08 August 2020

215 AB Edward O'Connell - NSW Naval Contingient 1900

This search has been one of the longest and most difficult searches I've done. I received the China 1900 Medal awarded to AB E O'Connell in 2002. This has been a difficult search as, in the early phases, so little information was available. Over the years I have revisited this search often and each time I've got a scrap more of information that has made up the complete story. Not knowing what the E of the first name stood for didn't help and it is only recently that I've confirmed that his first name was Edward.

This is the only China 1900 Medal I've come across and it is worth spending a bit of time exploring why the medal was awarded. 

In 1900 several International Legations in Peking were placed under siege by Chinese Boxer rebels who were protesting foreign intervention and the spread of Christianity in China. The film 55 Days in Peking tells the story of this rebellion. To defend the Legations an Eight Nations Alliance was formed. This all occurred just prior to the Federation of Australia and military forces were based on colonial arrangements. Similar to the contingents sent by the colonies to the Boar War, the colonies offered their naval forces in support of Britain. By the time the colonial navies arrived the main actions were over. When the colonial contingents returned to their colonies, Federation had occurred and Australia had been formed. For their service, the contingents were awarded the China 1900 Medal. The numbers of medals awarded to each colony were: NSW 257, Victoria 198, South Australia 98 and Queensland 1. 

Early in the research I found that E O'Connell was 215 Able Seaman E O'Connell and even found his picture as part of the company he was in.

Even though I could confirm that E O'Connell served in this conflict and was awarded the China 1900 Medal the medal itself concerned me. The naming on medal consists of Initial, Surname, Rank, UNit (NSW Naval Contgt). The rank and unit are exactly as expected but the name is crudely engraved. By running my fingers over the rim it is easy to feel that the rim at the site of the name is thinner than the rest which suggests that the edge has been skimmed to remove the original name and E O'Connell added. It is hard to see the thickness of the rim in these pictures but I've circled the area.

Additional information that I've found over the years was the published list of men in the NSW Naval Contingent as they departed and then when they were awarded the medal.

 It wasn't until recently that I found that O'Connell was also awarded the Reserve Naval Long Service and Good Conduct Medal in 1914. Below is the entry in the Commonwealth Gazette from 1914 for Royal Australian Navy awards. I couldn't find any evidence that O'Connell served during WWI.

As I researched this name there were several candidates who E O'Connell could have been. By a process of elimination I discarded those who didn't quite fit the bill. For example an Edmund O'Connell I found in the records turned out to be 14 years old in 1900. Through a family tree on Ancestry I recently put the final piece in place and with the help of Anita S I'll soon be able to forward this medal to Edward O'Connell's descendants.

I usually don't like to value a medal as I'm no expert. In this case it is probably worth noting that a China 1900 medal awarded to another sailor from this contingent recently sold for about $5000. However, the renaming of the medal would reduce the value considerably despite O'Connell being confirmed as having been a member of the force that went to China. I can only imagine that he lost the medal awarded to him at some point and then purchased another original medal and had it renamed. 

The returned medal tally is now 2511.

02 August 2020

Edward Trott

The service record for 2436 Edward Trott has shown a set of circumstances that I've not come across before.
On enlistment in 1915 he gave his age as 40 years and six months. It was not uncommon during WWI for soldiers to be less than truthful with their age by either putting their age up or down to enlist. What is unusual in Edward's case is that he successfully petitioned to be discharged early. The service record says his discharge was for family reasons but a letter dated in 1917 expands on this. A typed version of this letter is on page 14 of the service record.
Edward admits that in 1917 he was actually 46 years old and this, combined with multiple medical issues, makes him unlikely to ever be fit for further military service. He also writes that he is the father of nine children and that his wife is struggling to support their family. This appeal, and medical condition, got Edward an early discharge which occurred on 28 June 1918.
Edward was from South Australia, which I've complained about many times, does not have many public records available. This made the search for Edward's family difficult but it was eventually through Ancestry that a family member has been located.
Thanks to Sarah G who sent me Edward's Victory Medal.
The returned medal tally is now 2510.

19 July 2020

The Booker brother's medals

I recently published the story of Geoffrey Boulter and my collaboration with Matt H from the RSL QLD North Brisbane District. The Boulter research was the second set of medals that Matt asked for assistance with. This story is of the medals that Matt originally contacted me about.
Matt tells me that three WWI medals were recently found in a small tin box at the Hervey Bay tip. The medals were awarded to brothers 2574 Arthur John Booker and 1905 Herbert Edward Booker.
Arthur and Herbert were to sons of Albert Sidney Booker and Elizabeth Rose (nee Hurley). They also had a sister Mabel Rose.
Albert served with 9th Battalion, AIF and survived WWI. He did marry after the war but divorced having not had any children.
Herbert served in 15th Battalion, AIF and fought in the Battle of Lone Pine when he was killed in action on 8 August 1915. This clipping is the report of Herbert's death.

These two photos are of Herbert were also published in the news papers.
This is a photo of Mabel Rose Booker with other relatives. Mabel is on the far left.
I've been in contact with a relative who kindly provided me the photo of Mabel. I've now connected her with Matt so that the medals can be returned.
The returned medal tally is now 2509.

13 July 2020

G J Boulter

I've recently been collaborating with Matt H from the RSL QLD North Brisbane District. The first search he ask me to conduct hasn't quite come to conclusion yet but I'm keen to finalise it as one of the soldiers involved was KIA at Lone Pine.
This second search to assist Matt started when he was contacted by a medal framing company who had a set of medal that were dropped off in 2015 but never collected. On researching the family I found that the widow of QX Geoffrey Boulter died in 2016 which might explain why the medals were left at the framing company.  
I found the names of Geoffrey's son and grandson and provided all the information to Matt. He has now been in touch with the family and the medals will be returned in the near future.
The returned medal tally is now 2506.

E Revell

I've been slowly leopard crawling up on having returned 2500 medals for some time now. This search reflects the difficultly it took to get to this milestone.
It started with a Face Book post by Matt M who found the five medals in an old tool box that he bought some years ago. Matt has since told me that the tool box was purchased in the NSW Southern Highlands. This location subsequently made sense when I found where the veteran died and is buried.
The only clue to who the medals were awarded to is the engraved name and number on just one of the medals. I'll add the pictures at this part of the post rather than the end as it was the clues, or rather the lack of clues, from these medals which helped me put the full story together.

The number is immediately recognisable as a post WWII RAAF service number but the medal group didn't make sense as it looked to me to be British rather than Australia. I then realised that the medal on the War Medal ribbon is the RAAF Long Service and Good Conduct Medal, ERII version, and this is the medal which is named to E Revell. Revell's name doesn't appear on any of the DVA nominal rolls or in the electoral rolls. The only reference to him I found was in the 1963 Commonwealth Government Gazette which stated that his date of retirement from the RAAF had been extended to 1963. At this stage I still didn't know his first name.
I have a very good source who was able to access just one record that confirmed that the E stood for Ernest, his date of birth was in 1906 and that his NOK was his sister. No name for the NOK was given; just an address in Frankston, Victoria. 
Using the first name and year of birth I found that Ernest was born to James and Harriet Revell in London. He was one of 14 children. The 1901 and 1911 UK census gave me all the name of this family except for the youngest who was born in 1913.
Just to confirm that I had the correct person I looked at the BDMs of several states and from NSW I found this death record.
All the names aligned and the death occurred in Bowral which is in the NSW Southern Highlands, where Matt found the medals. I couldn't find a death notice or any marriage records for Ernest and started to suspect that since his NOK was his sister, he hadn't married. I then found a picture of his head stone in the Woolongong Cemetery. The epitaph also suggests that he had not married so I was back searching for his siblings. 
At this point of the search I was struggling how to proceed. It looked like all of Ernest's brothers remained in the UK and died there. I did find that Ernest emigrated to Australia in 1948. The ship manifest he was listed on gave the contact address for him and 16 other men as RAAF AOC c/- Canberra House London. I've surmised that Ernest was recruited in the RAAF along with many other former British servicemen. This explains the British WWII medals. The only other solid piece of information I had was the Frankston address of Ernest's NOK. Suspecting that this would have been current about the same time as Ernest was due to retire in 1963, I began a name by name search of the electoral roll of Frankston for that year. This particular roll is 166 pages and there are about 30 lines per page. It took several hours over a few days to get all the way to the letter H. I found a Elsie Ivy Hall lived that this address. A review of the 1911 UK census showed that one of Ernest' sisters, born in 1909 was named Elsie Ivy. This was enough evidence for me. Listed at the same address as Elsie was Walter George Hall. Locating a picture of Walter and Elsie's headstone gave me their son's name; Kenneth.

It then took a couple more days to work out that Kenneth's current contact details and it has been through his daughter Anna, that I've now been in contact with Kenneth.
Kenneth tells me he is sure that his Uncle Ern served in the RAF during WWII which confirms the WWII medals. Kenneth also said that Ern was pretty elusive and would just appear from time to time at his sister’s place. However, Kenneth rememberers Ern as a kind man. 
The returned medal tally is now 2501.  

28 June 2020

Help provided to the Tasmania Police

This is another of those stories where I can't give one bit of personal information.
I was recently contacted by the Tasmania Police who had four medals awarded to three different soldiers. I wasn't given details of the circumstances as to why the police had them, just the names on the medal. Fortunately, this was enough information to be able to provide the police the family contact details.
The returned medal tally is now 2496.

24 June 2020

More assistance to the Mount Druit Area Police Command

The post immediately before this one is about my collaboration with SGT Frank G from the Mount Druitt Police Area Command. After that success, Frank and I combined again today to solve another puzzle.
Frank had three WWI medals awarded to 443499 Jack Evans, RAAF. Based on the the name; Jack Evans, there was just to many people to make the search easy. The one piece of information that was key from the DVA nominal roll was Jack's date of birth. Using this I could work out his parents names and then work out his date of death. Back tracking led me to Jack's wife's name which was far easier to find in the electoral rolls.
Using the information we had so far, particularly the date of birth, Frank found a robbery report from the 1990s in Jack's name in the Blue Mountains area. I could then use the electoral rolls to confirm the Blue Mountains address for Jack and his family. Frank was then able to use his resources to identify a possible son of Jack's. Frank finished our call so he could ring the number for the person he found. One minute later, Frank called me back to say that he had indeed found Jack's son and arrangements are in place for the medals to be collected next week.
The total time spent on the search was less than 10 minutes and once again it was a real pleasure to assist Frank and the NSW Police Force.
The returned medal tally is now 2492.

17 June 2020

Helping out the MT Druit station of the NSW Police Force

I'm on a bit of a run assisting the NSW Police Force.
This research was for the families of two medals that were being held SGT Frank G. Frank had been referred to me by Christopher G as he and Frank are both former servicemen and wanted to see these medals back with the families.
The first medal was a WWI British War Medal awarded to 12/1565 CPL Harry Osborn. Harry was in the York and Lancaster Regiment and I was lucky to find his service record. This is very unusual as the majority of British WWI records were destroyed in the Blitz. What I found was Harry's date of birth and his father's name. This was enough to narrow down the family.
Harry was married to Ellen and had a daughter. He died in Leeds in 1987. Harry's daughter and her husband emigrated to Australia in the 1950. They had a quite distinctive surname and their son had Osborn as his third name. This was Harry's grandson but he died in 2010. Frank and I combined our resources and worked out that Harry also had a granddaughter and I found her contact details in the White Pages. Frank was soon talking to Harry's only direct descendant and the medal will be with her soon.
The second medal was a WWI medal awarded to Herbert Mills. From the electoral rolls I was able to work out his son's name and his line of work; he was in the Navy. Herbert's son disappeared from the records in 1990 but back tracking through the gazetting of awards I worked out that the person I was looking for retried from the RAN as a Petty Officer and he was also a Vietnam War veteran. This was enough information to work out his address in Queensland but when Frank contacted him, he passed on the details of his sister who still lives in NSW. Within an hour Herbert's daughter had bought Herbert's 97 year old wife in to the Police station to collect the medal.  
In three hours both these searches were resolved and I've made two great new contacts in Frank and Christopher.
The returned medal tally is now 2489. 

10 June 2020

Boer War and WWI group

This is another return that is years and many hours of research in the making. I received the Boer War and WWI medal group awarded to James Gordon Campbell from the WA RSL in 2010. I've had to revisit the search on multiple occasions as each time I've looked more information became available. I don't know the full story so I've made some educated guesses. It was complicated by James remaining in South Africa after the Boer War and record availability is low.
James was born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1878. I couldn't pin down when he went to South Africa but it must have been prior to 1901 as he was awarded the Queen's South Africa Medal and this ceased to be awarded once Queen Victoria died. James was a corporal in the Frontier Light Horse. His QSA and KSA are named to this unit. He also served in the British South Africa Police.
During WWI he served in the 5th Infantry and the South African Service Corps.
It took about three years to find all this information.
Progressively, through Ancestry, I've put together details of James' life. He son was Douglas Gordon Campbell and grandson was James George Gordon Campbell. By pure chance I found James' death certificate. He died in 1938 but more importantly I had a geographic location in South Africa where he lived and I used this for the next phase of the search.

James (2nd) had four children one who was Francis Robb Campbell. Francis married August (Jimmy) William Heger. It is this branch of the family who I've been in contact with. Jimmy is one of the gentlemen in the picture with all the motor cycles, exactly which is unknown.
Once I had a name and location I sent off a couple of speculative emails and found the right Heger family. For the last month or so I've been communicating with Steve Heger and will send him the medals in the near future.
How the medals got to Australia is a mystery.
Thank you to Steve for the great conversations and being the conduit in to the Heger family. Also thanks to the WA RSL.
The returned medal tally is now 2487.

09 June 2020

James Arthur Wilson

This has to one of the most complicated searches I've attempted. It wasn't one of the longest I've faced but the tragedy, movements and marriages that occurred across only two generations made for some complex research. In the end I had to call in some experts who were able to point me in the right direction.
The search for the family of 2696 Private James Arthur Wilson commenced in April 2020 when I received the British War Medal and Victory medal from the Liverpool Station of the NSW Police Force. James' AIF service record is surprisingly long at 139 pages. While it held many clues it also threw up more questions than there were answers.
James enlisted in 1915, aged 22, and allocated to 6th Battalion, AIF. He was also entitled to the 1914-15 Star but this medal was not in the package sent to me. His next of kin is listed as his mother Frances Louise Wilson, who sometimes in the records was called Louise Francis. His sister was Blanche Wilson born in 1902. James' service record is filled with letters from Francis and Blanche. This correspondence are requests for information about James after he was wounded on two occasions and also asking for money to be allotted from his pay as Frances was a widow. Even Blanche writes to the Army asking for information about James as she 'has been in a convent' and doesn't know where James is. Some of these letters are terribly sad as they were written after the Army had information about James and didn't pass it on. Other than confirming Frances' address in the electoral rolls and a very brief death notice from 1948, there was no other information about her. All I could find out about Blanche was a news paper article from 1912. The address given in the article was the address for Frances in the electoral roll.
In James' service record is the extract from his marriage certificate which is dated 10 September 1918 but the marriage occurred on 17 April 1918. This is for James marriage to Grace Baker in the UK while he was recovering from wounds. From the letter written by Frances and Blanche it doesn't appear that he told them of his marriage. In the extract it states that James' father is also named James Arthur Wilson, occupation grazier. I could find no other information about James the father. James and, I assume Grace, returned to Australia in May 1919. He took his discharge in WA. However, by 1920 they were back in Sydney and on 9 September 1920 James died in Prince of Wales Hospital, Randwick of Tuberculosis. This was as a result of his war service. Blanche was finely told about this in 1921. James' funeral notice didn't provide much help.

Through the 1920's Grace wrote to Defence on several occasions about James' medals. It appears that Defence thought James was still in the UK and his medals were dispatched to Australia House, London. Eventually, the medals, memorial plaque and memorial scroll were forwarded to Grace. These letters provided the evidence that I needed to follow Grace firstly to North Queensland where she lived in a pub and later on a station. It also showed that Grace remarried. This was in 1924 to William John Nairn. If the search wasn't confusing enough already this is another twist.
I found Grace and William's marriage in the NSW BDM. I also found them in the electoral rolls and details of William's death in 1930 which gave the names of his parents; Major and Catherine Nairn. This is his death notice.
I couldn't find a service record that aligned with William's details and being a member of 26th Battalion. But I did find some Ancestry trees that gave William's details as married to someone else and dying in 1954. Eventually I just left this line of inquiry alone.
In 1935 Grace wrote to Defence again and asked if James had been awarded a Distinguished Conduct Medal. She had been told by war time friends of James that he had received his award. This letter is on page 28 of the service record and is reveling as it the first mention of a son. As someone who drafts a lot of responses to letters that Army receives from the public, I was a little surprised at the abruptness of the reply that Grace received (page 27). We are far more polite and empathetic now.
The search for details of James and Graces' son defeated me. There was no mention of him in the electoral rolls and I wasn't even sure what surname he was using. The next clue I found was in Graces' death notice. A son wasn't mentioned but a granddaughter named Judy from Victoria was.
I tried all sorts of search variables. For example, I estimated that a son would have been born about 1918-19 making him in his early 20s when WWII started. Assuming he kept the name Wilson I couldn't narrow down a son of Grace Nairn or even Grace Wilson. By this stage I estimate I had expended in excess of 40 hours in research time and just couldn't progress the search. 
I then turned to a couple of genealogy groups including the Australian Surname Group. Within hours they had provided the last piece of the puzzle.
James and Grace's son was also named James Arthur Wilson. James joined the RAAF during WWII and was the aircrew of a Hudson aircraft that disappeared over Rabal on 19 January 1941. James was presumed dead but this wasn't confined until 1946. This is the report about the circumstances. This website gives the details of Hudson A16-145 in which James flew.
James was married to Margaret and their daughter, who was one when James died, is Judith Ann.
The Australian Surname Group also gave me information that Margaret remarried and Judith had a half brother. I couldn't work out exactly who Judy was without a married name but I was able to find her brother Frank. We spoke yesterday and Frank kindly provided me with Judy's phone number. I spoke to Judy today and we both were able to fill in gaps in the story. For example, Grace continued to use the name Wilson even though the records I accessed after 1924 listed her as Grace Nairn.
Thank you very much to Liz, Sylvia and Sue of the Australian Surname Group who were able to find those bits of information that eluded me.
The returned medal tally is now 2482.


04 June 2020

William Cousins

This return benefited from a combination of an uncommon surname and a regional town making narrowing down the family I was looking for relativity easy. 
This British War Medal was awarded to 2125 William Stanley Cousins. He is listed as being posted to 1st Battalion, AIF as well as 1st Australian Light Railway Operating Company. It would have been interesting to see the medal named to a railway unit. 
I received the medal the other day and it took a little while to work out that after WWI, William married but was divorced not long after. They didn't have any children. There weren't many public records available other than a few electoral roll entries. However, the search opened up once I found his funeral notice which I've added below. The key was the name of William's sister, Mrs R Leslight. This turned out to be Dorothy Leslight, nee Cousins. This information aligned with a letter from Dorothy to the Army in 1968 applying for the Anzac Medallion. The letter also stated that Dorothy was William's next of kin.William had died in 1948.
Dorothy lived in Murwillumbah and a quick check of her surname and this town in the White Pages led me to the correct family. As it turns out the family member I spoke to has, over the years, collected up other medals awarded to members of this family. Now William's BWM will be added to the collection.     
William's nickname was Nugget, I wonder why?
Thanks to Christopher W who sent me the medal.
The returned medal tally is now 2480.

31 May 2020

H E Miller

When I started this search I had to think hard about which soldier I was looking at. I only recently received the WWI Victory Medal awarded to 1073 Henry Ernest Miller. When I searched his name the first result I got was for a 2010 story from my own blog. This was not for the current search but for 3387 Henry Ernst Miller
Once I sorted out my own confusion I looked at some other resources and found 1073 Henry on an Ancestry family tree. My message to the tree owner was answered very promptly and she is 1073 Henry's daughter. The search took less than 20 minutes.
This medal was found on a road in Frankston, Victoria. As can be seen in the photos the medal was had a tough life. It looks like it has been run over a mower on several occasions.
Thanks to Emily S who sent the medal to me.
The returned medal tally is now 2479.
A portrait of Henry taken during WWI.