28 December 2015

WWII Engineer Pacific Star

The Pacific Star awarded to VX74647 Robert John Smyth has had a rather tough life. As can be seen in the picture, someone has defaced the naming in an effort to remove Smyth's details.
The medal came to me in 2005 via the Wagga Wagga RSL sub-branch after it was found near Rutherglen, VIC. 10 years ago there wasn't much information available online and all I could find was that his NOK was named Vida and in 1963 his address was care of a railway station in country Victoria.
Bill and I have put in quite a bit of research effort over the years but without any success. Today I revisited the research and had almost immediate success. One of the new resources available is a Victorian BDM search function. This provided enough information to work out that Smyth married Vida Thompson in 1937. Vida died in 1958. Using this information I found Vida on an Ancestry family tree and I've now been in contact with Helen whose husband is related to Vida.
The returned medal tally is now 1761.

23 December 2015

Colonial Auxiliary Forces Long Service Medal - awarded 1907

For each easy search we do there are probably another 10 which are far more difficult. This particular piece of research was at the upper end of the difficult scale.
In May 2015 I received the Colonial Auxiliary Forces Long Service Medal awarded to 550 J Anderson from Ann W-F of Mackay. Anderson served in the 4th Australian Infantry Regiment. This was a pre-federation militia unit which was centered on the Hunter Valley region of NSW. There were companies in Newcastle (A), West Maitland (B), Singleton (C), Wallsend (D), Tamworth (F), Armidale (G) and Lambton (H).
There are no records readily available for this period so research is difficult. The impressing on the rim of the medal had one vital clue, apart from the name and unit, which helped me. This was the date when the soldier became eligible for the award. The date reads '7.10.05'. Using this date I found the gazette entry and eventually two newspaper articles which mentions the award of the medal to Anderson and other members of 4th AIR. That was the hard bit and took over 4 months to reach this point.

Knowing a location led me to other articles which gave me the full name of John Anderson and his wife Agnes. John and Agnes lived in Lambton, a Newcastle suburb and where H Company of 4 AIR were located.
Once I had John and Agnes' full names it was easy to follow them and their children through the NSW BDM records and the electoral rolls. John and Agnes had a daughter named Aspah who married Joseph Sneddon. Their first son, James, died a birth. Their second son was Archibald Watson Anderson Sneddon who married Ettie Moore. These quite distinctive names helped this part of the search. Archibald and Ettie had a son Desmond who, with Clare, had a son Greg. I had finally found the current generation but the search wasn't over.
The electoral rolls available on Ancestry.com finish in 1980. From these I knew that Greg lived in the Hunter Valley but his exact address eluded me. There was one entry in the Whitepages with Greg's initial combination so I took a punt and gave the number a call. I was lucky enough to have found the right family and Greg knew all the names I mentioned having researched his family tree. Greg is John's great great grandson.
At some point this medal has been converted to wear as a brooch which was a common occurrence in the past.
Thank you to Ann who sent me the medal.
The returned medal tally is now 1760.

12 December 2015

Eddie Biddle

This afternoon I received an email from Henry of the Longreach RSL Sub-Branch. One of their members had a WWII group of medals which didn't belong to their family. Henry forwarded me the details of NX82791 Edward Masterman Biddle and a picture of the medals with a request to look for the family since Eddie had died in 1990.
Eddie was pretty easy to follow through the electoral rolls and there is also quite a bit of information about him on the internet.
It took about 30 minutes (sorry Bill) to track down Eddie's nephew Colin. I've now connected Colin with Henry and the medals will be returned in the near future.
The returned medal tally is now 1763.

Robert Haynes

More great work from Bill.

Sometimes it is the story behind the return of medals that is more interesting than the actual search itself.
It is six years since Fiona Curtis, a serving officer in the Australian Army, contacted Glyn asking advice in regard to how she could go about finding the WWII medals awarded to the grandfather VX35794 Private Robert James Haynes. The medals had been stolen 20 years ago.
Now let's step forward six years to when the Melton Vietnam Veteran's Association were renovating their premises. It was here that Vietnam War veteran Ray Evans found a set of WWII medals in the back of a cupboard. Ray tells us that no one know where they came from or who put them there. Ray's best guess is that someone had anonymously handed them in and they were put away for safe keeping. With out trying to be to humorous about it, they were safe until they were discovered recently. Like many presented with a challenge, Ray jumped at it and rang all the Haynes in the Melton area. Unfortunately, he had no luck finding either the veteran of the next of kin.
It was several weeks later that someone referred Ray to a 'bloke at Watsonia RSL, Bill Wyndham, who returns medals'. That referral started the next phase of the search.
It was a search that took me two days to finalise thanks to the data generously provide by War Graves, information from the Victorian State Library and the electoral rolls. This all led me to Robert's daughter Robyn who lives in Perth.
This was all finalised last week when Robert's son Frank and granddaughter LTCOL Fiona Curtis met Ray and the team at Melton. The family thought there was to much risk in having the medals posted so they chose to collect them. This photo is of
Photo and story courtesy of the Leader Newspaper
The returned medal tally is now 1759.

Melton Vietnam veteran Ray Evans (centre) returned the World War II medals of Robert Haynes, which were stolen 26 years ago, to his son Frank Haynes and Frank’s daughter, Lieutenant Colonel Fiona Curtis. Picture: ANDY BROWNBILL

FRANK Haynes thought the medals his father Robert received for service in World War II had been lost forever following a burglary in 1989. 
But 26 years after they were stolen, they have been reunited with the family and it’s all thanks to Melton’s Vietnam veterans.
Melton veteran Ray Evans discovered the medals in the back of a cupboard, when the association was preparing to move to its new home at the Willows Historical Park earlier this year.
And so, he set about trying to find their rightful owner.
“When I found them tucked away in the back of a cupboard no one knew how they got there. It’s possible they were handed in anonymously many years ago,’’ Mr Evans said.
“But the name Robert Haynes was engraved on them so I rang every Haynes in Melton to give them back and had no luck.”
He said a chat with friends in Sunbury weeks later about the medals led him to Bill Wyndham of the Watsonia RSL, and within two days Mr Wyndham found Robert’s daughter, Robyn Speijers in Western Australia.
“I was going to post them to her, but the family didn’t want to risk losing them again so we arranged for them to be picked up personally. I was just so proud that we could do this,” Mr Evans said.
Mr Haynes, who lives in Mooroolbark, travelled to Melton with his daughter Lieutenant Colonel Fiona Curtis, from Newton, on November 19, for the priceless medals.
He said he was shocked and thought his father’s medals were lost forever.
“Dad died in 1995, aged 78, and for years we have been compiling his war history in a scrap book, but it was never complete, until now.”
Lieutenant Colonel Curtis said to be able to wear her grandfather’s medals on Anzac Day meant so much.

06 December 2015

Richard Taylor

My part in this search started when I received the British War Medal awarded to 6394 PTE Richard Taylor from the Tamborine Mountain RSL. Richard served in the 25th Battalion and his mother Margaret was listed as his NOK.
It was pretty easy to follow Richard through the electoral rolls after the war. He married Lillian Smith in 1928 but they had no children. Lillian died in 1957 and Richard in 1960.
Richard had one sister, Agnes. She married in 1921 but died the same year. Richard's father was William Taylor but I couldn't find any further information about him or Margaret (nee Park) so I focused my research on Lillian's family.
Lillian was the daughter of Benjamin Smith and Eliza Alice Bardsley. I found this information from the Queensland BDM which was a piece of luck as there wasn't any identifiable immigration records to look at as Benjamin and Eliza were from the UK.
Next I found Eliza on an Ancestry family tree and the owner, Tony, and I confirmed the family connection. Tony was also able to tell me that Lillian's brother was Emmott Smith who was killed in action on 30 October 1918.
Thanks very much to John Brookes, President of the Tamborine Mountain RSL who sent me the medal.
The returned medal tally is now 1755.

James William Henry Hart

564 DVR JWH Hart's medals are impressed with the name of the last unit he served with: the13thMachine Gun Company. Prior to that he was posted to the 36th, 42nd and 52nd battalions. He was wounded in action once when he received a guns shot wound to his left side.
Originally from Brewarrina, NSW, James was from a large family although he didn't marry. His brother Thomas was his next of kin. Thomas had a son also called James William Henry Hart which confused the research a bit. It is through Thomas' family that I've found a relative to receive James' Victory Medal.
Thanks to Vincent M for sending the medal to me.
The returned medal tally is now 1754.

25 November 2015

Thomas Feeley

Knowing where and how a set of medals has been found often quickly leads us to the recipient or, as is more often the case, their next of kin. Unless it involves the Police.
Confidentiality and legal obligations, often means that we (Glyn and myself) sometimes go around in circles. The search for  VX72799 Gunner Thomas Charles Feeley was a case in point.
Today as I spoke to Barry, his son, he admitted that he could hardly wait to phone his sister and tell her that dad’s medals, stolen quite some time ago, had been recovered.
In this case, as I was later informed by a Senior Constable, ‘recovered’ was the appropriate word.
At the request of the family, who it must be remembered have gone through the trauma of loss of their father’s medals once, I will say no more.

Great work Bill.
The returned medal tally is now 1753.

Modern Australian Medals

When I opened an email the other night I was rather surprised at the medals that had been found thrown in a skip bin. They are the Australian Defence Medal and the Australian Sports Medal. The skip bin business owner passed the medals to former ABETP Jason M who then contacted me.
While the box for the ADM gave the name and service number of the soldier this was a bit of a false lead as the ADF has changed its personnel numbering system since this man served.
A search of the old service numbers didn't give us any clues so I checked it'sanhonour for the list of Australian Sports Medal recipients. I found that John Bown had received this medal. This was the clue we needed and part time researcher Dave C was able to work out that were were looking for John Charles Bown. Dave also found out that John served with SASR. Through the 1990s and 2000s John worked with a couple of city councils and was well know in ALF circles. Unfortunately, John died in 2009. A road is named in his honour in Floreat, WA.
Once I had John's full name and date of death I was able to use a process of elimination to work out his son is David Bown. I was able to contact David today and connect him with James so that the medals can be returned.
Thanks Jason as well as Mark and Cathy Terry from Cheapa Skips, Crompton Rd Rockingham. Also thanks to Dave C from my office.
The returned medal tally is now 1749.

09 November 2015

Modern New Zealand Medal

This is a story of the Anzac spirit being renewed.
For a while now we have been collaborating with Ian from Medals Reunited New Zealand. Yesterday, I called on Ian's local expertise for a search that started when I received a New Zealand Defence Service Medal from Australia Post. The medal, still in its box of issue had come apart from the mail packaging. The medal was awarded to LAC J D Stewart RNZAF.
I assumed that LAC Stewart moved to Australia at some point but with out his full name it was difficult to track him down. I sent the service details to Ian and his immediate response was:
'as an aside, I served with a Flight Sergeant John Stewart, Communications Operator, at RNZAF Wigram from 1972-87; service number is about the right vintage, lost touch after 1990.'
What would the chances be that my contact would know this person?
First thing this morning I received a reply from Ian that this indeed was his former colleague. Through the NZDF we were able to get in contact with John and I've arranged to send him his medal. A really nice addition to this story is that only today, John was at Sydney airport about to board a plane to New Zealand for a holiday. Now that contact has been re-established, John is going to go and see Ian. The timing couldn't be better.
Thanks to Jac, my contact in Australia Post, Logan of the NZDF and Ian of MRNZ.
The returned medal tally is now 1747.

08 November 2015

Louis Cleary

10821 Louis Joseph Angelo Cleary served with an interesting unit, the 3rd Divisional Train. This was was a logistics organisations which supported the 3rd Division and consisted of four service corps companies, a salvage company, three field ambulances, a sanitary section and a mobile veterinary section. He is listed as a driver and moved between units of the Divisional Train including a field ambulance, an Entrenching Battalion and an Advanced Horse Transport Depot. Louis died in 1944 as a result of his war service and has a War Graves Commission head stone.
With a name as distinctive as Louis Joseph Angelo Cleary it was easy to follow him through the electoral rolls but at that point the search became far more difficult. The search commenced in May 2014 and was only finalised today. Louis married Kathrine, however, they did not have any children. Louis also stopped using Angelo so the records became a bit confusing.
With no direct descendant I started looking at Louis' sibling. He had four brothers and three sisters. Unraveling each of these families created more confusion for me. Of those who did marry I could only find one who had any children who then went on to have families of their own. This was Percy. His son John served during WWII as a legal officer. It was through this line that I was able to contact Louis' great nephew Elaine.
Thank you to Suzanne S of Canberra who sent me the medal.
The medals are in as issued condition with the original ribbon which is close to 100 years old and in remarkable condition.
The returned medal tally is now 1745.

05 November 2015

Frank Holbrook

The Holbrook family were from England and immigrated to Australia around 1911. They settled in Balingup, WA where they were farmers. Two sons, Thomas and Frank enlisted for WWI. This medal was awarded to 1877 Driver Frank William Holbrook who served with 10th Light Horse Regiment.
After WWI Frank returned to farming. Frank's son was named William Frank and I'm been in contact with William's wife who I'll return the medal to.
Thomas Holbrook did not survive WWI. He died of wounds received in May 1918. Thomas' wife Emma died in December 1918 leaving two young sons as orphans.
Thanks go to Diane M who sent me the medal and the Bernice Holbrook who assisted me with this research.
The returned medal tally is now 1743.

01 November 2015

Percival Hackworthy

Some months ago I was contacted by Betty Lesage from France who had a WWI dog tag which she thought belonged to an Australian soldier. It took a while to work out but the soldier was actually 1837 Percival Hackworthy, a British solider.
Luckily, the Hackworthy family has quite a bit of information on line and I was able to connect Betty with Percival's great nephew Steve. Betty has recently let me know that she has sent Steve the dog tag.
The returned medal tally is now 1742.

30 September 2015

Patrick Wynne

This group of medals and the search to find the family resulted in a pretty interesting story.
The medals were sent to me by the NSW RSL and comprised a WWI British Army group and WWII Australian Army group. Both groups named to P Wynne. Initially, I thought it was father and son groups but information from the UK census, immigration records and the Australian electoral rolls made me think it was the same person.
The only issue I had with this theory was that the birth dates of WWI soldier and the WWII soldier was 5 years apart. My conclusion was that Patrick lied about his age when enlisting for WWII.
Patrick's WWI service was with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers and the Royal Dublin Corps. After the war the Wynne family immigrated to Australia in a couple of waves. Patrick arriving with his sister Agnes in 1923.
During WWII he served as NX110473 and it was his enlistment location and NOK name which gave me the only clue to who this Patrick was as there was about 20 candidates to choose from.
He was living in Rosebery NSW when he enlisted and his next of kin was Kathleen. The only people that I can find with this name and location combination in the electoral roll was the family of Thadeus and Kathleen Wynne. Using this information I back tracked through all those records I mentioned and managed to confirm that WWI Patrick and WWII Patrick was the same man.
Patrick did not marry so it was the decedents of one of his many siblings I was looking for. Unfortunately, the family suffered several tragedies but I was able to locate Patrick's great niece.
Thank you to Claudia at the NSW RSL.
The returned medal tally is now 1741.

25 September 2015

Family groups

This is a little hard to explain but here goes.
Last Tuesday I received a parcel from the Directorate of Honours and Awards. The parcel contained three separate groups of medals and numerous other items. Initially these had all come from the Victorian Police who wanted to see them returned to the rightful owner.
The first WWII group was awarded to QX62854 Harry Francis Smith. The second WWII group was named to Q266459 Edward Claude Holmes. What immediately struck me about this pair is that they are lazer engraved which means they were only issued in the last 10 years or so. The final group was contemporary and named to S C Holmes. There was one connection with the same surname but was Smith also related?
It took about 5 solid hours on Wednesday night to untangle the family connection. What I worked out was that Harry and Edward were related by marriage. I could follow the Holmes family through the electoral rolls and the first big break came when I found Stephen Charles Holmes listed, in 1980, as a solider serving with 6 RAR. Then the trail went cold.
I took some tricky research on Thursday to workout that Stephen later became a Padre and did some service with the RAAF. I then tracked him down to a parish in Victoria only to be told he had moved on in 2013. However, I was given the name of another church in Melbourne to which I sent an email and then the waiting started.
This evening Padre Stephen rang me. My message had got through. Stephen tells me that he thinks the medals might have been thrown out accidentally and that he did spend some time searching for them. I'll be sending all this back to him soon along with the WWI whistle that Stephen tells me was used in the trenches.
Thanks to the Leading Senior Constable Penelope D from the Victorian Police, Shane D from Honours and Awards and my mate Roland for his assistance. This search ended up taking just three days to complete which I'm pretty happy about.
The returned medal tally is now 1734.

Royal Engineers WWI medal

A few bits of research have come to a conclusion over the last day or so. This one has a international connection as well as a local one for me.
I received the WWI Victory Medal awarded to 46124 Charles Henry Hutton Black of the Royal Engineers from Jan C of Canberra. How this medal came to be in Australia is a mystery.
Other than Black's Medal Index Card there was only one other reference to him that I could find. That was on Ancestry.com and a family tree owned by Andrew V who is Black's great grandson.
Andrew lives in Scotland which makes the mystery of how the medal ended up in Canberra even more interesting.
The returned medal tally is now 1717.

24 September 2015

John Sharpe

This piece of research was done for the Victorian Police. We have a great relationship with them and we are currently in the middle of looking at several cases for the Victorian Police.
827 John Henry Sharpe was born in England in 1897. His family moved to Victoria in 1902. John was the son of George Frederick Sharpe and Eleanor Theophila (nee Chapman). There is no evidence that John married or had children. Indeed, when he enlisted for WWII he gave his NOK as his father George just as he had done for WWI. The family lived in Oakligh until about 1924 but then took up farming near Loch, Victoria.
John had several siblings and I've been able to link the police with John's nephew.

The returned medal tally is now 1716.


31 August 2015

Father and son medals

This search was very frustrating. Over several weeks I managed to find snippets of information about Henry William Small and his son Kenneth Andrew Small. However, there was one key piece of information I just couldn't find. That was until the other night where a bit of desperation led me to find the solution.
The Queen's South Africa Medal awarded to William Henry Small and the WWII group awarded to NX152534 Kenneth Andrew Small were sent to me by Lindsay R of the NSW RSL.
I found William's service details on a Boer War research website. He served in the South African Constabulary but these were only basic details. The clasps for his QSA are: 'Transvaal', 'Orange Free State' and 'Cape Colony'. Kenneth's WWII details were also easy to find. That is when I hit the first brick wall.
It wasn't until I entered Kenneth's name in to the British WWI pensions records that I found him listed as the next of kin of Henry William Small, later pages in this record swapped the names around again. Knowing that Henry's first name interchanged with his second name over the years helped considerably. Henry served in the British Army for many years and the last record shows that he was still serving in 1922. He full medal entitlement must have been impressive. In Henry's pension records it states that he was abandoned by this wife - Alice Andrews. Luckily Kenneth's address was given. Using all these details I found the immigration records of Alice and Kenneth when they left England for Australia in 1924.
It was then easy enough to follow them through the electoral rolls up until the 1960s.
Alice died in 1955 and her death notice mentioned Ken and Molly. Molly turned out to be Kenneth's wife Mary but they divorced in 1958 not having had children. I couldn't find a death notice for either Kenneth or Molly so that is when I hit the next brick wall.
Out of desperation I started with different search combinations on Ancestry until I came across a family tree which included Alice Andrews. That was the key I needed. This family tree was very extensive and confirmed what I had surmised. A message to the tree owner was answered tonight and my frustration is over.
The returned medal tally is now 1715.

26 August 2015

Frank Catterall

Bill and I are usually reluctant to do any research until we receive a medal. This is due to some unfortunate occurrences in the past where we have expended considerable resources on our research only to find for one reason or another we can not complete the return. However, when we see that the person holding the medal is so committed to returning it we are confident enough to start the journey.
This was the case recently when I was contacted by Dr Sandra A who had a WWI medal awarded to 5354 Frank Alfred Catterall.
Frank was originally a member of the 3rd Battalion before being taken on strength of the 55th Battalion. How Sandra's family came in to possession of this medal is a mystery but after many years of research she had hit a brick wall in finding Frank's family.
What I found out was that Frank married Amy Winifred Klauss, however, they had no children. His sister, Alma Doris Catterall married Albert Edward Wallace. Their daughter was Marjorie Ida Wallace who married Clifford Frederick Parsons. This research led me to Scott E who put me in touch with his mother, Kathy the daughter of Marjorie and Clifford Parsons.
The last step in this process for me has to connect Sandra and Kathy so that the medal can be returned to the family.
The returned medal tally is now 1710.

24 August 2015

Albert Gale newspaper story

Tonight I received a fantastic email from Tim, the great grandson of Albert Gale whose story I posted a few weeks ago. He very kindly sent me scans of a story from his local paper.

Robert Cocking

Bill says that this is a story that wanders.

Many of the medals that come to us, come as ‘orphans’. While we initially know nothing of the veteran but we do have a means of identifying them, in many case the people who pass the medals to us often admit to knowing even less. In the case of the British War Medal awarded to 3268 Gunner Robert Thomas Cocking, it came from a small parcel sent to me from ANZAC House in Melbourne. It had, along with a varied collection of other medals, been recovered by the Victorian Police, who as the law dictates were somewhat circumspect in passing the source.
From a simple search using his reported death in the Argus Newspaper of both the 2nd and 16th May 1917, along with the Victorian BDM’s and the help of the Team at The Australian Surname Group, I was soon able to deduce the family tree. But then it got hard, as the Cocking family were again hit by tragedy when Robert’s sister Clara passed away in 1932. Her death notice referred to a daughter Gwynoth and her husband Walter Meryment, but nothing else.
So at this time I decided to look to Robert’s brother’s family.
It was relatively uncomplicated up until Arthur Cranston Cocking married in 1924. Perhaps the records say it best, Arthur Cranston married Mona Lyons Ford or Mona Lyonsford, either way Arthur Cranston Cocking disappeared to be replaced by Arthur Cranston who literally disappeared until I found his enlistment papers from WW2. What I did find interesting was that a M. Forty was given as his next of kin.
Taken as a Prisoner of War on Crete in 1941, Arthur suffered ill health from his release in 1945 until his untimely death in 1973. But even with the electoral rolls the search slowly ground to a halt as the undertakers were unable to locate any documentation. The only further reference I could find of Arthur was having his name of the Ballarat POW Memorial.
So now it was back to Gwynoth and the discovery of a newspaper entry of Walter’s request for administration of Clare’s will. All of this documentation had originated in NSW.
Now it was to the NSW BDM’s, and after a while of mucking around found ‘Gwynoth’s’ marriage as Gwyneth Clare Meryment to a Clarence Ready.
A week ago I spoke to Steve, Gwyneth’s son who advised me quite proudly that his mother was still alive. So tomorrow I will stop by the Watsonia Post Office and when I ring Steve tomorrow evening it will be to tell him that Robert’s British War Medal, one of three medals his father claimed in 1921 are coming home. 

The returned medal tally is now 1709.

14 August 2015

Vietnam War pair

The Vietnam War pair of medals awarded to 219607 John Frederick Spellacy came to me from Jock at Defence Archives after they had been handed in.
John Spellacy served with 110 Signal Squadron in 1970-71, just a couple of years after our Bill was with this unit.
Unfortunately, John died in 2009 but I've been able to contact his family and will returned the medals in the near future.
The returned medal tally is now 1708.