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).

23 February 2016

Royce Fiddes

This is an interesting item that is probably just one example of the different types of souvenirs bought home by soldiers from WWI. This is a 1914 20 Kurus coin from Turkey which has been turned in to an identity disc. The soldier is 16953 Royce Richard Fletcher Fiddes who served in the 5th Light Horse Field Ambulance and later the Australian Camel Brigade Ambulance
I thought that with a name as distinctive as his that tracing his family would be reasonably easy. This wasn't the case and it has been close to four years since this search started. It was only resolved when a descendant of Roy's came across an online post about our research.
Thanks to Ken Duncan who originally sent me the coin.

18 February 2016

Another international return

These medals are well traveled and are about to head overseas again. The WWI trio awarded to L-13790 Phillip John Pratley and WWII medals awarded to N465580 Joseph Pratley were sent to me from Rita of the Australian High Commission in London. The medals had been handed in based on the WWII medals having been awarded to an Australian solider.
It was easy to work out who Joseph was and that Phillip served in the Royal Fusiliers. Everything after that was a lot more difficult.
Joseph was the son of Charles and Mary Pratley who lived in Goulburn, NSW. After enlisting he served in Bougainville but accidentally drowned. A picture of his head stone is at this link. Mary died in 1944 and Charles in 1950. Working backward I found that they emigrated to Australia in 1922. But who was Phillip?
Eventually it became apparent that Charles was Phillip's brother and as there were no other family in Australia is was reasonable to assume that Joseph's medals were sent to the family back in England. After several months of wading through the UK census, birth and marriage records I determined the names of Phillip's wife, his daughters and their husbands. All the clues pointed to this family living in Plymouth. I ran in to a bit of a brick wall and thought the best strategy to locate the current generation was by putting a letter to the editor in the local paper. This was turned in to an article which was published online at this link. Not long after publication I received an email from Phillip's grandson. I'll send the medals to him shortly.
Thanks to Rita at the High Comm and Neil at the Plymouth Herald.
The returned medal tally is now 1777.

A family collection

This is another occasion where there isn't a lot to tell. The following short story is from Bill:

As I sat down to write the story of the return of George’s medals and his grandfather’s 1914-1915 Star, I found myself in a quandary in that both Raelene, who had found the medals and Ray’s family requested anonymity. Their reticence being based partly on family matters and partly on not wishing to advertise that they now had some their grandfather’s and their father's medals back. Accordingly Glyn and I decided to follow the path we have in the past. Other than my privately saying “well done” to Raelene. This is where the story of the return must end.

The returned medal tally is now 1770.

16 February 2016

Return via Facebook

This last weekend I was linked to a Facebook post about a lost Defence Force Service Medal. The post included the service number, initials and name that were stamped on the reverse. From this, and with the help of my colleague David Cadden, I worked out the medal was awarded to Martin Edward Price.
The only additional information we could find was the name of his sister. This led back to Facebook and I could work out the names of other family members. I used this to contact one relative by phone and leave another a Facebook message. One of these got through and I spoke to Martin tonight. His medal should be on it's way home, having been lost in 1989, in the near future.
Thanks to Michael Bear Harry who found the medal, my friend Susan and Ian who shared the post with me and David for the database search expertise.
The returned medal tally is now 1767.

07 February 2016

Vietnam Medal

I received the Vietnam Medal awarded to 61987 Michael Wayne Ayers from a friend of mine, Graham Docksey. The medal arrived in July 2014 and I spent a lot of time following Michael and his wife Jane from address to address and job to job around Albury, NSW. I eventually ended up leaving a message with a friend of theirs but never received a reply.
This evening I decided to have another look at this case and the first thing I found was Michael's death notice from July 2015. While I was upset not to have located Michael before he died, the death notice gave me his brother's name, Barry. To my surprise Barry lives in Canberra and I'll be arranging to returning the medal to him, hopefully in person, in the near future.
The returned medal tally is now 1766.

04 February 2016

George Fisher

I recently received an email from a West Australian Police Officer who had come across the medals of 1836 PTE George Edward Charles Fisher. George was a member of 38th Battalion AIF and wounded in action a couple of times.
Following WWI, George returned to his trade of Motor Driver. It was pretty easy to follow him through the electoral rolls until he died in 1948. George didn't marry so I had to follow his siblings. Of his three brothers, one died as a baby, another died in 1935, sad,ly I found that his wife died in 1930, the same year they married.
The third brother, Albert married and had children. I followed this line until 1980 when the online electoral roll stop. Using the fairly common name of Fisher, the initials of a husband and wife and a town I knew the family lived in, I made some educated guesses and provided the phone number of a possible relative.
My Police contact rang the number and later reported to me that the contact I provided put him in touch with a sibling, then a cousin, then a nephew who was able to explain why the medals were not in the families possession. The short story is that the British War Medal and the Victory Medal awarded to George will soon be returned to his family.
The returned medal tally is now 1765.

24 January 2016

Sidney Albert Green

This is another search which was very difficult. During the many hours of research I worked out that there was confusion about birth dates, names of siblings, false leads and a tragic death.
I recently received the BWM awarded to 633 Sidney Albert Green who was an original member of the 7th Light Horse Regiment. However, his service record tells many different stories about this soldier. He was at Gallipoli by May 1915 but reported as missing in August. He was hospitalised several times and transferred to 2nd Light Horse Regiment. His records shows that he was charged with being AWL and court martialed for leaving his post while a sentry. Something went wrong with Sidney as he was discharged for 'mental instability' in 1917.
An interesting piece of correspondence in his file is dated 1963 when the Public Trustee was looking for information about Sidney's' NOK to finalise his estate. This letter gave me his date of death but more importantly indicated that there were no children registered. A complicating factor is that some records spelt Sidney's name as Sydney.
Quite a bit of searching found that Sidney married Maggie Knell in 1920. They married in Victoria and there is no record, either in NSW or Victoria supporting that they had children. Maggie died in 1966 back in Victoria.
Using the date of death noted in his service record, I stumbled across this article from 1960 about hoe Sidney died. It is a rather tragic set of circumstances. Even though there is mention of a daughter I am sure that this is not accurate.
The details about Maggie Knell led me to an Ancestry family tree and I've now been in contact with a relative who I'll send the medal to. They have also confirmed that there is no evidence that Sidney and Maggie had children.Thanks go to Pam E who sent me the medal.
The returned medal tally is now 1763.

16 January 2016

Captain William Young

This is truly an international story. 
It began with an inquiry from Mr Gordon Knight to Australia House in London. Gordon lives in Ireland and had a 1914-15 Star awarded to Captain William Young who served in the AIF. This link is to an article that recently appeared in the Belfast Telegraph about this officer which explains the full story (make sure you scroll all the photos). However, it is also worth explaining the process we went through to get this great result.
The staff at Australia House forward Gordon's inquiry to Major Garrath Williams who in turn contacted Major Tim Dawe who is a great researcher and worked with me on many other cases. Tim also included me conversation and this is what we were able to piece together about William.
Captain William Young was a 39 year old veterinary surgeon who enlisted in the AIF in 1914.
William's father was Robert Young and he is listed as living in Ballymoney County, Atrium, Ireland. He graduated from Edinburgh's Royal School of Veterinary Studies (Dick College). The first evidence we can find of William in Australia is in 1912 when he was living in Fremantle. Then in 1913 he was in the town of Wyndham. From his service record we could see that his appointment in the AIF was terminated in 1916 when he was in England. There is no evidence that he returned to Australia at all. We also determined that he was unmarried so there was unlikely to be any family in Australia to return the medal to, which was Gordon's goal.
A key piece of information that Tim discovered was that William and two other men named Young from Market Street, Ballymoney are listed here on the Trinity Church Memorial. Using the 1911 census records it was established that they were all from the same family.
Tim also engaged some other researchers on the Great War Forum and established that William's father:
'Robert Young of Market Street, Ballymoney is listed as a timber merchant in the 1901 and 1911 Census. Later trade lists change this to hardware then builder and ironmonger. In the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland there is a set of business records for an R&J Young Builders of Ballymoney dating 1880-1971. A strong chance this is the same family. It also appears a number of the family listed in the 1901 and 1911 Census signed the Ulster Covenant in 1912.' 
In addition: 'Robert Steele Young, Captain, Royal Army Medical Corps listed in the same Church Honour Roll as William appears to be William’s brother born 1868'.
Robert was a Doctor working in Eccles, Lancashire and is recorded there (as unmarried) in the 1911 Census. Records indicate that he was educated at Coleraine Academical Institute and Edinburgh University (Medical) and joined East Lancashire Field Ambulance (Territorial Force) as Lieutenant September 1914, promoted May 1915 to Captain. In December 1917 he was gazetted Captain in Territorial Force Reserve, Royal Army Medical Corps. He does not appear to have served overseas.'
Tim also found the following out from the records of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons that William graduated from Dick College on 17 July 1896 and commenced work with the Agricultural Department in Perth, Australia on 25 April 1912. The card also indicates that from 5 April 1924 he was removed from the RCVS list as it was believed he was no longer practicing as a vet. Further investigation by Tim discovered that William travelled to the United States in 1917 and his address in 1940 was 216 West 100th St, New York City. The census shows him as retired but there is no evidence of when he died.
All this information gives a bit more context to Gordon's search to return the medal to the family. He tells us that it came as something of a surprise that he returned the medal locally rather than to a family member in Australia.
The returned medal tally is now 1762.

28 December 2015

WWII Engineer Pacific Star

The Pacific Star awarded to VX74647 Robert John Smyth has had a rather tough life. As can be seen in the picture, someone has defaced the naming in an effort to remove Smyth's details.
The medal came to me in 2005 via the Wagga Wagga RSL sub-branch after it was found near Rutherglen, VIC. 10 years ago there wasn't much information available online and all I could find was that his NOK was named Vida and in 1963 his address was care of a railway station in country Victoria.
Bill and I have put in quite a bit of research effort over the years but without any success. Today I revisited the research and had almost immediate success. One of the new resources available is a Victorian BDM search function. This provided enough information to work out that Smyth married Vida Thompson in 1937. Vida died in 1958. Using this information I found Vida on an Ancestry family tree and I've now been in contact with Helen whose husband is related to Vida.
The returned medal tally is now 1761.

23 December 2015

Colonial Auxiliary Forces Long Service Medal - awarded 1907

For each easy search we do there are probably another 10 which are far more difficult. This particular piece of research was at the upper end of the difficult scale.
In May 2015 I received the Colonial Auxiliary Forces Long Service Medal awarded to 550 J Anderson from Ann W-F of Mackay. Anderson served in the 4th Australian Infantry Regiment. This was a pre-federation militia unit which was centered on the Hunter Valley region of NSW. There were companies in Newcastle (A), West Maitland (B), Singleton (C), Wallsend (D), Tamworth (F), Armidale (G) and Lambton (H).
There are no records readily available for this period so research is difficult. The impressing on the rim of the medal had one vital clue, apart from the name and unit, which helped me. This was the date when the soldier became eligible for the award. The date reads '7.10.05'. Using this date I found the gazette entry and eventually two newspaper articles which mentions the award of the medal to Anderson and other members of 4th AIR. That was the hard bit and took over 4 months to reach this point.

Knowing a location led me to other articles which gave me the full name of John Anderson and his wife Agnes. John and Agnes lived in Lambton, a Newcastle suburb and where H Company of 4 AIR were located.
Once I had John and Agnes' full names it was easy to follow them and their children through the NSW BDM records and the electoral rolls. John and Agnes had a daughter named Aspah who married Joseph Sneddon. Their first son, James, died a birth. Their second son was Archibald Watson Anderson Sneddon who married Ettie Moore. These quite distinctive names helped this part of the search. Archibald and Ettie had a son Desmond who, with Clare, had a son Greg. I had finally found the current generation but the search wasn't over.
The electoral rolls available on Ancestry.com finish in 1980. From these I knew that Greg lived in the Hunter Valley but his exact address eluded me. There was one entry in the Whitepages with Greg's initial combination so I took a punt and gave the number a call. I was lucky enough to have found the right family and Greg knew all the names I mentioned having researched his family tree. Greg is John's great great grandson.
At some point this medal has been converted to wear as a brooch which was a common occurrence in the past.
Thank you to Ann who sent me the medal.
The returned medal tally is now 1760.

12 December 2015

Eddie Biddle

This afternoon I received an email from Henry of the Longreach RSL Sub-Branch. One of their members had a WWII group of medals which didn't belong to their family. Henry forwarded me the details of NX82791 Edward Masterman Biddle and a picture of the medals with a request to look for the family since Eddie had died in 1990.
Eddie was pretty easy to follow through the electoral rolls and there is also quite a bit of information about him on the internet.
It took about 30 minutes (sorry Bill) to track down Eddie's nephew Colin. I've now connected Colin with Henry and the medals will be returned in the near future.
The returned medal tally is now 1763.