28 May 2015

Robert Tovey

More good work from Bill.

Opportunity shops have always played a big part in medals getting lost. Medals that are often left in coats or boxes that once would have been consigned to the local tip. Such was the case of the medals of Pilot Officer Robert Mark Tovey. Discovered in a donation of clothes that had been left at an opportunity shop, Jeff and his wife Karla reached out to me asking for help to return the medals. Their problem and what became mine, was that they did not know who had dropped of the clothing.
One problem I soon discovered was that War Graves had no record of Robert's death. This is something that both Glyn and I find becoming more common these days.
Jeff and Karla work as volunteers at the ‘Vinnies’ store in Mt Gambier so that became my starting point which led me to Robert’s grave in Mount Gambier. However Robert’s date of death, 12th November 1996, presented its own problem. Records have a habit of, over time, and particularity when funeral directors merge, of getting lost.
However, with the help of the Electoral Rolls, newspapers and a bit of luck, namely guesswork born of experience, I eventually found myself talking to Charles, Robert’s son in law.
At the time neither he nor his wife Sophie had realised that when they had a clear out of old clothes, her father’s medals had somehow been included in the box that was sent to ‘St.Vincents’.
At this point the medals are now back ‘home’ and Jeff and Karla are rightly pleased that they have been able to return them.

The returned medal tally is now 1693.

Charles Young

This story from Bill does not do justice to the huge amount of effort that has gone in to this return.
There are searches and searches. The return of the medals of VX81816 Private Charles Sydney Young was perhaps no different to many others. It went around in circles, ending up almost where it started. But not quite. 
With no direct descendants, Charles’ medals have been passed to his nephew Kevin. Following his request, we will not be publishing any of the search details.

The returned medal tally is now 1691. 

27 May 2015

Frank Daniel

This search really stumped me for a while. However, some expert advice pointed me in the right direction and a joint effort finally solved the puzzle.
The story started when I received a Korean War Pair from Elaine of The Green Shed. The naming on the medals reads A37560 F. L Daniel. This can be clearly seen in the pictures. Frustratingly, this number, initial and name combination did not match anyone. There was no entry on the DVA Korean War nominal roll. Initially, we all thought that this was a RAN number.
My next step was to the question of who was F. L. Daniel on the Defence military history forum. The answers I got was very surprising. Flight Sergeant Dave B and Mr Wayne W offered a hypothesis and then they were able to prove it. The closeset person that Dave and Wayne found was O37560 SQNLDR Frank John Daniel. Using these details as a start point the following emerged. Frank John Daniel joined the RAAF in 1951 as enlisted aircrew. Around 1957 the RAAF made all aircrew officers so numbers simply had the suffix changed from A to O. It now seems that there is just a simple error on the medal and the 'L' should be a 'J'.
I now know that Frank served in Korea in 1953.
Armed with this information I was able to follow Frank and his family through the electoral rolls. Frank lived in Canberra after he left the RAAF. The electoral roll also provided me with the name of Frank's son. As it turned out Frank died in 2012 in the hospital opposite my office. His death notice confirmed his son's name and I found a likely candidate in the White Pages. The surprises didn't stop there. In 1964 Frack received a Commendation for Valuable Service in the Air and in 1971 the Air Force Cross.
Thanks to Roland T's search efforts we found the 2012 request for information for Frank's official obituary which linked all this information together.
My hunch about Frank's son proved correct and last night I spoke to him. As it turns out it was only recently that Frank's property was cleaned out and the group that provided the service was linked to the Green Shed and that is how Elaine received the medals.
The returned medal tally is now 1689.

21 May 2015

John Joseph Cody

This search has a bit of everything; mystery, coincidence and a fair amount of luck.
Early this month I received a call from the Secretary of the ACT RSL. He had a parcel addressed to me by name care of the RSL. When I collected it there was no indication of who sent it. That still remains a mystery and that it would come through the local RSL is quite strange.
The parcel contained a WWII group awarded to John Joseph Cody, an officer in the Royal Australian Navy. The name combination is rather unusual and I soon found his service record and details about the MID he was awarded. John (known as Jack) is also mentioned on the AWM website for a collection of 178 letters they hold that were written by Jack. The description says:

A collection of 178 letters of Lieutenant Commander John Joseph Cody written to his parents from between 1933, from the time he was a midshipman in the Royal Navy, to 1953, when he was Commander of HMAS Barcoo. These letters document his training at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, United Kingdom, his service with the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean Fleet and with the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). He performed operational hydrographic surveys with the RAN Hydrographic Branch along the coast of New Guinea during 1942-43 when he was Commander of HMAS Polaris. Lt Cdr Cody's descriptive literary style reveals a reflective and dutiful man with an enduring love for his parents, a committed Catholic faith and a love of natural beauty.

I also quickly found Jack's headstone.

These details and information from the electoral rolls led me to determine that Jack didn't marry. So I started looking for any siblings. By linking several names I finally worked out the married name of Jack's sister and the name of her son. That is when the guess work started. I found several people with the same name but only one who was linked to the area of Melbourne where Jack lived. That same name appeared on the website of a charity in a neighboring suburb. Taking a bit of a punt I sent of a message to the charity which was forward to the person I was looking for. Today I received a call from Jack's nephew - my message had found the right person..
Here is the coincidence, Jack's nephew lives about 500m from a friend who I'll be visiting next Sunday. I think it might be worth calling past to drop the medals off.
Thank you to the anonymous donor and the and Kerryn who sent my message to Gerard.
The returned medal tally is now 1687.

18 May 2015

Harold Kean

This is another example of an Australian solider who led a quiet life and served his country. As a reuslt this will be a brief post due to very limited information available.
VX138504 Harold John Kean was a member of the 3 Australian Divisional Provost Company and served in the Pacific. When he was demobilised he lived with his spinster sisters until his death in 1974.
The medals was sent to me by Ted A and will be returned to Teresa who is the family historian for the Kean's and her broader family.
The returned medal tally is now 1681.

15 May 2015

David Bartlett

This story is tinged with sadness.
3263 David Roy Brett Bartlett enlisted on 7 April 1917 aged 23 and 8 months. David was married to Emily Price and they had a baby - Dorothy. David was killed in action on 6 May 1918. His body was never found and he is commemorated at the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial.
Dorothy married John Newton and it is their son Tony who I spoke to today.
The medal was given to me last week by Ron H. Ron is a retired Army officer who lives in Canberra. He found the medal at the Australian War Memorial some years ago on an Anzac Day. We met last week over coffee and discussed the medal and graduating from RMC.
The returned medal tally is now 1680.

Percy Keast - BWM

The British War Medal awarded to 6538 Henry Georgy Percy Keast was sent to my by Tracey L of the Cooparoo RSL after it was passed to her.
Percy was a member of the 9th Battalion AIF and was wounded by being gassed.
Following Percy's return to Australia the records are pretty thin so I had to make a lot of assumptions about his family. Percy's death notice said that he was the father/father in law of Bill and Joan and May and Alan Stark. By a process of elimination I found William Horace Keast who married Joan Kay and Agnes May Keast who married Alan Frederick Stark. The last electoral roll which is available on line via Ancestry.com.au is for 1980 and gave me Alan and May's son's name and from there I found his wife's name. An internet search provided the same name combination linked to a business in Sydney. Based on a hunch I called the business today and ended up talking to Percy's grandson.
Thanks to Tracey and the original donor.
The returned medal tally is now 1679.

14 May 2015

A tale of three plaques

Brilliant research from Bill.

This is the story of two searches, the longer they went the more tiring and emotional draining they have become. It is out of respect to the memory of the fallen and at the request of their families, that much of the research that went into returning these plaques has been edited.

The World War 1 Memorial Plaque has, by its simplicity, on many occasions made it impossible to identify those it commemorates. It carries no rank, it carries no regimental number, just the name. It was decided when it was designed that there is no distinction between sacrifices made by each solider. 
However, sometimes it is the unique name of the solider that allows a search to go ahead. This was the case in the search for the family of William Michael Quirke who was killed in action on the 8th August 1915 at Gallipoli. He is commemorated at the Lone Pine Cemetery. William was one of three brothers who served during World War I. Fortunately, the others survived. One of the most distinguishable things about the plaque is that it is still in its 4 leaf presentation envelope, 93 years after it was first sent to William’s father.
Today Natalie had the honour of passing William’s plaque to his great nephew John, to honour, to respect and to keep alive the memory of an ANZAC.

Even more unique are the names Robert and Fritz Westgarth, brothers who fell during World War 1. Robert on 24 March 1917 near Bapaume France, and Fritz on 28 May 1917, at Ploegstreert, Belgium.
The story of Robert and Fritz fits the ANZAC legend for it was an email from Dougal in New Zealand to ANZAC House in Melbourne, which in part said:

‘Somehow a pair of WW1 dead men’s pennies, excellent condition, and service medals for Robert and Fritz Westgarth found their way into our family heirlooms. The two servicemen are not of our family and we have no idea how we came to have these in our possession ... possibly family friends of our serving forbears.
Is there any way to locate any surviving family so we could pass the items on to their more-rightful inheritors?

This set the search in motion. Of all the newspaper articles and items I read, perhaps the Bendonian of Thursday 21 June 1917 was the most wrenching:

The sad news was conveyed to Mrs. Westgarth, of Big Hill [Cherry Tree], on Thursday, that her third son, Private F. Westgarth, had been killed in action in France on the 28th May. It is only a short time since Mrs. Westgarth received word that her second son, Private Bob Westgarth, had been killed in action on the 24th March. The fourth and youngest son is still fighting in France. The deepest sympathy is felt for the bereaved family.

On Sunday two families met for a quiet lunch in a Balwyn café, where the plaques and medals of Robert and Fritz Westgarth were returned to their family.
Below is the email I sent to Barry the great nephew of Robert and Fritz prior to the meeting:
Attached are my notes, scribbles etc. It should give you and your family some insight into the search, and where I went, as well as my overriding belief that the plaques and medals should go to a family that has an understanding of what war and having family members in the services means. That this would ensure that they and the memories of Robert and Fritz would be treated with the respect they deserve.
This has not been the longest search I have ever undertaken, but it has in many ways been the most involved in that it literally took up all my time, and anything else, well I just let it go, but from your words, I am not sorry I did’.

The returned medal tally is now 1678. 

12 May 2015

10 May 2015

Duplicate WWII medals

As soon as these medals arrived in the mail I knew they were a duplicate set. The medals just look different to the original post war production runs. This was confirmed by the stamped 'D' following the name which I've shown in the photos.
There isn't much to tell other than the solider married after the war but there is no evidence that he had any children. I have found his head stone and there is no mention of a wife or children. I was able to piece together a family tree by using the electoral rolls which led me to a cousin. That is really about all I could disclose.
Thank you to Lindsay at the NSW RSL HQ.
The returned medal tally is now 1671.

09 May 2015

7th Light Horse Regiment Memorial Plaque

A recent delivery to my mail box was the WWI Memorial Plaque given to the family of 3496 Albury James Wetherall. Albury was a trooper with the 7th Light Horse Regiment and saw active service in Palestine. He was killed in action in the Jordan Valley on 15 July 1918.
At some point the Memorial Plaque disappeared from the family and ended up in WA. It evidently ended up in the care of Kirsten who contacted me after reading about missing Memorial Plaques while on holiday in New Zealand. The Plaque arrived in yesterday's post but I was only able to start the research this afternoon. Albury was from Warialda NSW and his wider family remained in the area. I was able to follow the marriage of his sister through the records which led me to Albury's great nephew. 15 minutes after starting the search I was talking to the family.
The Plaque has been well cared for by Kirsten and her family. She has even included a note to Albury's family with the Plaque which I will forward on her behalf.
The returned medal tally is now 1668.

08 May 2015

Charles Birch

This search has been very difficult.
The BWM awarded to 3011 Charles Arthur Birch was sent to me by David R of Gosford. It didn't take long to work out that Charles was killed in action on 3 July 1916 while serving with the 3rd Battalion AIF. That is when the difficulties started.
Charles' farther was Alfred McLennan Birch and his mother was Elizabeth (also known as Eliza) Leah Birch. SOme records also used Leah as her first name. Alfred and Eliza had three children before Alfred died in 1911; Charles who was KIA in 1916, Emily who died during child birth and Violet who married but died childless in 1921.
Eliza went on to live with a man name Colbert who she cleaned for. She sometimes used his surname but they never married.
Eliza's maiden name was Schofield and I found a family tree for her. I sent a message to the tree owner but I never got a reply. I then looked for descendents of one of Alfred's siblings and one I found a descendent I sent them a message. Once again I received no response. In order to be fair to that branch of the family I allowed them ample time to reply.
Recently David enquired about any progress, so last night I started from scratch. I spent six hours going over my extensive notes eliminating each of Alfred's siblings to search through to the current generation. The most promising was Alfred's brother Edward. His son was Arthur Edward and his daughter was Norma who married Robert Henderson. I found this branch of the family on Ancestry and sent off a message to the lady who owns the tree. This morning I had a reply saying that her husband is Norma's son making him Charles' first cousin twice removed.
Thank you David, for your patience.
The returned medal tally is now 1667.

06 May 2015

Ernest Sullivan

This is the second bit of research I've done for the Green Shed. My contact is Elaine who gave me the WWII War Medal and Australian Service Medal 1939-45 awarded to QX38210 Ernest Roy Sullivan. The medals had been thrown out but recovered by the Green Shed staff. They are still in their original box and have never been mounted. 
Ernest appears in an Ancestry family tree and the owner has kindly put me in touch with Ernest's daughter. I send the medals off to her shortly.
The returned medal tally is now 1676.

04 May 2015

George Meadus Robbins

Some searches are more difficult than most due to the lack of any records. However, it is usually only one thread of information that we need to unravel the whole story.
I recently received the WWI trio awarded to 12866 George Meadus Robbins, Royal Marine Artillery, from Ron B of Guildford West NSW. There is no record of George being in Australia so how his medals ended up here is a mystery. There is also very little information in the UK records other than a couple of census entries where he is referred to as George M.
The only time I came across his full name is on one Ancestry family tree. I was soon in touch with the owner who very generously helped me out.
The following information is what we put together.
George was:
born on 26 Dec 1890 in Lewisham, Kent
living in Lewisham in the 1891 census
living in Kidbrooke in the 1901 census
enlisted in the Royal Marine Artillery on 23 Feb 1912
It is possible he died in 1955 in Portsmouth.
George had four siblings.
William Frank Robbins, born 1883 in Chichester, married in 1910 to Ellen Rapley. They had two children - Violet May Robbins, born 1911 in Chertsey; and William J Robbins, born 1919 in Chertsey.
Keturah Ellen Grath Robbins, born 1885 in Chichester.
Henry James Robbins, born 1887 in Chichester, for marriage see above.
Frederick John Robbins, born 1889 in Chichester.
Henry appears to have served in the Canadian Army during WWI.  He married Lilian Allen in Deptford, London on 10 Dec 1917 - so he must have been granted leave. His occupation on marriage is give as CFA which which confirms the service during WWI.
Keturah was known as Ellen or Helen and we think she was married to a W Evans.
None of this information led either Andrew or I to locate any descendents in this generation. Andrew then provided the following. George's mother was Keturah Jane Meadus and her brother named James Meadus. His great grand son is Mark (born in Portsmouth, England) and his son is Adam.
Based on all this research I've been in contact with Adam and I'll be sending the medals to him shortly.
This return could not have been done with out Andrew's considerable help.
The returned medals tally is now 1674.

03 May 2015

The 2014 Christmas Tale continues

More success from Bill.

Last December I wrote a story entitled ‘A Christmas Tale – A Work in Progress’. 
Slowly the story of the return of those medals is coming to an end. On the Saturday prior to Anzac Day 2015 I had the honour of passing to Phillip his grandfather’s WW1 Victory Medal.
2525 Charles Henry Craike passed away in 1956. Sometime after this his medals disappeared.
That is until the Victory Medal was handed into Anzac House here in Melbourne. The person leaving it offered no details as to how it had come into their possession.
Even though Charles passed his enlistment medical examination he would later be diagnosed with having chronic flat feet. This calls in to question how thorough enlistment medicals were in 1916. However, the skills Charles had acquired as a bank clerk saw him promoted to the rank of Staff Sergeant and employed in the Graves Service.
Perhaps it was while doing this important work in France that he meet Jeane Julia Lasson, the young lady he married in July 1919 and who later followed him to Australia.

The returned medal tally is now 1671.

02 May 2015

Vietnam War medals to RAAF

It is not a common occurrence that we receive medals from conflicts other than WWI or WWII. When we do there is an urgency to resolve the research since the veteran or their immediate family are probably desperate to locate their medals.
This story is of a Vietnam War group of medals awarded to A118818 Graham Patrick McAuliffe. Graham served with 2 Squadron, RAAF during the Vietnam War.
I received the medals from Peter who came across them in Newcastle NSW. The combined effort of the 2 Squadron RAAF Association and Christina from the DVA Nominal Roll staff has led to locating Graham's family and the medals will soon be returned.
The returned medal tally is now 1670.