24 December 2014

There isn't really a story here.

I have just completed a research task for Australia Post but the details aren't for publishing. The broad story includes the Battle of Long Tan, items lost in the mail and no return address.
The returned item tally is now 1608.

Bill's Christmas Tale

A Christmas Tale – A Work in Progress
It has been for all us a hectic year, and yet I do not believe that 2015 will be any less so.
One of my duties with my local RSL club is arranging for members and family and for anyone else for that matter, to have medals mounted or as is now often the case re-ribboned.
So to those of you who follow this  Blog and read my story on Frederick Glover in particular, the need to have medals properly mounted, should come as no surprise
So please read on:
In the last week I have been approached by three families with regard to having medals mounted (See Photos), in all cases they were accompanied with similar words.
 “These are Dad’s, I don’t know about the other two.”
“I think no I know it’s the wife’s grandfather. But the spelling is wrong”
“There is no one called Hill in our family, extended or not”
“He could have been my great-grandfather’s cousin”
“I found them amongst dad’s medals”.
“My father in Law was a POW, he never spoke of it”
And so the story begins in reality.
Currently I have lodged two applications on behalf of families, to firstly determine what medals the recipient was eligible for and what he received, and where necessary to claim any such posthumous awards.
So far.
Yes the medals are the wife’s grandfather’s. It is a nuisance when one medal is engraved Mac, and the others Mc.
The other’s well one belongs to a soldier with flat feet (yes I know it has nothing to do with the story), who stayed in France after WW1, to work with War Graves. I am assured that it was out of a sense of duty, and had nothing to do with Jeane Julia Lasson whom he married in July 1919.
So to our regular readers. Watch this space.

George Brimble

When I received the WWII group of six medals awarded to NX9039 George Enoch Brimble I thought that it be a pretty easy search based on his name. I was right that it was easy but for an entirely different reason.
Through the electoral rolls I followed George to 1980 but then he disappeared. I couldn't find a record of his death or that of his wife. It appeared that George and his wife separated about 1958 and here was no children from the marriage. A check back of the Brimble family gave me his sister's name and that she lived in a small town in NSW called The Rock. I'm quite familiar with this town as it is just south of Kapooka where I've been posted to a couple of times.
George's niece married a local gent and a check of the White Pages showed me that a couple with the same initial and surname combination lived in The Rock. I took a punt and called the number and was soon speaking to George's niece. She confirmed my research about George, 'her favorite uncle' and also told me that his grand father, Tom Brimble, was killed in action during WWI. Tom was a member of 45th Battalion, AIF and has no know grave but is commemorated at the Australian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux, France.
Thanks go to Keith Harrison of the SA RSL who sent the medals to me after they had been handed in. This wasn't the quickest search I've concluded but it still took less that 20 minutes from the time the medals arrived in my letter box until I was talking to the family. The returned medal tally is now 1604.

18 December 2014

Roland Renison

This is Bill's story about VX123013 Roland Gilbert Renison.

“In 1990, what’s that about 22 years? It was well before Dad’s death’
So went the reply from Trevor when I asked him when he had last seen his father’s war medals.
It was not till after his father’s funeral, that Trevor discovered his father’s home had, as he put it, been ‘ratted’. Countless items, including his late mother’s jewellery, his father’s watch and medals had been taken.
His surprise when I contacted him in November was total. He admitted given up any hope of seeing the medals again.
The search for Trevor was complicated. In part because Trevor’s mother, while buried under her given names, had always preferred to be known as Joanne. This only became apparent when I found out that she had been buried in the same plot as Ronald.
With a death notice, and the help of the Australian Surname Group and research that came up with a whole series of odd facts including one that Trevor may have been a builder, that took me to the HIA.
It was less than 15 minutes after I hung up from talking to a very helpful young lady that Trevor was on the phone to me and hence the introduction to this story.
I cannot conclude without mentioning Shirley and Allen. They had been passed the medals many years ago, had spent countless hours trying to locate Ronald or his family and who were willing to entrust me with returning them.

The returned medal tally is now 1598.

10 December 2014

Australian Service Medal 1939-45

Yet another success from Bill:

This request came from a constable at Fawkner  (Vic) police station who had been handed an Australian Service Medal 1939-45. From my  research I believe our man served initially in the Militia then transferred to the RAAF. During his time with the RAAF he served in PNG.

And that is where the printable story ends. The family circumstances of this veteran are complicated and difficult. Out of respect for the family member that Bill located we are keeping this short and acknowledging the research skills of our friends of the Australian Surname Group. There are also some Police matters pending.
The returned medal tally is now 1595.

06 December 2014

3424 PTE D M J McNeil (Also N74993/V6397)‏

Another great collaboration between Bill and the fantastic researchers from the Australian Surname Group.

Many requests Glyn and I get these days from Western Australia originate either from the WA RSL or the WA Police. However, in this case it came from ‘Jim’ in WA via the Victorian RSL.
His message in part was:
I have recently come into possession of a 1914-1919 great war medal, belonging to 3424 PTE D M J McNeil, PTE McNeil's nok was his father Donald McNeil, the McNeil's lived at 159 Flemington RD, North Melbourne. As an ex serving member I would dearly like this medal to be reunited with PTE McNeil's family. I was hoping you may be of some assistance with this in this case’.
And so the search began, however, a few points that Jim added when I spoke to him were:
He had been given the medal from a 'tin' of his father's, along with the usual collection of badges, buttons etc. Its background was that his dad had found it at the local tip, (tip scrounging was a favourite pastime of children and it didn’t cost anything) but what is even more remarkable is that the tip has been closed in 1980, but Jim's father had found the medal, back before WW2.
Douglas McLean’s story is like that of so many veterans from the first world war. Douglas's marriage did not last, following the breakup of the marriage, he moved to NSW where he worked for the NSW Government Railways.
When WW2 started he enlisted, but shortly thereafter he was discharged as medically unfit. Not to be outdone he returned to Victoria and enlisted again, figuring that if they did not want cooks, the occupation that he put on his forms in NSW, then he would promote himself to a Golfing Instructor. It was with this trade that he found himself guarding the POW camp at Tatura, Victoria.
The Army in NSW had been right, Douglas was not a healthy man, the effects of his Gun Shot Wound from WW1, finally caught up with him and he died of heart failure in December 1941. He was laid to rest in the Tatura Military Cemetery.
From the Australian Surname Group's postings I found that his son Donald Cleveland McNeil had served in the RAAF during WW2. He had been named after Douglas' brother. Donald (number 1) was a POW of the German's during WW1. He contracted influenza and died shortly after being liberation.
With all these postings, information from the State Library and a very helpful young lady at a funeral home, I followed the path to Robin, the granddaughter of Douglas. Dawn, the wife of his son Donald, I found out is still alive. Although her memory is a little dim with the time, she still remembers some of the past. She currently lives with her daughter Robin and her husband who care for her.
To add to the story from his service during WW2, Douglas is eligible for the 1939-1945 War Medal, and the Australian Service Medal 1939-1945 which were not awarded. Last night I drafted of a letter for Robin and her husband, which I emailed to her along with a posthumous medal claim form.
Currently I am awaiting a photo of the medal from Jim, which I will post along with the result of the claim for Douglas’s WW2 service.
The returned medal tally is now 1594.

30 November 2014

2 medal stories

More great work from Bill

One of our most enduring relationships is with the Victorian Police force, an organisation who the longer I deal with its uniformed officers, the more grows my admiration and respect.
The following are two stories, that while successful in their outcomes, are different in their reporting.
This is two stories in one, both in support of the Victoria Police.

In the first case it was four medals, 39-45 and Pacific Stars the War Medal and the 39-35 ASM. It all began with an email:
'G’day Bill, I have been given your details in the belief that you may be able to assist us’
And so the search began that concluded this week with the return of an ex POW’s medals to his surviving family.

The second story began with a phone call from Senior Constable Amy Virgona of the Frankston Police Station. Amy had the medals of VX20252 Derek Leslie Austin, which had been handed in by a builder after been found on a house renovation site.
In many ways the search was straightforward, and it was from Derek’s death notice that I obtained the names of his surviving children. Two phone calls later and I was finally able to speak to his eldest son, Bill. I've now passed Bill’s details to Amy for her to arrange the return.
Derek Austin had quite an interesting military career, enlisting in June 1940, at the age of 19 he would see service in the Middle East, as part of the Tobruk Garrison, an experience that would stamp him as one of a select band of people; a Rat of Tobruk. Its emblem he wore proudly on his medal bar. He would also wear the Polish Armed Forces in the West Military Cross of which only 100 were awarded to Australians who served alongside Polish forces in Tobruk. Derek later served in New Guinea. 
From these two stories, 12 more medals have been returned. The tally is now 1593.

28 November 2014

Family relationship chart

I have come across this chart which helps work out family relationship across generations.

Hubert Gell

Hubert Edwin Gell was the son of Albert and Daisy Gell. His brother was Alan and sister was Dorothy Daisy Gell. Neither Hubert or Alan married and they died in 1969 and 1990 respectively. It was Dorothy's family who I then followed.
Dorothy was married to Edwin William Dale, their daughter was Hazel Temple Dale who married Aubrey Richmond Goldsmith. It is the grandson of Hazel and Aubrey who I've recently been in contact with and to who I'll send the medals to.
Hubert's medals are in as issued condition and have never been mounted for wear. Thanks to Angela G who sent the medals to me.
The returned medal tally is now 1581.

27 November 2014

Walter Lyons

It is Bill's turn to have a purple patch.

The story begins as so many of late with an email from an RSL sub-branch. On this occasion it was from Trevor Clerke, the Secretary of the Port Vincent RSL sub-branch, SA.
‘We recently had handed to us WW1 medals for 2628 Walter Roy Lyons. One of the townsfolk, well into their 70's were finally cleaning out some of the effects from their parents who had run a boarding house in Sale, this they think that is how the medals were in his Dad's general box of bits (like we all have). They have no ribbons but are tied together, with what appears to be jeweller’s chain’.
And so the search began.
Walter was 21 when he enlisted on the 26 May 1915, serving in France as a driver with the 3rd Field Artillery Brigade. Like many returning Soldiers from the First World war, Roy never married, spending the years following WW1 as an itinerant worker. While this presented problems in trying to track his travels, it later transpired that he kept in constant touch with his family. I did find his brother Charles, who also had served in France during WW1 and WIA, but he too proved to be equally elusive. However, it was the relationship Walter kept up with his sister, Kathleen that helped in the end to locate his family. I might also add the death notice of his niece Barbara Sexton, the daughter of Kathleen, that played no little part in the conclusion of the search. That conclusion was locating Frank Sexton, Walter’s great nephew.
I recently received the following from Frank;
“Hi Bill and Trevor, thank you so very much for the effort in tracking our family line and contacting me. When I was first contacted by Fiona from Anne Wilson Funerals and then spoke to you Bill, the news that my Great Uncles medals had been found was unbelievable and for me like winning the lottery. I had just turned 8 when "Uncle Roy" as we called him died, but remember him always happy to see us and always so nice to me.
In later years I had wondered what happened to his and his brother's personal property as they had no other family, but put it down to those who don’t really have the same respect for history as some of us. No matter, the fact that you have again given his family a tangible connection to Uncle Roy and to a life changing part of his life as a 21 year old is absolutely wonderful. 
Bill, once I have the medals mounted and on display it will be a pleasure to send you photos.’
Shortly, Trevor will be meeting with Frank Sexton, Walter’s great nephew where the medals long missing from the family, will ‘go home’.

The returned medal tally is now 1575.

25 November 2014

Frederick Glover

This is Bill's story about the lost 1939-1945 Australian Service Medal of PM6121 Frederick John Glover. Bill also has some advice for readers.
“About 3 years ago at a dawn service in Hastings” was the reply to my question asking Frederick’s son John when had he last seen his father’s ASM. The obvious question from John to me “how did you get them, where have they been?” was I had to admit circumspect. It was handed into ANZAC House in Melbourne last week but where they have been for the last three years I did not know.
The return, as has been the case so often lately, is a result of some fine sleuthing by the team of the Australian Surname Group. A brilliant bit of deductive reason by Liz who thought of researching the ABN number of Plasters, to find John, as he was a plasterer by trade. And a bit of research by yours truly who spent considerable hours on the internet, punching in a wide series of combinations, then ringing around. (Oh I will dread this month’s bill.)
However I closed my post to the Australian Surname Group Forum with this somewhat impromptu remark:
‘I dread ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day, since the 11th I have received 3 medals in the mail, all of which appear to have come unstuck or unpinned. Medals are too heavy for safety pins.’
But unfortunately people are loathe to change the set up on Dad’s or Grandad’s medals. The pins worked okay for 40 or more years for him or her. So why not for me?
Well ribbon degrades with time, it tears, pins bend under stress, and come undone.
Look at the pin, you can see how it has become bent out of alignment with time, particularly when you look at the size of the medal and its apparent weight.
So to all our followers if you have a relatives medals, please check them before you wear them. And if they are held only by a safety pin. then get them mounted. As I said to Frederick’s son John, "You have been lucky in getting the medal back, you may not be as lucky if forbid there is a next time."

The returned medal tally is now 1572.

20 November 2014

Timor Leste Solidarity Medal

I mentioned before that some stories we can't tell completely. This is sometimes due to family circumstances or the medals might be subject to a police investigation. This case is along those lines.
I received this Timor Leste Solidarity Medal from my contact Jackie of Australia Post. The medal had come adrift from it's packaging. Luckily the cardboard sleeve had the soldier's name so I was able to track him down. It wasn't easy but a very helpful grandfather pointed me in the right direction.
It turns out that the medal was awarded to a former soldier who is now a Queensland Police Officer. 
The returned medal tally is now 1572.

19 November 2014

Ross Fenn

The family research resources available on line are simply fantastic. That is until I hit a brick wall then the frustration really sets in.
With the search for Stoker Edward Ross Fenn I raced through the years finding loads of information until his death in 1977. Then nothing. Ross appears in a couple of family trees on Ancestry.com.au and the tree owners have been very helpful but the last piece of the jigsaw has been very elusive. I did work out that Ross had three children but working out who they were was proving very difficult.
One contact on Ancestry, Sandra, was able to put me in touch with Ken Ryan who in turn referred me to Bert Roberts. I spoke to Bert tonight and even though he had no immediate information to give me he graciously committed to help me out. As I composed an email to him I had to revisit all the research and evidence I had found. As I checked the addresses Ross had lived at I found a name in the 1968 electoral roll I recognised living in the same suburb. I had to look at google maps to locate the address and on a whim checked out the initial/name combination in the White Pages. In a neighboring suburb from that 1968 entry I found the same name. I took a punt and called the number and ended up speaking to Ross' son. Now I can report back to Sandra, Ken and Bert that I've found the missing piece they were all looking for.
Thanks also goes to Kay R and John P who donated the medals to me in September.
The returned medal tally is now 1571.

17 November 2014

Allan Aulsebrook

This story has some rather odd twists. I received the Australian Service Medal 1939-45 awarded to LCPL Allan Lumsden Aulsebrook from the Australian Embassy in London after it had been handed in. The WWII nominal roll shows that Allan, a member of the Australian Army Canteen Service, died in June 1945. How interesting.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission web site gave part of the answer but the mystery grew when I read he died in Cowra. I knew that the Cowra Breakout was in August 1944 so he wasn't one of the four Australian's killed by the escaping Japanese POWs. It was from the AWM that I found he died of illness.
Allan never married I started looking at his siblings. His brother John had two daughters Janet and Lynette. Through Ancestry.com I found an Aulsebrook family tree. I sent off a message to the tree owner, Phil, who as it turns out lives in Canada. Phil was able to put me in touch with Lynette and the search is now resolved. Although I am scratching my head a bit at how a medal awarded to a soldier who died in Cowra ended up in England.
The returned medal tally is now 1567.


16 November 2014

Another return with no story to tell

This return really has no story behind it but what details there are can't really be published.
I was first contacted by a journalist in WA who was running with a story about WWI tribute medallion that had been found in Perth. I did the research on behalf of the finder, located the family and put them all in touch with each other. The search is resolved which is really all that I can report.
The returned medal tally is now 1566.

15 November 2014

Daphne Olsen

This story had several facets to it that I didn't expect when I first received the WWII medals awarded to QF266064 Daphne Elizabeth Olsen.
The medals came to me from WO2 Allen S who had received them from a gent who recovered then from a shirt donated to a charity store. When I first looked at the rim it struck me that the naming was done by lazer engraving rather then impressed. That means that the medals were issued after the early 1990s when this method was first introduced.
It didn't take long to work out that Daphne was married to QX54716 David Olsen. This lead me to find that David died on 16 Mar 45. The next piece of information was a memorial notice I found in the Townsville Bullition.
This confirmed that David died of wounds but more importantly there is an additional clue that David and Daphne had a son also named David. The electoral roll provided me the address that Daphne was living at in 1949 but then the clues ran out. I returned to the newspaper and deciphered that the other part of the notice was placed my Mr and Mrs N.G. Clark. This turned out to be Norman Gutherson Clark, Daphne's father. This name lead me to a family tree on Ancestry and ultimately to David Olsen who I spoke to this afternoon.
Thank you to Russell Clark for his assistance.
The returned medal tally is now 1565.
 Even though it is hard to read this is a picture of David's head stone at the Brisbane (Lutwyche) Cemetery.

Arthur Warren

This story is about the WWI Victory Medal awarded to 200 PTE Arthur Warren and Bill's search for Arthur's family.

Medal searches fall into many categories. One is the ‘interrupted category’.
Such was the search for the next of kin of 200 PTE Arthur WARREN. Originally awarded in the 1920s the story moves forward to late 1990’s when Arthur’s Victory Medal was found in Preston, on a rubbish pile in front of a house that was being renovated. A medal that would probably not been found but consigned to the tip, had it not been in a little silver case that caught the eye of a man out walking his dog.
So we step forward to 2013 and a request from Jerry a veteran of Afghanistan, who had been passed the medal and was requesting help in returning it to Arthur’s family.
This is how I summarised the story to the team of the Australian Surname Group, when I emailed them the result of the search

‘Team, tonight I sent of the following message:
‘Good evening all.
Jerry say hello to Peter the grandson of Arthur Warren.
Peter say hello to Jerry who is really responsible for this email, for it was Jerry and his enquiry to the Jude, the Office Manager at the State Offices of the RSL that started the search.
At that point I am going to say no more. I have however left attached the photos that Jerry forwarded to me.
Regards to you both

Shortly thereafter I received the following from Jerry
‘Thanks Bill
Spoke to Peter and all is well. So dammed happy to get the medal to a relative. Feels so good to get something so precious back to another vets family’

And from Peter:

‘Hi Bill
 I am happy and grateful for all the effort you have put in to trace us.'

In reality I feel I have done little, if thanks are in order then they should go to the team of the Australian Surname Group.
The returned medal tally is now 1563.

13 November 2014

Terence Clifford

I had a really nice email from Jenni M recently who contacted me on behalf of her daughter who found 4 Vietnam War medals. The medals, found near Bundaberg, QLD, were awarded to R42526 Terence John Clifford.
I was able to follow Terry via the electoral rolls up until 1980 and he was still in the RAN. I hit a brick wall so asked some contacts in Defence if anyone had served with Terry. This requested through up an interesting referral. Based on the service number I was told that Terry was most likely a tradesman so it was suggested I try the RAN Skilled Hands website. Before I could follow this lead a very kind person posted my request and within a day I received an email from Terry. I was then able to put him in touch with Jenni. He now has his medals.
Thank you to all those who reached out to their contacts to help me in this search. How the medals ended up in Bundy remains a mystery.
The returned medal tally is now 1562.

12 November 2014

Farquhar Fraser McKay

I recently received an email from Chris H who had two WWI medals that he found in the 1980s when demolishing a house in Sawtell, NSW. The medals were awarded to Farquhar Fraser McKay. McKay was a constable in the NSW Police Force who didn't enlist early in the war as he was the only means of support for his mother after two of his brothers enlisted. One was Alexander who died of disease at Gallipoil. The second brother, Ewan, enlisted in 1915 and died of wounds received in France in 1916. When McKay's mother died he was free to enlist, at aged 30, and served in 13th Battalion, AIF. This link is to his service record.
When he enlisted, McKay listed his sister, Annie Bathgate as his next of kin. He survived the war but died in 1926 in Newcastle having never married. It was through the Bathgate family that I traced the closest relative. I have been in contact with McKay's great nephew, Ian, who tells me McKay's neice served during WWII. This was Captain Mairi Fraser Bathgate of the 2/5 Australian General Hospital She saw service in Palestine, Egypt, Greece, Crete, Eritrea, New Guinea, & Morotai during WW2.
Thanks to Ian for permission to use the picture of McKay and to Chris for initiating this return. The returned medal tally is now 1558.

01 November 2014

Vivian Maizey

When the medals awarded to NX163524 Vivian Mervyn Maizey went missing his daughter gave up hope of ever seeing them again.
But after a long search, that started at the Bondi RSL, jumped to Victoria, and ended up back in NSW, where the medals were originally recovered, the medals are home with Vivian’s daughter.
That short description doesn't begin to cover the twists and turns involved in this search.Perhaps the really frustrating part of the search was to be told by a Police Constable that it was an ‘interesting recovery’ and who merely smiled when asked ‘how interesting?’.
The returned medal tally is now 1556.

24 October 2014

James Hayes

This search is for the family of 2650 James Henry Hayes who served with 30th Battalion, AIF. The medal came to me from Ross W of Alice Rive, QLD and the research gave me some challenges.
Hayes was from Camperdown in Sydney and using the electoral rolls it was easy to put together a tree of the Hayes family. James had five brothers and three sisters.
What surprised me was that none of the males from this family married so the path I followed was down through their sister Irene who married Frances Meigan. Their son Robert served in WWII and they also had several daughters. It is the son of one of these daughters who I spoke to today and will send the medal to shortly.
The returned medal tally is now 1552.