WWI. After the war he was a carpenter and was easy to follow through the Victorian electoral rolls. Bill even did a recorded interview with the AWM which is online. I had his wife's name and date of death in 1995 but no information about children or even if they had any.
Fred's sister was Lily Toghill Sydes but I had difficulty following her.
The youngest brother in this family was Alexander Roy Smith, born in 1900. Alexander also enlisted for WWI but this was on 11 October 1918 and he was quickly demobilised. The Smith family lived in Victoria but after his discharge, Alexander moved to South Australia. Alexander also died in 1995 but, as I've mentioned several times in the past, public records from SA are difficult to access.
I then turned to the South Australia Genealogy Face Book page and as it turns out one of the members, Michelle, is distinctly related to the Smith family. What Michelle was able to provide me was the name of Alexander's son. It took a couple of more steps, but last week, thanks to Richard Maurovic, I was able to confirm the address of Alexander's son whose name is Mike. I wrote to Mike and today he called me.
To clarify the family connections, Mike is Fred's nephew and was able to give me some great insight's in to the Smith family. Fred was the adventurous one of the family while Bill was not the type to hurt anyone. However, once Fred was killed, Bill enlisted to avenge him. Bill did have a daughter and that branch of the Smith family has Fred's Memorial Plaque. 
It was a quite extraordinary to talk to Mike and get his memories that were so closely related to the medals that I will soon send him.
Thanks go to Sharon G, who sent me the medals, Michelle and Richard.
The returned medal tally is now 2441.

17 March 2020

Thomas Wadrop

This story has several interesting connections.
The WWII group of six medals awarded to SX7308 Thomas Lionel Wadrop arrived in the post yesterday. My initial thought was this might be a difficult search given the lack of South Australian public records available on line. All I got was his date of birth from the service record page and date of death, 1991, from his cremation nook plaque.
To shortcut the South Australian research frustration, I've turned to the SA Genealogy Face Book page with this search. In short order I received some great assistance. Nicole E provide a lead by finding that Tom didn't marry, but his sister Dulcie married Arnold Harmstorf and their son's name is Ian. I immediately recognised the Harmstorf name as that of an Army colleague of mine. She is also from South Australia so I fired off a message to her immediately. The even faster, it seemed, reply confirmed that Ian is her father. Soon after I was talking to Ian who clearly remembers Tom, a Rat of Tobruk. He recalls Tom, a driver, telling how they would shelter under the engines of their trucks when the Messerschmidt planes dived bombed their convoys. This was the safest place as the bullets couldn't penetrate the engine blocks.  
These medals came to me via Ivan of the NSW RSL but where they have been for the last couple of decades is a mystery.
Thanks to the researchers on the South Australian Genealogy Face Book page who responded to my request, especially Nicole who connected all the dots.
Also thanks to Ilona for her part in connecting me with Ian.
The returned medal tally is now 2438.

08 March 2020

William Hodskinson

This weekend I've focused on revisiting some of the older research cases we have. I'm always hopeful there is new information has been posted online that will help me locate a family. Yesterday, this is exactly what happened. I looked at my notes on about 10 index cards but really got no where until late in the afternoon when came across a new tree on Ancestry.com which included 3842 PTE William Hodskinson, 24th Battalion, AIF.
William was born in Lythem, Lancashire, UK in 1897. His service record gave me some information like his mother's name and not much else. From the 1911 UK census I could work out all his siblings names but there was very little traceable information after that. I couldn't find William's immigration records but he was obviously in Australia by 1915 when he enlisted.
William is only mentioned in the electoral rolls a few times and each entry has him in a different small Queensland town. I suspect that he was an itinerant worker. The last electoral entry was in 1949.
This search started in 2007 when I received the medal from Peter H of Capalaba, Brisbane. The information I found yesterday showed William's full family so I sent a message to the tree owner. Overnight I received a reply from Pauline who is William's great niece. This is a little exciting for both of us. Pauline has only recently put the pieces of William's life together and I'm so pleased to add her family history.
The returned medal tally is now 2432.

26 February 2020

Contempory medals returned

I can't speak highly enough about the relationship that I have with the Directorate of Honours and Awards. I've now extended this relationship to the Defence Archives who had a medal that they could not find the owner of. HA referred DA to me and a week later I was in contact with the RAN veteran and will soon return two of his medals.
The returned medal tally is now 2431.

Thomas Hoey

This request came to me via the Lost Medals Australia Face Book page. Antony had come across a 1939-45 War Medal awarded to SX17866 Thomas James Hoey and was looking to return the medal.
Thomas died of wounds on 29 December 1942 aged 30. He was married to Gladys but they didn't have any children. I found Thomas included on an Ancestry tree. As it turns out that the research was done on behalf of Thomas' niece.
Jennifer H is the tree owner and kindly provided me the niece's contact details so I've now connected her and Antony.
Yes the ribbon is incorrect for this medal but I'm pretty sure than won't matter to Thomas' family.
The returned medal tally is now 2429.

16 February 2020

Keven Sparks

In the past I've written about my relationship with the Green Shed. This is a recycling facility in Canberra who sell donated items, they also raise money for charity and create employment opportunities. My contact is co-owner Elaine and every time medals come in to her possession she sends them to me to return.
This latest medal group was found in November 2019 in a house clearance.
The group consists of The Australian Active Service Medal 1945-1975 with clasp Malaysia, the General Service Medal 1962 with clasps Malay Peninsula and Borneo and the Anniversary of National Service Medal. They were awarded to Keven Albert Thomas Sparks but with this type of research, nothing is easy. The records that were available had the first name spelt Kevin, either of the middle names were dropped, swapped or they were completely ignored.
What I could find was Keven on an Ancestry family tree and this lead me to his sister. We have recently been in contact and I'll be sending the medal to her shortly.
Thank you Elaine and the Green Shed.
The returned medal tally is now 2428.

29 January 2020

Charles George Shaw

When I saw that 4599 Charles George Shaw was a soldier from Tasmania I thought I was in some difficult research. Based on previous experiences researching Tasmanian soldiers, I knew there are very few public records available on line. Even Ancestry only has a few electoral rolls available from the 1950s.
The search did start out to be quite confusing. The early records I could find named Charles' mother as Ellen (nee Atwell) but in the service record there is a letter from his mother but using the name Jane and she gave her address in Sydney. For a while I was quite confused then I discovered that in the last few months the Tasmanian public records office have made available online multiple Birth, Death and Marriage records as well as other important documents. All free and easily searchable.
What I discovered was that Charles' mother was indeed named Ellen; his father was Charles. However, Ellen died when Charles jnr was six years old. Within a year Charles snr had remarried, this time to Jane Bailey. What I also found was that Charles snr and Jane had another son; William Duncan Shaw. If this wasn't fantastic enough information, I also found a picture of Charles jnr.

After WWI, Charles jnr simply disappeared from the records. There is no record of him having married or dying. Given that he was single at age 40 when he enlisted I made the assumption that he had no direct descendants.
I then turned my attention to Charles' brother, William. He also served in WW1 with the regimental number 6826. After WWI William and his with Ruby lived in NSW. They were much easier to follow though the records and via death notices. William also served in WWII but he lied about his age and made himself 10 years younger than he really was in order to enlist.
William and Ruby had three daughters and it took some tricky maneuvers through the NSW BDM, electoral rolls and death notices to work out their married names. This lead me to the family of one of William's granddaughters who died in September 2019. Her death notice gave me her three daughter's first names but what their married names were eluded me.
The only solid piece of information I had was the name of the funeral director. On Monday I sent the company an email asking for a request that the family contact me be forwarded. First thing yesterday morning I received an email from William's great granddaughter who was able to confirm all the family connections. I'll send her the medals in the near future.
I am very grateful to the Directorate of Honours and Awards who sent me the medals after they had been handed in. Also to Robert B Walker Funeral Directors who forwarded my message on.
The sharp eye reader will have noticed that the ribbons are on the wrong medal. This is how the medals came to me and it looks like they have been like this for many years.
The returned medal tally is now 2425.

Fred Twining

This is another international return that has taken five years to finalise due to a few false starts.
42081 Frederick George Twining was a British WWI soldier in the Royal Artillery. Finding Fred proved difficult which caused the false starts.
The records alternated between spelling his surname Twining and Twinning. As a result, it took some time to determine that Fred was born in 1891 and died in 1934. But then the trail run cold, I just couldn't find a link to the current generation. I revisited this search recently and found a new tree on Ancestry that included Fred. I've just received a reply from the tree owner who is Fred's great grandson. This is Mike who tells me he is looking forward to surprising Fred's granddaughter, and her siblings, with Fred's medal.
The mystery remains about how this medal got to Australia since Fred's family remained in the UK.
Thanks to Roger S who sent the medal to me originally.
The returned medal tally is now 2423.  

13 January 2020

Haywood and Gascoigne medals

When Trevor P of the MacLean RSL Sub Branch contacted me about these two medal I thought that it was two different searches and one was going to be difficult. Trevor couldn't find the two soldiers in the Australian records but I soon determined that the WWI medal was awarded to a British soldier and the WWII medal to a South African Union Defence Force soldier. And that is were the difficult lay.
The WWI Victory Medal was awarded to Gunner John Arthur Haywwod, Royal Artillery. Public records shows that he was born in 1885, he was married to Sarah Jane Crook in 1909 and died in 1961 in the UK. I located Sarah and John's headstone (picture below) which does not mention any children. I also found all of John's siblings but is appears that very few of his quite large family had children either. There was no obvious link to Australia.
From previous experience I knew that there are precious few little public records available about the SAUDF. The only record I could find that mentions Corporal Edward W Gascoigne, was that he was a POW, having been captured in Italy by the Germans.
What I couldn't find was any link as to why these medals would be in Australia. After over 10 hours of research I had not progressed past the 1960s for the John and 1943 for Edward. Out of frustration I expanded the one Haywood family trees that I found and there, in a distant branch, the name Gascoigne appeared. I've now been in touch with the tree owner in the UK and will send her the medals in the near future. What we can't work out is how the medals ended up in Australia. All I can think of is that they were part of a family collection that changed hands multiple times and ended up here.
Thanks to Trevor who sent me the medals.
The returned medal tally is now 2422.

14 December 2019

Ernest Place

This has been quite difficult search. It started in Nottingham, England when Ernest Place was born in 1900. It them moved to South Australia, which has the least amount of documents available on line. It has ended up back in England but not before some tricky family tree research.
VX15643 Ernest Gordon Place enlisted for WW2 in May 1940. By June1942 he had died and was buried in a cemetery in Melbourne. I can't find a cause of death but I suspected it was due to illness.
Ernest was one of three children. His brother eventually settled in South Australia but I couldn't find any evidence that he married or had children.
Ernest's sister was Marguerite who had remained in the UK when her brothers emigrated. Marguerite married Ulric Hopton who was a successful businessman. It is through Marguerite's family line that I was able to find Dominic in the UK who is Ernest's great great nephew. Working my why through that branch of the family tree proved difficult and it was only though Dominic's wife's family that I successfully made contact. I'll be sending these Australian WW2 medals to England soon where Ernest's family remains.
These medals were originally sent to me by Kerryn L and came in their box of issue. They have never been mounted for wearing.
The returned medal tally is now 2420.

24 October 2019

Bruce Taylor DCM

The research for this return really wasn't that difficult, what sets this story apart from many others is the story of the soldier, the source the medals came from and who I returned them to this morning.
Just over a week ago I received an email from Elaine one of the co-founders of Canberra's Green Shed. I've established a fantastic relationship with Elaine over the years and returned several medals that have come to her via the Green Shed and that were then passed to me.
What Elaine recently gave me was a collection of WWI badges and trio of medals. What intrigued me immediately was a ribbon for a Distinguished Conduct Medal. Knowing that this medal has only been awarded to just of 2000 Australians between 1899 and 1972 I was keen to start the research. What concerned me a bit was the actual medal wasn't with collection that Elaine gave me.
It didn't take long to work out I was researching 528 Robert Bruce Taylor DCM, 21st Battalion AIF.  
Known as Bruce, he was 19 when he enlisted. However, he must have been a talented soldier as was he was promoted to Company Sergeant Major by the time he was 21. I found multiple stories about Bruce in the newspaper archives. Some of these I've added below. From these stories I learnt that Bruce was aboard the troop ship Southland which was the first troop ship carrying Australians that was torpedoed and sunk.
Bruce served at Gallipoli and then on the Western Front where he was wounded. I later was told that his wound leg bone was set wrong and this leg was shorter than the other so he walked with a limp for the rest of his life.
Bruce was easy to follow through the electoral rolls. As was his son Grahame who served in the Royal Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers during the 1950. I was surprised to see that Grahame and his family lived in Canberra which would hoped would make my search for the current easy. The last electoral roll available on line which is from 1980, gave me the name of one of Grahame's sons - Gordon.
It took me a bit of time to work out that Gordon is in fact ABC journalist Gordon Taylor. Then came the hardest part - trying to get in touch with Gordon. I had to relay on some old fashioned technology; I picked up the landline phone, called the ABC switch and left a message.
When I spoke to Gordon we took a bit of time trying to work out how the medals came to be lost and why the DCM wasn't with what I was holding on to. Gordon did a check and soon found that he had the DCM which was great news.
This morning Gordon came to my work and I was able to return all his grandfather's items to him. He also bought along the DCM and I've added a picture of the complete group awarded to Bruce Taylor.
There are quite a few photos and newspaper articles that go along with this story but I felt is worth including them all.
Thanks go to Elaine and the Green Shed for trusting me to look for the Taylor family.
The returned medal tally is now 2416.

First is a picture of Bruce Taylor wearing his DCM