06 April 2013

Betty Dow

This search really tested me and it was only in the last hour did it unravel enough for me to connect all the dots.
In January 2012 I received a WWII group of four medals and a plaque awarded to Better Frances Dow. The medals are impressed to B3/227 B. F. Dow. The first thing that threw me was the number which does not appear in the WWII nominal roll. I called on the experts of the British Medals Forum and the answer quickly came back as one attributed to the Red Cross and this was a typical number for a philanthropic organisation. So the first door opened I found out all about Betty. She worked with the Red Cross in Batavia and later in Europe. I've found a photo of Betty which I've attached below.
Using the electoral rolls I followed Betty until 1985 when she died. Betty didn't marry. Her brother Stewart did marry but he had no children. Stewart served during WWII and I now know the wider family have strong military links. Then the trail went cold. Several attempts to revisit the search proved fruitless until tonight when I thought I should go back several generations.
I started with Betty's father, Donald, who was a Presbyterian minister. Donald was appointed as an Army chaplain late in WWI but his service record gives little away that I found useful. I couldn't establish the names of any siblings for Donald so I turned to Betty's mother, Winifred Mona Dow. It took some time to work out her maiden name but once I had it the flood gates opened.
Winifred was the daughter of another Presbyterian minister and was one of seven children. A search using the surname Reid gave me all the names of her sibling which included Stanley Spencer Reid.
Stanley was also a minister but probably more famous for his talents as an VFL footballer. He played for Fitzroy in the first VFL grand final. In 1899 Stanley volunteered to be a chaplain for the Australian contingents who fought in the Boer War. This was unsuccessful so he enlisted as a trooper with the Western Australian Mounted Infantry. While in South Africa Stanley wrote a letter that was critical of a more senior soldier and Stanley was arrested. This was soldier was also connected with the Beaker Morrant scandal. Stanley was detained and returned to Australia. The matter was not pursued and Stanley was commissioned and returned to South Africa. He was in the same unit as his brother Surgeon -Captain Francis Bentley Reid. I take it that Betty Francis and Stewart Stanley were named for these two relatives.
Stanley was wounded on two occasions and subsequently died of his wounds in June 1902. He and  Francis were both mentioned in despatches.
This wikipedia link has the full story about Stanley and several photos of him as well.
Another brother who served was Lieutenant John Cecil Drury Reid who was awarded the Military Cross. John was a member of a Tunnelling Company and died of wounds in June 1917.
Another brother was William Bremner Reid who was also a doctor and it is his daughter, Betty's cousin, who I have found and will return the medals to.
The returned medal tally is now 1267.

Betty in Batavia with the Red Cross


  1. A most interesting story Glyn ... well done :)

  2. Hi Glyn, I'm pleased to read that the medals have a home. I have researched the Reid/Drewry family and also had help from Bettys cousin. Betty Dow private papers are available at the State Library of Victoria- Dorothy Small (x6 granddaughter of Benjamin Drewry