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.

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