I've just updated the post about Mitchell Mills.
12 September 2021
05 September 2021
I recently received an Anniversary of National Service 1951-1972 Medal awarded to 3800688 Graham John Dyson. Graham was reasonably easy to track until 2017 when he sadly died. After that the trail went very cold.
I did find that Graham was a champion shot and member of the Australian Match Rifle Association. I found a obituary for Graham in the Association news letter (page 6). It was thanks to Philip B from this group who was able to connect me with Graham's family.
The returned medal tally is now 2655.
It is very uncommon to see the original packaging and documentation survive to accompany medals. I was very surprised to receive the box, outer wrapping, entitlement letter and General Service Badge letter with the WWII medals awarded QX36508 Reginald Arthur Murray.
Initially, Murray was a bit difficult to follow through the public records as on occasion his first two names are interchanged. Once I worked out his wife's name I used that as the primary search criteria. From that point it was relatively easy to follow the family and determine their son's name. I quickly found the son's details in the White Pages and the donor and I have been in contact with the family. I'll send the entire collection back to the family soon (NSW and ACT lockdown arrangements permitting).
Thank you to Albert for trusting me with these medals. The returned medal tally is now 2654.
24 August 2021
This is another occasion where the travels of a medal is a mystery.
This British War Medal was awarded to 2595 Hamlet Oscar Farlow. Hamlet was born in NSW and died there in 1949. However, his medal came to me from Jeff in Tasmania. How it travelled there is the mystery.
Other than the basic information about Hamlet and the usual administrative notes, is service record provided two interesting pieces of information. Firstly, he was court martialled for being AWOL and second, he was wounded in action. After discharge Hamlet returned to Sydney and listed in the electoral rolls as a labourer.
Hamlet did not have any children. However, he did come from a large family with many siblings and I have found a great nephew of Hamlet who I'll send the medal to in the near future.
Thanks to Jeff for trusting me with the medal and to Rick for the safe hand delivery.
The returned medal tally is now 2652.
21 August 2021
Each piece of research we do tends to throw up one interesting piece of information that makes that case not what Bill or I expect. During this research into 3350 John Harrison there were two bits of information that made this search than bit different.
The 1914-15 Star and British War Medal awarded to John were sent to me by Trevor Hogan from the Kalamunda RSL sub-branch. Trevor and his fellow RSL members were keen to see these medals returned to John's family. When the medals arrived the first surprise was apparent immediately.
It is not unknow for medals to have mistakes on them but actually seeing a mistake is not very common. The 1914-15 Star has the number 3330, however, the British War Medal has the number 3350. John's correct number is 3350. These differences can be seen in the pictures below.
The second surprise is who John named as his next of kin. I often see soldiers who nominate a friend as the NOK. The circumstances tend to be that the soldier was an immigrant and had no family locally or left in their country of origin. John nominated his friend Annie Taylor as his NOK. Annie's address was care of Richard Taylor of Baddera, WA. It took some hours of research to determine that Annie was the 13 year old daughter of Henry Richard Taylor.
At the time of his enlistment, John was 42 years of age. He was a single miner having emigrated from Lancashire, UK. I can only speculate that he named Annie as his NOK is case he was killed in action and she would receive any benefits. John survived the war, although he was wounded on several occasions while serving with 11th Battalion. He was discharged in late 1917 and returned to Baddera. That is the last public record I could find that confirms John's location. I think he died in 1929 having never married.
John was born in White Haven, UK in 1873. I found his birth record but there was no additional information about his parents or any siblings. I then focused on Annie as the NOK. Annie married into a family with a very distinctive surname and were from a regional area north of Perth. Using the electoral rolls I was able to determine the names of Annie's children. One son is named Winston. This first name, combined with the distinctive surname, made the last phase of the research easy. Within 10 minutes of working out Winston's name I was speaking to him on the phone. The whole story of John, and his connection with Annie, was very exciting for Winston and he planned to share it immediately with his older sisters. Winston was extremely grateful to the Kalamunda RSL for wanting to see these medals returned to John's NOK.
I am thankful for the trust that Trever and the Kalamunda RSL placed in me to research these medals. This search is quite unusual and with an outcome that I didn't expect.
The returned medal tally is now 2651.
14 August 2021
I often reflect on the randomness of how medals end up with me when their journey started on the other side of the world.
This WWI British War Medal was awarded to 1918 Private J W Clarke, West Yorkshire Regiment. Based on the unit I knew he was a British soldier. However, it took a while to narrow down this soldier's full name. Using the regimental number of 1918 didn't result in any search success. I do know that as the size of the British Army grew as the war progressed, units changed their numbering systems to allow for the addition of battalions to regimental organisations, death rates and movement of individuals. It is not uncommon to see a soldier with several regimental numbers.
The primary source to check these regimental numbers and medal entitlement are the British Army medal cards which are held in the British National Archives. These cards are accessed via the NA website on a pay per access basis or through a third party like Ancestry. The search parameters I had to work with was this soldier's initials and surname. It turned out that there were several dozen soldiers with the name J W Clarke so I went through every card individually. These cards were all filled out by hand but I eventually found the correct card with the number 1918 written on it. This card also noted another regimental number which was 240361. From there I was able to determine that J W Clarke was killed in action on 1 March 1918. However, I still didn't know what the initials J W stood for.
It took a bit of reverse engineering research that started with the date of death that finally led me to work out that J W stood for John Willie. That was the clue that led me from Bradford, Yorkshire to Port Lincoln, South Australia. John and his wife Lena had a son in 1916. This was Herbert Clarke. I followed Herbert through immigration, electoral and death records. When Herbert moved to South Australia he obviously had his father's medals with him. That answered the question of how the medal travelled from Bradford to Port Lincoln. The final pieces of information about Herbert came from his headstone.
This led me back to Ancestry and I found Herbert on a tree owned by Deidre S. I fired off messages and emails and yesterday Deidre called to confirm all this research. How the medal left the Clarke family and ended up with Johny who sent me the medal renmains a mystery.
The returned medal tally is now 2649.
25 July 2021
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
Several medals were passed on down to Mitchell’s son (Mitchell Junior). MK Mills jnr lived in Aus from the 70’s and visited his mum Nancy in North of England in the mid 90’s. This is how it ended up in Aus when he took it back home after his six month visit. Unfortunately MK Mills jnr passed away in the mid 2000’s and where the medals went after that we don’t know.
This medal should stay in our family for generations as it will be passed down to myself and then my son as we all share the Kinnaird name.
Many thanks Glyn in returning these medals home to loved ones, you do a great job.
Thanks also to Tony in the UK for helping out and to Joy & Allan H for passing the medal over.
27 June 2021
Peta has sent me some great family photos and kindly given me permission to share.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.
16 June 2021
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
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
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
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.
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
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.