Great work from Bill.
The stories of our searches seem to fall into various categories, there are those that we solve within days of receiving the medals, others take years. The time in between? Well that too has a part in the following stories.
The first story began with an RSL Victoria ‘Contact Us Enquiry Form’ that Yvonne C forwarded to Jude Beshears at ANZAC House Melbourne. Like many families Yvonne’s had in their possession a WW2 medal that they had always believed was the property of their grandfather. It was only recently, on closer inspection, that the family found out that the medal in question had been issued to a Ruth Whitaker, who had served in the RAAF during WW2. Complicating the initial stages of the search was the fact that Ruth had died in Sydney but was buried at Fawkner Cemetery, Melbourne.
While Ruth never married it was her unique names, Ruth Sneddon, that assisted greatly to the search. While Yvonne and her family had gone to great lengths to find Ruth or her family, including looking up Ruth’s entry at the AWM, they had had no success.
Seven weeks later I had the pleasure of contacting Yvonne to take her through my search and to tell her to expect a call from Ron, Ruth’s nephew, the son of her brother Albert.
It is 10 months now since Sandra at ANZAC House received a phone call from Michael in regard to a set of medals that had come into his possession. Medals that the family always believed were his father’s. When for the first time Michael had the opportunity to look closely at the medals he realised that they had been issued to VX126561 Private Robert McEwan.
What looked, at first, like a simple search, became a complex interweaving of conflicting stories.
From the War Graves Commission, which is often our first port of call, came Robert’s date of death. From the newspapers, his place of burial and from his service papers his NOK on enlistment which was his sister Beatrice. Subsequently using Victorian BDMs it was possible to locate his parents and his siblings of whom there were 10. Unfortunately, as it would later transpire, slightly less than half had died either in childhood or in their teenage years. Two had disappeared altogether
At this point the team at the Australian Surnames Group came on board and as a result Jenn and Kerrie slowly but steadily populated the McEwan family tree. From this Kerrie was able to locate two other family trees that included Robert. Well done Kerrie, however, as luck would have it, I went wandering down the first tree that in turn took me to Holland where the tree’s ’owner’ was at the time on holidays. While he had included Robert in the tree, he was not exactly certain where he fitted. But when he returned to Australia he would contact me. I am still waiting.
At this point Kerrie sent a query to the ‘owner’ of the second tree, Sue, and directed her to our entries on Australian Surnames Group for Robert.
It was from Sue’s reply and her email to me, that I found myself sitting down with Tony, her brother the grandson of Beatrice, Robert’s sister. Robert’s had nominated Next of Kin.
Where the medals have been all these years the family could not even begin to guess. Robert had for many years been an itinerant worker and had travelled all over Victoria. How Michael’s father ended up with them. Well that is a story for another time.
The returned medal tally is now 1875.