31 May 2012

WWII medals - George Douglas Williams

Behind the scenes there is usually a considerable amount of effort put in to our searches which we don't usually go in to. Many hours are spent researching on the internet or in State Library reading rooms. There is even a fair amount of shoe leather worn out to get a result. This is Bill's story of a recent search that he conducted and should be congratulated on the lengths he and Vicki went to.

"There are always two sides to any search, one the human, the other the investigative.
For the human side I must go to the article by Sarah Baker, with photographs by Scott McNaughton of Fairfax Press. Sarah’s article can be read on line at this link.
This, the investigative story, started in South Australia when Helen McDonald inadvertently received a small parcel containing the war medals of 13893 George Douglas Williams (RAAF). What made the package so special were the photos of George’s marriage to Elizabeth Baird, herself a servicewoman.
There were many people involved in the search including Helen herself, Susan, and Sarah Baker and Scott McNaughton an extraordinary news correspondent and photographer team.
The following is the email that I sent to those who were involved:

Helen, I suppose I should begin with you first. It was you who took us on trust to return George's medals and the photos to his family: in that regard may I say thank you for that trust.
So as promised to you and the others how did it end up and how did I end up as you will see in West Sunshine?
From War Graves came the date of George's death, 1990, from the Electoral Rolls that he and Elizabeth were living in Pascoe Vale at the time. However, while I did find William's grave, a ‘double’ there was no mention of Elizabeth’s. In the end it was this fact that kept me believing that she was still alive.
Early in the search while at the State Library I had taken the opportunity to look up George’s death notice. It was unreadable looking as if someone had spilt their corn flakes on it, so before I left, I requested to see the original.
Now to Pascoe Vale, the William’s last known address, unfortunately the unit had been sold several times since George’s death. The real estate agency who sold it only knew it had been occupied by an elderly lady and her daughter.
So back to the State Library to read George’s death notice. This led me to Elizabeth’s brother John and his wife Joyce, who following George’s death, had moved to Queensland and then established the pattern of moving every three years or so. While their trail petered out with their deaths in 2005, their death notices eventually led me to their son Douglas. Unfortunately, he too knew nothing since his family lost touch with Elizabeth just after the death of George. He did recall, however, that his dad mentioning that Elizabeth may have remarried, but to whom and when, well he couldn’t say.
From George William's family tree came the eventual discovery of a great niece, the daughter of his sister Myrtle. Yes she remembered Elizabeth and George and also that they had a daughter called Lynette who was she thought knocked down and killed by a bus. She also thought Lynette had married. But as she never went to either the wedding or the funeral, she is not too sure on the marriage bit and she could possibly also be wrong in regard to the accident, but it was a pleasant drive from Greensborough to Mernda.
On a different tack it was now time to try property records, and a dealer principal with a real estate agency who graciously provided the information that the William’s unit had previously been sold in 1992 by an Elizabeth Egar. Who was Elizabeth Egar?
The State Library and the ER’s provided the first time appearance of an Elizabeth and Harold Egar at Hoppers Crossing. Harold, it later transpired, had also served in the RAAF. Again the brick wall, while I did find Harold's grave, I could not find one for Elizabeth.
So I went wandering (Hopper's Crossing, is a lovely place and well worth the car trip) and spent a pleasant Sunday walking around Elizabeth and Harold’s old neighbourhood, talking to those who remembered them.
One remembered Elizabeth as a quiet little old lady who she thinks may have remarried after Harold’s death. Another that her new name was Ray or was it Grey her husband was not sure either, whilst another believed that Elizabeth used to visit him at a retirement home in Sunshine. So armed with ten or so different stories, I went home and with Vicki we went through what we now knew. There is a heck of a lot of retirement villages in the Sunshine area. I think it was the eighteenth one that I rang, that confirmed the presence of Elizabeth Gray, or Betty as she prefers to be known as.
It was there that Vicki and I met the three times married Elizabeth Baird, now Elizabeth Gray the twice re-married widow of George Williams and where this search ended, over tea and biscuits in the morning room."

The returned medal tally is now 1150.

25 May 2012

Frank Boyd - RAAF

The request to find the family of 412101 Flight Sergeant Frank Lawrence Boyd came to me from Air Force Head Quarters. The medals were held by the Gaythorne RSL but we took up the case on their behalf.
Frank was killed in action over the Netherlands and is buried in the Enschede Eastern General Cemetery. A picture of the headstone is below.
Frank's three WWII medals will be returned to his great nephew in the near future.
The returned medal tally is now 1146.


Update 28 May 12 The three medals that will be returned to the Boyd family are the 1939-45 Star, the 1939-45 War Medal and the Air Crew Europe Star.

24 May 2012

Medal of the Order of Australia Investiture - update

Today I received the official photo taken with the Governor General at my investiture. This shot is taken straight after the medal is pinned on. All the guests are to the left of the photo and the other recipients lined up in the hall through the door that can be seen behind me.

23 May 2012

Harold Wilfred Casey - British War Medal

I received the BWM awarded awarded to 238 Harold Wilfred Casey (to access the service record follow the steps in this tutorial) in yesterday's post and became very engrossed in searching for his family. After close to five hours of research I've located the family. Not the fastest bit of work but certainly rather quicker than average.
Harold was born in Bowral NSW, a lovely town which we often go through when travelling between Canberra and Sydney. He had two brothers and four sisters, however one brother died in 1896 aged 10. In the early 1900s he moved to WA with his parents, one brother and one sister. The remaining sisters stayed in NSW, they all married but I could find no evidence of them having had any children.
Harold was initially allocated to the 4th Machine Gun Company but later moved to 16th Battalion, AIF. Harold was killed in action on 4 February 1918. His brother George also served with 16th Battalion during WWI and was a POW of the Germans. He later served during WWII.
Harold's Will names his sister Eileen as his beneficiary but I had some trouble working out if she married. What confused me for a bit was that George's NOK during WWII was listed as T. Stapler. This sent me on a wild goose chase until I stumbled on a marriage in WA of an E. Casey to a T Staples. A bit of cross checking confirmed that the NOK on the WWII nominal roll was misspelt so it was the Staples family I was looking for. Once this was confirmed the search was straight forward. I found the names of Eileen and Thomas' Staples children and a browse of the White Pages offered two possibility. I took yet another punt and sure enough I ended up speaking to the right family. During this conversation I was able to confirm that George didn't have any children so there is no one of the Casey line left. The medal will be forwarded to the family in the near future.
Thanks to Rodney D who sent me the medal.
The returned medal tally is now 1144.

20 May 2012

Rex Simpson - WWII Group of five

We hear some very strange stories about where medals are found. These stories range from being left on a bar on Anzac Day to being tucked in to the rafters of an out building. This group awarded to N352481 Rex Reginald Simpson sits at the more unusual end of the spectrum.
The story goes like this: A council worker was mowing the highway verge near Calen, Queensland and saw a box in the grass. Usually this would have been run over but he noticed something shiny so stopped what he was doing and investigated. It turned out to be a set of medals.
Today, I spoke to Greg who is Rex's son. He tells me that his mother moved from Airlie Beach to Lismore and during the move a box of possession went missing. This box contained the medals and other personal items. Sadly Rex's wife died in the last few months.
Greg is having a bit of a run of luck with medals as he recently received his grand father's WWI medals from a cousin. My search for the Simpson family took me to the USA as I found a family tree originating from there which listed all of Rex's children. Alex, who owns the tree, provided me with some great information which unlocked the clue that led me to Greg.
Thank you to Kevin W from Calen who sent me the medals and to the workman who retrieved them.
The returned medal tally is now 1143.

17 May 2012

Post update - Bisdee 1914-15 Star

In September 2011 I posted the story of the 1914-15 Star awarded to Albert Bisdee. At the time the medal was placed with Jessica for safe keeping as she was the great grand daughter of Albert's NOK, Edward Barrett. Why Albert had changed his NOK from his father to Edward is a mystery. Albert's family tree was complicated further by Albert's siblings being given their father's surname but Albert was given his mother's. Jessica conducted further research and was able to establish the identity of Albert's brother's grand children. We have recently been in touch with this family and they now have the medal in their possession. At the time of our initial research I suspected that Albert was related to LTCOL John Hutton Bisdee VC OBE but I couldn't confirm it. The connection has now been confirmed by the family.

14 May 2012

Court mounting and swing mounting

When we return medals we are frequently asked by the families how to have them attached to ribbons for wear. This is known as mounting and there are two methods; swing mounting and court mounting.
Swing mounting is when the ribbon is attached to a pin or brooch and the medals are able to freely swing from the ribbon. Most WWI and WWII groups are mounted in this fashion. Unfortunately, the medals are often damaged due to the contact they have with other medals while swinging free. An example of swing mounting is at this link.
The second method is know as court mounting. This method attaches the ribbon to a backing card which has the brooch attached. The medals are stitched to the ribbon and backing so that they don't move. This method is much safer than swing mount as the medal is less likely to fall off the ribbon. Also, there is minimal contact damage as the medals don't move. It is easy to identify a group that has been court mounted as you can see the ribbon behind the medals.
 My medals have just been remounted so that my OAM is part of the group. They are pictured below to show an example of court mounting.

Thanks to my mate Daryl for doing a fantastic job.

13 May 2012

WWII group of six - Fredrick Ellis

One of the many contacts Lost Medals Australia has is with Australia War Graves who recently passed Bill's details to James Eastwood who was researching the lost medals  of VX4203 Fredrick Ernest Ellis. James had purchased the medals from a curio shop in Geelong. Today, with help from Bill, James had the distinctive honour and pleasure of speaking to Fredrick's daughter, Lynley. Bill says that finding Lynley was 'lucky' research but if you have followed our blog will know this is a euphemism for long hours at the State Library hunting through the newspaper archives and their old electoral rolls.
What is most important is that Fredrick's medals are going home. How the medals came to be in a coin and curio shop in Geelong is a question that none of us can answer. But as Bill said to both Lynley and James how they got there is not as important as James's generosity, his patience to see the search through and his trust that we would help him find Fred's family. Now after many travels a soldier's medals have 'come home'.
The returned medal tally is now 1138.

02 May 2012

Medal of the Order of Australia Investiture

On Australia Day I was very fortunate to be awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in the honours list. Today was the investiture where I received the Medal from the Governor General at Government House. The investiture was a very fitting occasion for all the recipients. Unfortunately, it was raining today and the reception was moved from outside to inside. This made it a little difficult to take lots of photos. Also there is no photography permitted during the ceremony so I have to wait a  little while for the official photo to be sent to me.
Here are some photos from today as well as photos of the medal.

01 May 2012

British War Medal - Hugh Deady

PTE Hugh Norman Deady enlisted in in 1914 and was allocated to the 8th Battalion (to access the service record follow the steps in this tutorial). He was at Gallipoli in late April 1915 but there is no specific mention that he landed on 25th April. However, the battalion did partake in the landing so it is safe to assume that Deady was a first day lander.
Deady was wounded early in the campaign but the exact date is not recorded. Initially he was listed as Missing in Action but later this was revised to Wounded in Action. By 14 May 1915 he was aboard a hospital ship. Due to the wounds he received to his chest and abdomen he was classified as unfit to fight and reallocated to the Postal Corps.
The medal will be returned to Hugh's nephew how served in WWII as a RAAF navigator in Bomber Command. Thanks to Peter D who initially sent me this BWM. The returned medal tally is now 1132.