31 July 2016

Harold Rogers

SX18468 Harold Foster Rogers was a sergeant from South Australia who served in the Pacific. Unfortunately, the records in South Australia are difficult to access so tracking down Harold, his wife Felicia and his daughter Barbara was not easy.
Anne came through with the contact details for Barbara so Harold's medals will soon be returned to hi family.
The returned medal tally is now 1866.

Ernest Griffin

This is another search that has led to numerous dead ends since it started in 2004. It was only after a fresh look by Anne that all the threads came together.
The soldier we were researching was 43120 Trooper Ernest Griffin NZEF.
Ernest was born in Liverpool, UK in 1888. He was a carpenter by trade. When he enlisted in New Zealand both his parents were dead and his sister Gertrude was listed as his NOK. Ernest married Isobel Kerby in 1920, however, they didn't have any children. Isobel died in 1925 and Ernest in 1970.
Of Ernest's siblings we know that:

Gertrude Evelyn Griffin, his sister and NOK, arrived NZ 1912, never married and died in 1965.
Ivy, another sister came with sister Gertrude to NZ in 1912. Ivy married Leslie Gilder Harden in 1915 and had two children.
Sydney Edward Griffin, his brother, never married, died in 1958.
Harry Percy Vivian Griffin, another brother, arrived NZ 1915, married, had no known children and died in 1970.
Wilfred Victor Griffin, Ernest's brother also served during WW1 with the NZEF.
Finally, another brother, Joseph Claude Griffin, died 1940 Liverpool UK

Anne followed Ivy's family and found the following through this line that she was able to contact Alexandra the great granddaughter of Ivy.
Well done Anne and thanks to Dan D who originally sent me the medal.
The returned medal tally is now 1862

KIA at Fromelles

Great work from Bill.

For those of you who follow this blog you will be aware that for some time I have had the privilege of being one of the people involved in trying to locate the next of kin of those Australian Servicemen who were discovered in the mass graves in Pheasant Wood France. They were were later reinterred in the Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery.
So when anything comes up that involves those who fell at Fromelles, it quickly gains my undivided attention. Such was the request from Lee the great niece of 1707 Pte Cyril David Jones, who was Killed in Action at Fromelles on the 20 July 1916.
Some time ago, 1972 to be exact, the family had loaned Cyril’s medals and death plaque to an RSL.
When it came time to collect it, it could not be found. At this point we step forward to 2006, when Lee decided that she would go in search of his plaque and medals. But again she heard the words that her family had heard 34 years before, “No we don’t have it. And no we have no record of ever having had it”.
Again step forward to March 2016.
Never one to give up, to which I can testify, Lee restarted her search. This time she approached ANZAC House, and my No.1 fan Jude Beshears, who gave her my name and phone number.
Now let me take this story back four years to 2012, when I was approached by a metropolitan RSL, to help in putting their memorabilia currently recorded on typewritten list, a large folder and whose locations were otherwise unknown, on to computer. They also wanted a system for auditing what they had, well what they thought they had, or as it later turned out what they thought they should have. Unfortunately for a variety of reasons the club never completed the project.
It was while I was setting up the computer system that I was approached by a member of the Committee, who showed me a plaque, and asked me “what was this for?’. I explained that it was a WW1 Memrial Plaque, that in this case had been given to the family of a Cyril David Jones.
Found amongst old files in the back of a filing cabinet, my enquiries to the current and past Secretaries proved fruitless. So before I filed away an entry for the plaque, I looked up Cyril David Jones. There was only one Cyril David Jones Killed in Action during WW1 and that was at Fromelles. It was, I think, because of Fromelles that the name stayed in my memory.
Now we come back to the present and my first conversation with Lee, then a search to relocate the plaque. This was then followed by a  discussion with the President of the Club concerned. As a result it was decided that while there are strict rules under which the RSL accepts militaria, and that above all ‘gifting’, if I can use that word, is in perpetuity. As the Club had no official paperwork to support keeping the plaque, and that for some reason or other it had remained in limbo for all these years, there must have been an intent sometime in the past to return it the plaque.
The club has now, to its credit done so.
As for the medals, well I have accepted the offer of the RSL concerned to complete the audit and should Cyril’s medals be located they too will be returned to the family.

The returned medal tally is now 1861. 

Post update

It is wonderful when we hear back from the families and this update for the story about David Paterson Anderson is no exception.

28 July 2016

Frederick Hodgkins

There is far more that I don't know about this WWI British soldier than I was able to find out. The only information about M2-020611 Private Frederick Hodgkins available to me was his inclusion on a family tree on the UK Ancestry website.
Frederick was a member of the Army Service Corps and the M2 prefix of his number means he was a Mechanical Transport driver.
These medals are a pair of several groups that were sent to me by Ken Duncan. I'll be sending these back to the UK where they originated.
The returned medal tally is now 1860.

17 July 2016

Vietnam War Medal

This is another occasion where a Corps association has come to the fore and helped me finalise a search. This time it was Royal Australian Army Medical Corps Association. The search was for 1203306 Michael James O'Brien who served in Vietnam in 1971.
I was able to track Michael up until 1980 but then the trail went cold. A contact I have in Defence was able to provide me his date of discharge and Michael's last unit. This information went out across the RAAMC network and through several connections I was provided Michael's number.
The medal I will be sending back to Michael is an official duplicate as indicated by the 'D' following his name.
Thank you to the Hervey Bay RSL Sub-branch for sending this to me and to Ray W who drew all the links together.
The returned medal tally is now 1858.

Dennis Lynch

This is another search that initially threw up many false leads but after letting it sit for awhile, when I revisited it I was able to track down the family quite quickly.
Four medals awarded to N69665 Dennis Maurice Lynch were sent to me in February. Dennis proved to be elusive and there were just three electoral entries and a divorce record. All leads ceased in 1968. It was rather frustrating.
This afternoon I went back to the start and noticed that in the 1949 electoral roll another person  named Lynch was listed in the same street but no number was given. Short of any other clue I had a close look at this name. It turned out to be NX191077 Brendon Patrick Lynch and he had the same next of kin as Dennis. This was the link I needed.
Once I had Brendon's address from the electoral roll I did a quick check in the White Pages and I found Brendon still at the same address. I was soon talking to Brendon and will send him Dennis' medals in the near future.
Thank you to Peter W of Mona Vale who found the medals in a relative's possessions and wanted to see them returned.
The returned medal tally is now 1857.

15 July 2016

John 'The Bullant' Antill

The vast majority of medals that we return are the standard entitlement that servicemen received. Every now and then something exceptional comes our way. The 1914/15 Star awarded to Samuel Steele is one example where a common medal has real historical significance. We have also returned the medals awarded to a Major General and several gallantry medals. However, this particular case is undoubtedly the most important I think we have dealt with. Students of Australian military history will recognise this man's name and most Australians will probably recognise the individual I'll soon describe.
John Macquarie Antill CB, CMG (known and Jack) was a predominant figure in colonial military circles and a minor hero in the Boer War. These links detail his service with A Sqn, NSW Mounted Rifles and the 2nd NSW Mounted Rifles. However, it is the role he played at The Nek on 7 August 1915 that he will be remembered for.
Peter Weir's 1981 film Gallipoli tells the story of the Western Australian based 10th Light Horse Regiment and the tragic charge at The Nek. Even when it was obvious that the preceding waves of attack by the 8th Light Horse Regiment had failed and that to continue was futile, the 10th were ordered to 'push on'. In the film this order was given by a British officer by the name of Robertson. This is historically incorrect. The order to 'push on' was given by LTCOL John Macquarie Antill. This link debunks five myths about Gallipoli and Antill features in myth 4.
This episode has also been the subject of many academic papers and books. One recent popular book is Goodbye Cobber, God Bless You by John Hamilton (published by Pan Macmillian Australia 2004). Using many public and private source document, John provides great detail about the individuals involved in the charge. He also deals with the open hostility between Antill and three regimental Commanding Officers who made up the 3rd Light Horse Brigade. The bitterness between Antill and the CO of 10LH, LTCOL Noel Brazier was the most pronounced. Brazier wrote that he considered himself to be fighting two wars. I think that is is worth quoting an extract from Goodbye Cobber, God Bless You:
'Lieutenant Colonel Antill had received news at brigade headquarters that one of the red-and-yellow flags had been seen on the enemy's trench.....Now the Bullant had his old friend from Perth to content with.'
'Brazier found Antill alone in the dugout, 'with his back to the wall'. The scene was set for an immediate confrontation between the two men who loathed each other. There was no mediator and no commanding officer to step in, but unfortunately there was also no independent witness as to what was said between the two'.
'Brazier told the brigade major [Antill's appointment] that most of the 8th Regiment had not advanced 10 meters beyond their own trenches and were possibly all killed, and that the machine-gun fire of the Turks had already cut the scrub level with the top of the trenches. Would the acting brigadier [Antill in the absence of the actual Brigade Commander] now confirm the order to advance?'
'According to the 10th CO, Antill informed him of he report he'd received - that the 8th had reached the Turkish trenches and placed a flag there - so the West Australians were to 'push on'. Brazier then insisted that not only was there no such flag, but 'it was murder to push on', to which the Bullant 'simply roared - "Push on".' 

This biography provides far better back ground than I can succinctly write. It is obvious that he was a strict disciplinarian and this trait is probably one of the reasons he earned the nick name of Bull Antill or The Bullant.
Following WWI, Antill held several appointments including as the Commandant 4th Military District. His name appears in several newspapers but unfortunately he was usually associated with some form of scandal. The one article that was positive and tells the story of Antill's life is from the Sydney Mail of March 1937 and titled the Antills of Jarvisfield.
The chain of events that led to this piece of research falling my way is a story in itself. Two months ago a contact I have in Honours and Awards forwarded an email from the manager of the National Australia Bank branch in Bowral NSW. A recent audit of the branch safe custody area exposed several items that had not been accessed for decades. These included a set of medal. I communicated with the Manager who gave me the name Antill. I immediately knew who he was referring to. Even though the Antills were a large family it was a bit difficult to draw a line to the current generation. I knew that Jack had had two daughters but neither married. Two of his brothers, Guy and Edward did have families. It was Edward's descendants who I located and to my very pleasant surprise the middle name of Macquarie is still being used. Edward also served in the Boer War.
Knowing the value of the medals as well as the historical significance I thought it best to deliver these medals in person. I recently drove to Bowral and collected the medals from the NAB branch. However, the medals wasn't all that they had. There was a large security box with several times with Guy's initials on them as well as other valuables. Also was a copy of the Sydney Mail with the 'Antills of Jarvisfield' story. All these are pictured below.
Yesterday I met the Antill family in Sydney and was able to return the family collection to them.
 I would really like to thank Kim for NAB Bowral for his trust in me and wanting to see this collection returned.
The returned medal tally is now 1853.

The following photos are the contents of the security box and others I found of John Macquarie Antill.
Antill's medal including Companion of the Order of the Bath, Companion of Order of St Michael and St George, the Queen's South Africa Medal with 7 clasps, 1914/15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal.
 Companion of the Order of the Bath
 Companion of Order of St Michael and St George
 Companion of Order of St Michael and St George
 Queen's South Africa Medal with 7 clasps
 Naming on Queen's South Africa Medal
  Naming on Queen's South Africa Medal
   Naming on Queen's South Africa Medal
 1914/15 Star
Naming on 1914/15 Star
 British War Medal
Naming on  British War Medal
 Victory Medal
  Naming on Victory Medal
Naming on Victory Medal

 Antill at Gallipoli
 Antill as Commandant 4th Military District
 Portrait photo of Antill
This obituary from 1937 provides a contemporary summary of Antill's life.
 Antill's security trunk
 Antill's security trunk contents

 Antill's wrist watch
 Pocket watch and match box with the initials GFA (Guy Francis Antill)

 The Sydney Mail from March 1937 with the story of the Antills of Jarvisfield

11 July 2016

A Defence Force Service Medal

It isn't often that we get contemporary medals. This one is the Defence Force Service Medal awarded to Michael Morris. Through a contact in Defence I got Mike's enlistment and discharge dates and that his unit on discharge was 8 Signals Regiment. Using these slim details I checked out the Royal Australian Signals Corps Association page and to my surprise there was the name Morris with the same years of service. I posted a message on the guest book and within hours the association sprung in to action.
I now have been in contact with Mike and will send his medal home in the near future. Mike tells me he lost the medal in Bundaberg a couple of years ago. Eventually it was handed in to the Hervey Bay RSL and then sent to me.
The power of the internet and the brotherhood of soldiers proved to be the key to success once again.
The returned medal tally is now 1847.