31 January 2008

A local return

On 28 Jan 08 I was contacted by one of the police stations here in Townsville. A WWII group of 6 medals had been handed in after being picked up from the gutter. The police contacted me as they had no record of the medals having been reported stolen. As it turned out the police station is the one that supports my area and the medals were found in the same suburb as I live in.
I picked up the medals yesterday and arranged to do a piece to air on the local ABC radio station. Within two hours of the program, I was contacted by a lady who gave me a lead to the family. This lead put me in touch with the niece of the soldier whose medals I had. She had been burgled recently and didn't realise until last night that the medals were missing. Indeed she was so involved in filling out the insurance claim this morning she missed the radio program I was on. We now think that the thieves emptied one of Jean's drawers on to her bed, scooped up the contents and left. Later the thieves discarded the medals not thinking they were of any value.
The end result was that Jean collected the medals from my place this afternoon. I met very few people I return medals to so this was quite special. The local paper sent around a photographer to capture the story.
The medals were awarded to QX2156 Herbert Walter Walker who was KIA at Milne Bay on 31 Aug 42. Jean bought with her a locket which contained a picture of Herbert. The photo below shows Herbert's medals and his picture. A very emotional moment for me.

Herbert Walker's
medals and a photo
of him.

30 January 2008

Return of a more recent medal

Most of the medals I research and return were awarded for service during WWI. This is due to the volume that were awarded and the time since the end of WWI which increases the opportunity for the medals to become lost. I have also discovered that many medals were disposed of during The Depression for their scrap value.
The next largest group of medals I come across were awarded for service during WWII. A few medals from other conflicts also come my way. The oldest I've returned was a Queens South Africa Medal for service in the Boer War, the newest was an Australian Active Service Medal for service in East Timor.
I have also returned several medals awarded for the Vietnam War. In the last couple of days we, mainly through Bill's efforts, have located a Vietnam War veteran whose South Vietnam medal I've had for a few years. The medal has had a hard life since it was lost and I had to remove a fair bit of gunge off the reverse just to see the details. The ribbon is also very soiled. The good news is that the medal will soon be sent back to the veteran. I thought that you might be interested in seeing some pictures of this medal.

23 January 2008

Unusual requests

Most of my time is focused on medals however, every now and then I get unusual requests. I've been asked to return dog tags, fobs and watches. While I list them in various publications I don't put in as much effort into the research as I would medals. That being said I've been pretty successful getting dog tags back to current serving soldiers or veterans.
One of the most unusual requests I've had was to return a sword to a WWII veteran. The sword was easily identifiable to this particular officer so I took on the challenge. I usually insist on the medals being sent to me, and I'll explain why later, but in this case I thought it best that the sword stay with the person who had current ownership until I found the family.
I can now happily report that we have located the niece of the officer and I've arranged for the two parties to contact each other and the sword be returned. Bill did the majority of the work for this one and he is to congratulated on his efforts. Below is a picture of the sword once owned by MAJ William Tresidder.

The reason that I insist that the medals be sent to me is that I've had a couple of unfortunate incidents recently. Having been contacted by people with medals they wanted me to do the research for them but not been prepared to let me care for them. In some cases the research has taken some time and when I go to let the people with the medals know I've located the family, they have moved with out letting me know. I then have another search to find the people with the medals. This leaves the family upset and confused.
In one case I even had the person with the medal change their mind. They didn't want to return the medals to the family despite requesting me too find them and after I had gone to some trouble to find the family. I hope this is not to much to expect.

16 January 2008

Unusual units or low numbers

When I first started on this research I didn't appreciate keeping photographic records. I really only need one or two photos of the obverse and the reverse of a medal however, the uniqueness for each medal comes from the serviceman details impressed on the reverse or rim. So I'm now photographing the rim of each medal in my care.
While I initially used the Internet for research that was mostly through access to records. More and more I now use research forums to find out about individuals and try to find where they, or their families are now. Having photos gives me some thing to share online.
I'm a little annoyed I didn't photograph rims from the start as there have been some significant medals I've returned. For example the MM and Bar to L/SGT Athol Croskell, the MM to PTE James Cathels or the WWII group awarded to PTE Ray Westendorf who was aboard the Hospital Ship "Centaur" which was sunk off the Queensland coast.
What I find interesting is medals from unusual units or low regimental numbers which indicates that the soldier joined early. The Barrington-Kersland and Leslie medals which are shown below are to a couple of interesting units. Here are some photos of some of the other medals that I find interesting.
23 SGT Alfred Button
2 Mobile Vet Section

493 PTE Ernest Horne

CPL Roman Ilupmaggi
2 LH Bde, 2 Sig Tp
(Note the difference in the naming style on the BWM and Victory Medal. This group is in mint condition having never been worn)

129 PTE Leslie McKeown
7th Bn AIF
Charles Taylor
PTE Selly Thaiday
Torres Strait
Light Infantry

15 January 2008

Boxer Rebellion Medal

One of the medals I'm finding the most difficult to research was awarded to 215 Able Seaman E. O'Connell. O'Connell served in the NSW Naval Contingent that deploted to China in 1900. The conflict is commonly known as the Boxer Rebellion.
All I know about O'Connell is his number and that he was from Newtown in Sydney. This is one search I would really like to finalise. O'Connell's entry in the AWM website can be seen here.
These photos are of O'Connell's China 1900 medal.

O'Connell is 3rd from the left, 3rd row from the front.

O'Connell's listing in Neil Smith's 'Carving up the Melon'.

11 January 2008

Some different medal photos

Here are some pictures of medals or units that have come my way.

An Imperial Service Medal
awarded to
Mrs Evelyn Bessie Spradbery

BWM awarded to
PTE James Barrington-Kersland Camel Corps

BWM awarded to SGT Arthur Leslie
Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force

Update - 11 Jan 08

Thank you for the feed back I have received so far. I really appreciate the frank comments. As a result I have made some changes. I was not happy with the photo layouts so made a couple of amendments. I hope now that it is easier to identify the different medals I have posted pictures of. There is still a couple of spacing issues but I haven't mastered html yet. Hopefully, this will improve as I get used to the site layout.

As an experiment I have inserted a slide show with a heap of other photos I have. I hope you like this and I'll use it for all the obscure photos I have.
I have also put up a photo of a real Pacific Star so that a comparison can be made with the fake example I've posted.

In the last few days we have managed to locate four more families and return the relatives medals. The main website, Lost Medals Australia, will be updated with the latest returned total in the near future.

09 January 2008

Fake medals

Unfortunately, there are many fake medals on the open market. There are many reason for them to be there including people trying to benefit from selling them to make a profit or other scams. Here are some pictures of a fake Pacific Star that has come my way.

Here is a close up of a real Pacific Star for comparision.

08 January 2008

Duplicate, Replacement and Replica or Copy Medals

One of the most common questions I am asked is how to obtain replacement medals.
The first thing to understand is the terminology that is being used. Duplicate medals are those which are officially provided by the Government when originals have been lost. These are also know as Replacement medals. The duplicate/replacement medal is named like the original but there is a 'D' stamped on the medal to indicate that it is an official duplicate. Some times an 'R' may be stamped on the medal. I've added a couple of  photos below as an example.
In most circumstances only the serviceman can apply for official duplicate medals. Once the serviceman has died it is usually the policy that medals will not be replaced. However, there is some flexibility being applied at the moment after many medals were lost in recent natural disasters in Australia. The policy and the application process for replacement of lost medals can be found on the Defence Honours and Awards web site.

That being said, there are replica (or reproduction or copy) medals available for purchase. I don't endorse any particular company but examples of replica medals can be seen here. Replica medals should be marked somewhere with the word 'replica' or 'copy'. There are some photos below to illustrate what I mean.
When medals have been lost for a couple of generations and it is unlikely that the originals will ever be found the acquisition of replica medals for display purposes is popular.
These photos are of replicas of the Australian Defence Medal and the Australian Active Service Medal. The photos were updated on 17 Jul 11 with the REPLICA mark highlighted.

This is a photo of a medals marked COPY. They have also been engraved with the soldiers service details.

WWII Medals

The following pictures are examples of medals that were awarded to Australians for service during WWII. There were considerably more than awarded for WWI. Other decorations for bravery and gallantry were awarded but I'll cover them in later posts.
The 1939-45 Star, showing the
impressing of the soldier's
number and name.

The Africa Star with 8th Army clasp (left)
The Air Crew Europe Star (right)

The Atlantic Star (left)
The Burma Star

The France and Germany Star (left)
The Italy Star (right)

The Defence Medal

The War Medal

The Australian Service Medal 1939-45

Naming on an Australian Service Medal

A WWII group

All medals awarded to Australians were impressed with the number and name of the soldier. The impression is on the reverse (back) of the Stars and the rim of the other medals.