24 October 2019

Bruce Taylor DCM

The research for this return really wasn't that difficult, what sets this story apart from many others is the story of the soldier, the source the medals came from and who I returned them to this morning.
Just over a week ago I received an email from Elaine one of the co-founders of Canberra's Green Shed. I've established a fantastic relationship with Elaine over the years and returned several medals that have come to her via the Green Shed and that were then passed to me.
What Elaine recently gave me was a collection of WWI badges and trio of medals. What intrigued me immediately was a ribbon for a Distinguished Conduct Medal. Knowing that this medal has only been awarded to just of 2000 Australians between 1899 and 1972 I was keen to start the research. What concerned me a bit was the actual medal wasn't with collection that Elaine gave me.
It didn't take long to work out I was researching 528 Robert Bruce Taylor DCM, 21st Battalion AIF.  
Known as Bruce, he was 19 when he enlisted. However, he must have been a talented soldier as was he was promoted to Company Sergeant Major by the time he was 21. I found multiple stories about Bruce in the newspaper archives. Some of these I've added below. From these stories I learnt that Bruce was aboard the troop ship Southland which was the first troop ship carrying Australians that was torpedoed and sunk.
Bruce served at Gallipoli and then on the Western Front where he was wounded. I later was told that his wound leg bone was set wrong and this leg was shorter than the other so he walked with a limp for the rest of his life.
Bruce was easy to follow through the electoral rolls. As was his son Grahame who served in the Royal Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers during the 1950. I was surprised to see that Grahame and his family lived in Canberra which would hoped would make my search for the current easy. The last electoral roll available on line which is from 1980, gave me the name of one of Grahame's sons - Gordon.
It took me a bit of time to work out that Gordon is in fact ABC journalist Gordon Taylor. Then came the hardest part - trying to get in touch with Gordon. I had to relay on some old fashioned technology; I picked up the landline phone, called the ABC switch and left a message.
When I spoke to Gordon we took a bit of time trying to work out how the medals came to be lost and why the DCM wasn't with what I was holding on to. Gordon did a check and soon found that he had the DCM which was great news.
This morning Gordon came to my work and I was able to return all his grandfather's items to him. He also bought along the DCM and I've added a picture of the complete group awarded to Bruce Taylor.
There are quite a few photos and newspaper articles that go along with this story but I felt is worth including them all.
Thanks go to Elaine and the Green Shed for trusting me to look for the Taylor family.
The returned medal tally is now 2416.

First is a picture of Bruce Taylor wearing his DCM


 




15 October 2019

Assistance to WA Police

This week’s Police assistance story is about an Operational Service Medal that was recovered in Mandurah WA. Katie from the local station contacted me with a service number, surname and initials. These details were from about 2000 as the service number was from the previous Australian Army sequence but it did have ‘F’ at the start which indicates the recipient is female.
Luckily I stumbled across the name combination in an ABN business report so I could narrow down a geographic location which is within 10 km from the Police station but it turned out the retired soldier
just disappeared from the records until I realised she was probably now married. That turned out to be exactly what happened and the company name from the ABN report provided the link to the correct name.
From there is was a case of providing the Property Officer the correct name and within 30 minutes it was confirmed I had the right person and she will pick up her medal tomorrow.
The returned medal tally is now 2412.

08 October 2019

Lone Pine KIA

So often we are unable to tell the full story of the life of a medal. There are just to many gaps from when the medal is lost until it is found and then sent on to either Bill or me. However, I think this time I can account of the full life of the Victory Medal awarded to 519 Private Bernard Joseph Bruton 3rd Battalion AIF.
Bernard was 19 when he enlisted in August 1914: an original member of 3rd Battalion. After training in Egypt, 3rd Battalion took part in the Gallipoli landings on 25 April 1915. I can only assume that Bernard went ashore that day as well.
The 3rd Battalion participated in the Battle of Lone Pine from 6 to 10 August 1915 and during this battle he was killed in action. However, he was initially announced as missing sometime between 7 to 12 August. Bernard was finally determined to have died by a Court of Inquiry that was held in the field in France on 5 June 1916. The evidence provided to the Court by a witness states that his body was seen on 6 August and that he was buried on 8 August at Brown's dip.
Now to the life of the Victory Medal. It was signed for by Bernard's father on 8 August 1922 and remained with the family. Lets skip forward to March 2019 when I received the medal from Joe D. Joe told me:

'Whilst putting my lawn in our newly acquired home over 40 years ago, I turned over an area of soil containing the remains of burned rubbish, as I shovelled it into a barrow I struck a piece of metal which turned out to be a WW1 Victory medal which I placed into a draw with bits and pieces that may one day come in handy. Recently whilst cleaning out the garden shed I came across the medal. This was at Newly Pl, Quakers Hill.'

I has taken me quite some time to work out the Bruton family tree and locate a relative of Bernard's but today I was in contact with Michael, Bernard's nephew. Michael asked me where the medal was found and I provided him what Joe told me. This all made sense to Michael who told me that 70 years ago the Bruton family lived on acreage that, after it was sub-divided, Newry Pl would have been in the middle of. The full life of Bernard's medal was now accounted for, although when it was on the ground, in what would become Joe's garden, it lived a hard life. As can be seen in the pictures the medal has lost it's ring and the edge is quite damaged.
The returned medal tally is now 2411.




07 October 2019

William Gorey

It would be really interesting to know the journey that this medal has been on since it was awarded in 1902. A bit more about that later.
This Queen's South Africa Medal was awarded to 174 Corporal William Gorey who served in the 2nd Battalion, New South Wales Mounted Rifles. The medal has 5 clasps including Cape Colony, Orange Free State, Transvaal, South Africa 1901 and South Africa 1902. William returned from South Africa with the rank of Sergeant. Along with the medal came two documents; a discharge certificate and performance report.
William was born in 1880 making him 35 years old when he enlisted for WWI in October 1915. However, within days William's wife Louisa had written to the Army objecting to his enlistment based on her not being able to survive and care for their children based on the allotment he provided for her. It looks like by early November 1915 he was discharged.
William was pretty easy to follow through the electoral rolls. I could work out his wife's name and that of their daughter, Alma Agnes who married Charles Stephen Leaver. From there things became a bit difficult. I followed one child of Alma and Charles but I've not been able to find the current generation's contact details. For the last 10 months I have hit one brick wall after another.
I revisited this search today and based only on the geographic location I suspected another child of Alma and Charles might have lived I cold called a number. To my surprise I ended up talking to the wife of William's grand son. I'll send this medal to back to the family shortly.
My part in the journey of this medal commenced in October 2018 when I received an email from the Chief of Navy who had the medal and asked me to search for the family. This search did take a bit longer than I thought but in the life of a medal that was awarded in 1902, the 10 months it took me to find the family is a relatively short period.
The returned medal tally is now 2410.  

 




  

04 October 2019

ADM from WA

Today it was my turn to assist the WA Police. The Armadale station had received an Australian Defence Medal awarded to a serving Army Reserve soldier. The Property Officer was referred to me by Peter J, a retired Police Officer of many years service.
It did take a bit of lateral thinking to work out who this soldier was but after an hour or so I had the contact details. I called this morning and was soon talking to Kelly R. She was very surprised when I told her the reason I was contacting her and then immediately asked if her 'other medal' was also recovered. Unfortunately not, but I've provided Kelly the details for how to apply for an official replacement.
Thanks to Peter J for connecting me with Julie.
The returned medal tally is now 2409.

03 October 2019

Tom's 5 WWII medals

Bill's latest assistance to the Victorian Police, which once again comes with a caveat that we can't provide much in the way of personal detail of the this WW2 veteran.


Tom was a teenager typical of his time. 23 days after his 19th Birthday he talked his father into letting him enlist. This was in late 1942 and the great adventure that was WWII began for Tom. Recorded issues for Tom included parcels sent to his unit for Christmas 1943 that were finally off loaded in March 1944 due to the need to keep diverting ships. There is no recorded history of what his unit thought of that. Nor of the several thousand shirts and trousers they off loaded only to be later told they were all too small.
Tom finally came home in November 1946 as a result of having low discharge points. This was a system which ensured that those who had served in a theatre of war the longest were demobilised first. The time between Japan’s surrender and his return was spent guarding Japanese POWs. Who, it is recorded, seemed to be able to get home quicker than the victors.
His medals are a story in themselves.
Found in a roof of a house undergoing extensive renovations. They were passed to the Victorian Police. How long the medals had been in the roof (a common hiding place once upon a time, when houses had manholes) I cannot say, Tom’s son in law cannot remember having seen the medals for almost longer than he can remember.
It has taken nearly 5 years to return Tom’s medals to his family. Electoral rolls, always a good research resource, went haywire at the time of the sale, coinciding as it did with the death of Tom and his wife. I even went to the point of having the Police visit the premises where I believed their daughter and son in law were living. While they did leave a message to be contacted they never were. The search was not helped by Tom’s daughter and her husband living well and truly on the outskirts of a small Victorian town. But as Glyn will always say when asked what does he do when he hits a brick wall “You try something different”. I followed this principal. It just took a lot of phone calls and a bit of detective work to get a result. You all need to get your haircut sooner or later, don’t you? There was no men’s hairdresser in town, not enough business. But there was a ladies hair salon. Which doubled for both men and women. It was here that I finally tracked down Tom’s son in law. Where he would, every six weeks or so drop by, from where he was now living with his daughter, Tom’s granddaughter, following the death of his wife.
Tom’s medals are now in trust with a grand daughter who will pass them to the next generation, when she thinks, as she said, they are old enough to understand what they mean.

The returned medal tally is now 2408.

28 September 2019

Eric's medals

Another of Bill's successes.
This is a story from long ago which I've just wrote. It was not the easiest story to write, this is the first time I have sat down to try and fully record it. Pseudonyms have been used throughout, firstly to protect 'Eric', secondly others who were involved at different levels.    
Eric was a POW of the Japanese and, who sadly, had been separated from his family for many years. When he died in 2002, he left his medals to a mate. Sadly, the mate who has since also passed, was burgled in 2004 and the medals stolen.
Where they went next I do not know, until in 2011 they ended up in the possession of the Victoria Police. In 2012, a newly graduated Constable who had been told to clean up the "Lost Property Room mess” passed them to me.
And so the search began.
In 2014, I found one of Eric's sons who admitted that he and his brother, had been estranged from their father for many years, and they did not know whether they really wanted their father’s medals. However, Eric's grandson who was present said that he would like the medals, the medals of a grandfather he never met. And so Eric’s medals have gone to a grandchild who for all his sacrifices he never met. A grandchild with whom I spoke at great length, and whom I hope left with a better understanding of what his grandfather had endured, firstly as a soldier and secondly as a POW.

The returned medal tally is now 2403.

18 September 2019

Henry Appleby's lost medal group

Fantastic research by Bill.

The search for VX110755 Private Henry Appleby has been truly a search for a man who never was.
It started with a phone call from David Keall, the former President of the Victorian TPI, he had been given a set of medals to see if he could find the ‘owner’.
He had tried but hit brick walls, which we know all about. After a quiet Saturday together looking at what he had and what I could find on line, we both came to the conclusion that Henry was the ‘man who never was’. This was later confirmed when it was discovered that he does not appear on the WW2 Nominal Roll. The Service numbers prior to and after Henry appear but not Henry's.
From War Graves I got his date of death; 31st May 1988, which confirmed that he did exist, only he was missing from the list, why? That is being looked at.
Then it was back to the search roundabout. From the State Library I obtained his funeral details, where he was buried and his wife’s name.
Based on the time since Henry died, I took the well-worn path of looking at other people named Appleby buried in the same cemetery. Then it was to the on-line newspapers looking for what may have been written firstly about Henry and secondly all other Applebys appearing on line.
It was the entry for his wife, Maisie that referred to Henry and their children which finally took me to the Funeral Directors who had conducted her funeral.
Then it was a wait of less than an hour and Henry and Maisie’s daughter Lisa rung me.
From our conversation a gem stood out. Henry medals were stolen in 1983.
So where had the medals been? From the condition of the ribbons and the medals, they appear to have had a hard life. As for the medal’s future, Lisa has already put in train plans to have the medals cleaned and re-ribboned. They will ultimately be passed to Henry’s grandson.
In the future I hope to be able to provide a photo of the refurbished medals. And as for the Nominal Roll well, that is now being corrected.

The returned medal tally is now 2399.


14 September 2019

Helping the police

It is becoming more often that we get requests from the state or territory police forces to find the family of medals that they have recovered following a crime. Usually the circumstance are such that, because of an ongoing investigation, we can't reveal the name of the serviceman.
Just this week I had two such requests, one from Western Australia, the other from Queensland. Using the details provided by the police, I have been able to provide the names of the current generation of both of the families concerned. The police have now used their own resources to make the final contact and arrange for the medals to be returned.
Even though there is no story to tell about the serviceman or the research need to locate there relatives, the story really is about helping out the police, which has been a real pleasure.
The returned medal tally is now 2395.

10 September 2019

Three medals, two wars, one family

Initially this search confused me as I couldn't link the WWI medals awarded to 1417 Hugh Montgomery and VX145510 Leonard Leslie Smith after I received them from the Shrine of Remembrance.
I originally thought this was two separate searches and started by looking at Hugh and determining his wife's and daughter's name. Then I moved on to searching for Leonard's (Len) family. I found his headstone which gave his wife's name and something rung a bell. Hugh's daughter was Marjorie Mabel Montgomery and Leonard's wife was Marjorie Mabel Smith. A bit of deeper checking of the public records provided proof that this was the same person I so what had was medals to members of the same family.
That was probably the easiest part of this search. It then took more than two years to track down Len and Mabel's daughter's. Despite having the names of the next two generation of this family it proved difficult to make that final link. Thanks to a helpful relative on Ancestry I have just heard from one of Hugh's grand daughters and will soon be sending these medals home.
The returned medal tally is now 2388.





29 August 2019

John Harper

There really isn't much detail behind the WWI trio awarded to 2933 LCPL John Bartholomew Harper.
Before enlisting John was a Motor Transport Driver with the Sydney Harbour Trust. It was in this capacity he served in a supply company and then 5th Field Ambulance.
Tracking John after the war proved a bit difficult as he was often referred to by the hyphenated surname of Holder-Harper. Alternating between the two surnames did confuse the the search.
What I did find was that John married Mary Ellen O'Donnell in 1922, he died in 1969 and Mary in 1983. From Mary's death notice it was clear they had no children.
The search for descendants of John's siblings proved unsuccessful so I looked at Mary's family. Recently I was in contact with a lady who I thought might be Mary's great niece. This relationship was confirmed today so I'll be sending John's to Julie in the near future.
Thanks to Peter D who sent me the medals.
The returned medal tally is now 2385.


27 August 2019

Malcolm Wren Thatcher

This is the second return I've done after being given two lots of medals by my colleague Ben W. This link is to the first story which was relatively easy by comparison to the General Service Medal awarded to 1/3893 M W Thatcher.  
I went down several paths on the search and it took close to three weeks to come to a conclusion. The first path I followed was looking at the name Michael William Thatcher but the ages just didn't line up with someone who would have served in the Australian Army to be awarded a GSM with clasp Malaya. Thanks to Wayne W, a fellow researcher, who provided me with two gems; the correct name - Malcolm Wren Thatcher and date of birth - 19 February 1939.
The name Malcolm Wren Thatcher only appears in a limited number of public records, these are electoral rolls which end, on Ancestry, in 1980. These rolls showed that Malcolm worked as a station hand on several properties in southern NSW. I just couldn't find any information after this so I wondered if Malcolm had died.
Working on the other piece of information I had, Malcolm's date of birth, I searched the exact date in the newspapers on Trove. To my surprise I found a son born to Mr and Mrs D Thatcher on 19 Feb 39 in Queensland. I hen went down the path of tracing this family. I didn't have the exact name of this son but managed to find a relative of another sibling whose name I did work out. This relative had quite a distinctive name combination and I found him online. My message to him was soon answered but it was the wrong Thatcher family. Who would have thought that two boys with the surname of Thatcher would have been born of the same date?
I had to start over again but I just couldn't find any clues. I then turned to the Australian Genealogy Face Book group and posed the problem online. Karin M then provided the clue that finally sent me on the right path. Karin found a 1930 newspaper marriage notice for Milton Mervyn Thatcher and Mona Duval Wren. Milton and Mona lived in Tumut NSW which all made sense with Malcolm's address through the 1960s.
The next clue I found was Mona's headstone, which is pictured below. Mona died in child birth in 1941 leaving Milton with five young sons. This new information just led to more problems in the search.
Milton is mentioned quite a lot in the local Tumut newspaper, particularly in the 1920s and 30s. By all accounts he was a great singer and won several local talent contests. Milton was known as 'Winkie'. In 1946, Winkie married another Tumut local, Margaret Jean Roddy. He died in 1988 but his death notice in the Tumut and Adelong Times wasn't on line.
From Mona's headstone I got the names of Malcolm's brother's so I checked back the Tumut electoral rolls and worked out the full names. One was Peter Edward Thatcher who died in 2016. Similarly, Peter's death notice was available to view but the local church news letter noted his burial. I sent a email to the parish office and this morning I received a reply which pointed me towards Peter's family. Shortly after this I was talking to Liz who provided my Malcolm's phone number. He is still alive and living in Albury, NSW. I've now spoken to Malcolm who can't recall how he lost this medal but was quite emotional o hear that it would returned to him.
This was a difficult search but I was really assisted by Wayne, Karin and Ralda. Thanks to Ben and his dad for trusting me with this search.
The returned medal tally is now 2382.



20 August 2019

Ray Thompson

In the past I've done a return for Daryl B which must have been satisfactory to him as Daryl called me recently about another set of medals that had come his way. I collected the WWI British War Medal and Victory Medal awarded to 388 Charles Raymond Thompson yesterday and have now been in touch with Ray's great nephew.
Ray was a member of the 22nd Machine Gun Company having enlisted aged 25 in 1916. By March 1917, Ray had spent time in England to do further training then proceeded to France with his unit. On 14 September 1917, Ray was killed in action. His body was never recovered so he has no know grave. Ray is commemorated at Menin Gate.
Ray was the son of Charles Gordon Thompson who was the first school teacher at Cobram, Victoria. Charles was very well regarded in the community so on his untimely death in 1909 the published obituary gave me lots of clues about the Ray's siblings. I was then able to follow the family through to the 1980s but ran out of clues from the electoral rolls. Although, I did have one distinctive name to work with. This name led me to a company in Melbourne so I sent off a speculative email. Very shortly after this I received a reply from Geoff, Ray's great nephew. As it turns out Geoff had recently retired from this company but the thoughtful staff member passed him my email.
Ray's service record makes interesting reading. There are several letters from Ray's mother to Army seeking information about the possibility of Ray's remains being located. The replies must have been heartbreaking for Ray's mother.
Quite a bit of luck went my way with this search. This included prompt replies to Ancestry messages that I sent, which don't always occur, quite distinctive middle names across several generations and a Geoff's thoughtful colleague. The best outcome is that Ray's medals will soon be returned to his family.
The returned medal tally is now 2381.


    

07 August 2019

Michael Feeney

This is a great story that covers three generations of Australian servicemen.
It starts with 380 Michael Joseph Feeney a 22 year old Irishman who enlisted in 1916 having emigrated to Australia in 1912. Michael served in the 4th Division Motor Transport Company, Australian Army Service Corps.
Following WWI, Michael settled in Rockhampton. He enlisted again, at the age of 48, in the Army, this time during WWII and served in the Volunteer Defence Corps. Older men were used for home service in WWII so that younger men could be released to fight overseas and Michael did his part. For his WWII service, Michael was awarded two medals. 
These medals were purchased at a garage sale in Townsville 25 years ago by Jayson who mentioned them to Army PR soldier SGT Dave Morley. Dave passed he medals to me this morning and it didn't take long to find the second generation serviceman.
In the electoral rolls I found Michael, his wife and their son. This was Brian Michael Feeney. As I followed Brian it soon became apparent he was in the RAAF and in the late 1970s was living in Canberra. The 1977 roll gave me Brian's son's full name, which is quite distinctive. This is Chris, and the 1980 electoral roll listed his address as 6 RAR, Gallipoli Barracks. Here is the third generation. On a hunch I had a look on the Defence internal phone directory and sure enough I found Chris who is still serving in the Australian Army. 20 minutes after receiving Michael's medals from Dave I was talking to Michael's grandson. Chris tells me that he has never seen the WWII medals and has no idea how they came to be at a garage sale. Chris has been looking for Michael's WWI pair of medals for many years but there whereabouts remain a mystery.
Thanks to Jayson for wanting to see the medals returned to the family and to Dave for connecting me with Jayson.
The returned medal tally is now 2379.

30 July 2019

JWR Hatton

This search commenced last week when my colleague, Ben W bought in a bag of medals. The story he tells me is that his father is a second hand dealer and over the years he had purchased items that have included medals. All up there were six medals in the bag. There is a single medal that is still being researched and a WWII group of five awarded to NX71777 John William Robert Hatton.
It didn't take long to find John on an Ancestry family tree so I fired of a message to the tree owner.
Today, Ben and I were rewarded with a response from Kerry, the tree owner. Kerry tells us:

You probably realise that John William Robert Hatton [was] my Great Uncle. He was like most of my ancestors and did not marry.
He was my Grandmothers brother and I remember a photo of him and my father telling me that he never married.
I have [another] great uncles watch that was given to him from his employer when he went off to WW1. [With the medals] I will have two items that belong to my Great Uncles.

I'll soon send off John's medals to Kerry  and many thanks to Ben and his father for wanting to see these medals returned.

The returned medal tally is now 2377.