20 August 2013
I am so pleased that the milestone of 1300 medals returned by Lost Medals Australia has been achieved by Bill. Here is his story about the WWII medals awarded to Wilfred Randall.
I have commented before on the weird and wonderful places where medals turn up.
In the case those awarded to NX12938 Wilfred James Randall, it was doubly perplexing. For Margaret, our donor, there was not only the issue of how did they come to be in her father’s Lodge Case along with his regalia and his own medals, but just as importantly for her, who was Wilfred James Randall?
When her own very long and detailed search failed to find any family link to Wilfred, she turned to Veterans Affairs. It was at this point through our links to Veterans Affairs that I became involved.
One of the first things I was able to tell Margaret, was that Wilfred who served in the Army, died in 1975 in RHG, Concord. She added that her father died there in 1977, but that he had served in the RAAF. At that point, we diverged, and the search began.
One issue that complicated the search was that Wilfred’s father had been christened William and Wilfred, for some strange reason, also chose to go by the name William, shunning Wilfred. The result was the need for a constant rechecking as each fact to ensure I was tracing the Wilfred/William and not his father. This consumed a lot of time.
In fact, when I finally contacted one of his two nieces, she didn’t refer to him as Wilfred, but as ‘Uncle Bill’, as it appeared so did most of the family. In one case it led not so much as to an argument with a member of the family, but a need to actually explain the family tree, and where Wilfred fitted in.
Initially, when I found Wilfred’s marriage and the birth of his son Richard, I thought I was on a straight forward track. Sadly, both his wife and son predeceased him and at this point he seems to have spent many years wandering outback N.S.W.
Eventually, I returned to finishing the family tree, now populated with Wilfred’s six sisters, and two brothers. Despite all this information, it was the next generation that proved difficult. Outside of multiple marriages, or perhaps because of them, there were very few off-spring in successive generations. With the on line NSW, BDM’s cut off dates, I was forced to rely on TROVE, and the Ryerson index of Death Notices.
It was these resources that led me to Wilfred’s mother’s date of death, and her subsequent death notice. And as you would expect, if you follow this blog, me to the State Library
Fortunately and unlike many of today’s death notices, it detailed all the children, including one daughter, Beverley’s married name.
Even though the State Library micro fiche collection only goes up to 2008 it is still a valuable resource. Taking the chance that Beverley had not passed away in the intervening years, I next went on line to White Pages, and there was Beverley’s husband still at the same address.
Later that night I sat down and having worked out what I would say, I rang Beverley. As you can imagine after all these years, remember it is 38 years since her Uncle Bill died, she was at first non-plussed referring me to her older sister Elaine, who she professed knew more about the family tree than anyone. She certainly did. Elaine walked me through the family tree I had sketched out, pointing out the multiple marriages of some of her family and where in many cases there had been no children of the marriage. At this point Elaine called a halt to our discussion. The return of the medals, and exactly to whom in the family they should be returned, was too important, to be rushed.
Accordingly, she wanted to sit down with her sister Beverley and decide on the best course of action.
On Sunday just passed Elaine rang, she and Beverley had thought long and hard about not only accepting the medals and in particular their significance, but to whom in the family they should be passed.
Beverley and Elaine have decided that the best person in the family to accept the duty and care of the medals is Beverley’s Grandson, a current serving soldier, who has just returned from Afghanistan.
So now Beverley and Elaine have one another’s phone numbers, and addresses. Perhaps they will be able together to work out the mystery of how did Wilfred’s medals come to be in the care of Margaret’s father.
My thanks to Margaret, for not taking the easy course and leaving the medals in her father’s case. Thanks also to Beverley and Elaine for looking beyond just accepting the medals and to their future keeping and security.