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.