30 June 2014

Australian Army Service Corps British War Medal

This is another case where I can't publish many details to many details but the lack of details do not represent the hours of research behind this result.
15250 Joseph Francis O'Brien served in the Army Service Corps as a driver. He was 29 when he enlisted in 1917. I went down quite a few rabbit holes when I started this search due to the fact that his full name was Michael Joseph Francis O'Brien, the same as his father. It wasn't until the 1930's that he went by his full name. To cut a very long story short I can say that this branch of the O'Brien family is now extinct. It is through the family of his wife to who I will send the O'Brien's British War Medal.
Thanks to Guy T from Canada who originally sent me the medal.
The returned medal tally is now 1479.

South African Medals

This is a new line of research for us. Last month I received an envelope from Jackie at Australia Post. The envelop contained four large medals and the corresponding miniatures but it had come adrift from the packaging.
I had not seen the medals before and initially thought them to be from some association. The medals aren't named but on the envelope was a name and service number. All searches that I tried bought up a no logical solutions. I put the research aside as something to do when I could dedicate a lot of time to it.
Last week I received a email form a gentleman asking me to research some Australian WWII medals and he happen to have the same surname as on the envelop. While he isn't related he provided me with the South African origins of the name.
This was all the clues I needed. Once I established the South African link I could identify the medals. From there I narrowed down the potential candidates with the initial/surname combination from the envelope to one person. I found a reference to him on a Facebook post so I sent the owner a message.  Overnight, I had a response from Cape Town and it is the right family. The medals belong to a retired South African Major General who now lives in Australia. I spoke to him this morning and will post the medals off in the near future.
Thanks to Jackie from Australia Post, Lascel for the details on his surname and Riaan for replying so promptly with the contact details for his father.
The medals in the photo are the Military Merit Medal, the Southern Cross Medal, the General Service Medal and the Permanent Forces Good Service Medal.
The returned medal tally is now 1478.

29 June 2014

WWII group of four to Clement Handley

Last week Bill received a parcel from the Victorian RSL HQ which contained two medal groups and some other memorabilia. One of the groups is those awarded to VX59824 Clement Walter Handley. A quick search of Ancestry bought up a family tree o I sent off a message. Within 24 hours I had a reply and I've now connected Bill and Handley's grandson. I hope to hear more about this return from Bill in the near future.
The medal returned tally is now 1470.

26 June 2014

Merv's medals

Bill recently sent me this story:

Each search we I has an obvious beginning which often shapes how the search will develop. In the case of Merv’s medals, it was a Police Constable who dropped into Watsonia RSL, asking for me. His comment according to Jan the receptionist on duty at the time was “We’ve got these medals, we can’t find the owner. I was told you have a bloke called Bill who is pretty good at returning medals”.
And so with those cryptic words the search began.
At this point may I say the medals were in the Police lost property office for 12 months. Therefore, I should have known that if the Police with all their resources couldn’t find the owner or his next of kin, I was in for, as Sherlock Holmes would have it, a four pipe problem. For me it was a lot of cups of coffee and more than the average number of dead ends. How true these words have proved to be.
When I eventually contacted Merv’s daughter-in-Law her response was: “No”. She remained adamant after she asked if I also had a swimming medal among Merv’s medals and I had to admit I didn’t. Her next response was, “Well we have all his medals, there here somewhere all in a little blue box, in fact I’ll look for it now”. So I left my phone number and I must admit at the time I actually looked again at the medals to make sure I had not made a mistake somewhere along the line.
About 30 minutes later I got a phone call “The medals aren’t in the box”. Then followed a series of “yes” and “nos” as together we tried to work out how the medals came into the possession of the Police. But perhaps of even more interest was how I found the family as Merv had passed away in 2003.  
The Police and the loss of the medals was the easiest to explain, a grandson borrowed them to wear on ANZAC Day and lost them at the football. What is important is that the medals are ‘home’ and next week they will be going to Spud (A1 Service Medals- a free plug) who will mount them.
Also with the medals went a few words of caution and the need for care, particularly by young men at football matches. Many thanks to a young Victorian Police who took the effort to see these medals restored to the family.
Next week Merv’ son and I will start the paperwork so that Merv’s grave, the grave of a Japanese POW, can be commemorated.

The returned medal tally is now 1466.


16 June 2014

Daniel Logan

The WWII War medal awarded to NX8831 PTE Daniel Joseph Logan was sent to me by my friend Sandra in April 2014. I had a little bit of a false start with my research so I decided to revisit it today. Originally, I went do a line of research based on a family tree on Ancestry which subsequently proved to be a complete dead end so I went back to the start. From the electoral rolls it was apparent that Daniel never married so it was his siblings I started to look into.
I located Daniel's mother's death notice which gave me all the names I needed. His two sisters married two brothers with reasonably unusual surnames. From all this I pieced together a family tree which stopped with Daniel at his last know address in 1980 and started again with the family of his nephew who also served in WWII. From all this I got a general suburb location in Sydney where I knew a great nephew lived, found a likely listing in the White Pages, took another punt and sure enough I had the right family.
The returned medal tally is now 1462.

15 June 2014

Anzac Biscuits - yesterday and today.

I very rarely make non-medal related posts but I feel that this is one occasion where readers will understand this indulgence. 
A very dear friend of mine recently deployed, for OPSEC purposes I'll call her MJ. When I have deployed, a care package from home has been very welcome and often eased major discomfort or feelings of isolation. To make MJ's life a little more bearable I'm putting together a care package for her. Any Australian soldier will know that Tim Tams are worth more than gold particularly when dealing with the US forces so a few packets will be included. To give MJ a more personal taste of home I've also baked some Anzac Biscuits is add to the parcel.
Even though Anzac Biscuits are now most often seen around Anzac Day I tend to bake them all through the year. While I know the history behind these biscuits I thought I would share it with readers. The text below is taken from the Anzac Day web site:

During World War 1, the wives, mothers and girlfriends of the Australian soldiers were concerned for the nutritional value of the food being supplied to their men. Here was a problem. Any food they sent to the fighting men had to be carried in the ships of the Merchant Navy. Most of these were lucky to maintain a speed of ten knots (18.5 kilometers per hour). Most had no refrigerated facilities, so any food sent had to be able to remain edible after periods in excess of two months. A body of women came up with the answer - a biscuit with all the nutritional value possible. The basis was a Scottish recipe using rolled oats. These oats were used extensively in Scotland, especially for a heavy porridge that helped counteract the extremely cold climate.
The ingredients they used were: rolled oats, sugar, plain flour, coconut, butter, golden syrup or treacle, bi-carbonate of soda and boiling water. All these items did not readily spoil. At first the biscuits were called Soldiers’ Biscuits, but after the landing on Gallipoli, they were renamed ANZAC Biscuits.
As the war drew on, many groups like the CWA (Country Women’s Association), church groups, schools and other women’s organisations devoted a great deal of time to the making of ANZAC biscuits. To ensure that the biscuits remained crisp, they were packed in used tins, such as Billy Tea tins.
ANZAC biscuits are still made today. They can also be purchased from supermarkets and specialty biscuit shops. Around ANZAC Day, these biscuits are also often used by veterans’ organisations to raise funds for the care and welfare of aged war veterans.

So for my friend MJ, I'm continuing this well established tradition for Australian soldiers. Tomorrow there will be a parcel in the post for you.


08 June 2014

WWI Medal Trio

Yesterday I mentioned that every so often I review our active cases just to see what new information might be available online. Of the 15 cards I went over again I had success with the Lang case and then later in the day I resolved another search. On this occasion it was eliminating all the possible candidates before finding which soldier was left.
Last April I received a WWI trio awarded to 9645 William F Manning who served with the South Wales Borderers.
I now know that William was one of nine children to William and Florence Manning. He was 19 when he enlisted. The medals will be returned to the family of William's nephew.
Thank you to Winifred L from Palm Cove who sent the medal to me.
The returned medal tally is now 1461.

07 June 2014

Jim Lang - Vietnam Campaign Medal

100% of my research is done on line which makes it a little ironic that I keep my research notes on index cards. When I receive a medal I put all the details on the card and as I find new information I make hand written notes. Every so often I'll review several cases to see if there is any new information added to a site like Ancestry or if there might be an avenue I've not have thought about before. This morning I chose to review the L and M cards.
A case I've had going since April 2013 was the search for 42693 Private James Angus Lang so I could return his Vietnam Campaign Medal. From the nominal roll entry I knew that Lang (who I now know goes by Jim) served with 1 RAR during the 65/66 tour during the Vietnam War. After that the trail went very cold. So today on a hunch I posted a comment on the 1 RAR Association website. Within two hours I had a reply from the associations Mike Waldron telling me that he had spoken to Jim. The email also provided Jim's number. I've just spoken to Jim and he tells me he lost the medal over 30 years ago. As it happens there is a reunion of the company he served with this weekend and he can't wait to tell his mates.
Thanks to Chris L who sent me the medal and to Mike Waldron for his very prompt action following my post.
The returned medal tally is now 1458.

02 June 2014

Leslie De Vis post update

I've recently been provided a composite photo of the De Vis family and added it to the original post. Scroll to the bottom of this post to see this quite remarkable picture.