27 August 2013
This another cracking yarn from Bill which takes the returned medal tally to 1306.
After the return of medals when either Glyn or I sit down to write the story, the decision on how far to go on the personal side is always uppermost in our minds.
There are several reasons for this approach. For example:
The return may have involved the Police, and as a consequence of legal obligations, we can say nothing that might identify the people involved.
Due to the value of the medals, it might be necessary to protect a family against becoming a victim for the second time.
The return has come about as a result of a request from a Government Department, in such cases the limitations of the Privacy Act, prevent us from saying almost anything, even on occasions the name of the recipient of the medals.
Finally, and in many ways the hardest, is to refrain from publishing a story that will embarrass the family.
So please understand that at times you may well read only a brief reference to the person to whom the medals were initially awarded, as well as to whom the medals are actually returned.
This then is the background to the return of what I have chosen to call “Albert RN’s Medals”. British movie fans of the 50’s will pick up on the name. Others can Google it.
With the closing of many RSL sub-branches of late, odd things have turned up during the clean-up.
Such was the case of a recent return where on looking through a set of filing cabinets, that had been used for many years as impromptu storage, an envelope containing three unmounted medals was discovered.
In the envelope along with the medals was a photo copy of what was believed to be part of the medals original recipient’s service file. And just as well, for the service file referred to a British WW2 Seaman, and as readers of this blog well now the British did not engrave or impress their WW2 medals.
How long the package had been in storage I cannot say, the last secretary of the club thought about 10 years at a minimum, at least before his time anyway. However, it was only after they had conducted their own exhaustive search that I was bought in.
So where to next? Limited in the ability to buy a complete copy of the actual service file, I chose a different path. Through a quiet query to our friends at the Australian Surname Group, I was able to build up a list of people sharing both the surname and the same given names as ‘Albert’. Strangely enough, but fortunately, only NSW and Victoria were involved.
Discounting NSW, after all the medals had been ‘found’ in Victoria, I then started to work my way through the list, looking, if not for ‘Albert’, then for a next of kin.
It has taken a year on and off for me to find Albert’s next of kin, his two sons, one of whom is now deceased. But it was whilst explaining the search, with the surviving son and his children that the following came to light.
When ‘Albert’ died nearly 27 years ago, the youngest son can still remember his father’s medals pinned to a small velvet cushion, but that is it. After the service, when he asked where his father’s medals were, the oldest brother told him that the funeral people had misplaced them, but they were looking. Needless to say they were still ‘missing’ when I contacted the family.
It was while I was explaining how long the medals may have been at the club, he volunteered that it was nearly 14 years since his older brother passed away, and that his sister in law died two years later. The daughter thought that a bit odd, as her Aunt, and at this point she even went to the trouble of opening up her iPad, and checking the address of the Club where the medals had supposedly originated from, had been in a retirement home less than a kilometre from the club.
At this point I decided that I would accept another cup of coffee, and quietly turned the conversation around, suggesting that they have the medals mounted, and not left singularly. This has now been done.
Oh and how many names were there. Let’s just say, too many, and I am glad I did not have to go to NSW. As I do not think you would be reading this story till sometime next year. Late next year.