31 December 2012

Wyndham Baker

When I first received the British War Medal awarded to 3515 Wyndham John Baker I thought that the search would be reasonably easy given his unusual first name. I quickly found the basic information from his service record and his addresses via the electoral rolls. We even got as far as following his great grand son to Perth where he died in 2006. What we couldn't find was a living relative despite Wyndham and his wife Alice having two children who we know married and had children of their own. The whole research team has had a look at this one and today I revisited the collective research and finally tracked down Wyndham's great great grand son.
What we know about Wyndham is that he served in 31st Battalion, however, he put his age at 42 when he enlisted although he was closer to 50. After the war he was a farmer. His son Francis was a police officer and his daughter Winifred married where the family lived near Crow's Nest QLD. It is through Winfired's line that I've contacted Wyndham's great great grand son and I now have the contact details of one of Winifred's sons who I will return the medal to.
Wyndham's medal was found by Janet E who passed to Lloyd B who works for the Department of Defence and he then forwarded the medal to me. Thank you to both these links who are part of returning this medal.
The medal returned tally is now 1220.

Reginald Back post update

I've been provided with a copy of a photo of Reginald's father and added it to the story.

30 December 2012

Reginald Back

This search has really tested me as it involved searching through the records of three countries over a period of two years.
The British War Medal awarded to Engineer Sub-Lieutenant Reginald Frederick Back was originally sent to me by the NSW RSL as part of what we have come to know as the NSW box.
The first bit of information I found was via Ancestry on a WWI medal roll confirming that R. F. Back was entitled to the BWM for service in the Royal Navy Reserve but that was it, no names to go with his initials. I then spent a considerable amount of time searching the records in the UK but there was nothing additional. The second piece of information was that a ships officer by the name of R.F. Back sailed from Lyttleton NZ, to Melbourne so it was in to the New Zealand archives for a look. Based on the initials alone there was nothing of substance for me to focus on. On a hunch I looked at the Australian electoral rolls and found Reginald Frederick Back, Master Mariner, living in Sydney from the 1930s to 1969. Unfortunately, there was little else in the Australian records but enough to confirm that he didn't marry or have children. So it was back to New Zealand.
In the New Zealand WWI archives I stumbled across the service record of Gunner Reginald Frederick Back from Lyttleton, NOK Miss Amy Back sister. The service record made reference to Back being discharged from the NZEF to take up a commission in the Royal Naval Reserve and that his medals were issued by the Admiralty. This link is to his service record which is a pdf file requiring download. I had my man
Through the New Zealand records on Ancestry I could piece together the family tree and what emerged was a fascinating story about this family.
Reginald was the son of Algernon Back who was born in Devon UK. Algernon was a mariner and the Chief Officer aboard the 19th century migrant ship the Euterpe. To my surprise the Euterpe survives as the Star of India and this link has a picture of the ship in 1877 and in more recent years. Interestingly the caption of the 1877 photo mentions London St where Reginald lived before he enlisted.
This link is to the news letter of the Maritime Museum of San Diego which includes a picture of Algernon on page 14. The information about the Euterpe led me to the blog of Joan Curry which has details from several of the ships voyages:
Algernon tangles with a dog.
Algernon plays the violin.
Some time around 1880 Algernon left the Euterpe and settled in New Zealand, however, I think that he might have already established his family at the port and continued to sail for a few years after they began living in London St.
Algernon had a daughter and two other sons and I could follow them pretty easily through the New Zealand records. At one point in time all Reginald's siblings and their respective families lived at the same address as part of the family retail business. Amy didn't marry, one brother did marry but didn't have any children. The last brother married and had two daughters. I couldn't find their marriage details but by knowing there first and second names and cross referencing this against the address I already know I was able to establish their married name. One daughter, in turn, had three children and I've now been in touch with one of them. This is Reginald's great nephew.
The Back family connection with Canterbury NZ, extends beyond Algernon and his family settling there. Algernon's brother Frederick was a railway manager who later became responsible for establishing the railway system around Canterbury. These two links are contemporary news paper accounts of a study tour he did in 1885 and on his retirement.
The returned medal tally is now 1219.

Post updated 31 Dec 12
Thanks to the generosity of Joan Curry I have been provided with a copy of the photo of Algernon Back (identified as Beck) which appeared in the Maritime Museum of San Diego Museum news letter I mentioned in the main post.

19 December 2012

Charles O'Donnell

I was recently asked to do some research on a medal and the story I uncovered is worth retelling.
The medal in question is a Queen's South Africa Medal with the clasps Transvaal, Orange Free State and Cape Colony.  This medal was awarded for service during the Boer War.

The medal is named to 729 CPL W Oaks Victorian Mounted Rifles. However, it is immediate obvious that the original name has been erased and W. Oaks has been added. The number and unit are untouched. As can be seen in the pictures of the medal the rim is thinner near the W, the font is not the same as the unit name and close inspection shows that the renaming is done by chisel engraving where the rest is impressed. The final tell tale is the remnants of the previous naming to the right of the 'W'.

My mate Daryl is a QSA expert but between the two of us we just couldn't find a person by the name of Oaks who served in an Australian contingent to the Boer War. So we reverted to what was known: the number and the unit. This led me to 729 CPL Charles Edward Somerset O'Donnell. I'm convinced that this is the man who was originally awarded the medal. O'Donnell is also mentioned on the Australians in the Boer War data base and his photo appears as part of a contingent montage.
Source: T Humphrey & Co./Melbourne Leader 16.2.1901.

Usually medals are renamed for a number of reason, sometimes to deceive or to replace a medal in a group where the original has been lost. This got me thinking about why O'Donnell had either sold his medal or lost it. If it was sold it might have been due to financial hardship during the Depression which was a common occurrence.
While putting together the story about the O'Donnell the first piece of information I came across was the 1903 death of his sister. 
Source: The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), Monday 30 March 1903, page 1
(Clicking on the articles will produce a larger view)

The death notice confirmed O'Donnell's mother's name and it also gave me his father's name. This is where the story really took off. 
As I looked at the electoral rolls for Edward O'Donnell, his occupation was listed as either Gentleman or Independent Means. At the time this meant that the individual was wealthy and did need to work. How interesting I thought. If the O'Donnell's were a wealthy family what happened so that Charles might have had to sell his medal?
The next article I found concerned a court case where Frances (Charles' mother) was petitioning for Edward to pay for her financial upkeep while they were estranged. The estrangement was attributed to Charles being violent towards his father and his mother always standing up for Charles. 

Source: The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), Wednesday 29 August 1906, page 11

Edward had enough of Charles and moved out. The article details that the O'Donnell's owned several houses and that Edward was a retired Detective Sergeant. Edward and Frances must have later reconciled as they appear in the electoral rolls together for some years after this case. 
The information about Edward's profession then opened up more information. Trove is awash with articles about Edward who was one of the leading Victorian detectives from about 1865 through to the early 1900s. Many of the major crimes in Ballarat and Melbourne from that period were investigated and solved by Edward. 
All this previous publicity was inconsequential when compared to what happened on 27  July 1900.

Source: The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), Tuesday 31 July 1900, page 5

Many more articles followed this initial one and Edward's condition fluctuated over several months. The story unfolded over some time and it transpires that Edward had been led in to an ambush when he was shot. The story came to a conclusion when a career criminal was arrested in Perth in October 1900 and identified as the man responsible for shooting Edward.
Source: The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), Tuesday 16 October 1900, page 5

From what I could gleam from all these articles, Edward received a handsome pension and a substantial reward which allowed him to have Independent Means. However, it appears that the family fortune, as well as a large amount that Frances inherited, was lost over the years and Charles was left nothing.

18 December 2012

Joseph Daly

My search for the family of NX65239 Joseph Patrick Daly took me almost as far as this man travelled in his life. When Joseph enlisted for WWII he gave his year of birth as 1902. As it transpired he was born in 1898 but adjusting a date of birth was not uncommon during this period. The only other solid evidence I had for Joseph was that he was born in Ireland and where he was located on enlistment. This was enough to pin him down in 1937 from the electoral rolls.
I haven't been able to verify it exactly but I suspect that Joseph left Ireland for Australia in the late 1920s or early 30s. During WWII Joseph served with HQ 22 Bde and was taken prisoner in Malaya.
After WWII Joseph moved to Far North Queensland and I was able to follow him through a succession of boarding houses until he finally settled in Townsville. The last address I have for him was in Palmer St Townsville which I know very well. It is now a popular cafe and restaurant strip but up until about 15 years ago it was a street best avoided. I remember it from my first posting to Townsville and its close proximity to the Townsville wharf meant it was a rough part of town. Many boarding houses lined Palmer St but most have now been knocked down to make room for hotels or renovated into flash backpacker accommodation.
The trail back to Joseph's family was difficult and I had to make some educated guesses. What is definite is that Joseph did not marry or have any children. However, using the location and the year of his birth I could link him to his mother and her siblings. While I had nothing concrete I narrowed down the family enough to work out the name of one of  Joseph's uncles. This then led me to a family tree on Ancestry. Several of Joseph's uncles and aunts moved to America early in the 20th century and I know now that separate research has turned up information about other members of the family moving to Australia.
I have since been in touch with Sean, the owner of the tree I found on Ancestry, who I calculate to be Joseph's 4th cousin. Sean is located in the USA where many of the Daly family from that generation emigrated to.
Thank you to John J who sent me the medals in the first place. The returned medal tally is now 1218. Unfortunately, the War Medal which Joseph would also have been awarded is missing from the rest of the group.

15 December 2012

Hugh MacGlashan

I received the dog tags worn by 120699 Hugh Stewart MacGlashan recently from my friend Sandra Playle who runs Vision Research Services. With such an uncommon name I thought this would be a straight forward search. Hugh was an only child but his father had six siblings. Each one I researched proved to have either not married or had no children. However, the family did seem to be concentrated around Brighton, Victoria. Hugh lived in this area for some years but he also moved around Victoria as a priest. I did track down a few newspaper articles about Hugh from the 1950 including this picture and notice of his engagement. One of Hugh's cousins, Neil MacGlashan also served in WWII and I found that he died in 2011. While I could find Neil's son's name I just couldn't locate an address so then I went off in search of Neil's grand son, Alistair.
I found a person by this name in Chicago USA and he was involved with the USA AFL competition. An educated guess told me I had the right fellow. I have since been in touch with Alistair who is at home in Melbourne on a visit for Christmas so I'll post him the dog tags next week.
The engraving is not very deep which has made taking a reasonable photo difficult.

14 December 2012

Thomas Hutchinson

2146A Thomas Hutchinson was initially allocated to 5th Battalion AIF and later moved to 46th Battalion. During his service he was wounded in action twice and went AWOL on two occasions. After discharge Thomas worked as a miner around the Victorian gold fields.
There is very little information about him other than what I could find in the electoral rolls. The next time Thomas appeared in the records was during WWII when he served in a garrison battalion. Thomas did not marry so Bill and I focused our research on his wider family. I have recently been in touch with Jenny, the Great Grand Daughter of Thomas' uncle and I'll soon be sending the medal to her.
For his service in WWI Thomas was awarded the usual trio of the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and the Victory Medal. For his service during WWII in a garrison battalion he would have been awarded two more medals, the War Medal and the Australian Service Medal 1939-45. Where the rest of Thomas' medals are is anyone's guess.
Thank you to Mike R of Bendigo who sent Thomas' BWM to me. The returned medal tally is now 1214.

11 December 2012

Wilfred Parker

In 2007 I received Wilfred John Parker's Memorial Plaque and its accompanying letter from the King.
The only solid piece of information I could find was the details of Wilfred's death at Passchendaele on 31 July 1917 as recorded on the Commonwealth War Graves web site. I located two regimental numbers for Wilfred which is not uncommon but made the search a little more uncertain. Wilfred was a British soldier who served with the Royal Sussex Regiment and the Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment.
Yesterday, I revisited the research and came across a family tree on Ancestry. Wilfred was listed with his siblings but the tree owner was not closely related so I started researching his brother Stephen only to discover that Stephen died in Queensland in 1983. This explains how the plaque came to be in Australia. I then had a close look at Stephen's family and found another family tree which is owned by Stephen's grandson. A message to the owner, Bill, was answered almost immediately and confirmed he is Wilfred's great nephew.
I now know that Wilfred first enlisted at aged 15 but when his mother found out he was withdrawn from the army. Wilfred is commemorated at the Menin Gate Memorial and his town memorial at Littlehampton, Sussex. Bill has very kindly provided me some photos of the memorial and of Wilfred.
Thanks to Glenn S who sent me the plaque and letter. The returned medal tally is now 1213.

This is Wilfred's memorial plaque

The naming on the plaque. It appears to have been rubbed a lot, maybe an attempt to remove it.
This is the letter sent to families which accompanied the plaque. It is signed by George V.

A photo of Wilfred believed to be taken during training.

Wilfred in uniform

Littlehampton Memorial showing PTE W.J. Parker

Post update - George Pittman

I have just updated the post on George Pittman.

Lydia Joy Waterfield

This is a fantastic story from Bill:

While I cannot claim the record for the quickest return of a set of medals, and I must admit my envy of Glyn when he posts such a return where, looking at the name, and it is usually an odd one, he has used the Internet coupled with White Pages directory, and has as a result been able to complete a search in less than an hour.  The case of the medals of Lydia Joy Waterfield has to date been a personal best.
The story:
It was the brother of Lorraine Green, (the Secretary of the Upper Yarra RSL) who when he recently set the winning bid on a set of candelabra at a deceased estate auction, started this search. For in the box along with the candelabra came a small cloth bag, in which there were two medals, impressed to 94858 L.J. Waterfield.
He and Lorraine then set out to find Lydia.
After several months with no success they contacted Jude Beshears, of the Victorian Branch of the RSL, who in turn directed them to me. From a quick conversation with Lorraine, it appeared that an extensive search for a Lydia Joy Waterfield in the Upper Yarra Region had proved fruitless.
At this point with the clock ticking (it was 3.17PM approx), I downloaded Lydia’s Nominal Roll entry at the Australian War Memorial, born at Jarnadup in WA, it gave her NOK as an Amelia Waterfield.
Taking the chance that Lydia more than likely had married after or during the latter stages of WW2, I went to the WA Reverse Marriages web site, sure enough Lydia Joy Waterfield had married Robert B.E.Milk in 1949, in Perth WA.
Again back to the AWM and its WW2 Nominal Roll, unfortunately there was no appearance for Robert.
Now it was to War Graves Canberra, did they have a date of death for Lydia either as a Waterfield, or as a Milk? The answer a resounding NO!
Back to WA and its on-line BDM’s, looking for any Waterfield born from 1915 onwards, there were quite a few, but I did notice that Lydia’s birth had been registered at Blackwood, as had an Alfred Arthur and a Norman Thomas Waterfield, both of whom appeared on the Nominal Roll, with Norman’s NOK shown as an Amelia Waterfield .
Now back to War Graves. Yes they did have date of death for both Alfred and Norman .
Now it was to the WA Metropolitan Cemeteries web site and there I found Alfred, but no Norman, nor could I find an appearance on the WA Reverse marriages look up for Norman. Which in turn led me to believe that he married either later than the WA records, of he married in another state, and possibly passed away there.
A quick call to a friend with Ancestry, and I had an old address for Norman, and his wife. Another quick phone call and I was speaking to his widow, she in turn provided me with the phone number not only of Lydia, who as I found out prefers to be known as Joy, but also her daughter.
Next I found myself talking to Joy, where after a long conversation, I finally convinced her that her Medals were not in storage as she believed but had been inadvertently misplaced and included in with the candelabra when they had been sold.
My final call (4.58 PM(well according to my computer clock) was to Lorraine to pass the details to her so that she and her brother can return the medals to Joy. As I write this story I am awaiting an email with an attached photo showing the re-union.
One hour, 40 minutes, not the fastest search that Lost Medals has ever done but it beats my longest record of nearly six years.

 The returned medal tally is now 1212. Pictures to follow.

02 December 2012

MacRae family medals post update

I've just updated the post about the medals awarded to Donald and Duncan MacRae.