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.


1 comment:

  1. SO VERY happy you have been able to find its rightful home :) What wonderful work you do!