28 April 2017

An Anzac Day find

Anzac Day means a peak in activity for us. Those interested in their family military history are inspired by the annual commemoration to conduct some research.
The majority of contact we get at this time of year falls in to three main categories.
Firstly I receive dozens of emails from families looking for medals that have been lost or sold in the past. This is a very difficult task and regrettably, I can not offer anything other than adding the details to my research notes.
The second main reason for contact is that someone has come across the list of medals we have and we can finalise a case.  
The final reason is that someone has medals and wants to see them returned, especially if the medal has been found on Anzac Day. That is the back ground behind this Australian Defence Medal which was found on the ground at the strat point of the Sydney Anzac Day march.
It was found by Chaplain Kerry Larwill who contacted the Directorate of Honours and Awards and then referred on to me.
The medal is named to A.L. Samson and a few hours searching on the internet led me to Athol Samson who was linked to The Royal NSW Lancers. I fired off an email the unit association and this morning I received a call from Athol.
Thank you to Kerry and Wes from Honours and Awards.
The returned medal tally is now 2080.

25 April 2017

The Gilmore family

There are few things better than resolving one of these searches on Anzac Day.
Once I started researching 1191 Angus Graham Gilmore it soon became apparent that I had come across not only a high achieving individual but an exceptionally high achieving family.
Angus' medal gave me the first challenge as it is impressed with his unit 1 ASH. A little bell of familiarity was ringing and I soon realised that Scott had a deep interest in the 1st Australian Stationary Hospital.
As soon as I looked at Angus' family the significance of this family to South Australian and Australian history became apparent. Angus' father was Hugh Gilmore who was the Primate Methodist Minister in South Australia in the late 19th century. His large family went on to make a significant contribution to society.
Angus was the Assistant Deputy Commissioner of Repatriation in Victoria. Numerous contemporary newspaper articles speak of his fair approach to this position as he dealt with fellow veterans.
His son Hugh Graham Gilmore was a dental surgeon who served in the RAAF during WWII. Unfortunately, Hugh didn't have any children so that line of research ceased. I might also point out that this family used various combinations of the names 'Hugh', 'Graham' and 'Gilmore' across several generation which caused a bit of confusion.
Angus was one of eight children so there was several lines for me to move on to. One brother, Edwin Collin Gilmore was a marine engineer whose son, Hugh Robert Gilmore, was a distinguished physician.
If those accomplished relatives aren't enough, Angus' sister Louisa was the matriarch of probably the most notable branch of this family. Louisa married Alfred Maegraith and three of their children need mention.
Brian Gilmore Maegraith was also a doctor who specialised in tropical medicine.
Kerwin Lovell Gilmore Maegraith was a noted cartoonist who worked for newspapers around the world.
Hugh Gilmore Maegraith was awarded the Military Cross during WWI and also served in WWII.
It is through Hugh Robert Gilmore's line that I've been able to locate Angus' niece Flora. I must thank Angus 'great niece Kate for putting the final piece in place for me. Thanks also to Jeanette W who contacted me following the recent Sunrise program and wanted this medal returned to the family.

The returned medal tally is now 2079.

This is a self portrait of Kerwin.

23 April 2017

Dr Dennard

This is one of those searches which took many hours to complete. It was incredibly frustrating and at times I thought impossible to finalise.
The information about Leslie David Dennard's early years was relatively easy to piece together but it is the later years and linking him to a current generation of this family is what has proved difficult.
Leslie was born in Ceylon in 1897. He attended a public school in England until WWI when he enlisted in the Royal Army Medical Corps. Following WWI he studied medicine at the University of Dublin and married Roslin Meta Louise Hett. In the early 1930s, Dr Dennard became a colonial medical office in Africa but something when wrong, Roslin and their son died in 1932.
By 1938 Leslie had remarried and was traveling to India as a doctor. With the out break of WWII, Leslie became a medical officer in the Royal Army Medical Corps. He was promoted from Lieutenant to Major over the course of the war.
The records show that through the 1950s and '60s he practiced in the Bolton area of the UK before dying in 1968. Other then the son who died as an infant I could not find any evidence that Leslie had other children. I then looked at his siblings. He had at least two sisters. One, Susan, became a widow as the result of WWI and she drew a military pension. The other, Katherine, was the Executrix of Susan's estate but I just couldn't find anything further about her other than her married name of Marks.
Looking back at my notes I must have spent at least 30 hours on and off with this search since I started in May 2014 when Leslie's identity bracelet was sent to me by Len Clarke. Len found the bracelet in his late father's belongings but is not sure how his father came upon it. A recent review of this search that led me to a tree on Ancestry which included Leslie. That's when all the threads of this search came together and I'll be able to send this bracelet back to the UK in the near future.
The returned medal tally is now 2078.

22 April 2017

John Stanley

VX17037 John James Stanley had two periods of service for WWII. He enlisted first in May 1940 and was discharged in November 1941. He then enlisted again from March to May 1942. I'm not sure why the periods of enlistment were so short but for this usually indicates some form of illness.
The bigger event in John's life occurred in 1953 when his wife, Ada, was killed. Adda was in a car with three others that was hit by a trail at a rail cross. All four died. John and Ada had a baby daughter. The story from the local paper is below.
The medals were sent to me by Ian F of South Australia. The search for John's family was an easy one as his grand daughter, Michele, has posted a comprehensive family tree on Ancestry. I'm not sure if I can get these medals back to Michele by Anzac Day 2017 but her family will now have them for the future.
The returned medal tally is now 2077

17 April 2017

Mason Booth

With the unusual name of Mason George Booth it wasn't difficult to find all the basic details about this NSW soldier. However, I kept going around in circles and got no where.
The story that came with the medals when they were found on the side of the road near Orange NSW. The medals were inside a glass case exactly like my Nana used to use in the 1970s, but I digress. The medals went through several sets of hands before being sent to the Directorate of Honours and Awards finally forwarded to me.
Mason was originally from Wagga Wagga and the records showed that there where many families with this name in that region. On enlistment Mason was in Sydney then following WWII he settled on the Central Coast. Following his death he was buried at Raymond Terrace. While the basics were there and I could find distant relatives, the location of his children alluded me.
The strategies I used in this search was to arrange a radio interview on ABC Central Coast, write to cemetery where Mason is buried and revisit the search on no fewer than 14 occasions.
During the most recent review I found a Mason on an Ancestry family tree which I hadn't came across before. This tree is owned by Bernie who answered my message almost immediately to tell me that he was sure that both Mason's son and daughter had moved back to Wagga Wagga. I made a couple of educated guesses and today I cold called a Wagga Wagga number and ended up speaking to Mason's sister in law.
My search took me all over NSW and it circled back to where Mason was born.
The returned medal tally is now 2075.

The Fisher collection

This is another example of a search that has very little information to provide. From Bill Firth I received an Anzac Medallion awarded to John Byers Fisher and a WWII group awarded to Frederick Arthur Fisher. Through Ancestry I was able locate the Fisher family and I hope to have this family collection back with them by Anzac Day 2017.
Thank you so much to Bill for sending these to me.
The returned medal tally is now 2071.

14 April 2017

Neil Crump

This is another of Bill's ‘Watch this space’ or should that be ‘where have they been?' stories.
It is over 20 years since the medals awarded to 133548 LAC Neil George Crump were stolen. This Anzac Day it will be two years since the medals were passed to George Cook, past President of Northfield RSL, and a year since George passed the medals to the State RSL branch in Adelaide.
While I could tell all this to Helen, Neil’s daughter, what I could not explain was where the medals had been since they were stolen until they were discovered in a paddock in Adelaide. To tell the truth, I don’t think Helen really cares. The fact that the medals had been found was enough. Unfortunately, Neil’s Pacific Star was not among the medals that were recovered.
George and the RSL State branch had advertised widely from Bendigo, where Neil was born, to NSW where he enlisted in 1943 and where he lived after discharge, it was all to no avail. The difference to us finding Helen, I explained to George, is that it is not just our experience but that Glyn and I have an incredible group people like Kerrie to fall back on and who assist us.

The returned medal tally is 2066.

09 April 2017

One soldier - two names

Enlisting under an alias was quite common during WWI. This is a story where Bill had to untangle the story behind a soldier who enlisted under one name then changed back to his real name.

The search to return the BWM of Pte George Golding/Pte Ernest Albert StewartRegimental No.4572 has been successful in that his British War Medal was returned to his family. However, I still found myself at the end of the search, wondering who was George Golding? Additionally, how did Ernest manage to join up? According to his service file, he was 18 years and 1 month when he enlisted on the 10th September 1915, when the birth records show he was born in 1901. This would have made him 16 years of age when he took part in his battalion’s first major offensive around Pozieres and Mouquet Farm in July and August 1917. Ernest was also with his unit, the 24th battalion, which took part in the second battle of Bullecourt in 1915. Even though the battalion was involved for only a single day, it suffered almost 80 per cent casualties.
5 months later, in October 1917, Ernest was Wounded in Action during the seizure of Broodseinde Ridge. Ernest never fully recovered and this lead to his untimely death at the age of 52 in 1953.
While I was able to put together a family tree which showed Ernest and his wife Eleanor they had no children. All the other links that I was able to piece together petered out in the 1970s. It was the team at Australian Genealogy Surname Group that was able find a small family tree that included Ernest.
On 24th of March I was able to post off Ernest’s BWM and shortly thereafter receive the following from Stephanie, Ernest’s great niece:
‘Hi Bill, we received the medal yesterday. Here's a photo of Nan with it. It brought her to tears and she was very excited. Thank you so much for getting in contact with us we really appreciate it. 
Kind regards, 
As you can see the edge has over the years suffered. It was only that Ernest’s Service number 4572 and his Battalion the 24th were still visible that allowed us to return the medal.

The returned medal tally is now 2059.


02 April 2017

The Henderson brothers

As a result of the Weekend Sunrise interview last Sunday I received many requests for assistance. I'm slowly filtering through the research and contacting families around Australia and across the world.
This particular search started after Richard sent me an email on Sunday requesting assistance finding the family of some medals that he had had for many years. Richard had done a fair amount of research but I soon found why he had hit a brick wall as I had the same difficulties.
The story starts with two brothers, Ronald and Hugh. Ronald was a Lieutenant with 18th Battalion and was awarded a Military Cross. Hugh was a private with 35th Battalion.
Ronald's MC citation states the following:
''For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He displayed the greatest coolness and courage on two critical occasions, when his company had been caught in the open. He also worked at the consolidation of a position for three days under heavy shell fire, successfully completing the task. His personal reconnaissance reports from the front line were most valuable.''
The announcement of this award in late 1917 was probably the only high light for the Henderson family. On 9 April 1918 Ronald was killed in action. His father provided the following information:
"Sailed in 5th Reinforcements of 18th Battalion. Served in Egypt (1915-1916). Wounded near Borsjrouier on 6th July, 1916 - obtained Commission Balliol College, Oxford on 1st March, 1917. Engaged in Bullecourt. Selected as Intelligence Officer, May, 1917. Recommended for Military Cross for services in this capacity on 20th September, 1917 near Westhock Ridge - wounded second time on 9th October near Passchendaele, March, 1918. Instructor in Intelligence at Australian Corps School. Rejoined Battalion on 1st April, 1918. Killed on 9th April, 1918 by shell while extricating platoon from their quarters at Village of Gentelles."
This must have been a very difficult time for the Henderson's as just five days earlier, Hugh died of wounds.
The brothers are buried in adjoining graves at the Adelaide Cemetery, Villers-Bretonneux.
Identifying who Ronald and Hugh's parents were was relatively easy. They were Stephen and Helen but they had no other children. Stephen was the Australian representative of the Aberdeen Shipping Line and it was this that gave me the clue that led to the rest of the family. Stephen's death notice mentions his late father, Sir William Henderson of Aberdeen.
Sir William was successful Victorian merchant as also the Lord Provost of Aberdeen. He had a large family but the brutal impact of WWI on the males of this family meant that there are now very few descendants.
This is the story of each of Sir William's children:
  • Christiana went to live in or near the Blue Mountains in Australia.
  • James married Isabella Moir. Their son Gartly was killed in the 1914 - 1918 war. Boyd, with a first class honours degree, was a schoolmaster, served in tanks in the war and contracted TB after 'flu in 1919. Douglas served as a private in Mesopotamia and laer farmed near Glasgow. Fergus was a well-known radiologist in Glasgow with a deep interest in the Boys' Brigade. Isabel married James Craig, they had a son John Craig (b. 1925) amd a daughter Anne (b. 1922) who is a doctor married to Dr Gordon Napier and they live in Lincoln.
  • George married Katherine Hutton and ran the London office ot George Thompson and Co. Their family: William was killed in 1916, George was gassed in the war and died in 1929,. Margaret married Barclay Lyon. Maud married Hallidie Smith and had two daughters. Gertrude married James Wordie who was an oceanographer, Master of St John's College, Cambridge, and was knighted: they had a family of five.
  • Stephen married Helen Grahame; they lost both their sons in the 1914 1918 war. Stephen represented the Aberdeen Line in Australia.
  • Mary married the Rev. Denham Osborne, Presbyterian Minister in Dublin. Their daughters were Kathleen, Ruth (Millie) and Jean.
  • Agnes was a doctor and became a medical missionary in India where the tremendous work she did was acknowledged when she was decorated with the Kaiser-I-Hind medal.
  • Duff married Elizabeth Anderson and was in the London office of George Thompson and Co. Their only son Gordon was killed in 1918. Jean did not marry and Elsie married Roland Pelly and they had four redheaded children.
  • Albert was a doctor and married Mary Anderson and settled in Auckland, New Zealand. Their daughter Margaret married Mr Lowry and Betty did not marry. Their son Jim Henderson (b. 1911) married Hester Sutcliffe and they had five children in New Zealand - the only Henderson great-grandchildren of William and Jane and their large family - largely the effect of the 1914 - 1918 war.
  • Emily was a wonderful aunt to her nieces and nephews. She was a Policewoman in the 1914 - 1918 war.
  • Edith married Alec Wells and is written up elsewhere.
Credit - http://www.barbaragoss.com/family/henderson.html

As stated above, Albert and Mary emigrated to New Zealand and had a son Jim. This is the only line of Sir William that still bears the Henderson name. Jim's son is Johnathan and I located him and his phone number. I'm sure that my call came as real surprise.
The returned medal tally is now 2058.