16 March 2019

John Formby

These two medals and Returned From Active Service Badge came to me via Noel of Defence Archives after they had been sent in by a member of the public. The medals arrived in the post yesterday and even though I have a result with in 18 hours, the search was quite difficult.
The medals are the United Nations Korea Medal and General Service Medal 1918-1962 with Malaya clasp awarded to 5/2569 J E Formby. The first problem I encountered was was that Formby doesn't appear on the DVA Korean War nominal roll. This is not the first time I've come across a missing entry on this particular roll. What is did mean was that I had to find his full name through another source. Ancestry provided the answer after a lengthy search: I was looking for John Ernest Formby. The only usable information was two electoral roll entries in the 1960s for John giving his occupation as 'soldier', his residential address in a Canberra hostel and his date of death which occurred in Melbourne.
What his hostel address suggested to me was that John was single. Indeed, by the end of this search I found no evidence that he had ever married. Using the date of death from Ancestry I found where John was buried using the Victorian Cemeteries data base. To my pleasant surprise his date of birth was also listed. This proved to be a difficult next step in the search and after some frustration I turned to Trove and by narrowing the date search parameters to John's the year and month of birth, I found his birth notice.
From this notice, I learnt that John was the son of Mr and Mrs E Formby. Back to Ancestry and it took an hour narrowing down John's parents to Ernest James and Ethel Formby. There was a couple of electoral roll entries for different address in Victoria but the trail then ran cold.
The only reference I could then find was Ernest's death notice from 1949 which included the names of John and his two sisters, Doris and Ivy. By this time the entire family was living in WA.
What was becoming apparent with this search was that there was only one clue to take me to the next step. Usually there are multiple pieces of evidence which helps to corroborate what I've found or provides something extra to work with.
Each of John's sisters proved difficult to follow through the records as Doris married twice and Ivy married a man who was divorced.
Doris' first marriage was to Allan Scahill, a WAFL footballer in the 1930s and was awarded an OBE in 1979 for services to sport. WA electoral roll entries for Doris and Allan included their son and daughter, Patricia. Luckily, Scahill is a fairly uncommon name in WA so I used the WA reverse marriage site to narrow down the possibilities of who the daughter might have married. Allan's second wife was also named Patricia which confused me for a bit but once I worked out who Patricia (the daughter) married thing became clearer.
Patricia and her husband lived in Bunbury for many years and a check of the White Pages provided a possible contact in the same area. Taking a punt I rang the number today and sure enough I had found who I was looking for.
Patricia was able to confirm all the family connections but didn't know anything about John from after the late 1940s. At about the age of 18, John just disappeared and was never heard of again by his family. Patrica and I surmised that John joined the Army at about that time which also lined up nicely for service in Korea.
What I also found during this research was that Doris' second husband, Patricia's stepfather, was Gordon Winslade. This name rung a bell with me and I recalled my grandmother and her circle of friends using it in the 1970s. I mentioned it to my mother today and she confirmed that Gordon Winslade was a real estate agent in WA and this was the context that I would have heard him being spoken about.
It was really nice talking to Patrica and being able to fill in the blanks about John.
The returned medal tally is now 2321.

04 March 2019

Robert Glover

This group of five WWII medals awarded to NX139222 Robert John Glover have had an interesting journey over the last few years. Although, a complete history of where they have been will probably never be known.
I received the medals recently from Ivan of the NSW RSL state office, prior to that they had spent some time in a RSL sub-branch in the Northern Beaches of Sydney having been found on a school oval in the same area.
Thanks to information in this parent's death notices, that were available on line, it was easy to work out that Robert was an only child. Robert died in 1966 having never married.
The next phase of the search was quite difficult and involved going back in the Glover family history to work out who Robert's uncles and aunties were. I hit a few dead ends with a couple other family members until I looked at Robert's auntie; Ivy Grace Glover. Ivy had married Norman Micklem Morley which was the break I needed as this distinctive middle name was used in the next generation. Even after she married, Grace Micklem Morley was easy to follow through the electoral rolls thanks to her name. This branch of the family live in Victoria and it is Grace's son Graeme who I've been in touch with. Graeme tells me that Robert was known as Uncle Bob and I'll send the medal to him in the near future.
The returned medal tally is now 2318.

02 March 2019

Ernest Davies - Part Two

This is a first for me.
When I return a broken group of medals, for example one medal out of a WWI trio, I'm often asked where the missing medals might be. That is a really hard question to answer. Individual medals from a group might have been given to separate children or sold off during the Depression. One reason that the British War Medal is often missing is that it has a high silver content and as the price of silver has increased the medal has been melted down. What is a first for me is that I've been contacted to reunite a BWM with a broken group that I've previously returned.
The original story is from 2013 when I returned the 1914-15 Star and Victory Medal awarded to Ernest David Davies also known as David Ernest Davies. My communication with Ernest's grandson, Keith was really exciting and I was even provided a photo of Ernest's son with the medals.
I had thought that this story was over until yesterday when I received an email from Judith S who had found in her recently deceased father's possessions, Ernest's BWM and two boxing medallions. Judith had done a search of Ernest's name and came across my website entry from 2013 which listed his medals that I was looking to return.
This is the first reunite I've been involved with that completes a set of medals that I had previously returned. It really is quite exciting. Well done to Judith for going to the effort to find out who Ernest's was and taking the next step of returning these items to the Davies family.
The returned medal tally is now 2313.

16 February 2019

John Speers

After the last return took almost a decade, at 18 hours this one is remarkable quick. The Victory Medal awarded to 3041 Acting Lance Corporal John William Stanley Speers, 30th Battalion AIF, was sent to me by Patricia F from Sydney. Patricia found the medal in the effects of her late father. How it came in to his possession is unknown but understanding more about John's (know as Jack) life it wouldn't surprise me if he sold his medals during the Depression.
After Patricia first contacted me I did some initial research based on information in his service record. When the medal arrived yesterday Patrica included some research she had done and this confirmed what I had found.
On Trove there are multiple articles about arrest warrants being issued for Jack having failed to support his wife and their subsequent divorce in 1913. The divorce story mentions 'children' which were his daughters. His service record states that Jack was a widower which I'm not sure is completely accurate, it also names his daughter Beryl as his NOK. Jack died in 1938.
Beryl married Percy Medway in 1926. They live on Percy's family grazing property near Gunning and had a daughter, Shirley.
Shirley married Bruce Mould and they lived in Cowra. Having found Bruce's death notice from 2017 it was easy to locate his son Peter. I called Peter yesterday evening and left a message which he responded to today.
I read in Jack's service record that he received a gun shot wound to the face and was later deemed to old for active service. The pre-war court reports of 'habitual drunkenness' combined with effects of his service must have made for a difficult life.
Jack's brother Alfred had served in the Boer War as part of the second Western Australian contingent. I found several stories about him, mostly negative ones which were post war but the story below is a little more interesting that most of the others.
How the medal eventually found its way in to the possession of Patricia's father will likely never been known but it will soon be returned.
The returned medal tally is now 2310.


14 February 2019

Thomas Brown XLH

The stories that I post about the unusually quick returns we do are well outnumbered by those cases that take years. This search commenced in 2010 when I was sent the British War Medal awarded to 1946 Driver Thomas Brown 10th Light Horse Regiment (later 4 Divisional Artillery Column) by the WA RSL. I have revisited it on four occasions and each time an extra clue has emerged but never enough information to finalise the search. A recent trip to Perth provided the opportunity to confirm some facts about Thomas Brown but more about that later.
From Thomas' service record it was easy to establish that he was born in Scotland and his NOK as his sister Margaret. I also had his 1916 residential address in the Perth suburb of Mt Hawthorne. However, his name was so common that without a middle name I got no where.
The first time I revisited this search I had just subscribed to Ancestry but the only advance I could make was to confirm the 1916 address from the electoral roll.
For the second revisit (2013) I focused on Thomas' sister Mary and found a family in the 1901 Scottish census that seemed to fit who I was looking for. The family consisted of father John (50), mother Margaret (40), Thomas (12, born in 1889 which aligns with the service record), sister Margaret (9) and brother James (5). However, still not having a middle name meant I couldn't narrow down exactly which Thomas I was looking for.
The third revisit (2016) was the one that provided the first real breakthrough. By trying multiple search variables in Trove I stumbled across this engagement notice.
This isn't conclusive proof that this 'T C Brown' was the one I was looking for but the mention of 10th Light Horse made it worth following up. I found the BDM marriage entry for a Thomas Charles Brown to May Elizabeth Russell and these names were confirmed in the electoral rolls. Just when I thought I had a clear way forward I hit a speed hump. The Karrakatta Cemetery records showed that May was buried in the same plot as Thomas Campbell Brown. Going back to the electoral rolls showed that from the 1930s he did use Campbell as a middle name. Still not 100% proof but worth a revisit in 2019.
The forth revisit opened up most of the story for me. I found a birth notice for Thomas and May's son Thomas Russell Brown.
Thomas Russell Brown served in WWII and using the electoral roll I established that he and his wife Nancy had two daughters Janine and Suzanne. Back on the Karrakatta Cemetery search site I found Thomas Russell and Nancy's burial plot site. While I thought I had the right family I still wasn't completely sure.
On a recent trip to Perth and tacked on as a side trip to a traditional family visit to Karrakatta Cemetery, Gail and I searched out the Brown plots. Firstly, we located Thomas Russell and Nancy's plot which confirmed their daughter's names. As can be seen in the picture the grave is in a neat, well manicured area.

Gail and I then trekked across the width of the cemetery to the Methodist section. The condition of this section was a real shock to us and I was concerned that there wouldn't be a readable headstone. I really wasn't expecting what I found next.
To my very pleasant surprise the grave I was looking for was marked with the proof I also needed. The name and regimental number all matched up.  
Even though I had confirmed all the facts I didn't have any leads on Janine or Suzanne. Not knowing if they had married and what their surnames might now be was going to be difficult to find.
While having coffee at Gail and Frank's breakfast bench I was flicking through the previous weeks editions of the Western Australian news paper. In the Monday edition I came across the 'Can You Help?' column which I have used in the past but forgotten completely about. I fired off an email to Jenny who for many years has edited this column.
My request to locate either Janine or Suzanne was published two Monday's ago but I didn't get any leads from it. That was until today when I received a call from Janine. A friend of hers had seen my story and passed on my contact details. I had a great discussion with Janine who remembers her grandfather really well.
Thomas' BWM has had a difficult life. The photos show the damage that has occurred to suspender and rim. I really don't think this matters as I can tell that Janine is very excited to to be getting this back in to her family.
Thanks to the WA RSL and also Jenny from 'Can You Help?'.
The returned medal tally in now 2309.

06 February 2019

Returned Defence Long Service Medal

Bill and I get considerable satisfaction when we assist other organisations that also serve our community. In this case I assisted Victorian Police Sergeant Mark P searching for the owner of an Defence Long Service Medal. Mark is a former ARA soldier and currently an Army Reservist.
Mark provided the details on the medal that was awarded to former sailor P Smith.
The very common name combined with an old service number put a few barriers in my way. I was assisted by one of my contacts, Jason, who was able to provide Mr Smith's full name. This still didn't narrow down the exact individual for Mark so I had to stretch my skills to find Mr Smith's date of birth. That was the final piece of information that Mark needed and he was soon in contact with Mr Smith.
It turns out that the medal was stolen in a burglary in Mulwala between 2 or 3 years ago and it is now back with Mr Smith.
The returned medal tally is now 2308.

03 February 2019

Herbert Parkin

Great work by Bill.

This is a story although brief in its telling, serves as a reminder to all. When you are clearing out all old family clothes and the odd box of junk,  get two people to check what is being thrown out. One after the other and that you take a few minutes to check pockets.
But for the eagle eye and the action of Helen and the team at the Salvation Army Shop in Watsonia, Herbert Keith Parkin’s medals may well have joined the long list of missing medals.
That really is the story of the return of Herbert’s medals to his family. With both his children having passed on it was left for his daughter in law, Kirstin to receive the medals. Medals that will be held in trust for Herbert’s great grandchildren. However, one of the first things Kirstin will be doing is to have the medals mounted, so that there is less chance of them being overlooked again.
The returned medal tally is now 2307.

28 January 2019

John Highett

Even with a combined WWI and WWII service records that provided a wealth of information, it still took four years to resolve this search.
I received the British War Medal awarded to 2031 John Thomas Lines Highett from Bob Smith in February 2015. During WWI John served in 50th Battalion, AIF and was wounded in action. He also served in WWII with the number SX2614, this time his unit was the 2nd Railway Construction Coy, RAE. The service record also includes a picture John which is a fantastic inclusion.
John's mother's name was Harriet Lines and her surname was used in John's full name and that of his brother Joseph. However, not every public record included this detail which caused the research it become confused.
Recently, I revisited this search and found that a member of the Highett family had put a tree on Ancestry. This was done over a year ago which often means that messages sent via Ancestry aren't read. The tree owner is D Highett so on a hunch I checked the White Pages and found one listing for this name in South Australia which is where John was from. On speculation I called this number today and got the right family. D stands for Danny, who I have just spoken to and he is John's grandson. I'll post the medal off to Danny and Belinda in the near future.
Thanks go to Bob for sending me the medal. The returned medal tally is now 2305.

26 January 2019

Thomas James Hill

This return was a collaborative effort between the WA Police, the WA RSL and Lost Medals Australia.
It started with a group of three medals being handed in to the Perth District Police Station. The Police officer who was handling the case put a post on Face Book which was shared with me.
While social media is great I do find that some well meaning comments actually hijack the search which, in this case, was further complicated with the number on the WWII medals not matching up with the same name on the WWII nominal roll.
The group also consisted of a RAAF Long Service and Good Conduct Medal which had another number on it. The police provided the second number to me separately and I was able to confirm that the medals were awarded to A35311 Thomas James Hill. Through a source I have I was able to obtain Thomas' WWII RAAF service record which gave me the names of his wife and two daughters. This was all provided to the police. The WA RSL were able to track down one of Thomas' daughters and she has now retrieved the medals. I'm hopeful that this lady will contact me soon and I'll provide her with a copy of the service record.
The returned medal tally is now 2305.

Marie Boland

The length of service of WR2995 Marie Joyce Boland was relatively short. She enlisted on 6 June 1945 and was discharged on 24 April 1946. He employment in the RAN was as a coder.
The the next 65 years from 1946 there is no public record of Marie that I could find. That is until her death notice from Jun 2013 appeared in the Canberra times. This notice gave the names of her four daughters but all my efforts to determine there full names and current locations proved very difficult. As a last resort I contacted the nursing home mentioned in the death notice and asked if a message could be passed to Marie's family. With in a day I had a response from Marie's daughter Anne and the medal has now been posted home.
Thank you to Ernie K who sent me the medal in October 2017. The returned medal tally is now 2302.

05 January 2019

Aiken Spence

I never ceased to be amazed at the ever expanding ripple effect that results from one small research effort.
These two medals came as part of the Grafton Box and were awarded to 373 Aiken Spence.
What immediately struck me was that the 1914-15 Star gave the unit as 7th Light Horse Regiment and the British War Medal has the unit as 12th Light Horse Regiment. Aiken's service record shows that he was initially enlisted to the Light Horse Reserve before allocation to 7th LHR then later transferred to 12th LHR. Aiken served at Gallipoli and in the Middle East.
The service record also threw up more facts than I hadn't expected. Late in the war Aiken was Mentioned in Dispatches. This was not the only award made to this family but more on that later. Also there is correspondence from the 1950s requesting a replacement 1914-15 Star. However, the Star I have is not impressed as a Duplicate or Replacement.
With a name like Aiken Spence I thought that the research would be relatively straight forward. However, due to his name being spelt as Aiken, Akien or even Atkien things got complicated. What I could work out was that following WWI, Aiken married Amy Doris May but this marriage ended in divorce in the 1930s. Spence later married Ivy May Bale in 1939. I couldn't find any evidence that Aiken had any children. He died in 1964 and is buried in the Grafton Cemetery.
I then took the search to his siblings; William, James and David. No one in this generation of the Spence family had middle names which made the research that much harder.
William and David were hard to follow so I focused on James which proved to be very interesting.
Aiken's brother was 1244 James Spence DCM, 33rd Battalion AIF. James was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal:

'For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in organizing a party and attacking a strong hostile post, capturing it and a machine gun, and bayoneting the whole garrison. His fearlessness and determination throughout the operations set a magnificent example to his company.'
Source: 'Commonwealth Gazette' No. 219 Date: 20 December 1917
James also served during WWII as N75462 SGT J Spence DCM. This record gave me his NOK name as Effie. Finally I had a name which was far easier to narrow down. The electoral rolls confirmed where James' family lived and I found a picture of his headstone in the Tamworth Cemetery. This picture is below and includes the names of his daughters: Mary, Barbara and Betty. I found Effie and Barbara at the same address in the electoral roll. It was only the one entry and for the year before Barbara married. It really was a piece of luck and it also provided Barbara's middle name of Wynn. From here the search was easy.
Barbara Wynn Spence married Milton Clifford Taylor and they settle on the NSW Central Coast.  The last available electoral roll on Ancestry is 1980 and this entry included the name of their son. Barbara died in 2010 and Milton in 2018. Milton had be a stalwart of the Everglades Country Club having a perpetual trophy named in his honour. His death was noted in the club news letter so I asked the club if they were in contact with Milton's son and if a message could be passed to him. I am extremely grateful to the Everglades Country Club for forwarding my email and I've recently been in contact with Aiken's great nephew and will be returning the medals shortly.
In the back of my mind I still have the question of where Aiken's Victory Medal might be and how the 1914-15 Star is the original rather then the duplicate. Questions that will never be answered.
The returned medal tally is now 2301.

20 December 2018

Tom Bird - WWII

Yesterday evening I received an email from a Property Officer at a Victorian Police station. He had been referred to me by a friend of mine, Rob who works at the Defence Service Center. The Victorian Police had received a group of WWII medals awarded to VX145248 SGT Thomas Bird
Thomas, who died in 1995, was rather difficult to find in the electoral rolls. Lucky his wife was a little easier to follow due to her name: Hilde Alma Amelia Bird (nee Pearce). The trail was pretty thin other than a 1977 electoral role entry for a Thomas Phillip Bird at the same address as Hilda. The 1980 electoral roll did not confirm my assumption that Thomas Phillip was Thomas and Hilda's son. However, to my surprise three entries below Hilda's name was a Thomas Phillip Bird at a different address but in the same suburb, this time with Agnes.
More searching led me to Thomas Phillip Bird's death notice from 2011. This confirmed that he was the son I was looking for. The death notice also confirmed that his wife's name was Agnes and the names of his children. I provided this information to the Property Officer but I was unable to give the latest contact details of Thomas Bird's grand children.
I sat on this overnight wondering how to make that final connection. This morning I had a closer look at Agnes and found her death notice from 2017. What this gave me was the funeral company who provided the conducted the service.
From there things moved very quickly. The Victoria Police Property Officer contacted the funeral director who in turn contacted Thomas' grandson and very soon after, he was on his way to the police station to receive the medals.
This all started with Frances speaking to Rob and ended with Lynda helping to put the final piece in place. Thanks to each of you.
The returned medal tally is now 2299.

Thomas Bird

18 December 2018

Medal to HMAS Sydney KIA

Growing up in Western Australia, I knew very well with story of the disappearance of HMAS Sydney during WWII (the full story are in the links below). The location of this ship remained unknown until 2008. To now return a medal awarded to one of the sailors lost on this ship is very moving. This is Bill's story of his research.

A question that Glyn and I are often asked by a family when we return a medal from a broken group is; “Do you think you will ever find the missing medals?”. My answer has been and probably will always be, ‘I don’t know’.
The search for the family of 23467 Seaman Morton James Morphett RAN, who was killed when the HMAS Sydney sank off the WA coast after a naval battle with the German Raider Kormoran, is one that ended with the same question.
This story begins in 2008 or thereabouts when Morton’s 1939-1945 War Medal was found in front of the Windsor (NSW) War memorial. The medal was found less its ribbon, which may explain how the medal came to be lost. Whoever was wearing it may have just pinned to a coat, relying on a safety pin to keep it securely in place. It didn’t. Over the last 10 years, this medal has passed through many hands. What they discovered along the way sadly was never recorded. There were times I felt more like an auditor than a researcher when I stumbled over the trail of someone who had gone before me. The major problem was where an auditor may have a complete set of records, mine were largely non-existent
Out of respect and at the request of Morton’s family, I have not include the details of the search.
This afternoon, after I have completed this story for our blog I will, as I have so often in the past, wander down to my local post office and mail off to Morton’s great nephew Craig, Morton’s medal. This will bring to close the beginning of the search for Morton’s medals. A search started by his brother Warren, who also served in the RAN during WW2, but who sadly died in 2011, and who had for many years searched for his brother’s medals, even wearing a set of replicas along with his own on ANZAC Day.

The returned medal tally is now 2293.


04 December 2018

James O'Donnell

I've mentioned before that any research relating to families from South Australia is difficult. This is because there are few public records available to access without paying a hefty fee. Other records like electoral rolls haven't been released to sites like Ancestry which, even though it is a pay for access site, helps to workout where people lived and who family members were. When I received this WWII group of 5 medals from Sharon G and saw they were awarded South Australian SX39977 James Richard O'Donnell I started to worry.
However, Ancestry did come through with a result and I found James included on a family tree. When I received a response from the tree owner the search got more interesting. Graham, the tree owner, had been researching James for a legal search rather than his own family history. Graham kindly made arrangements for the contact details of James' nephew, Terence, to be provided to me and we have now spoken. The medals will be returned to South Australia in the near future.
Sharon's name will come up in more upcoming stories as she sent me several medal groups. 
The returned medal tally is now 2292.

30 November 2018

Athole Rogers

Some searches oscillate between having easy periods then really difficult sections. The search for Athole Eric Rogers is typical of an easy - difficult story.
The search commenced with an email from LH who had two WWII medals and other family items belonging to RAAF member Athole Eric Rogers. I started the search about 12 months ago but it wasn't until I recently received all items from Linda did I appreciate the extent of the family history collection that Athole left. With the medals came Athole's birth certificate, his discharge documentation, numerous letters and family photos. All this was is a tin to keep them secure.
Athole was easy to find thanks to this entry from a PNG expat site:

Athole Eric ROGERS (24 December 1990, aged 68)
Athole went to PNG in 1948 to work for Wyatt's Store, then in the early 50s he joined Burns Philp and worked for them as Merchandise Manager until 1979 when he retired to Tasmania. He was one of BP's most popular managers and a great asset to the Company. He will be fondly remembered by many ex-residents of PNG. No further information available.

Then things got difficult. I knew that Athole retired in Tasmania, however, the state records aren't available publicly so the search ground to a halt. Persistence paid off and through an Ancestry tree I've been in touch with a niece of Athole's and will return this collection to her safekeeping.
The returned medal tally is now 2287.

29 November 2018

Contemporary RAAF medals

I'm going to keep this story short as there is not much to tell. This week I received the National Medal, Defence Force Service Medal and Australian Defence Medal from David B. These three medals were awarded to Allan, a retired Flight Sergeant who served in the RAAF.
I didn't have much difficulty locating Allan in the electoral rolls but after 1980 there was nothing. I resorted to seeking help from a RAAF Face Book group and the Defence Military History forum. I got a couple of clues which narrowed down the search area but nothing definitive. Then Paul O came through with an address, a land line number and a mobile number. It was the mobile number that has remained constant for Allan. I have just spoken to Allen and will be sending his medals back to him soon.
The returned medal tally is now 2285.

12 November 2018

Thomas Biddle

The Grafton Box is really throwing up so interesting medals.
This is the second medal sent from the Grafton RSL awarded for Boer War service. The first was a Queen's South Africa Medal awarded to Trooper Tom Barnes of the Australian Horse. This Queen's South Africa Medal, with five clasps, was awarded to 353 Trooper Thomas John Biddle, New South Wales Mounted Rifles.
The NSW BDM and the electoral rolls gave me all the basic information: Thomas was born in 1875, he was married to Ethol McIntosh and died on 3 Feb 1957. Then I discovered a gold mine of information when I found Thomas' obituary on Trove. What this told me was that Thomas was a police officer who was posted to numerous stations around NSW. More importantly it gave me the names of Thomas' children. One daughter was Myraa (Mrs A Snow) of Mullumbimby NSW. The electoral rolls, which aren't available online after 1980, provided just one entry which gave me a clue to the next generation and this was the name of Myraa's son. This was Peter Snow and once again it was only one entry on the internet that confirmed for me was that Peter also lived in Mullumbimby. Even though Myraa died in 2004 there is still an entry in the White Pages for her. I took a punt and called the number to find that Peter is at the same address. Peter recognised his grandfather's name as soon as I mentioned it so all my assumptions proved to be correct.
The returned medal tally is now 2282.