The stories Glyn and I tell often fall into various categories. One is the slow but steady search, where we tick the boxes as we go. The others, well I am not sure how I would describe the return of the war medals of Ronald James Towe, but here goes.
‘About 1972, Dad was a ‘tip fossicker’ at the old Oakleigh Tip, he said he always planned to return them. I found them about ten years ago when I cleaned out his garage.' With this explanation from the donor, the search to return of the medals of 438631 Ronald James Towe began, for the second time. Or was it the third time?
The first problem I faced was the service number, my immediate reaction was that Ron had served in the RAAF. That idea lasted up until I could not find him either in the Australia War Memorial Index, nor in the Australian National Archives. The closest I came was the Index reference to a A33224, Warrant Officer Ronald James Towe. Which I found confusing in that the A33224 number was a post WW2 enlistment number, yet Warrant Officer Towe had been included in the WW2 Index.
So then it was the electoral rolls, and the help of Australian Surname Group. All went well until 1980, when the ER’s petered out. My next option and one I should have thought of first was to go to War Graves in Canberra.
Yes they did have a date of death for a Ronald James Towe. However, they showed two service numbers on the 438631 and also a second service number, A33224. So now while I could then concentrate on one Ronald James Towe, there was no mention of how War Graves had two service numbers, but the National Archives and the AWM did not.
It was a question that would not be answered until almost a year later, when I finally found and spoke to Kevin, Ronald’s brother.
At the conclusion of WW2, Ronald signed on to serve in the RAAF. Through, some error, mistake, or administrative procedure, Ron was given a new service number and all reference to his original number was erased from both the AWM and the National Archives.
Readers will note that there are only three medals involved and only one, the 1939-1945 Star, is actually impressed. This was quite common with RAAF medals issued at the end of WW2. It was the number 438631, that originally led me to believing Ron had served in the RAAF. His later issued medals carried his new service number.
Ron led an adventurous life in the RAAF, serving in Japan at Nagasaki and later at Maralinga in South Australia.
However at this point, at the request of his family, we can say no more.
The returned medal tally is now 1999.