27 February 2010

When is something lost?

We often have to unravel some very difficult family connections. This one is probably the most difficult. Bill did all the work so I'll let his words tell the story:

'When is something lost? Obviously when you can't find it. But what if the situation is reversed, you found it, but don't know who lost it? And that in a way has been the story of the search for the NOK of 3541 Private Joseph ROBSON.
On his death in August 2008, William George FORBES's daughter was given the task of cleaning out William's 'back room'. Among many items of interest, she found the First World War medals of a Joseph ROBSON. After quite some effort she came to the conclusion that Joseph ROBSON was not a member of the family, so who was he and how did her father get the medals?
It was at this point after a subsequent follow up through the RSL that the problem of Joseph ROBSON landed on my table, or should I say alongside my computer, with the cryptic comments that the daughter "can't find him and neither can we" (the RSL). It's nice to be wanted but when you are often the court of last resort, I'm not sure. Who was Joseph ROBSON, what was his background? So it was YUKKI's turn, and as it is sometime said 'a rum old do it turned out to be', while there were ROBSONs, and in fact quite a few, Joseph and his details from his service papers never quite seemed to gel, there was always something odd about the dates, in particular the disparity in the ages. Then came a different tack, could Joseph have a brother, what if we tried using his mother's name as a search item?
So it was back to Joseph's file and a search using his mothers name, well the name he had given as his mother's was URBIN. Now on his enlistment Joseph gave his mother's name as ROBSON. Later it was changed to URBIN. Using URBIN as a search item brought up the file of Joseph LETHLEAN and a further search of Joseph LETHLEAN brought up a second file also in the name of Joseph LETHLEAN. It was not until some time that the three files finaly interlocked as follows:
1. Joseph LETHLEAN first enlisted in the AIF on the 7/12/1914, using his mother (Agnes URBIN) as his nect of kin, after some time he was discharged medically unfit.
2. He then waited 14 months when he again enlisted, only this time he used the name of a friend, a Mrs ANDERSON, as his NOK. But to no avail for on the 15 August 1916, Joseph was again discharged as medically unfit.
3. On the 24 April 1917, he again attempted to enlist, only this time using the surname ROBSON, his mother's maiden name, with URBIN as his NOK. This time he succeeded, and the 11 May 1917, found him departing for France, where the losses coupled with the failure of conscription at home in Australia, had left the AIF so dangerously short of recruits, that many things for which a person had been rejected earlier, were now overlooked.
The war would not be easy for Joseph, first gassed on the 12 August 1918, and evacuated to hospital, he would again suffer a second gassing 6 weeks later. With the complications of being gassed twice, for Joseph the war was over. Discharged on the 31st March 1919, Joseph ROBSON other than appearing to claim his medals and request a replacement of his discharge papers 'disappeared'.
So now it was a case of following the only certain lead that of the family tree of Joseph LETHLEAN, who died at the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital in 1951, aged 66. It was from this research that the following story comes.
After his discharge Joseph LETHLEAN is said to have introduce his youngest sister Priscilla to Robert MCDONALD, who later married and established a boarding house in North Melbourne. One of their first boarders was Joesph LETHLEAN, having now discarded the name ROBSON. It was their daughter Flora Irene MCDONALD whose marriage to William FORBES in 1939 that took this story almost to its final conclusion. William's death in 2008 brought to light Joseph ROBSON/LETHLEAN's medals.
Now try sitting down and explaining all that to a young lady who having discovered medals among her father's collectibles has spent nearly two years trying to give them away, only to be told she doesn't have to, they belonged to her family in the first place and have for over 80 years.
There is also another saying I must remember 'pride goeth before a fall', particularly when last November I thought I had finally worked it all out, only to find that the niece I first 'discovered' and persisted in following through to her discovery, was not a niece, in fact she was not even related to the family.
So there ends the story of Joseph ROBSON a man who while not falling into the category of 'never was', certainly led an adventurous life for all that he had.'
Here is a picture of Robson and his medals.

1 comment:

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