28 July 2016

Frederick Hodgkins

There is far more that I don't know about this WWI British soldier than I was able to find out. The only information about M2-020611 Private Frederick Hodgkins available to me was his inclusion on a family tree on the UK Ancestry website.
Frederick was a member of the Army Service Corps and the M2 prefix of his number means he was a Mechanical Transport driver.
These medals are a pair of several groups that were sent to me by Ken Duncan. I'll be sending these back to the UK where they originated.
The returned medal tally is now 1860.

17 July 2016

Vietnam War Medal

This is another occasion where a Corps association has come to the fore and helped me finalise a search. This time it was Royal Australian Army Medical Corps Association. The search was for 1203306 Michael James O'Brien who served in Vietnam in 1971.
I was able to track Michael up until 1980 but then the trail went cold. A contact I have in Defence was able to provide me his date of discharge and Michael's last unit. This information went out across the RAAMC network and through several connections I was provided Michael's number.
The medal I will be sending back to Michael is an official duplicate as indicated by the 'D' following his name.
Thank you to the Hervey Bay RSL Sub-branch for sending this to me and to Ray W who drew all the links together.
The returned medal tally is now 1858.

Dennis Lynch

This is another search that initially threw up many false leads but after letting it sit for awhile, when I revisited it I was able to track down the family quite quickly.
Four medals awarded to N69665 Dennis Maurice Lynch were sent to me in February. Dennis proved to be elusive and there were just three electoral entries and a divorce record. All leads ceased in 1968. It was rather frustrating.
This afternoon I went back to the start and noticed that in the 1949 electoral roll another person  named Lynch was listed in the same street but no number was given. Short of any other clue I had a close look at this name. It turned out to be NX191077 Brendon Patrick Lynch and he had the same next of kin as Dennis. This was the link I needed.
Once I had Brendon's address from the electoral roll I did a quick check in the White Pages and I found Brendon still at the same address. I was soon talking to Brendon and will send him Dennis' medals in the near future.
Thank you to Peter W of Mona Vale who found the medals in a relative's possessions and wanted to see them returned.
The returned medal tally is now 1857.

15 July 2016

John 'The Bullant' Antill

The vast majority of medals that we return are the standard entitlement that servicemen received. Every now and then something exceptional comes our way. The 1914/15 Star awarded to Samuel Steele is one example where a common medal has real historical significance. We have also returned the medals awarded to a Major General and several gallantry medals. However, this particular case is undoubtedly the most important I think we have dealt with. Students of Australian military history will recognise this man's name and most Australians will probably recognise the individual I'll soon describe.
John Macquarie Antill CB, CMG (known and Jack) was a predominant figure in colonial military circles and a minor hero in the Boer War. These links detail his service with A Sqn, NSW Mounted Rifles and the 2nd NSW Mounted Rifles. However, it is the role he played at The Nek on 7 August 1915 that he will be remembered for.
Peter Weir's 1981 film Gallipoli tells the story of the Western Australian based 10th Light Horse Regiment and the tragic charge at The Nek. Even when it was obvious that the preceding waves of attack by the 8th Light Horse Regiment had failed and that to continue was futile, the 10th were ordered to 'push on'. In the film this order was given by a British officer by the name of Robertson. This is historically incorrect. The order to 'push on' was given by LTCOL John Macquarie Antill. This link debunks five myths about Gallipoli and Antill features in myth 4.
This episode has also been the subject of many academic papers and books. One recent popular book is Goodbye Cobber, God Bless You by John Hamilton (published by Pan Macmillian Australia 2004). Using many public and private source document, John provides great detail about the individuals involved in the charge. He also deals with the open hostility between Antill and there regimental Commanding Officers who made up the 3rd Light Horse Brigade. The bitterness between Antill and the CO of 10LH, LTCOL Noel Brazier was the most pronounced. Brazier wrote that he considered himself to be fighting two wars. I think that is is worth quoting an extract from Goodbye Cobber, God Bless You:
'Lieutenant Colonel Antill had received news at brigade headquarters that one of the red-and-yellow flags had been seen on the enemy's trench.....Now the Bullant had his old friend from Perth to content with.'
'Brazier found Antill alone in the dugout, 'with his back to the wall'. The scene was set for an immediate confrontation between the two men who loathed each other. There was no mediator and no commanding officer to step in, but unfortunately there was also no independent witness as to what was said between the two'.
'Brazier told the brigade major [Antill's appointment] that most of the 8th Regiment had not advanced 10 meters beyond their own trenches and were possibly all killed, and that the machine-gun fire of the Turks had already cut the scrub level with the top of the trenches. Would the acting brigadier [Antill in the absence of the actual Brigade Commander] now confirm the order to advance?'
'According to the 10th CO, Antill informed him of he report he'd received - that the 8th had reached the Turkish trenches and placed a flag there - so the West Australians were to 'push on'. Brazier then insisted that not only was there no such flag, but 'it was murder to push on', to which the Bullant 'simply roared - "Push on".' 

This biography provides far better back ground than I can succinctly write. It is obvious that he was a strict disciplinarian and this trait is probably one of the reasons he earned the nick name of Bull Antill or The Bullant.
Following WWI, Antill held several appointments including as the Commandant 4th Military District. His name appears in several newspapers but unfortunately he was usually associated with some form of scandal. The one article that was positive and tells the story of Antill's life is from the Sydney Mail of March 1937 and titled the Antills of Jarvisfield.
The chain of events that led to this piece of research falling my way is a story in itself. Two months ago a contact I have in Honours and Awards forwarded an email from the manager of the National Australia Bank branch in Bowral NSW. A recent audit of the branch safe custody area exposed several items that had not been accessed for decades. These included a set of medal. I communicated with the Manager who gave me the name Antill. I immediately knew who he was referring to. Even though the Antills were a large family it was a bit difficult to draw a line to the current generation. I knew that Jack had had two daughters but neither married. Two of his brothers, Guy and Edward did have families. It was Edward's descendants who I located and to my very pleasant surprise the middle name of Macquarie is still being used. Edward also served in the Boer War.
Knowing the value of the medals as well as the historical significance I thought it best to deliver these medals in person. I recently drove to Bowral and collected the medals from the NAB branch. However, the medals wasn't all that they had. There was a large security box with several times with Guy's initials on them as well as other valuables. Also was a copy of the Sydney Mail with the 'Antills of Jarvisfield' story. All these are pictured below.
Yesterday I met the Antill family in Sydney and was able to return the family collection to them.
 I would really like to thank Kim for NAB Bowral for his trust in me and wanting to see this collection returned.
The returned medal tally is now 1853.

The following photos are the contents of the security box and others I found of John Macquarie Antill.
Antill's medal including Companion of the Order of the Bath, Companion of Order of St Michael and St George, the Queen's South Africa Medal with 7 clasps, 1914/15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal.
 Companion of the Order of the Bath
 Companion of Order of St Michael and St George
 Companion of Order of St Michael and St George
 Queen's South Africa Medal with 7 clasps
 Naming on Queen's South Africa Medal
  Naming on Queen's South Africa Medal
   Naming on Queen's South Africa Medal
 1914/15 Star
Naming on 1914/15 Star
 British War Medal
Naming on  British War Medal
 Victory Medal
  Naming on Victory Medal
Naming on Victory Medal

 Antill at Gallipoli
 Antill as Commandant 4th Military District
 Portrait photo of Antill
This obituary from 1937 provides a contemporary summary of Antill's life.
 Antill's security trunk
 Antill's security trunk contents

 Antill's wrist watch
 Pocket watch and match box with the initials GFA (Guy Francis Antill)

 The Sydney Mail from March 1937 with the story of the Antills of Jarvisfield

11 July 2016

A Defence Force Service Medal

It isn't often that we get contemporary medals. This one is the Defence Force Service Medal awarded to Michael Morris. Through a contact in Defence I got Mike's enlistment and discharge dates and that his unit on discharge was 8 Signals Regiment. Using these slim details I checked out the Royal Australian Signals Corps Association page and to my surprise there was the name Morris with the same years of service. I posted a message on the guest book and within hours the association sprung in to action.
I now have been in contact with Mike and will send his medal home in the near future. Mike tells me he lost the medal in Bundaberg a couple of years ago. Eventually it was handed in to the Hervey Bay RSL and then sent to me.
The power of the internet and the brotherhood of soldiers proved to be the key to success once again.
The returned medal tally is now 1847.

06 July 2016

George Delaney

This is the second medal dropped off last week by Stephanie H. The other was the Williamson medal. Concluding both searches so quickly wasn't easy but very satisfying.
8825 George Delaney was a driver with the 2nd Divisional Ammunition Column. His service record contains quite a bit of correspondence to the Army about several topics. One was was about the medals awarded to his brother written while he was an inmate of the Geelong Reformatory. George must have had an interesting life as I found the following newspaper entry placed by his wife Louisa.

This, combined with the story of their divorce, points at the troubles George must have had in life.
This story and a note in George's service record name two daughters. However, based on the evidence I found I don't believe that they married at all.
I also had a good look at George's brother 2347 James John Delaney who was killed in action on 4 Aug 17. James' body was never found and he is memorialised at Menin Gate.
My research led me to George's great niece who I'll send the medal to.
The returned medal tally is now 1846.

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.