29 June 2016

Andrew Williamson

When I received this medal yesterday I thought I would have all sorts difficulty with the research. My initial apprehension came from not recognising the medal other than is was a long service medal from the early 20th century. The information available publicly for these medals is limited. The next issue that I thought would hamper progress was the naming 'No 62 Gunner A Williamson R.A.G.A'. Williamson is usually to common a name to narrow down an individual.
To find out exactly what the medal was I consulted Australians Awarded by Clive Johnson, which names the medal as the Commonwealth of Australia Long Service Medal. Introduced in 1902, it was designed to recognise:
18 years exemplary service with irreproachable character for any permanent serviceman in the newly Federated States of Australia.
This medal was first gazetted in September 1901 and issued up until 1918. Only 186 of these medals were awarded so it is no wonder I didn't recognise it.
A search of this medal title came up with very little additional information but I found that is was also referred to as the Army Long Service and Good Conduct Medal (Australia).
Once this was all worked out I turned my attention to the Gunner. The easy bit to work out was that he was a member of the Royal Australian Garrison Artillery (RAGA). This organisation was responsible for manning the coastal artillery forts around Australia. This link is to the RAGA set up in Fremantle. (Frank, look at the list of units at the bottom of the page)
I do know that the awarding of long service medals were announced in the gazette so I started searching the online pages. After a frustrating 30 minutes I posted a request for help on the British Medal Forum. With in an hour Dave (Ozmedals) provided me the entry which I couldn't find:
62 Gnr. A. WILLIAMSON - R.A.G.A. 3rd M.D. ........ CAG No.41, 4th July 1914 - p. 1161
The important information from this was the year, 1914 and 3rd Military District which is Victoria.
I also know that it was common for the awarding of medals to be published in the paper but the search needs to be narrow otherwise there are to many results. Using the year and location filter on Trove I found the following from the Queenscliff paper.
I now had a location so I turned to the electoral rolls on Ancestry. I soon found Andrew Williamson, solider, living in the barracks at Fort Queenscliff in 1903. As I scrolled down the successive electoral rolls it became apparent that Andrew lived in Queenscliff for many years, until 1934. From 1910 he was at the same address as Charlotte Elizabeth Williamson. A quick check of the Victorian BDM confirmed that they married in 1910 and that her maiden name was Linn.
I also found their deaths, which were quite close. Andrew died on 30 Jan 1934 and Charlotte on 15 Nov 1934. There was no record of them having had children. The latest electoral roll entry which showed Andrew's occupation as a solider was in 1919. Working backwards; if Andrew received his medal in 1914 having completed 18 years service then he would have enlisted about 1896. Even though he was a member of the permanent force he was not part of the AIF. However, he would have been involved in action against the Germans.
The coastal batteries at Fort Nepean and Fort Queenscliff were involved in what is reputed to be the first action of the British Empire on 5 Aug 1914 when the German merchant ship SS Pfalz attempted to leave Port Phillip.
Andrew proved to be difficult to isolate without knowing his parents names or his date of birth so I took a closer look at Charlotte (known as Lottie). I soon found the probate notice for her estate which listed a Mr William Gairns as the Executor. Back on Ancestry I found a family tree for the Linn family which showed that her sister Agnes (known as Aggie) was married to William Gairns. From there it was quite simple to follow William and his family through the electoral rolls. From the last published roll from 1980 I knew that William's grand son's name is David. A little bit more time searching the internet and a couple of phone calls put me in contact with David, Andrew and Lottie's great nephew.
In total I spent about five hours on this search, far less that I had originally anticipated.
Thanks to Stephanie who dropped this medal off yesterday afternoon. Thanks also to Dave and Jack from the BMF for their assistance.
The returned medal tally is now 1845.


28 June 2016

Reginald James Robertson

On the scale of research difficulty, this has been one of the hardest. I received the WWI Victory Medal awarded to 1151 PTE Reginald James Robertson in 2004. The information available then wasn't that great so I've revisited this case on several occasions over the years. These fresh looks threw up a little bit more each time but also raised more questions than I could answer.
What I found out was that Robertson was born in New Zealand. His service record showed that his wife was deceased and his NOK was his son Eric. Eric had even signed for his medals as Robertson was deceased by the 1920s. Also in the service record was a letter from Robertson's son; R J Santon. Reginald James Santon died in 1929 so I followed Eric's trail through the electoral roll until his death in 1978. Eric also served in WWII. That is when I ran out of clues.
Recently, Anne has had a look at this case and found the one piece of information that bought everything together; she found the name of Eric's son.
What we know now is that Robertson died in 1917. The story of his death is below. Eric was 7 when this happened. Santon died accidentally in 1929. The Coroner's verdict was reported in the paper and this is also included below. 
Once Anne worked out the identity of Eric's son she was able to narrow down his location using the White Pages. I spoke to him this evening and while much of this information is new to him the end result is that Robertson's Victory Medal will soon be back with his family.
The returned medal tally is now 1844.
This studio photo may be of Robertson. The caption reads:
Studio portrait of either: 1151A Private (Pte) Reginald James Robertson, 24th Battalion, of North Gisbourn, New Zealand. Pte Robertson enlisted on 15 April 1915 and embarked from Melbourne aboard HMAT Euripides on 8 May 1915. He returned to Australia on 5 July 1916; or 590 Pte Robert John Robertson, 24th Battalion, of East Prahran, Vic. Pte Robertson enlisted on 13 March 1915 and embarked from Melbourne aboard HMAT Euripides on 8 May 1915. He returned to Australia on 26 August 1916.
Photo credit: https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/DA08714/

Boer War and WWI medal group

When I opened the parcel containing this medal group I was quite excited as well as a little confused. The excitement stemmed from receiving a Boer War/WWI medal combination which usually means an interesting story. The confusion came from the unit on the Queen's South Africa Medal.
It was easy to find 3435 Richard Alexander McDonald in the National Archives but the Boer War unit was a bit harder to track down. Kitchener's FS, as impressed on the medal, is Kitchener's Fighting Scouts. I found the unit nominal roll (picture below) to confirm Richard's enlistment.
Richard was born in Ireland and at some point between the 1901 and 1914 he emigrated to Australia and settled in WA suburb of Bassenden. His service records shows that he went AWOL on a couple of occasions and was wounded by a machine gun bullet. Of interest his rank is 2nd Corporal which I've not seen before. His WWI service was with 6th Field Company, Engineers.
It was rather easy to follow Richard and his family through the electoral rolls. Richard and his wife Ethel lived in Kenny St, Bassendean for their entire lives. Their eldest son Alexander also lived in Kenny St. Richard's other son, Donald, served during WWII and was a POW.
Once the online electoral rolls ceased it was a little difficult to narrow down any of Richard's descendants, however, I found a reference to Ross Alexander McDonald. I made an assumption he was Richard's grandson.
A newspaper article from the 1950's gave me the only clue of any substance. It said that Ross McDonald of Kenny St was a volunteer firefighter. The next mention of this was a 2013 online article about the closure of the historic Bassendean fire station. Ross was pictured in the story so I used this as the basis of the next line of research. Another volunteer in the story had a distinctive name and was listed in the White Pages. A call to this number soon resulted in being able to contact Ross.
I now know the medals were stolen during a burglary at Ross' house. The medals were subsequently found on the side of the road and found their way to the WA RSL who sent them to me.
Thanks to Wendy of the WA RSL for sending me the medals.
The returned medal tally is now 1843.
The keen eyed will note that the BWM is mounted incorrectly. The reverse is showing rather then the Sovereign's head which is the obverse.

Another point of interest with the BWM is that Richard's service number isn't impressed on the medal.
Nominal roll from www.angloboerwar.com

25 June 2016

Burt Griffiths

The WWII group of four medals awarded to NX153037 Hubert Milford Griffiths came to me via an unusual source. A few months ago CPO Phil M, from the Defence Force School of Policing, sent me Burt's medals. It was easy to find Burt and his wife Mary. Burt was an author and they lived in Wentworth Falls. Their son Simon Peter Griffiths served in the RAN during the 1970s and 1980s.
I spent a lot of time looking for Simon but it wasn't until Anne found a death notice for him from 2003 that we changed direction.
Anne worked out the family connections of Burt's siblings and found the contact details of his niece Val. I've now been in contact with Val and will send her the medals shortly.
The returned medal tally is now 1839.

18 June 2016

Frederick Freeman

We are back in the realms of the complicated search. This Pacific Star was awarded to Q151486 Frederick Thomas Freeman, it was sent to me by Dr Edward F of Canberra having originally been sent to him by Roger M of Young. Roger found the medal many years ago on the New England Highway while walking home from school.
The immediate details available gave me the names of Frederick's parents, his date of death and that his estate was administered by the Queensland Public Trustee. Then the leads ran out.
Anne W recently had a closer look at this family and worked out the following.
Frederick did not marry nor did he have children. His sister, Winifred, did marry but also had no children. Frederick's father was Albert, one of four children. Of these, Frederick's aunt, Sarah had two daughters. It is this family line which Anne followed.
Sarah's daughter Gladys married Herbert Edwards. Their daughter is Daphne who lives in Somerset, UK and I'll send her the medal in the near future.
Great research effort Anne.
The returned medal tally is now 1835.

05 June 2016

John Robinson

The first six hours of this search was difficult, the last six minutes was really easy.
The WWII War Medal and Australian Service Medal 1939-45 awarded to VX69037 John Martin Robinson have had a hard life. As can be seen in the photo of the pair, they have come away from their suspenders. John would also have been entitled to at least 2 other medals but where they are is a mystery.
I found John and his wife Mavis in the electoral rolls but it doesn't appear they had any children. Mavis died in 1970 and John in 1988. Both were cremated and interned at Fawkner Memorial Park. From the electoral rolls I found that prior to marrying Mavis, John lived at the same address as Dora Effie Amy Robinson. It got a little confusing here as the only child to Dora was named Martin. However, the birth year on the WWII nominal roll and the Victorian BDM was the same. Some how the names had been mixed up. Dora's unique name proved a bit confusing as I couldn't find her marriage. In the long run I cam to the conclusion that Dora was unmarried when she has John.
Dora had several brothers and sister, one of which was Kendal Percy Leslie Robinson. Kendal had a large family of his own so I followed this line down to Kendal's great grand daughter. The electoral rolls are only available to 1980 on Ancestry.com.au and it was relatively easy to follow the family but after 1980 the difficulties really started. Some educated guesses led me to Tara who is John's grand niece. Once I worked out Tara's married name and where she worked, I found a likely number in the White Pages and called it. Sure enough I had the right family.
Thank you to Christina V who sent me the medals.
The returned medal tally is now 1834.

04 June 2016

WWII RAAF medal group

This is another really impressive result from Bill with help from The Australian Surnames Group.

Searches start in many different ways. The search for the family of 410428 David Paterson Anderson, who served as a bomber pilot with the RAAF during WW2, started with an email from Michelle the receptionist at the Watsonia RSL
‘Hello Bill
I am not sure if anyone has emailed you.  There are some medals here in a plastic bag at reception with your name on them.
The story, it later transpired, was that a lady had dropped the medals off at the RSL, saying briefly that a plumber working under a floor had found them and could we return them. She had then left without giving any other details.
That is when the fun started. A name like David Paterson Anderson would tend to give way to a certain degree of uniqueness. However, as The Australian Surnames Group and I found, there were three men named David Paterson Anderson, all of who died within a short space of time. Unfortunately, War Graves was unable to give a date of death for David which complicated things. I would love to be able to claim the credit at this point but I must defer to the team at The Australian Surnames Group, particularly Kerrie, Liz, and Jenn. Who together were able to separate the three men, something that I had not been able to do. Now, while the team were able to access Ancestry, it eventually took them off shore to England, then back to Australia and finally to South Australia where David’s daughter Carole resides.
Our search has had two endings. The first was a 20 minute phone call between Carole and I as we went through her family, to which I added how we eventually found her and what little I really knew about how the medals had been discovered. The second will be tomorrow, Saturday, when I wander down to the Watsonia Post Office to mail back to Carole her father’s medals, along with the name and address of a medal mounter, who will not only remount the medals, but will be able to clean them and remove the verdigris, far better than I can .

The returned medal rally is now 1832.
Updated on 31 Jul 16

In my previous post I said the story had two endings, well I was wrong, it
had three. The third was when the medals were returned to the family after
restoration and remounting, to say the family is overjoyed, is to say the
least, as his daughter Carole said in her email:
'I have had the medals cleaned and mounted on a pin.  They cleaned up really
well considering the condition they were found in. Decided not to court
mount, as wanted to be able to see all the back of the medals.
Again THANK YOU ALL SO VERY MUCH for tracing me and returning them to our
family. My brother, our sons and grandchildren are absolutely delighted to
have the originals. One grandchild will wear them next Anzac Day March.
My father also received the ROO MEDAL for bailing out of an aircraft.  That
is also missing.  (We remember it well, as kids growing up in Melbourne). It
was issued by the Dominion Parachute Company to all who bailed out using
their parachutes.  I have the letter written by my father describing the
incident.  Incidentally the only letter written by him (that we have) during
his time in the Air Force, a photo of which I have included.

This is a picture of the reconditioned medals.