15 January 2022

Vincent Bingham - RAAF WWII

I often tell the story of how surprising simple some of our searches are. Well this one is the complete opposite. It was so confusing I kept each webpage I had to accessed open so that I could continually cross check the next piece of information with the last. I currently have 26 tabs open and I estimate that it took me 30+ hours of research to get to a result.

The first part of the search was completely straight forward. It started with a message from Cath N, a friend of mine who is connected with the Yass RSL. During a recent house clean up, two WWII medals were found and handed to the sub-branch. It didn't take me long to work out the recipient was 55125 Vincent William Bingham who served in the RAAF. Vincent was married to Pearl and in 1941 they had a son, Grant. However, Vincent died in 1947 and Grant in 1961. All this information came from a website which documents headstones.

I then went down the path of trying to determine who Pearl was and that is when the difficulties stated. Her full name was Pearl Matilda nee Grant, this explained the name of their son. She pretty much disappeared from public records after Vincent died so I made an assumption that she remarried which proved correct, and then some. When I accessed the first picture above I hadn't noticed a further plaque within the main grave. A search on the headstone website came up with a result for Pearl.

By using a search combination for the names Pearl Matilda and Reuben on Ancestry.com I found that Pearl was married to Reuben Crymble but there was a large gap between when Pearl was in the electoral rolls using the surname Bingham and then Crymble, that is because her second marriage had been to Alexander Bradley. Reuben was husband number three. There were no children from either marriage so I stated all over again.

I found that Vincent had one sibling so I thought I would follow this family line. Then the difficulties multiplied. His sister was Joan Mary Bingham. Joan married Edward John Grant. At first I assumed that the same surname of Pearl and Edward was just a coincidence as I couldn't find confirmation of who their parents were. I had to go back into the archives to unravel all the family connections.

It turns out that everyone was connected. Brother and sister Vincent and Joan married brother and sister Edward and Pearl. The conformation came when I found the death notice for Pearl's father Primiron Frederick Grant.

Priomiron (sometimes mis-spelt Priomirom) was the son of Priomiron Frederick Grant. This was the cause of more confusion when searching the records. I think a lot of people who included these gentlemen in their Ancestry family trees assumed it was the same person. I was a little surprised that all the clues were now pointing at Canberra until I looked deeper at Edward John Grant.

Edward and Joan lived in Melbourne and had two sons. Peter Frederick Grant and Wayne Vincent Grant. The use of names from the previous generation is very strong in this family. Luckily the name combination is unusual and I found a Peter Frederick Grant in the electoral roll living in Perth in 1980. Without any additional evidence I made the assumption this was the same person. However, the leads ran dry. By just doing ransom searches on multiple websites, I found a death notice for Peter Frederick Grant in Perth in 2016. The noticed mentioned a son, Simon. This was really not a lot to go on so I waded trough social media and found multiple possibility but only one in Perth. I fired off a message earlier this afternoon and to my very pleasant surprise I received a response almost immediately. All the assumptions and guesses I made were correct and I had contacted Peter's son.

I've now connected Cath and Simon and the medals will soon be sent to Vincent's great nephew.
The returned medal tally is now 2698.    


WWII group to Leopold Face

This search started last week with a email from Bill A who told me that four WWII medals awarded to NX102015 Leopold Harivson Face had passed through several sets of hands before ending up with him. The medals were located in South Australia where Leopold, know as Blue, settled after the war. Bill had done some research via Ancestry and worked out the family tree for Blue. As with a lot of information on Ancestry, Bill got to a certain point in time but couldn't quite make the link to the current generation.

Blue did not marry or have children, however, was one of 12 children. Several of his siblings either died young or, like Blue, didn't marry. The best lead I found was one sister who married and settled in Albury, NSW. 

This was his sister, Syliva. Sylvia's married name was Martin and one of her daughters was Allayne who died in 2019. This enabled me to find a contemporary death notice for Allayne which provided the names of her husband and children. By using a combination of electoral roll entries, ABN records and the white pages I was able to provide Bill a phone number to contact Allayne's family. Bill will soon arrange for the medals to be returned to another niece of Blue's

The returned medal tally is now 2696.

Blue when he was a teenager. 

01 January 2022

WWII group of 4 - Bill Woods

Even though it took less than two hours from the start of this research until I was able to identify a family member to contact, that short period of time belies some of the genealogy tricks I had to pull off to get a result.

The WWII group awarded to NX98941 William John Woods was hand delivered to my place yesterday by Iain R-E. Initially, I had difficulty working out who exactly Bill was as there were multiple people by this name in the electoral rolls and the year of birth on WWII nominal roll didn't line up with the NSW BDM records. There was also very little public information about Bill and the only additional information I could find from his war time service was this photo (copyright expired) on the AWM web site.


Tarakan Island. 19 July 1945. Members of No 2 Gun Detachment, 53 Anti Aircraft Regiment (composite) going through their gun drill. Known to be in the photograph are: NX132493 Bombardier E. R. Vincent, NX106736 Gunner (Gnr) F. J. Maher, NX140393 Gnr Britton, NX172041 Gnr J. Cook, NX132498 Gnr P. J. Staines, NX146347 Gnr Kelly, NX98941 Gnr Woods, NX137392 Gnr Doolan, and NX144262 Gnr G. J. Muller.

The only other piece of information I found to be usable was his NOK was listed as Grace Woods. What I didn't know was if this was his mother, sister or wife. Through a process of elimination (read looking at the  I narrowed down a William Woods who was the son of Leslie Francis Woods and Grace Ross. 

This wasn't conclusive so I looked at the other children of Leslie and Grace to try to find confirmation. This came in the form of the death notice of Francis Leslie Woods which named all his siblings including 'Bill'. By cross checking all the names I became convinced I had the right William. I then found a death notice for Bill which also listed all the same siblings, his wife Daisy, daughter Joan, son in law Lance and the names of three grandchildren. Francis also served in WWII.

The rest was quite simple. I located two of Bill's grandchildren via social media and within a couple of hours of sending off a message I was talking to Graham. I'm told by Graham that he last saw the medals about 10 years ago but due to a set of circumstances didn't think he would see them again. I'll send Bill's medals back to his family in the very near future.

Thanks Iain for taking a detour from your trip to Canberra to safe hand deliver these medal.

The returned medal tally is now 2692.

30 December 2021

WWII group of 5 - KF Salmon

The research for this return only took about an hour but it is the end result which I couldn't have predicted.

These five WW2 medals were awarded to VX106680 Keith Francis Salmon. They were handed into the Ipswich Police station and Sergeant Morrison contacted me to see if I could find the family. The path to success started with an Ancestry tree message to Nate B-M who is Keith's third cousin, twice removed via his mother. Not a close relative but Nate was able to put me in contact with Amy, a closer relative to Keith. I sent Amy a message and within minutes I had received a response with the phone number of her father, Steve. Steve is Keith's nephew. What came as a surprise is that Steve and I served together in the same unit a few years ago. It was great to talk to him again and be able to put him in contact with Sergeant Morrison.

Thanks so much to Nate and Amy for the wonderful assistance you provided which resolved this search with considerable speed. 

The returned medal tally is 2688.


1939-45 Star - VG Clarke

The end of the work year and Christmas has left a little gap in my follow up administration. Now is time for a bit of catch up.

In November I received a message from Traudy who had found a 1939-45 Star in her late father's car. The medal was awarded to VX150252 Victor Gavin Clarke. Victor was pretty easy to follow through the public records. I also found him included on an Ancestry family tree. A message to the tree owner soon connected me with Victor's son. I've now connected Traudy and Wayne so the medal can be returned to Victor's family.

Thank you to Gavin who helped me put all the pieces in place.

The returned medal tally is now 2683.

21 December 2021

WWI trio - PTE GEM Woods

It has been almost a month since the last blog post about a successful return. I haven't been sitting idle and I'm on the brink of several search conclusions. I just need that last piece of information that will let me work out who to contact and return some medals to. 

The final piece of information to contact a relative of 137 Private George Ernest Martin Woods was the hardest piece of this puzzle and the story behind that is almost as intriguing and the story behind the medals. 

I received the WWI trio awarded to George from a colleague of mine in Army Headquarters. Dr Arron P gave me the medals on 14 December 2021 with the following explanation. A contact of his had found the medals in a wall cavity of a house in Dudley St, Asquith, NSW. How long the medals had been hidden away is a mystery. However, a letter in George's service record started to put the pieces of the puzzle together.   

George's service record is 81 pages and gives considerable detail of what he was up when he served in the 1st Field Company Engineers. This included being wounded and being charged for missing Tattoo. After George returned to Australia he married Mona Drybrough in 1919. Following George through the electoral rolls was quite easy until he died in 1957. His death notice gave me the first names of his children and grand children. All this took about 40 minutes to work out but it was a letter from 1967 applying for the Anzac medallion sent by George's daughter, Edna Jean Kenway, that was the real clue I was looking for. I had a surname to work with.

As it turned out Edna went by her middle name, Jean. I found quite a bit of detail about Jean as a bush walker and member of the Batemans Bay Bushwalkers Club. I sent an enquiry to the club secretary who kindly provided me some additional information. Firstly, the sad news was that Jean had died in recent years but I also received a clue as to the geographic location of where on of Jean's daughters lives. Unfortunately, I couldn't make contact, so I went back to the research.

It was Jean's bushwalking adventures which gave me the next clue. I found a newspaper story on Trove about Jean which named her daughter as Jenny Fuller. And to my surprise, Jenny lived, at the time, in Canberra.

I worked out that Jenny was married to Peter but their current address eluded me. I lost several days trying to chase them down until social media came to the rescue. The next surprise was it appeared Jenny and Peter had moved to WA. I sent them a message but didn't receive a response which didn't really surprise me. A review of Jenny's profile relieved that Jenny and I have a mutual contact. My friend Imelda came to the rescue and through her friend Teresa my contact details were passed to Jenny. Within an hour I was talking to Jenny. She no longer lives in WA but closer to me in NSW and we have made arrangements to met in the near future so that George's medals can be returned.

The returned medal tally is now 2682. This search couldn't have been completed without great help from Karen, Teresa and my dear friend Imelda. 




21 November 2021

ADM returned

Some months ago I was contacted by WO2 Russell G who told me that 'A colleague of mine found an ADM with the inscription EJ Wunderlich 81xxxxxx'. With such a distinctive surname I thought it would be easy to locate the person who was awarded this Australian Defence Medal. It proved more difficult than originally expected but I got there in the end.

As it turned out Mr Wunderlich's ADM was stolen and he had received an official replacement but told Russ he was appreciative to have the original back.

The returned medal tally is now 2679.

24 October 2021

Vivian Gilbert Garner

Vivian Gilbert Garner was a 24 year old railway clerk when he enlisted in the AIF on 18 September 1914. He was allocated to 14th Battalion, AIF. His regimental number was 54 which suggest that the day he enlisted on the same day that the battalion was raised. Vivian progressed though the ranks, being promoted to Corporal and then Sergeant before being commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant on 27 April 1917. His service record is at this link

The 14th Battalion took part in the landing at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. Vivian was wounded at Gallipoli when he received a bullet wound to his chest on 2 May 1915. He then was sent to England to recover. His service record indicates that he spent a bit of time in the England at the Australian Headquarters and attended some training courses before being commissioned. Vivian re-joining 14th Battalion, 'Jacka's Mob', in France on 20 May 1917. Vivian was killed in action on 8 August 1917. He is memorialised at Menin Gate.   

This photo is of Vivian as a Corporal.

Despite having seven siblings, I did struggle to find a relative past the 1940s. There are several family trees on Ancestry which include the Garner family but they are either owned by people with no knowledge of the current generation of this family or label the current generation as private with no identifiable information for me to search. Vivian also changed his NOK on several occasions as his parents died while he was serving overseas. I was a little stumped for a few hours until I focused on Vivian's brother Leslie. 

Leslie was a teacher in Victoria and he moved around Victoria a bit as he taught at different schools. Leslie was married to Muriel and had two daughters. However, Muriel died in 1928 leaving Leslie to look after his five year old twin daughters. Leslie later married Marjorie Collins and I found their headstone but there I got no closer to the current generation.

Very often the online newspaper archives on Trove provide the answer to many of these research conundrums, it just takes the right search combinations to find the information. By searching for Les Garner I narrowed down the name of his twin daughters and then came across the following interesting articles.

Trove then came to the rescue again which provided the clue that connected me with Vivian's nephew. By searching 'Garner', 'Collins' and 'Bendigo' I found a birth notice from 1944 for a son by the name 'William'. No middle name and no other clue. On a hunch I searched Ancestry for 'William Garner' as a resident of Bendigo and found just one entry. The result was the name William Vivian Nigel Garner. This name combination was just to coincidental not to follow up. 

From there William was easy to find.  

Bill Garner i(24 works by) (a.k.a. William Vivian Nigel Garner)
Born: 1944 Bendigo, Victoria ;


Bill Garner graduated from the University of Melbourne with a BA. His career as an actor and writer began in the Carlton theatre scene of the 1970s. He has written widely for stage, television and radio. Garner's first play Cake was produced by TheatreWorks in 1986.

Garner collaborated with Peter Corris to produce the mini-series, Pokerface, for television. This resulted in a further collaboration to produce a series of spy novels featuring their protagonist Ray Crawley. Garner's name also appears on the credits of the successful television shows Blue Heelers and Chances. He was also a writer on Gillies Republic.

The next issue I faced was how to contact Bill. As it turns out , Bill and I have a mutual friend on Face Book, so I enlisted Lambis' help to connect me with Bill.

Bill and I have now spoken and he has provided me a wealth of family history information about Vivian. Bill developed a performance piece of Viv's story. It is an emotive piece and with Bill's kind permission I have chosen to share the final paragraphs. 

As my grandmother lay on her own death bed four months after Viv died, one of her daughters whispered in her ear that she was soon to have a wonderful surprise. She would see Viv again.
So, what legacy do I carry? The name Viv was a time bomb. At state school every Armistice Day, during the one minute silence, I would dutifully think about Uncle Viv as hard as I could, but nothing would come into my mind except the picture which always hung on dad’s wall and, after a while my mind would wander. But at thirteen, I was the best dressed cadet in the school. I volunteered for extra camps. I could alpha, bravo, charlie and butt, barrel, bipod better than anyone. At seventeen I was a Cadet Under Officer and I knew dad was quietly pleased: I was doing the right thing. But when a war came along for which I was the right age, it was the wrong war, and I opposed it. Vietnam soured any feeling I had for the military and for many years I pretty much forgot about uncle Viv, too. I travelled through Turkey without even thinking of going to Gallipoli. Then, twenty years ago, an article appeared in the local paper about a new edition of Ted Rule’s book Jacka’s Mob. They wanted photos. Now more tuned to family history, I contacted the editor, Carl Johnson, and took him a picture of Viv. Talking about Viv in Carl’s little militaria shop in Bentleigh, I felt tears welling up. Where were these coming from?
August, 1917.
The thing was still unfinished.

There was a duty I had to discharge. I had to honour that young man. I had to do this for his sake, and my father’s sake and for my own sake. I had to see Viv myself.

Bill has also provided me with a photo of Viv which was in his family home and Bill prefers tot he photo of Viv in uniform.

Below is the Memorial Plaque that Viv's family received. It was signed for by his brother Albert.

One last touching piece of information I stumbled across is Viv is also memorialised on his mother headstone.

Thank you to Leanne for sending me this Memorial Plaque. To Lambis for your help. And to William 'Bill' Vivian Nigel Garner who has been so generous with information about his uncle Viv.
The returned medal tally is now 2678.

17 October 2021

WM Bowels

The British War Medal awarded to 2624 Sapper William Morrison Bowels seemed unremarkable when it was first sent to me by Peter M. That was until I saw the unit which is impressed after his name. It says RLY UNIT. I think this is the first Railway Unit medal that I've dealt with.

When he enlisted in 1917, William was allocated to the 2nd Light Railway Operating Company. This is most likely because he was a fitter by trade. The Virtual War Memorial web site provides the following description of the unit:

Formed in Australia in January 1917 as the 5th Section, Australian Railway Troops and arrived in England on 21 July 1917. July 1917 it was redesignated to 16th Light Railway Operating Company and arrived France on 4 October 1917 where on 28 February1918 it was renumbered as 2nd Light Railway Operating Company.

The raising of these units coincided with the implementation of a battlefield rail strategy across British and Commonwealth Areas of Operations.  The widespread use of battlefield rail, particularly the narrow gauge rail network transformed supply, personnel movement and casualty evacuation.

The Light Railway Companies were operated by the Engineers and came into existence when it became clear that the maintenance of roads was becoming a severe problem, in terms of the manpower needed and enormous quantities of road stone clogging up the supply routes. In February 1916 the first new light railways were sanctioned.

I very quickly found William on an Ancestry tree and a message to the owner and confirmed a direct connection to William.

Thanks to Lee-Anne for the connection and to Peter who sent me the medal. The returned medal tally is now 2677.

09 October 2021

Ian Mills

The photo which is below of the medals in their boxes may be familiar to several readers. The Defence Force Service Medal and the National Medal awarded to A111651 Ian Leslie Mills first appeared in a Face Book post by Wendy Newman. Wendy received several links to my page made by kind friends and readers. 

Ian proved rather difficult to track down and after Wendy and I swapped emails she put her trust in me and recently the medals arrived in my PO Box. I had done a bit of research into Ian but kept going around in circles. All reference to Ian that I found had his year of death as 2001. As is turned out he died in 2006 and is buried in Bundaberg. 

Having Ian's grandmother's name unlocked a few clues. Ian's grandfather was Leslie Gordon Mills who is also buried in Bundaberg.

However, the names of Ian's parents, particularly his father's, eluded me for some time. These turned out to be Noel George Mills and Isabel Haggart. Noel served in the RAAF during WWII. 

The electoral rolls, which are available on Ancestry, only go up to 1980. While these provided the addresses that Ian, and his wife Rose, lived at doing his career in the RAAF, the key piece of information I was looking for remained elusive. Wendy knew that Ian had a son and they were living in Boonah, QLD in the 1990s/2000s. Finding these details is what caused me the most trouble. Putting all the pieces together led me to an Ancestry family tree owned by Rob.

Rob is Ian's cousin and provide me some very valuable information. Firstly, Noel died only last year at the age of 99. Secondly, that Ian has two sons, I've now been in touch with one of Ian's sons and I'll return these medal in the near future.

The returned medal tally is now 2676.


Vietnam War pair

This was a straightforward bit of research. I collected a package from our PO Box on Wednesday afternoon, on Thursday I found the details of the soldier and a connection to his family and yesterday I spoke to the soldier's brother on the phone. While this seems unremarkable, all those individual pieces combine to make up a much more interesting story.

These Vietnam War medals were awarded to 39973 Dennis Francis Richardson. Dennis was a Corporal in 2 RAR and completed a tour of Vietnam in 1970/71. After returning from Vietnam, Dennis discharged and settled in his home town of Melbourne, Dennis tragically died in 1981. I was a bit stumped about where to search once I had found this information but a simple Google search provided the answer.

On the 2 RAR Historical Collection I found this story. In June 2021, Dennis' brother, Jon, had visited the 2 RAR Historical Collection and the visit had been posted online. The collection is run by Jason, better known as 'Harry'. I sent Harry a message and in very short order Harry sent Jon an email. The end result is that Jon and I spoke last night and I'll be sending his Dennis' medals in the near future. 

Dennis medals were sent to me by Bob Sandow of the Mt Gambier. How the medal they ended up in Mt Gambier will remain a mystery. Thanks to Harry for all the assistance and all his efforts running the 2 RAR Historical Collection. 

The returned medal tally is now 2674.

This is Dennis taken from a group photo of his company.

30 September 2021

Jim Farrell

This is turning in to a bit of a Royal Australian Navy week. 

This group of four WWII medals were definitely awarded as part of the first batch following the end of the war. They are quite different in the naming style to those awarded to Will Prior which I posted about recently. 

The group was awarded to S3771 James (Jim) William Farrell. The stars are unnamed as normal for RAN awards at the time and the medals are named with heavy impressing and a full stop between the letter and digits of the service number. From the service number, I knew that Farrell's home port was Sydney but his period of service was very confusing. His service records consists of four pages which was a bit of a surprise. He initially enlisted for a 12 year period in 1924 but finished his service in 1927. He re-enlisted in 1940 for WWII and was discharged in 1942. The reason for the unexpectedly short period of service in the 1920s was due to Jim being declared a deserter. I found this notice in the NSW Police Gazette.

I couldn't find out the reason for him deserting or any legal action that was taken against him. All must have been forgiven in 1940 when he enlisted again. Jim was married to Helena but there is no evidence that they had children. For quite some time Jim lived in a set of terraces in Blacktown with his siblings as neighbours. The terraces are long gone having been replaced by shops.

Jim died in 1958. With no direct descendent I started looking at his siblings. His sister Veronica, known as Vera, married James French. From their headstones I worked out the names of their children.

Know these names and finding their contact details are two completely different things. I did find this family on a Ancestry family tree. The tree is owned by Erin, who told me 'Graham's youngest daughter is married to my cousin'. Erin also provided the one clue which led me straight to Graham. Erin was able to tell me which town Graham lives in. I found a G France in that town in the White Pages so I called the number and sure enough I had the right family.  
I originally received these medals from Crystal 'Cricket' McK who told me that the medals were found in her late parent's possessions and may have been bought at an auction. Thank you to Erin who was able to provide me with the key piece of information which put me in touch with Jim's nephew. The returned medal tally is now 2672.