29 October 2017

WWI KIA with no know grave

This particular search started last week with an email from Trevor P of Bunbury WA. Trevor used to run a mowing business in Kalgoorlie and one day found a WWI medals awarded to 4791 Cecil Rourke. The story that unfolded is probably no different to many others that effected families of this time period.
Cecil was the son of James and Annie Rourke and born in Sydney in 1893. Some time before 1900 the family moved to the WA gold fields and lived in Boulder. Cecil enlisted in to the 28th Battalion  (12th reinforcements) AIF on 14 Feb 16 and joined his battalion in France on 28 Oct 16. His tenure did not last long as Cecil was killed in action between 3-6 Nov 16. Cecil has no know grave but is memorialised at Villers-Bretonneux.
Cecil wasn't the only member of his family to serve in the 28th Battalion. His brother John was in the 1st reinforcements. John enlisted in early 1915 and fought at Gallipoli. He was promoted quickly and was a Company Sergent Major at the age of 20. However, by Aug 16 he was discharged having returned to Australia with a disability.
It was John's service record which gave me the clues to find other family members. In 1967 John wrote to the Department of Defence and gave his address as 96 MacDonald St Kalgoorlie. A third brother was born in Boulder in 1902. This was William who was to young to serve in WWI but did enlist for WWII. This is a link to his service details. William did marry but I couldn't find any evidence that he had any children so I went back see if there was any other children. This is when I found Bridget Mary Rourke at the same address as James and Annie. There was no record I could find to confirm what the relationship was so I made the assumption that Bridget was Cecil's sister. It took a bit of searching but I found a marriage record for Bridget to Edward Burke but the only link I could find was that they were married in Boulder. Moving forward with this tenuous evidence I found that Edward died in 1934 but there was a son called Edward Cecil Burke. Circumstantial evidence at the best but I assumed that Edward Cecil was named for his uncle that was killed in WWI. Edward Cecil also served in WWII.       
I still didn't have concrete evidence that all these people were related so I went back to the electoral rolls and found Bridget Burke, Cecil's sister, living at 96 MacDonald St Kalgoorlie, the same address John Rouke was living at in 1967. I finally had the evidence to connect everyone but working out the next generation proved almost as difficult.
Firstly came Edward and Bridget's head stone but nothing about Edward Cecil other than he lived in Esperance and his wife's name was Olive. Using every search variable I could think of I finally found Ted and Molly Burke. The details on the headstone gave the names of their two daughters. The search details I then had to use luckily gave me both ladies surnames from their marriages in the mid 1960s. I looked up one in Esperance and there she was listed in the White Pages. This was Annette, Cecil's great niece, and when I spoke to her today she was able to confirm all the details.
The next bit is a little unnerving. As I mentioned, Trevor lives in Bunbury. Annette is due to visit her sister Beryl next week and Beryl also lives in Bunbury.
I've added pictures of both head stones that I found on line.
I find it extraordinary touching that next week is the 101st anniversary of Cecil's death and his medal will finally be back with his family. 
The returned medal tally is now 2172.


18 October 2017

Noel Shaw Hayes

This is a nice simple return but no less important than any of the others.
The medals awarded to NX110177 Noel Shaw Hayes came to me from Rick and Helen L who found the medals amongst Rick's parent's effects but there was know family connection to Noel. The search was pretty easy as I found Noel on a Ancestry family tree. This tree is owned by Noel's grandson. Nice and neat and the medals will be sent off to Jamie in the near future.

The returned medal tally is now 2171.

Fritz Wurm

This is one of those complicated stories where the family heritage and the research to find the current generation were both difficult to unravel.
The medals came from WO2 Michael S who told me the following story:
‘Having recently conducted a deceased estate clean out of one of my grandparent residences, I discovered two WW1 Service medals belonging to a member of the 24th reinforcements, 6 Bn Pte Fritz Wurm. How my Grandmother came to be in possession of the medals is a long and complicated story, but PTE Wurm’s story is certainly very interesting.
Having done some research I was able to determine he was from the Benalla (Vic) local area, possibly a very distant relation of mine and almost certainly on board when the transport ship was torpedoed in the English Channel in 1917. I have learned much about his post war life and burial location, but I have not been able to identify who his next living relatives are........Mavis Ryan and Leila Pollard (Mansfield District) who was my Grandmother was a lifelong friend with Mavis. With Mavis’ death the majority of the estate was willed to my Grandmother – which is how I came to be in possession of the medals.’
Michael also came across the medals of 408526 WO John Claude Ryan and he sent me both groups.
My initial thought is that Fritz (Fredrick) Wurm must have been subjected to some good natured teasing during WWI at the very least. Although it looks like Fritz had a pretty interesting war even when not fighting in France with 6th Battalion AIF.  Below is an article that was published following the sinking of the SS Ballarat on Anzac Day 1917 on which Fritz was a passenger.

The story of the SS Ballarat is interesting just on its own:
‘SS Ballarat was a vessel before becoming a troopship, carrying Australian troops.
In February 1917, Ballarat left Melbourne on passage to Devonport with 1,602 Australian troops (reinforcements from Victoria for the 2nd and 4th Australian Brigades) and a general cargo which included copper and bullion. This was the ship’s thirteenth voyage, which caused concern amongst some of the troops.
By April, the ship was approaching the end of its voyage. On the 25th, as Ballarat steamed into the English Channel, the Australian officers arranged a memorial service to commemorate Anzac Day.  At 2pm, as preparations were underway, a massive explosion tore a hole in the starboard side of the ship and Ballarat started taking water instantly. Despite a number of lookouts and an escorting destroyer, nobody had seen the U-boat UB-32 approach and fire a torpedo.
Vessels were summoned to take the Australian soldiers and crew off the sinking liner and within an hour all of them had been safely rescued. Ballarat was taken in tow and hopes were high that she might be saved, but in the early hours of the next morning she sank approximately 9 miles south of the Lizard Point.
The captain of Ballarat, Commander G. W. Cockman, R.N.R., D.S.O., received the congratulations of the Admiralty and the Australian troops were congratulated by the King.
Today the remains of the Ballarat lie in approximately 80 metres of water off the Cornish coast.
Originally a passenger liner built in 1911 in Scotland by Caird & Company. Prior to the war she was used to transport emigrants from the UK to Australia but in 1914 the British government requisitioned her for war service. Ballarat initially served as an Indian transport.’
(Source: http://forgottenwrecks.maritimearchaeologytrust.org/ballarat)

The more I dug in to the family history the more interesting it got. Fritz’ father, also Fritz, immigrated to Australia from his native Germany in the early 1870s. He was a watchmaker and established a jeweler business in Benalla in 1873. The newspaper accounts I found indicated that the Wurm family were well regarded in this part of Victoria and that the business was very successfully.
Fritz Snr and his wife Dorathea had a large family, but as I have found on so many occasions, this does not always translate to a vast network of descendants in the current generation. In total Fritz had six sisters and three brothers. 
It appears that his brother Charles was the closest to Fritz. Charles married Margaret and had a daughter, Mavis. When Fritz died in 1970 all his possessions were left to Mavis. Mavis married late in life and didn’t have any children. Mavis’ husband was John Claude Ryan which answers the questions as to why Fritz’ medals and John’s medals came from the same source.
I followed the family line of one of Fritz’ brothers. The impact of the Depression had an impact on this family and there were accounts of the police being called to the family home. Accusations of assault were played out in the courts and subsequently reported in the press. It looked like Fritz’ bother tried to make a clean break and was using his wife’s maiden name rather than Wurm. I lost this family after WWII.
It was Charles’s obituary that gave me the next clue to follow. It says that Charles’ sister was Dora (Mrs J Stewart). Using the Victorian BDM records and the electoral rolls I followed Dora and her husband John. It wasn’t straight forward due to a number of moves around Victoria but the end result was I’ve recently been in contact with Fritz’ great nephew Jeff and his wife Jan. Jan has done also conducted some family research and the Wurm name is very familiar to them.
The returned medal tally is now 2167.

10 October 2017


This is the third person's medal that has been referred to me recently but the circumstance are such that I can't give to many details. However, this particular soldier deserves to have his story told, even if it is only briefly.
2926 PTE Richard Ernest Wallis was not quite 21 years old when he enlisted on 28 June 1915. He was initially posted to 57th Battalion but later transferred to 59th Battalion. Although his service record is 27 pages there is little information apart from the bare facts. There are the standard entries about hospitalisation and battalion transfers until the entry of 28 July 1916 which just says 'Missing'. The next entry on 28 August 1916 simply expands this to declare that, following a court of inquiry, Richard was killed in action on 19 July 1916.
The 59th Battalion War Diary entry of 19 July reads:
'59th Battalion attacked enemy position in four waves. First wave going over parapet at 6.45pm. Other three waves following at five minute intervals. Attack did not penetrate enemy trenches being held up by intense rifle and machine gun fire approximately 100 yards from enemy front line'.
It must have been during this action that Richard was killed and his body not recovered.
Through some research being done by the Fromelles Association I have been put in contact with Richard's great niece and his 1914/15 Star will be returned shortly.
the returned medal tally is now 2161.

09 October 2017

More Vietnam War medals heading home.

Bill's accompanying commit with these photos:

'One of those to help the Police. Really all I can say is well done Carly.'

The returned medal ally is now 2160


04 October 2017

William Burke

This medal is another that was sent to me by Stuart H, the previous success was the return of the Ryan medal.
I was originally a little surprised by the regimental number which is five digits long. Just by the nature of the numbering by unit system used by the AIF it was uncommon for numbers to go beyond four digits, but that is a whole other research subject.
This BWM was awarded to 66878 William Frederick Burke and is impressed with his unit initials GSR. This, along with the longer than usual number, stumped me for a while until I found a reference to General Service Reinforcements. This was an enlistment arrangement used towards the end of WWI to fill individual gaps as it became apparent the war was drawing to close. I found this article to explain how soldiers who were GS Reinforcements would be employed.
The GSR even had a dedicated colour patch.
William's enlistment date was in June 1918 when he was just 19 years. He was from Mogo on the NSW south coast. Mogo is well know to RMC Staff Cadets from my era as there is a large state forest there that was used as a training area.
Even though William missed the main effort for WWI he wasn't finished serving his country. He enlisted for WWII in 1942. However, it is a bit difficult to work out exactly what he did during his 18 months.
I was unable to find any evidence that William had any children but I have located a relative who lives close to me and I'll be meeting her shortly to hand over William's British War Medal. 
The returned medal tally is now 2152.

02 October 2017

No story to tell

Every so often there are a set of circumstances that just means that the full story can't be told.
The call for assistance came from a fellow researcher on the British Medals Forum who had taken responsibility for several sets of medals. Three of the medals were awarded to two Vietnam War veterans who I tracked down and spoke to today.
We think we now know why their original medals where missing and there is no suspicious circumstances. One reason was that there was an official double issue. While this is rare it is not unheard of.
Anyway, there are no details or pictures to post, just an update to returned medal tally which is now 2151. 

25 September 2017

Percival Pilkington

This search started on Saturday afternoon when M2 shared a Facebook post with me about a medal that had been found. This Victory Medal was awarded to 1610 Percival Frederick Pilkington who died of wounds on 14 April 1918.
Percival was from Charters Towers which is about 100km inland from Townsville. The medal had been found a few years ago on a Townsville beach by Michell E and it was her daughter, Jodie and her husband Mick, who initiated the call for assistance via Facebook. I couldn't establish any link from the Pilkington's of the early 20th century in Charters Towers to current day Townsville. One of Percival's siblings lived in Railway Estate until the 1950s but it appeared that most of the family was living in Brisbane by WWII.
There are a number of family trees for the Pilkington's on Ancestry but most of these had been shared from the same original source and there was a number of gaps which I couldn't reconcile with the Queensland BDM information. The search also got confusing with most of Percival's siblings being female and most of them having daughter's. It was through the tree of Jeff D that I got the lead on the person who is the closest relative to Percival. Jeff kindly provided my with the contact details of Percival's nephew Ron. All this information has been passed to Jodie and Mick and I'm sure they be in contact with Ron soon.
During my search I found a picture of Percival and his cousin Oliver. This picture, which I've added below, was turned in to a postcard that was sent to his cousin Alice. Oliver also died of wounds. Ron tells me that the family story is that: 'Percival went to visit Oliver in hospital only to find Oliver had died and was being buried that day. Percival was able to attend his funeral.
Many thanks to Jeff for his assistance and to Jodie and Mick for wanting to see this medal returned to the Pilkington family.
The returned medal tally is now 2148.

Percival's Victory Medal

22 September 2017

Daniel Ryan

58680 Daniel Francis Ryan was 33 years old when he enlisted in 1917. The unit listed on his medal is 7 Field Ambulance but he was also posted to a Veterinary Hospital for a period of time. Daniel died in 1952.
The search for a descendant of Daniel's was complicate by Daniel's daughter and then grand daughter marrying and I had to work out their married surnames. It was only though death notices and the electoral rolls could I follow each family up until 1980. What I did have was the name of Daniel' great grandson from the electoral rolls but finding him now was a little difficult. I had several options and only trough an educated guess did I find the right person on the first attempt.
This medal was one of several groups sent to me recently by Stuart H.
The medal returned tally is now 2147.


12 September 2017

10 medals to one family

For a whole lot of reasons we have been a little quiet on the research front. However, a recent Face Book request from the Victorian Police about 10 medals has had a successful outcome. Recently, these medals had been handed in after they were discarded in a park. The medals were awarded to:
3877 Thomas Watson Newton,
V144190 Robert Hilton,
WF96643 Beryl May Spooner.
Based on these names there was no obvious link to each other so I initially thought these medal formed part of a collection. Then the more I looked in to each veteran it became clear they were related.
Here are the connections I made.
I found Thomas Watson Newton's death notice from 1952. It does not mention a wife or children so he has no direct descendants. His siblings are listed as; John, Joseph (deceased), Robert, Albert, Margaret (deceased), Kitty, May and Eileen.
Kitty is Katherine who married Percy Hilton. Their son is Robert Hilton. Robert's son is Christopher who married the daughter of Beryl Spooner.
What I couldn't find was the most recent address for Christopher so I left that part of the search with the Victorian Police.
Today, I received the fantastic news that the medals were returned to Christopher and a picture of this event is below. It has been great working with Raelene from the Boronia Police Station on this search.
The returned medal tally is now 2146.

09 August 2017

HEJ Bull

It is over seven years since I first started researching the treasure trove of medals in the NSW Box.
Of the dozens of separate envelopes I received there are now only a few left. One of the cases finally came to a resolution today.
Going back over my notes I recalled that Hubert Edger James Whalley Bull was initially difficult to track down. This was mainly because he used variations of his names, often dropping the Herbert and Whalley. Also he wasn't listed in the WWII nominal roll under his WWII number of NX179259 but rather his post war number of 21097. Once all these details were resolved, Hubert was pretty easy to follow. Although I was a bit surprised that he was still listed as a soldier in the 1963 electoral rolls.
Hubert died in 1996 and I could not find any evidence that he married which led me to look at the families of his siblings. I have now been in contact with Hubert's great-niece and will send her the medal in the near future.
The returned medal tally is now 2136

03 August 2017

Charles Gay

Over the years we have been joined by a group of donors who kindly send us medals that they come across. Ted Ayers from York in WA is one of those who contacts me regularly with some very interesting medals.
This time he sent me two WWII medals awarded to VX6044 Charles Leslie Gay. Charles was a Victorian and as far as I can determine lived there his whole life. How his medals turned up in WA is anyone's guess.
While I did have his details from the electoral rolls it was Charles' and his daughter's death notice that gave me the best clues. The death notices lead me to Colin who is Charles' grand son. I spoke to Colin tonight and will send him he medals in the near future.
The returned medal tally is now 2135.

Robert Jansen

There is nothing that Bill and I like more than providing assistance to the Police Forces around Australia.
Early this afternoon I received a call from a colleague at 9 RQR which is a reserve unit. Like so many part time organisations, 9 RQR has many Queensland Police Service officers in the ranks. The call I received was at the end of a chain where WO2 Bourke, also a Police Officer, had a National Medal that was recovered from a property.
Based on the description of the medal I knew I was dealing with a National Medal and the details of the recipient would be on the It's an Honour website. With in minutes I was able to provide the full name of CPO Robert Carol Jansen RTD to WO2 Bourke and through his resources Robert was soon contacted. The feed back I have received is that he 'super excited' to get his medal back.
The returned medal tally is now 2133.

31 July 2017

Leslie Loader

When I first received these medals I was really confused by the unit that PTE L. Loader served in. I'll explain that all shortly but almost immediately after I posed the question on the British Medal Forum I had the the unit name deciphered and also two candidates for how L. Loader was.
The first medal that confused me is the BWM with the unit name of 1-36 B.N. RY. BN. I.D.F. This turned out to be the 1-36th Bengal Nagpur Railway Battalion, Indian Defence Force. The second medal is Volunteer Long Service Medal named to B.N. RY. BN, A.F.I. The Bengal Nagpur Railway Battalion was the same information but A.F.I stands for Auxiliary Force (India), the name having changed in the 1920.
It was the Bengal link that gave me the clue I needed to join all the information I had available. One of the candidate names I received from Bart of the BMF was Leslie Mervyn Loader. I found his name in the immigration records having emigrated to Western Australia in 1950 and his place of birth was given as Bengal, India. I had found my man and using the electoral rolls and published death notices I found the names of Leslie's daughter, grand son and great grand children. It took a grand total of 30 minutes to get to that point. The next step, to get me in touch with a family member, took another 5 weeks.
The leads I had didn't result in being able to contact a family member so I revisited the family tree and found the name of Leslie's son and his wife. I simple search of the White Pages gave me the phone number I needed to contact the right person and I'll soon send the medals to Leslie's daughter in law.
Thanks goes to Steve Carter who found the medals and forward then on to me. The returned medal tally is now 2131.

Wally Musgrave

Bill and I are often asked how medals are lost in the first place. This is often a question we can't answer but I think in this case the condition of this British War Medal gives a clue. The disc of this medal has come adrift from its suspender which is probably the way it was first lost.
We are so lucky that these medals are named and this BWM was awarded to 6774 Wally Thomas Reginald Musgrave who served in the 1st Battalion AIF.
Wally didn't marry but he is remembered by his grand niece and it is through her family that I'll return the medal to.
Thanks to Ron Moore of the 2/2 Battalion Association who sent me the medal. The returned medal tally is now 2128.


13 July 2017

Stan Wayth

This search has one of those back stories which got more interesting the more I dug.
It began with an email from Aaron B who had the British War Medal awarded to 4564 PTE Stanley Ernest Wayth, 22 Battalion. With an uncommon name like Wayth it wasn't difficult to track down Stan's family. There were large concentration of Wayth's around Queenscliff in Victoria and I found Stan's headstone was there. However, Stan's decedents later lived in the Melbourne suburbs where I had to focus my search.
A search of Stan's name bought up numerous hits as it turns out that he played football for Geelong. He was the 99th player selected for this football club and played one game. This was a victory so he has a 100% W-D-L average. This link gives all of his statistics.
The next reference to Stan that I found was a news paper article about his death in 1932. While I couldn't quite work out why his headstone has the comment 'Finally at peace 4/2005', it is clear that Stan had an unfortunate end to his life.
The search then got a little confusing as his son was also named Stanley Ernest Wayth. I went around in circles for a few days until I located a memorial notice (below) which refers to 'Mrs Stan Wayth'. This is Stan junior's wife Olive, nee Williamson. Based on the service details I went back to the WWI records and I worked out Olive's brother Robert (known as Roy) enlisted in 1915 aged 15 years and 6 months. A year later he was KIA at Pozieres age just 16 years and 6 months.
The notice also give me a clue as to who was Stan and Olive's son, also called Robert and also known as Roy. Roy died in 2015 and from his death notice I got his son's name, Ross, and also that of his grand daughters.
Through Face Book I sent a message to Stan senior's great great grand daughter and she put me in touch with Ross. The circumstances made it possible for me to meet Ross today and hand him his great grand father's BWM. Ross, who is a really nice gentleman, gave me one more surprise in this story, his middle name is Stanley, which carries on the family tradition.
The returned medal tally is 2127.

10 July 2017

CPL V D P Sutherland

This Australian Defence Medal has done the rounds.
It was recovered in December 2016 by the NSW Police  Service and found its way to Senior Constable Jackie Largo. Jackie definitely goes to the next level to see recovered items returned to their owner. In this case she sent the medal to Defence and then it made its way to me via Polly from DCO. Because the medal was a recent award, I had to call on a contact, Paul, to confirm the full name of 52759 V D P Sutherland.
It turns out that the initials, V D P, stand for Vincent De Paul. From there it was pretty easy and 20 minutes after starting this search I was talking to Vincent who tells me the medal was stolen from him. It is his only entitlement having served from 1954 to 1960 as an ARA solider.
The returned medal tally is now 2126.


05 July 2017

Double success

A double success story from Bill.

As I sat down to write this story I almost felt like just saying; ‘here is a list and they are home’. But to do so would be to deny the magnificent input that we receive from the Australian Genealogical Surname Group (AGSG), who pieced together a chain what at first appeared to be random links.
The story of the return of the medals of WR/1757 Writer Mary Ursula Blyth started with a phone call from the Victorian Police. Mary’s medals had been found in a street in Broadmeadows and had been handed.
Shayne from the Victorian Police said to me when we spoke, ‘have chased everywhere, I know her name, date of birth, where she was born, but nothing else, my resources ran out. Can you help?’  And so my search began.
As I worked through the search I started to quickly get a good idea of why Shayne had run out of clues (that’s a pun Glyn).
It was here that Trove and its record of Victorian Newspapers gave me the first link to Mary, it was her Marriage to Max. Then, the same as for Shayne, all avenues dried up. It was here that I then turned to the AGSG.
In short order through the skills of Liz, Kerrie and Jenn I had, not only had the birth and name of a child, but also everywhere Mary and Max had lived from their marriage up until just before their deaths.
Then came the easy part, or so I thought. A wander down to the Electoral Office and look up the son.  No problem, right? The problem came when I could not find a phone number for Garth (the son), it turned out later that he, like so many others, have forsaken landlines for mobiles.
It then became a serendipity search through the Internet, mixing parts of Garth’s name and the address that I discovered in the Electoral Rolls. I then got lucky and could call Garth.
While in many ways this has been a pretty straightforward search that led to a successful conclusion, what I could not answer for Garth was what were his mother’s medals doing in Broadmeadows. From his knowledge, no one in the family had ever lived in that area. Another question that will probably never be answered is where they have been since 1994 when his Mary passed away. I cannot also answer the question about where his father Max’s medals are which disappeared at or about the same time. The other thing that caught my eye was the almost perfect condition of the medals.

Regular visitors to this site will be by now will be used to the opening introduction that Glyn and I have to fall back on, namely: ‘As the medals form part of an ongoing investigation we have been requested to not publish any of the details concerning the search’.
The medals of VX96446 Private Kevin Victor James Tonge, fall into this category, all I can say is that after an incredible search that started in June 2016, Kevin’s medals are home with his daughter.

The returned medal tally is now 2124.