25 July 2021

William Stephenson

This WWII group consisting of the 1939-45 Star, the Africa Star, the Pacific Star, the Defence Medal, the War Medal and the Australian Service Medal 1939-45 came to me via the Directorate of Honours and Awards. The group was awarded to QX4841 William Smith Stephenson.

I followed Bill through Trove newspaper articles rather than official records. The key to working out his family tree was a notice following Bill's death in August 1981. No children were mentioned in the notice but it did give the name of his brother in law. Through some reverse engineering of the NSW BDM records and electoral rolls I worked out the name of Bill's nephew. This is David who I just had a fascinating conversation with. David is an expert in philately and we eventually got on to the subject of the Australian Forces Post Office. Those who know me understand that mail was the subject that absorbed most of my time and effort during INTREFT.

Once again it was a pleasure to assist the Directorate of Honours and Awards. The returned medal tally is now 2648.





       

Vincent Hennessy

This is another case where the broader family story comes as a complete surprise once the initial research starts.

I recently received the Australian Service Medal 1939-1945 awarded to 126436 Vincent Hennessy. I found very little publicly available information about Vincent which wasn't assisted by the NOK details simply being 'M Hennessy'. It took some time and several unsupported assumptions to work out that Vincent's full name was Vincent John Hennessy. 

The name 'Vincent Hennessy' only appeared in two electoral rolls from the 1950s. Neither entry indicated Vincent was married so I was really running out of leads. I found 'Vincent John Hennessy' in a couple of Ancestry family trees which seemed to confirm my assumptions. These trees showed Vincent was the son of William and Mary Hennessy. Was Mary the 'M Hennessy' listed as the NOK? A message to Leanne who owns one of the trees confirmed that my assumptions were correct. Then came the surprise.    

Vincent was the brother of 437579 FSGT Kevin William Hennessy. Kevin was a crew member of Halifax LL459 which crashed on a night flying exercise on 8 June 1944. The crash occurred near the Yorkshire village of Hook.  The entire crew of six died. The links to the crash reports also have pictures of Kevin and his headstone.

Thanks to Pam H who sent me Vincent's medal and also to Julie H who assist me with this research. I'll send Leanne the medal in the near future,

The returned medal tally is 2642.


  

24 July 2021

C Ferguson and C Wood

When I receive medals that come in the same parcel but with different names I try not make an immediate assumption the soldiers are connected in some way. However, when there is a connection it usually tells a story that I wasn't expecting.

In May 2020 I received four medals in the post from Margaret of South Australia. One was a British War Medal awarded to 3328 Charles Ferguson. Two others were a British War Medal and Victory Medal pair awarded to 13455 Charles Herbert Carbert Woods. The forth medal in the parcel was a bit of a surprise. It was a German Iron Cross dated 1914. Also with the medals was the original box of issue for Charles Ferguson's medals. 

I first started searching Charles Ferguson as he was killed in action on 12 October 1917. Charles was member of the 48th Battalion, AIF. With a date of death in October 1917 I surmised that Charles was killed during the Battle of Passchendaele. Charles has no known grave and is commemorated at Menin Gate. Charles service record contains several emotive letters from his father, John, seeking information about Charles possessions. John was of the opinion that Charles' possessions were stolen by other soldiers. This could not be proved but caused John much distress.

Charles' mother was Mary and I found her death notice on Trove. This gave me several leads about Charles' siblings. He had two sisters; Anne Maude and Lillian Chester. He also had a brother; Sydney John. 

I then turned to Charles Wood and saw that his next of kin was his wife; Lillian Chester Wood. Charles Wood and Charles Ferguson were brothers in law. Charles Wood was a Motor Transport Driver in the Auxiliary Mechanical Transport Company. Charles Wood's civilian occupation was as a Motor Transport Proprietor.

I found very little information about either of these families other than through Sydney Ferguson and it is his family that I'll return the medals to.

The returned medal tally is now 2641.   

 




22 July 2021

N E Isaacs

When I looked at the obverse (front) of this 1939-45 Star it was exactly as I would expect it to be. However, the revere (back) was a bit surprising. The naming is modern laser engraving rather than being impressed. Also the name is in the lower third of the star rather than being central. I have no doubt that this is a genuine medal and is most likely a late issue.

This medal was awarded to NX157953 Norman Ernest Isaacs. Norman served as signalman in the Corps of Signals and after the war settled in western Sydney. Norman's medal was sent to me by the Pitt Town and Districts Sports Club which makes sense as it is close to where Norman and his family lived. 

My search led me to Norman's granddaughter, Jodie, but what I couldn't find was her contact details. Through a circuitous route which involved a message being passed by Norman's great grandson I've now contacted Jodie and will return this medal to her in the near future.

Jodie has provided me the following details about Norman:

'A brief background on my Pop is he served as a Signalman in Communications branch during the war travelling to many countries.

I have attached the only photo I have of him during the war. He is in the top row on the far right. When he returned he went back to his family home in Guildford then lived many years with my Nan at Fairfield whilst working as a painter. The best story was he painted the Channel 7 tower. Then when they retired he took my Nan and his beloved Torana and dog Kim on a tour of Queensland for a few years then they settled back on the Central Coast NSW at Lakehaven and they lived out their years there. He still had his Torana up until the day he passed! He loved the beach, fishing and his horse racing. He lived a fairly simple life and enjoy the simple pleasures.'

 


Thanks to Sara at the Pitt Town and Districts Sports Club who sent me the medal and to Jarrod, who also bares the Isaacs name.

The returned medal tally is now 2638.





20 July 2021

Mitchell Kinnaird Mills

This is a medal that I've not handled before. It is the India General Service Medal (1936) with the clasp North West Frontier 1936-37. It has been interesting to do some research on this medal and also that is was awarded to a Corporal in the RAF.

The medal was awarded to 513357 CPL MK Mills. Initially I had some concerns about finding what this person's full name was, however this proved rather easy. Our man was Mitchel Kinnaird Mills. Armed with this rather unusual name combination I soon found Mitchell on an Ancestry tree owned by Tony who also shares the same middle name of Kinnaird.

Tony did some additional research and provided me the following information:    

There are three Mitchell Kinnaird Mills who served in RAF but two didn't join until 1941 and 1960 so they were not in India in 1936-37. Our Mitchell Kinnaird (1911-1961), service number 513357, joined RAF as an Aircraft Hand after October 1925 and served in India and Burma.

The medal was originally sent to me by Joy and Allan H but how it got to Australia since Mitchell died in the UK is a mystery.

The returned medal tally is now 2637.







27 June 2021

More information about Lawrence James

Since first contacting the family of, then posting the story about, Captain Lawrence James, I have had wonderful engagement with Lawrence's grand daughter, Peta. 

Peta has sent me some great family photos and kindly given me permission to share. 

This is a  portrait of Lawrence and with a separate picture of Rose. Peta tells me: 'This is a photo of him with a separate one of his wife in front in World War 1. This was how it was when I was given it so I left it like that. The frame is supposed to be made from a propeller of a plane flown by Charles Kingsford Smith.'

This is a replica set of Lawrence's WWI medals, now with the original British War Medal.


These last two photos are of Rose's original WWI medals and her certificate of appointment in the Australian Army Nursing Service.   

Update: 23 July 2021
When I was researching Lawrence, I sought expert assistance from the members of the British Medal Forum. To my very pleasant surprise, one member, Mike, let me know that he has a watercolor painting of HMS Huntsgreen. Mike has kindly provided me a photo of the painting with the following extra details:

The painting is signed J. A. G. Thompson, and dated 1922, and, as you can (just about) see, is quite dramatic.




 

16 June 2021

Helping out the Victorian Police

It is always great to help out the police. This return followed a request from the Victorian Police to locate the family of NX166801 George Edward Smith. The police had recovered four WWII medals awarded to George.

There is not a lot to this story other than to say that the search was successful and the medals will soon be returned to George's grandson.

The returned medal tally is now 2636.

13 June 2021

Helping out two different state Police forces

Over the last week I've been lucky enough to be able to help out the Queensland Police Service and the Victorian Police with two searches.

The first search was for the family of 14553 John Leslie Chesher who served in the RAAF during WWII. John's dog tags had been handed in and Kylie T from the Palm Beach Police Station asked for assistance. John led a pretty quiet life and there wasn't many public records available. I did found another name at the same address John was living at in San Souci, NSW in the 1970s. I provided this to Kylie who was able to use resources available to her to narrow down this name to an individual who turned out to be John's nephew.

The second search was for the recipient of an Australian Defence Medal which had been handed in to Leading Senior Constable Lara M at the Sunshine Police Station in Victoria. Similarly to the other search, just by providing the full name to Lara she was able to locate the owner.

It has been a real pleasure helping out both Kylie and Lara and the respective state police force.  

The returned medal tally is now 2632.




10 June 2021

WG Parker

I recently received a parcel from the Directorate of Honours and Awards which contained three medals all awarded to separate servicemen and each with interesting stories.

The first story is of a 1914-15 Star awarded to ON4138 Ord Sig William Gromalle Parker. William was a member of the Royal Australian Navy Reserve and I was a little surprised that his period of service ended in early 1915. It made sense when I found an AIF service record for him. The front page states that William has three years service in the RANR and that he is 'still serving'. William became 1130 Private WG Parker and allocated to the 30th Battalion. William was wounded in action in France and was eventually discharged in 1917.

After WWI, William became a hair dresser and had a large family. One of his sons was Eric Stuart Parker and it is Eric's son Steve who I have contacted. Steve tells me that in the not to distant future there will be a family reunion and he is sure that this medal will create quite a bit of interest. 

The returned medal tally is now 2632. 





 

06 June 2021

LV James DSC update

My friend Frev has done a lot more research about Lawrence and Simmie and added the details to the Discovering Anzacs website.

AC Coffey

Medals turn up in the places where there is often no logical explanation as to why is should be there. When Susan L contacted me about a medal she found in Goulburn, and there was no family I could immediately identify in the area, I set aside why the medal was found about 70km north of where I live. 

VX14581 Alexander Charles Coffey was born in Maitland, SA which is on the Yorke Peninsula to the West of Adelaide. His life was a little confusing and finding a relative, despite a large family, was a little difficult. Alexander, sometimes referred to as Alex and at other times Alick, enlisted in March 1940. In 1942, while in Brisbane, he married Phyllis. The trail of Phyllis Coffey ran out not long after the war, although she was still in Brisbane after WWII when Alex was was living elsewhere. I had to assume they divorced. There is no evidence they had any children. I found Alex in 1953 living with a new wife, Audrey. They were living in Goulburn which explained that part of the mystery. However, by 1956 both Alex and Audrey were dead. Once again, they don't appear to have had any children. 

One of Alex's brothers, Patrick, was a licensee of two hotels in Goulburn so there is a definite link to that town but the lead ran out when I found that his brother and his wife also died in the 1950s. Having hit one brick wall after another, I refocused the research on South Australia. The clues that led to success was Alex's father's name, John and that he was from Kadina, SA. Almost immediately, I found the headstone for John and Flora Coffey.

Knowing these two name narrowed the search and I soon found a tree which included John and Flora. I've now been in touch with Jess whose father in law is Alex great nephew. 

I'll be sending Alex's Defence Medal off to South Australia in the near future. The returned medal tally is now 2631.  




 

 

02 June 2021

LV James, DSC

Some stories really draw me in as I get to know families through the research to find out about a medal I have. That is definitely the case in the search for the family of Lawrence Vernon James. 

The medal was sent to me by Nicky and Eian M who found the medal under the following circumstances:

'There is sure to be a story attached to this medal because it is a complete mystery how it came to be just sitting on the top of the garden bed when I have not only gardened in this area for years, but we frequently walked past it whenever we go to the back shed'

It took me a bit of time to work out exactly who I was looking for as some records had the name spelt as Lawrence and others as Lawrance. Indeed, this misspelling caused me some concern as well as providing me a bit of medal education. When I first received the medal it was very apparent to me that the medal had been altered slightly. The rim near the naming is thiner than it should be as is width of the medal at the same point. While not easy to see it is very noticeable to the touch. In most cases I would suspect that this medal was renamed to some one other than the original recipient. However, the naming looked to be official and not poorly done as I've usually seen on medals that have been renamed. I checked with the members of the British Medals Forum who are far more knowledgeable than I am on this type of thing. I found that the naming was consistent with a medal issued by the Admiralty, that it was not unusual for a medal that had an incorrectly name to be returned so that a correction could be made and that the naming indicated someone who served in the Merchant Navy. Based on this information, I am of the opinion that Lawrence's first name was misspelt with an 'a' rather than an 'e' and he returned the medal to be corrected. Once I knew all this I was able to narrow down exactly who I was looking for.

With the confirmation of Lawrence's correct name and occupation I found his date of birth, 1880, and when he received his Master's certificate. Then came the surprise, Lawrence was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross at the Dardanelles (Gallipoli) for his skillful handling of his ship.

There was only a few references to Lawrence in the public records after WWI. Mostly these related to ship movements or court cases that involved member's of the crew on ship captained by Lawrence. The vital clue was a record of Lawrence's marriage to Eleanor Rose Simpson. Then the search got really interesting.

Eleanor was Staff Nurse (later Sister) Simpson who served in the Australian Army Nursing Service during WWI. Eleanor's record shows that she had to resign in 1917 when she married. Before this she had nursed those who were wounded or evacuated sick from Gallipoli.

I'm not exactly sure when Eleanor returned to Australia to live but I did find the emigration record for their son Peter Vernon James. Peter served as a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy Reserve during WWII. In 1950 he emigrated with his wife, three daughters and his sister. 


This gave me multiple clues to follow up. What I found was that Peter married Dorothy after she had divorced, it didn't appear that his sister Patricia married and the names of his step daughters to compare to the BDM records. 

I tried to follow Peter but other than a few electoral roll entries all the clues ran out in 1997 when he died. His death notice didn't provide many clues of value but the epitah with reference to his time at sea is touching.


From the NSW BDM, I established that Rosalyn Ethel married Ronald Freeman. From the electoral rolls I could easily follow Rosalyn, Ronald and their family as they moved on several occasions. The leads ran cold from the 1980s so I had to go back to the records I could confirm some facts on several occasions. Then something rang a bell of familirarity. On the back of the envelope that Nicky sent me the medal in was a street name in St Ives, NSW. I checked the exact address with her and this is what was familar. Rosalyn and Ronald had lived at the same address in 1954. It appears that the several blocks were owned by Ronald's family and used as an orchard before being developed for housing. It appears that the medal has been there for all the time but it is a mystry as to why it would appear now.

Finding one of Lawrence's decendent's proved difficult so I looked at Peter's wife, Dorothy. I soon found her on an Ancesry tree that is owned by Dorothy's nephew. This is Martin who was able to very quickly put me in touch with his first cousin, Peta. I know this name from the emigration record where Peta is listed as 5 months old in 1950.  

Peta and I are now in contact and she is so proud of the family's heoric service. It is such a pleasure to be able to return this medal to Peta.    

Thank you to Nicky and Eian. The retruned medal tally is now 2630.



31 May 2021

RT Tragardh

Having a distinctive surname has its advantages and this search has definitely benefited from that. I received the Australian Service Medal 1939-45 last week from Ross G who found the medal amongst his father's medals. The medal was awarded to VX85608 Ronald Thackeray Tragardh. His brother also served in WWII, he was VX68469 Charles Thackeray Tragardh

I found Charles' death notice which gave me the names of all of Roland's children. From there is was a process of elimination to find the contact details of the one of the children and this led me to Ron's son, Ian. As it turns out this is a family who has volunteered to serve their nation across the generations as Ian's son was also an Australian soldier until recently. 

Thanks to Ross who sent me the medal. The returned medal tally is now 2629.



30 May 2021

Mobbs family medals

When I received an email from Senior Constable Bell from the Queensland Police Service I was somewhat confused about the medal groups and the names. It took a bit to work out I was looking at the a father and son. 

The first is 53546 Allan George Mobbs. The second is 2900538 Allan George Mobbs. Allan Snr enlisted late in 1917 as a 20 year old and was able to enlist again for WWII. The next round of confusion was that Allan Jnr had three service numbers. The number commencing with the digit 2 indicated that Allan Jnr served after WWII. This turned out to be part of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan.

I eventually narrowed the family connections and was able to provide Senior Constable Bell the name of a member of the current generation. The medals will soon be returned to the family. 

There wasn't much information available about Allan Snr or Jnr. I did know from the electoral rolls that Snr was an orchardist. This information led me to a very interesting news article. I'm sure that most Australian readers will know the name Tilly Devine. Tilly was notorious Sydney criminal and poor out of town orchardist Allan had a run in with her in 1922.

 The returned medal tally is now 2628. 


29 May 2021

Contemporary Australian medals

I didn't have to put in much effort to find the owner of these three medals. The real effort was made by Roxanne S who told me that she works in a library in regional NSW. A person came in to her library with three medals which were believed to be stolen. Roxanne got my details from the NSW RSL but the person with the medals wasn't keen to take the matter further. Roxanne then took it upon herself to contact me and send on the medals.   

What I received was an Australian Active Service Medal, Afghanistan Medal and NATO Medal. Based on the service details I was able to track down the owner who tells me that these medals as well as other valuable items were recently stolen. There is still a missin Australian Defence Medal out there some where.

Well done Roxanne The returned medal tally is now 2618.




24 May 2021

Alfred Freeman

This is the second pair of WWI medals sent to me by Sarah. The first pair were awarded to 2nd AM FH Hill. This pair was awarded to 53016 Alfred George Freeman. The story of Alfred's medals is a bit difficult to follow and I'm not sure when this pair was issued.

Alfred's number is not part of the regimental numbering system where each regiment or unit started at number 1. If a person moved from one unit to another they kept their number and added a letter to the end. However, Alfred enlisted in early 1918 and was a general reinforcement from Queensland rather than recruited direct to a specific unit. From his service record, Alfred looks to have spent time in 41st and 42nd Battalions before being reallocated to the Graves Registrations Detachment

For some reason it appears that Alfred didn't receive his medals in the mid 1920 as was normal so in 1927 the RSL wrote to the Army on Alfred's behalf. There is a note on the correspondence to say that the BWM and Victory Medal were in store. On the final page of the service record it indicates that the medal were sent. However, in 1971 the RSL wrote again on Alfred's behalf stating that he had never been issued his medals with the notation: 'Issue'. I suspect that two sets have been issued and this is the 1971 issue. The numbering if very cleanly impressed and the naming on each medal is opposite. That is, the BWM naming is the correct way up when looking at the obverse but when looking at the obverse of the Victory medal the naming is upside down. This isn't uncommon but just suggestive of a later issue.  

As far as I can establish, Alfred didn't marry or have children. I've located a great niece of Alfred's and will send her his medals later this week. 

Thanks again to Sarah. The returned medal tally is now 2615.