31 May 2014

The full story of the three medal groups to one family

This is the full story of the medals that I previously posted under the heading of Three Medals Groups to One Family. The tale is now continued by Bill:

One of the enduring relationships that we have formed is with the RSL and Australia Post. It was from these two organisations that this search originated. As long term readers will know that when the take on some cases from statutory bodies there or often details that we are unable to publish. Therefore, I ask that you excuse any gaps you might perceive and use your imagination.
Like many searches involving the Victorian RSL this one started with a call and follow up email from Jude Beshears from Anzac House in Melbourne. She had several sets of medal to for me to research. A call and email, this was unusual and really piqued my interest. A further call from Elizabeth Manning, also of the RSL, and the accompanying comment that one medal has the word 'For Bravery in the Field' on it really got my attention. So much so that I broke a long held rule that I don't drive in to the city. Well I did and have now determined that I'll invest in a parking garage rather than a house.
What a collection of medals I was presented with on arrival and I now realise why Jude and Elizabeth wanted to call me personally.
The medal groups were those to:
797 PTE Alfred Hampton Carr, 5th Machine Gun Battalion and comprised the Military Medal, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.
2050 PTE Robert Alexander Carling, 39th Battalion comprising the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.
418801 LAC Charles Ernest Carling comprising the 1939-45 Star, the Pacific Star, the War Medal and the Australian Service Medal 1935-49.
My immediate reaction was to link the Carling medals as most likely that of father and son. The Carr medals didn't immediately appear to be linked but as they were all found together they may have been.
In many ways my searches begin with a simple well laid down process. One I've had described to me as boring, but it works and I think the simplicity stops me jumping to any conclusions that would later lead me astray. This process sees me go through the records available through the AWM and the Australian National Archives. I quietly read these and try to establish a family tree. I then move on to War Graves to establish a date of death. Then it is a cemetery search which might lead me down the road to knowing which funeral director conducted the burial. If this is the case I might get lucky and the funeral home is willing to contact the family. Then, as I've said before, I might resort to sheer desperation and spend long hours at the Victorian State Library.
In this case I could easily confirm the Carling medals were from the same family but Carr drew a blank. The Carlings were from Victoria but Carr was from South Australia and the paucity of information in the South Australian Records frustrated me.
So I began working backwards from who I thought was the youngest being Charles. While I found his grave many of the other records associated with his death and burial were no longer available.
So it was back to my simple process to trawl through the electoral rolls, Trove and the last option of the State Library. A combination of these three and a bit of luck, well a lot of luck, and some back ground information from the original recovery, that lead me to Charles' widow, Norma. 
It was Norma who, between pauses to blow her nose, provided the key information that bought together the beginning and conclusion of this search. Later the same day I spoke to Norma's daughter, Leslie, to arrange the return of the medals. Like Norma, Leslie was also blowing her nose. The reason given was that they both had a cold and I think I'll let them stick to that story.
When I spoke to Norma and Leslie I got the full story about the medals. Robert Albert Carling was the grandfather of Charles Ernest Carling. Alfred Hampton Carr was Robert's nephew making him Charles' uncle.
Norma also told me that she was burgled 9 months ago. Indeed, Norma disturbed the burglars who fled with the medals, her jewelry and some family papers. Other items like her laptop and TV had been made ready to go. The police offered little hope for the recover of any item but after the papers were left n her letterbox she held out hope that just maybe the medals would be recovered.
The photos show the medals Alfred Carr, the citation for his MM and the ladies and Bill discussing the medals.


29 May 2014

Contemporary ADF pair

I'm often asked where the medals that are donated to me come from. I half joke that some fall of a soldier's jacket on Anzac Day. That is exactly what happened to this pair awarded to a serving member of the Army Reserve. The medals are the Defence Long Service Medal with three clasps (signifying over 30 years service) and the Australian Defence Medal.
The medals were found by the grandchildren of Ted H who contacted me to return the medals. With the assistance of my colleague, Roland T, I was able to locate MAJ Smith and the medals will be sent home in the near future.
The returned medal tally is now 1457.

26 May 2014


The WWII War Medal awarded to Leading Aircraftman Victor Raymond Couchman is one of two medals he was awarded for his service in the RAAF. This medal was sent to me by my friend Sandra. I now know that the Australian Service Medal 1939-45 awarded to Couchman is still with the family so the full entitlement is now reunited.
Thank you Sandra, you will be pleased to know that this search took 18 minutes from start to finish (sorry Bill). The returned medal tally is now 1455.

25 May 2014

Light Horse Regiment medal

This story has two parts that are about a decade apart.
I first returned the 1914-15 Star and British War Medal to the family of 804 T-CPL Elias Huxtable well before I had a website or blog. I didn't have a PC then either and all my records were hand written. Fast forward to last week when I received an email from the original donor telling me he had the Victory medal to Huxtable as well. I then had to dive in to some old storage boxes and locate the copies of my original research. Once I found it I was able to contact then again and pass on this piece of news.
Huxtable was a member of the 10th Light Horse Regiment. His service record is only 11 pages long and the most interesting bit is the fact he was Court Martialed for prejudicial behaviour and awarded 40 days field punishment. The Court Martial documents haven't yet been digitised so it isn't know what the prejudicial behaviour actually was.
10th Light Horse Regiment is still in existence and a unit which I have a close link to.
Thanks to Stuie for sending me these medals. The returned medal tally is now 1454.

24 May 2014

Three medal groups to one family

There is not much that we can actually tell about this story. What I can say is that nine medals, one being the Military Medal, to three generations of the same family will soon be returned. Bill did a fantastic job putting all the pieces together.
The returned medal tally is now 1453.

17 May 2014

James Barnett

I received the WWI Victory Medal awarded to 1678 PTE James Absalom Barnett last July from Nathan D. James served in the 45th Battalion, AIF. He was also awarded the British War Medal.
It was rather easy to follow James' life but the next step to any living descendants alluded me.
In recent months our fellow researcher Alex L has been able to dedicate some more of his valuable time to me. He had a fresh look at this case and quickly found records for James' daughter and then on to her son Jon.
This morning I spoke to the family and will be returning the medal shortly. Many thanks go to Nathan and congratulations to Alex who tells me he 'is happy to be back on the scoreboard'.
The returned medal tally is now 1444.

15 May 2014

Australian Defence Medal

Another medal that I received yesterday from the WA RSL was the Australian Defence Medal awarded to M Landrigan.
I surmised that the number was for a member of the RAN as it was obviously part of the first PMKeyS issue. A search on the internal Defence network yielded no results by a person by the same name came up in an old copy of Navy News. The story was about safety measures implemented by this sailor. A Google search of the surname and safety lead me to a LinkedIn profile. This in turn gave me the current employer who I called and not long after I was speaking to Matt. All up the search took about 30 minutes (sorry again Bill).
The returned medal tally is now 1443.

03 May 2014

Leslie De Vis

The De Vis family was a rather typical one in the late 19th century in Australia. It was a large family and some of the children died in infancy. The family was from North Queensland and the children were either born in Charters Towers, Townsville or Bowen. The British War Medal I was given by Karyn H was awarded to 2455 PTE Leslie Holmes De Vis. The medal is named to his first unit, 1st Bn AIF however, he was later transferred to 42nd Bn AIF. De Vis was killed in action on 18 October 1917.
With such a distinctive surname I thought that the search for this family would be reasonably. However, through the records there are different spellings of the name. Variations I came across include Devis, De-Vis, de Vis and even Deuis which is also how the medal is named.
What I did discover was that of all the children of this large family, five enlisted for WWI. They were:
LT Charles Edwin De Vis MM,
PTE Frederick Selwyn De Vis,
PTE Herbert Walter De Vis, and
Sister Gertrude Julia De Vis.
Charles and Frederick would also serve during WWII.
Of all Leslie's siblings, I could only determine that Gertrude, Frederick and William had children. I couldn't track down Gertrude's children.
Frederick's only son, Selwyn George De Vis served in the RAAF and was killed in action during a bombing mission over Germany on 19 March 1945. Frederick De Vis was a Commonwealth public servant and lived in Canberra for many years. Selwyn worked for the CSIRO before enlisting. This link to the ACT Memorial page gives a synopsis of Selwyn's life.
The only other of Leslie's siblings I could find who had any children was William. In the 1930s William was a miner in the WA gold fields. I lost track of him through the official records but I found a William De Vis buried in Rockingham, WA. I quick search of the White Pages showed that two families with this surname lived in that area. I took a punt and cold called one of the numbers.
The punt paid off and I ended up speaking to William's grand son. To my very pleasant surprise I was told that William's son, Leslie's nephew was still alive. We have since spoken and the family military history is well known and documented in the family.
Thanks to Karyn and Rob for giving me the medal. The returned medal tally is now 1439.

Post update 2 Jun 14
In the last week I have been contacted by William De Vis' daughter, Margo. She has kindly provided me a composite photo of all the the De Vis siblings who served during WWI.
  Backrow: Bert and Fred Front row: Les, Gertrude, Charles.