18 March 2018

Australian Defence Medal awarded to GNR D.R. Muir

This particular return really maximised the use of online resources.
It commenced with an email from my mate Tim Lycett who is a property officer with the Queensland Police Service. He was in possession for an Australian Defence Medal awarded to a D.R. Muir. An email to a friend of mine who is far better at these things than me, and aided with Mr Muir's service number, identified the full name of recipient and was able to give me a geographic location for where he lived.
This led to the next part of the search and I found Mr Muir on Facebook. I provided Tim with all the details I had and it was also through Facebook that Tim was able to contact Mr Muir.
This morning I received a message from Tim to say that yesterday Mr Muir collected his ADM. Apparently the medal had been stolen from his car around Christmas.
Thanks to Paul for being able to connect the number, initials and name for me.
The returned medal tally is now 2206.

22 February 2018

A nice follow up in the press

Thanks to Mariam at the Goulburn Post for publishing this story about the end result of the Harward and Chittick search.

13 February 2018

Harward and Chittick

This is the next story about assistance to the Police this month.
The initial inquiry I received was from a Senior Constable in the Goulburn Local Area Command. During a vehicle stop he came across the British War Medal and the WWI Victory Medal awarded to Thomas Charles Harward and Australian Service Medal 1945-1975 awarded to John Ernest Chittick.
It didn't take me long to connect the Harward and Chittick names. Harward's wife was Mary Jane Lillian Chittick. They married in the mid 1930s but I couldn't find evidence that they had any children. I provided the Senior Constable all the information that I could get together from the electoral roll and BDM records. He then used this to make the final connection and I received this update overnight.
Chittick was the nephew of Mary and was living with the Chittick's when Thomas died. Chittick has also since died, however, his wife is still alive. She had given the medals to her son but these were stolen in 1993. In the near future they will be collected from the Goulburn Police Station.
The returned medal tally is now 2205.

12 February 2018

WWI and WWII service

February seems to be the month to help the police. This is the forth bit of research I've done this month that involves medals that have been recovered after a theft or car search. This time the call for assistance came from the Lake Illawarra Police Station.
They had come across a WWI Victory medal awarded to 3155 John William Pincham. John went on to serve in WWII. He married Elma in 1931 and had four children. John died in 1957; Elma lived until 2002.
From the family information I was able to provide, the police contacted John's great grand daughter and arranged for the medal to be returned.
The returned medal tally is now 2203.

11 February 2018

R G Shiel - National Medal

Not much surprises me anymore when is comes to how medals are lost and found. Although I did wonder how this medal was found in Perth and the most recent information, from 2013, that I found about the recipient was that he lived in Orange, NSW.
The search started with an email from Dion of the Perth Ice Works who told me that one of the company drivers found it on a street. This is a National Medal awarded to Robert Gordon Shiel. I found a Bob Shiel living in Orange and fortunately he was included on an Ancestry family tree. A message to the owner soon got a reply from Bob. I had the right person.
Bob, who now lives in Perth, tells me that his Long Service Medal and National Medal were stolen on Australia Day. Bob received these medals for his time with the Rural Fire Service.
The returned medal tally is now 2202.

28 January 2018

Charlie's medals

Glyn and I are often faced with complicated and involved family stories, concerning the return of medals. Our approach has always been to respect the families involved and their privacy.
The return of Charlie’s medals came first from a newspaper advert that was passed to me.
Thanks go to Vivian who set out, at the request of her mother, to return the medals to Charlie’s family and to Jenn who undertook the ‘quiet’ side of the research and really deserves the credit for the return. All I can claim to is the sorting out of a myriad of facts, some of which it transpired weren’t actually ‘factual’, that took me to Charlie’s family. In the end, the story of the return wasn’t as complicated as the challenge of protecting the privacy of the people involved.

The returned medals tally is now 2200

03 January 2018

Graeme Burnett

This is one of those cases that Bill and I wished happened far more often.
This one started this morning when I received the Anniversary of National Service Medal awarded to 5716964 GNR G L Burnett. It was sent to me by the Berowa (NSW) RSL Sub Branch having been forward from the NSW Police. I knew that this soldier was from WA by service number beginning with the number 5. The first search I did of the service number gave me the full name of Graeme Leslie Burnett. I went to Ancestry and from the 1980 electoral roll found that Graeme lived in the WA town of Collie. From there I moved to the White Pages and found a GL Burnett living at the same address as in 1980 and now I had his phone number.
Within a minute of starting this search I was speaking to Graeme's wife and was told that three years ago Graeme attended an Anzac Day service at The Entrance, NSW. That explains how the medal got handed in to the NSW Police.
Thanks to the Berowra RSL, the $550 annual Ancestry subscription and the White Pages, Graeme will soon get his medal back.
The returned medal tally is now 2195.

24 December 2017

Tom Hanlon

I continue to be amazed at the connections that Bill and I make through Internet searches that enable us to link one part of a story to many others and eventually lead to a successful return.
This story started with an email I received from Kathy M who had the WWII medals awarded to NX150098 Thomas John Hanlon. Tom died in 1943, he drowned while crossing a river in PNG.
Tom wasn't married so I started to look at his siblings. One brother was named Jeston which made searching for him pretty easy. That is when all the connections came together. I soon found this amazing article about the Hanlon family. What I couldn't find was the contact details of the author, Joyce Overton, who was Jeston's daughter and Tom's niece. However, in her article, Joyce wrote 'When I attended one of my first meetings of the Historical Society'. A search soon found that a Joyce Overton is named as an Office Bearer for the Canterbury Historical Society. I fired of an email to the Society and very soon the Society President was putting all the pieces in place for me to connect Kathy and Joyce.
I think Joyce's story about Jessamine tells the family story pretty well.
Thanks to Kerin for all your assistance. The returned medal tally is now 2194

23 December 2017

Dick's medals

Whenever Glyn and I are approached by the Police, in regard to returning found, handed in or seized, possibly stolen Service Medals, because of the possibility of legal action, but above all to protect the privacy of the family involved, that in many cases has already been violated, we are often asked to not report how we located the next of kin or their names.
Such is the case in the return of ‘Dick’s’ medals.
It is over three years since they went ‘missing’, believed stolen, but only recently handed into the Victoria Police. Can I just say thank you to Jan, a property officer without parallel and may I add incredible patience, in putting up with me, to get the medals home.

The returned medal tally is now 2190.


Jack Kiley

Some searchers just have me scratching my head as to how the medals went missing in the first place. This is one such case and I think that just having a successful solution is the best answer.
Pauline C recently emailed and told me that a friend recently moved from Townsville and when she was unpacking the removal boxes she found boxes that weren't hers. In one of these mystery boxes was the WWII medals awarded to NX97322 Jack Kiley. There was no response from the removal company so Pauline asked me to help.
The information I found about Jack was pretty sparse so I had to relay on the name of his neck of kin, Clementine Munro. From the 1949 electoral roll I found the name of the property that Jack was living at and this lined up with where Clementine lived. I had narrowed down the geographic location for Jack but in the 1970s and 180s he was living on his own in the NSW town of Moree. I could find no evidence that he married.
I then stumbled across this story about the Rotary Club of Moree chipping in to pay for a plaque for Jack after he died in 2003. The plaque also gives his real date of birth as 1928 meaning that he was 14 when he enlisted in 1942 not 20.
Pauline told me that in the mystery box was a prescription so she gave me the name on that. The first name was Karen. I found this person also living in Moree in the 1970 so I took a punt that there was a link with Jack. I found reference to Karen leaving a local business in 2013. These were all very thin links but I provided Pauline the company name and today she told me she was able to contact Karen. Also some blanks were filled in:
'It turns out that Jack was an orphan and was taken in by Karen’s family when he was very young. He lived with them and then joined the army. When he finished his tours he came back home and Karen said he was a regular at Sunday lunches. She still they were fantastic friends and he had left his medals to her family and they ended up with Karen. She was very excited that I called.'
How the boxes were mixed up in the removal is what has me scratching my head but I'm not going to give it another thought.
The medal returned tally is now 2184.

04 December 2017

Two KIA from the same family

This isn't the longest search I've done but there are some family complications that made it difficult.
When I read the service record of 2896 William Russell I didn't expect the story that unfolded. Firstly, his NOK was listed as his half sister, Janet Weir Rankin. Janet was also the beneficiary of his will after he was killed in action on 16 Jul 17. These decisions by the soldier didn't make it easy for Janet or her father Alexander Rankin to finalise William's estate. In 1921 the Army wrote to Janet  (page 35) to see if there were any other relative more closely related to receive his medals. Janet's response laid it out quite clearly. William was illegitimate and his father's whereabouts were unknown. To complicate this a little I found a memorial notice in a news paper which calls William Russell a friend of the family. What I couldn't confirm was if William's mother and Janet's mother were the same person. That confirmation was to come later.
What I could confirm was that Janet Weir Rankin was the daughter of Alexander Rankin and Alexander was married to Margaret at a time I couldn't work out. Margaret was the sister of Alexander White Weir. Alexander was also killed in action. His date of death was 23 Jul 17, only a week after William. Alexander was also in the same memorial notice which also states: 'our friend, William Russell'.
To add to the confusion a bit, Janet Weir Rankin married Alexander Smith and had a son also Alexander but he died as an infant in 1927.
It was at this point I found Alexander White Weir on the family tree of Ken C who has kindly allowed me to use his research in this post. Ken was able to confirm what I assumed as well as add a considerable amount of additional information.

1893 - William Russell was born on 27 July 1893 at 17 Church Street, Kilsyth [Scotland] to William Russell and Alison Currie. They were not married and the Birth Registration shows “Illegitimate.”
1901 - Alison Currie is listed on the Census with William and Alison’s mother Janet Currie.
1904 - Alison Currie married Alexander Rankin on 29 January 1904 at South Barnwood, Kilsyth. 1904 - Janet Weir Rankin was born to them on 16 July 1904. Both William Russell and Janet Weir Rankin have their mother listed as Alison Currie.
1906 - Alison Rankin (nee Currie) died on 3 July 1906 at Glasgow Maternity Hospital. Her full name is listed as Alison Brash Abercrombie Rankin.
1908 - Alexander Rankin married Margaret Weir on 10 July 1908 at Kilsyth. My mother was their eldest child. Janet Weir Rankin did marry Alexander Smith in 1927 and they had a child Alexander who was born and died in 1927.

 This confirms the biological link between William and Janet and answers a whole lot of other questions. William's Victory will soon be returned to Ken. Thanks to Trevor R who sent me the medal.
The returned medal tally is now 2182.

01 December 2017

WOFF Murphy - Shot down over Europe

This is a really great story from Bill. 

Shot down over Poland in 1943, Warrant Officer Frank Murphy spent the next two years as a POW. Then with the collapse of the German Forces in 1945, he was one of the many POW's that the Germans forced to follow its retreating army, in the front of the Russian onslaught, a forced march of 800 miles and lasted from January and April 1945. This was through a one of the most bitterly cold winters seen for many years. It was a forced march often with little or no rations.
But if there was one distinction that held pride of place with Frank held it was his membership of the ‘Caterpillar Club’ whose distinctive badge he earned after he bailed out in 1943.
The success of this search owes much to the team at Australian Genealogical Surname who really stepped up and whose efforts saw his medals returned to his family.
At the request of the family the research involved has been deleted.

The returned medal tally is now 2181.

Albert Griffiths

This search started when I received an email from Denny, a Vietnam War veteran and medal enthusiast. Denny recently receive a BWM from one of his mates who had found the medal in a box of trinkets. The medal was awarded to 1546 PTE Albert Griffiths.
Albert was originally from Manchester, UK and emigrated to Australia sometime prior to WWI and settled in Melbourne. With no middle name it was impossible to filter out which Albert Griffiths he was, among several dozen others, in the Victorian records or on the electoral rolls. There were several letters from Albert to the Department of Defence written in the 1930s requesting a copy of his discharge certificate. The reason for the loss was that his riverside camp was flooded and all his possessions swept away. I've seen this before and it usually means that the veteran was an itinerant worker hit hard by the Depression.
Having hit a brick wall I noticed that Albert at least had his administration squared away during the war. He listed his sister, still living in Manchester, as his next of kin. She must have married during the War and Albert updated his NOK details on his service record. I just wish every solider did the same today, my DCO colleagues will know what I mean. After those letters from the '30s, Albert disappeared completely.
Albert's sister's surname was Cashin and I soon found her on an Ancestry tree. My original thought was that I would have to start looking in UK for a relative until I looked at other siblings. One brother was named Ernest and he also moved to Australia. His daughter's name was Hazel, but went by Zelda. This led to a second surprise, Hazel only died in 2016. I found a newspaper story about Hazel which happened to give the name of her great grand daughter. The rest was easy and yesterday I spoke with Albert's great great niece. Denny will be posting the medal to her in the near future.
The returned medal tally is now 2176.

29 November 2017

Neville Podmore

It never ceases to amaze me how often my research is somehow linked to someone I know or in close proximity to where I live. This is another such example.
I was recently contacted by Mick D who found a pair of WWII medals at a bus stop along Bungandore Rd in Bywong, NSW. Bywong is a rural area about 20 km north of Canberra and is where I've been living since August.
The medals were awarded to NX177391 Neville Frederick Podmore who was born in Tarcutta, NSW.
Neville died in 1975 but I couldn't find a death notice. From the electoral rolls I worked out his wife was Linda and she died in Canberra in 2007. There was now a geographic link to why the medals were in this particular area. Then I hit a brick wall until I found Neville listed on the Ancestry tree of Colin P.
Colin fired off a message to Neville's niece and shortly after that I was in contact with Neville's daughter Lynelle, also a Canberra resident. Having found the family, I connected Mick and Lynelle and they are arranging to meet. As it turns out Neville's son also lives in Bywong and the medals were accidentally dropped at the bus stop. Mick did a wonderful thing by starting the journey to see these medals returned home.
Many thanks go to Colin and Wendy for helping me join all the dots.
The returned medal tally is now 2175.

24 November 2017

WWI British War Medal to the Labour Corps

Another international return thanks to Bill.

It is nearly 8 years since Peter Harrison, a retired Australian Army officer and his wife Eileen brought home to Australia the 1914-1915 Star awarded to 16938 Sgt McQuade,Royal Dublin Fusiliers.
As a return gesture, in August this year he took back to England the British War Medal awarded to 557332 Private Philip Klawansky, 1001st Labour Company, to return to his family.
The history of the Labour Corps reflects, in many ways, the social history of Europe during the First World War and the changes it brought to Europe.
With conscription, it was expected that a citizen of an allied country would be enlisted into the British service or return home to serve in their own countries forces. For many Russians in the UK, which included a large Jewish population, fighting for the Tsar was not a favoured option, given that many had fled Russian persecution. This reluctance was not exactly greeted with enthusiasm in Britain so one of the solutions was the formation in the British Army of the Russian Labour Companies who served in France and the Middle East. Despite their name they were under British Command.
Out of respect for the family, I have censored my research. However, if anyone reading this Blog should wish to go a bit further down the path of history, may I recommend: John Starling & Ivor Lee's excellent work No Labour, No Battle - Military Labour During The First World War.

The returned medal tally is now 2173. 

29 October 2017

WWI KIA with no know grave

This particular search started last week with an email from Trevor P of Bunbury WA. Trevor used to run a mowing business in Kalgoorlie and one day found a WWI medals awarded to 4791 Cecil Rourke. The story that unfolded is probably no different to many others that effected families of this time period.
Cecil was the son of James and Annie Rourke and born in Sydney in 1893. Some time before 1900 the family moved to the WA gold fields and lived in Boulder. Cecil enlisted in to the 28th Battalion  (12th reinforcements) AIF on 14 Feb 16 and joined his battalion in France on 28 Oct 16. His tenure did not last long as Cecil was killed in action between 3-6 Nov 16. Cecil has no know grave but is memorialised at Villers-Bretonneux.
Cecil wasn't the only member of his family to serve in the 28th Battalion. His brother John was in the 1st reinforcements. John enlisted in early 1915 and fought at Gallipoli. He was promoted quickly and was a Company Sergent Major at the age of 20. However, by Aug 16 he was discharged having returned to Australia with a disability.
It was John's service record which gave me the clues to find other family members. In 1967 John wrote to the Department of Defence and gave his address as 96 MacDonald St Kalgoorlie. A third brother was born in Boulder in 1902. This was William who was to young to serve in WWI but did enlist for WWII. This is a link to his service details. William did marry but I couldn't find any evidence that he had any children so I went back see if there was any other children. This is when I found Bridget Mary Rourke at the same address as James and Annie. There was no record I could find to confirm what the relationship was so I made the assumption that Bridget was Cecil's sister. It took a bit of searching but I found a marriage record for Bridget to Edward Burke but the only link I could find was that they were married in Boulder. Moving forward with this tenuous evidence I found that Edward died in 1934 but there was a son called Edward Cecil Burke. Circumstantial evidence at the best but I assumed that Edward Cecil was named for his uncle that was killed in WWI. Edward Cecil also served in WWII.       
I still didn't have concrete evidence that all these people were related so I went back to the electoral rolls and found Bridget Burke, Cecil's sister, living at 96 MacDonald St Kalgoorlie, the same address John Rouke was living at in 1967. I finally had the evidence to connect everyone but working out the next generation proved almost as difficult.
Firstly came Edward and Bridget's head stone but nothing about Edward Cecil other than he lived in Esperance and his wife's name was Olive. Using every search variable I could think of I finally found Ted and Molly Burke. The details on the headstone gave the names of their two daughters. The search details I then had to use luckily gave me both ladies surnames from their marriages in the mid 1960s. I looked up one in Esperance and there she was listed in the White Pages. This was Annette, Cecil's great niece, and when I spoke to her today she was able to confirm all the details.
The next bit is a little unnerving. As I mentioned, Trevor lives in Bunbury. Annette is due to visit her sister Beryl next week and Beryl also lives in Bunbury.
I've added pictures of both head stones that I found on line.
I find it extraordinary touching that next week is the 101st anniversary of Cecil's death and his medal will finally be back with his family. 
The returned medal tally is now 2172.