20 March 2013
When medals are awarded they come in two sizes, full size for normal wear and miniature for wearing to a dinner function. It is easy to identify who was awarded the full size medals as there name is on them. Identifying who received a miniature group is close to impossible. It is only when other evidence about the veteran is included do we have a chance. This was the case the miniature medals awarded to Lieutenant Owen Dawes where the medals came with his card and a letter from him. Unfortunately, I have received many other miniature medals that I have no hope of successfully returning.
However, in the same vein as the Dawes return, Bill has a story of his own about miniatures.
With the growing appreciation in families of their parents military service, the miniature medals that were issued to accompany their larger counterpart, once often overlooked, have now come to the fore. This is as families realise that there are two sets of medals in the family not just one and which are just as important.
But researching miniatures or even attempting to carries its own special set of problems, firstly they are not engraved, so that unless you are very lucky and you find documentation that accompanies them, then finding the original recipient or their next of kin, becomes remote. Often they end up in RSL clubs, sometimes on display sometimes not, but essentially unknown, unacknowledged and forgotten. That I find incredibly sad, it is to me, unacceptable.
Our last foray in regard to a set of miniatures, to Lieutenant Owen Dawes took over five years and that was even with a card that had his name printed on it.
However, the situation with the receipt of the medals of VX24886 Jack Thomson, was different. As different as it could be arriving as they did inside an old spectacles case, which in turn had been wrapped in the perennial brown paper parcel. Luckily, what was included in the case was the RSL life Membership Card of the recipient, Jack Thomson. Along with a cryptic note asking for the medals to be returned to Jack’s family.
Well first thought: “Glyn’s record is about to be broken”. Surely the RSL Membership Card would assist? First the club administration - “No, his membership was archived, and never put on computer”
Then the members - but the simple task of just asking old members of the club “do you remember Jack Thomson?” Usually brought forward the following:
“He was a lovely bloke!”
“Big fella, had a terrible sense of humour”
“Was in a retirement home around here?”
“I think he died some time ago, didn’t he?” a comment often expressed to those quietly sitting around.
But no one actually seemed to remember when or from whence Jack passed away.
The end result being that after several days of going nowhere and with Glyn’s record well and truly preserved, I reverted to what would have been my normal mode of operation, and in retrospect should have been, if I had not opted for what I thought would be an easy option, of taking the RSL Club route.
So then it was:
Check with War Graves for possible date of death (28 December 2005).
Check Ryerson for Death and Funeral notices.
Success! The Age and the Herald Sun provided 6 between them.
So now to the State Library and its newspaper archives, to look up the newspapers. First to look up the funeral directors and secondly to try and determine the rest of the family and their possible locations.
It was this after several hours of cross referencing back and forward between old newspaper entries and the BDM’s that finally led me to Jack’s son, Kenneth who now lives in NSW.
Ken was amazed when I rang, He thought Dad’s miniatures were with the other medals which are with his brother in Darwin, whom he planned to ring the moment we hung up.
But first came the inevitable series of questions. Of which the best was “What was my dad’s medals doing in Kilmore? We have no relations there, never have.”
But as is so often the case at the end of a search when I sit down and review the search, the $64 question, and the one that Ken asked, nearly always arises. How did the medal of an ex-serviceman who died in 2005, in Bundoora get to Kilmore from whence they were sent to Jack’s old club in February this year (2013)?
Well I can’t answer that question, and I am not going to try, it may sound as a cop out but after more than a decade of returning medals it is a question, whose path I now studiously avoid.
What is important is that Jack’s medals are going back to his family, and as searches go I do not think I can ask for much more.